27th Parliament · 2nd Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMullin) took the chair at 9.55 a.m., and read prayers.
The PRESIDENT- Are there any petitions?
– Order! I am calling for petitions.
-I think this takes precedence over petitions. The motion moved by Senator Greenwood and carried by the Senate–
– I would like to ask for your guidance, Sir, as to what takes precedence.
-I cannot give you much guidance at the moment becauseI am not sure what this is all about.
– Yesterday evening in the Senate the following motion was carried:
That the Senate at its rising adjourn till tomorrow at. 9.55 a.m. for the purpose of debating a matter of urgency, namely:
That the objectives and tactics of the Vietnam Moratorium Campaign are to be deplored because they are deliberately calculated to -
Mr President, I put to you that the purpose of the motion was to adjourn the Senate until 9.55 this morning to discuss the motion that was moved, and for no other purpose. That is why we are meeting here this morning at 5 minutes to 10. That is why, with respect to you, Sir, I claim that this takes precedence over any other business before the Senate. There was great jubilation yesterday even when the motion was carried.
– I must take a point of order. Mr President, and ask: What is the intention of Senator Cant? The business paper is prescribed. The Standing Orders provide for motions to permit discussion of matters of urgency and I suggest that you should rule that we proceed with the business as provided.
– I would like to speak to the point of order which has been raised by the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Senator Cant has raised a very serious question. Standing order 64 tends to support the viewpoint which has been put forward by Senator Cant. It reads:
The motion which was moved by Senator Greenwood follows that form. On the face of it, and as the standing order reads, one would expect that if that motion were carried the Senate would adjourn to that particular time for the purpose of debating that matter of urgency. If the particular time is mentioned one would think that the business then to be discussed was that matter of urgency. However, as I. understand it, the practice has been not to treat the standing order as it has been framed and would, I think, reasonably be read, as Senator Cant has said, but rather to treat it as if the motion were in itself for the purpose of debating the urgency. That is what occurs. The adjournment aspect of it is only the vehicle in order to enable the discussion to take place.
However, I must say that as the Standing Orders read there is very great force in what Senator Cant has said. I have had occasion to discuss this matter before. I think that at the very least, in order that the matter be clarified, something ought to be done about it. It should be cleanedup by the Senate because not only is it ambiguous - what Senator Cant is asserting has very great force on a plain reading of the standing order - but also it is not the practice and the way in which the motions have been used in the Senate. We have used the motion as a mere vehicle for the discussion of a matter of urgency. I think that at the very least the ambiguity should be removed from the matter. I suggest, with respect, that this should be taken up by the Standing Orders Committee. But on the face of it, on a plain reading of the standing order I would support what Senator Cant has put forward to the Senate.
– I would point out that the only motion carried yesterday was, according to the journals of the Senate, that in order to debate a matter of urgency - the principles that Senator Greenwood wished to have established with regard to the Moratorium were then stated - the Senate at its rising adjourn till tomorrow at 5 minutes to 10 a.m.
– For what purpose?
– Senator Cant is trying to transpose the emphasis on the purpose. The urgency was given priority in the debate yesterday for the purpose of debating that matter and the Senate registered its decision as to whether it deserved urgency by a vote that we adjourn till 9.55 a.m. today.
– For the purpose of discussing a matter of urgency.
– No, the motion yesterday was put forward as a matter of urgency for the purpose of that debate. I could not think of anything more like an inversion of the Standing Orders or the motion of the Senate in what is proposed by the honorable senator. Senator Murphy has conceded that I have in my favour in this interpretation the invariable practice of the Senate. Is it to be imagined that all honourable senators who have been in this chamber have been blind until yesterday to this point that Senator Cant now sees with such starry eyes?
– In this Parliament over quite a period we have listened to the acrobatics of the legal profession in the interpretation of words. These have been indulged in particularly by Senator Wright. This morning he has again performed acrobatics by omitting to state the very purpose for which the Senate adjourned in relation to the motion before it. Sir, if you intend to forward this matter on to the Standing Orders Committee, I wish to point out that there are many things in standing order 64 which require further clarification. Paragraph (2) of standing order 64 provides that the mover shall have half an hour to speak to the motion and the first Minister to speak in the debate shall also have half an hour. The peculiar position arose yesterday where-
– Order! I think the honourable senator is ranging over areas which do not come within the ambit of the point of order.
– With respect, Mr President, I put it to you that the ordinary English language meaning of the words used in the motion is simply that the Senate adjourned to 9.55 a.m. today for a particular purpose. I do not know whether that was the intention of the motion. If the Senate wants to have something different before it now, motions of this nature will have to be couched in different terms. At this stage I am not concerned with arguing about the urgency or otherwise of the matter; I am concerned about the purpose for which the Senate adjourned to a particular time. No matter what the legal people may try to read into the ordinary English language, I cannot read anything else into the motion that was carried other than that this matter must be debated this morning. I will bow to what my Leader has said if you, Mr President, wish to give some sort of ruling which will enable the matter to be referred to the Standing Orders Committee, but that course can only be followed after today. We have no alternative today but to proceed with the motion which was carried by the Senate yesterday.
– Order! I see no reason why this matter should not be referred to the Standing Orders Committee. I think there may be some value in having the matter considered by that Committee. I do not propose to change a precedent which has been established with regard to the interpretation of standing order 64. I stand very firmly on this, because I am guided by the Journals of the Senate which state that the motion I put to the Senate last night was:
That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn till tomorrow at 9.SS a.m.
The motion was carried accordingly. The record indicates the procedure followed. I am not going to depart from rulings of previous years which established the practice. So I dismiss the point of order.
Motion (by Senator Cant) proposed:
That the ruling be dissented from. (Senator Cant having submitted in writing his objection to the ruling.)
Motion (by Senator Murphy) proposed:
That the question requires immediate determination.
That the question be determined immediately.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator Sir Alister McMullin)
Majority . . . . 1
Question resolved in the negative.
– Does the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior recall that on 1 2th March this year I asked him a question about a motion by the
Legislative Council of the Northern Territory calling for an independent inquiry into the administration of the Territory by the Department of the Interior? Is it a fact that this resolution was passed by the Legislative Council last February? Could the Minister tell us why the request of the Territory Council has not been met? Why is it that, despite this matter being brought to the attention of the Government and despite the Minister’s answer to me on 15th April that the Government would examine the request and that a reply would be given to the Council, members of that Council yesterday boycotted the meeting of the Council? Eleven members of that Council walked out because of the failure of the Government to reply.
– I do recall Senator Murphy asking a question that I had to direct to the Minister for the Interior. He received a reply to that question. The further subject that he raised and the comment that he made about the matter are not for me to answer here at this time. His question dealt very much with policy. I shall refer it to the appropriate Minister and obtain a reply for the honourable senator.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister tor Customs and Excise, but it could have overtones involving the Minister representing the Minister for External Affairs. Apart from the recent fines imposed on people contravening customs regulations by exporting native parrots, what action is taken by our Government to energise both Holland and Malaysia into co-operating with us to smash this racket?
– I will answer the part of the question that relates to the Department of Customs and Excise. The Department administers regulations concerning birds, galahs, parrots, etc. I share the honorable senator’s concern that the Government should endeavour to get the maximum co-operation from countries whose people might be receiving these birds illegally. I shall direct that part of the question which relates to the Department of Customs and Excise to the appropriate Minister.
– On behalf of the Department of External Affairs, I give a supplementary answer to the honorable senator’s question. The Department of Customs and Excise does its work by the exercise of export prohibition regulations. Regulations to prohibit the export of certain things are introduced, lt is not uncommon to make representations to another country, where we consider that irregularities might be occurring, to co-operate through the normal channels. I will have that part of the honorable senator’s question referred to the Department of External Affairs to ascertain whether any advantage can be gained by his proposal. The Department of External Affairs has very close liaison with the Department of Customs and Excise to ascertain the magnitude and the background of the problem. 1 would like to digress for a moment, with your indulgence, Mr President. I think all honorable senators are delighted to know that Senator Mulvihill has come through the moment of political truth that we all have to endure every 5 or 6 years.
– 1 direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for External Affairs. In view of the proposal for Fiji to be granted independence in October and in view of Australia’s substantial trade and business interests in that country as well as our interests in Nandi Airport, will the Government give early consideration to raising the status of our representation in Fiji?
– This, too, is a matter that would need to be referred to the Department of External Affairs, lt is true that independence is to be granted to Fiji and I gather that it is to take effect from October. Over the years we in Australia have built up a tremendous increase in our posts overseas for the promotion of international goodwill and indeed in the interests of our trade and commerce. I will have the matter examined to see whether there is a case at this time, concurrently with this move to independence, to upgrade or advance our representation in that country.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Prime Minister. I preface it by drawing attention to an advertisement published yesterday calling for applicants to enter the career service of the Department of External Affairs part of which advertisement read:
Salaries for women are slightly lower at present but equal pay will apply from 1972.
Does this attitude on equal pay apply only to certain professional female officers of the Commonwealth Public Service or is it intended that by 1972 equal pay will apply to all female officers of the Commonwealth Public Service?
– Yes. If it is not a tion which would be more appropriately directed to the Treasurer. I am not informed–
– You are here representing the Public Service.
– Yes. If it is not a matter for the Treasurer it may well fall into the slot that the honourable senator suggests. I will pick the question up and have it examined and I hope to have a reply for the honourable senator when next we sit.
– Will the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry seek information from his colleague as to what action is being taken to safeguard the fishing grounds of Tasmanian fishermen from the activities of foreign fishing vessels, many sightings of which have allegedly been made recently within Tasmanian territorial waters?
– The honorable senator would be the first to recognise that the many thousands of miles of Australian coastline would require a pretty formidable force to patrol intensively. He would also recognise that the Royal Australian Air Force has maritime units stationed on the east coast and on the south coast which penetrate far out to sea on patrols. Any sightings made by these aircraft are identified and reported either to the Royal Australian Navy or to the Department of Primary Industry as the case may be. However, I will take the matter up with the Minister for Primary industry and get him to look at the honourable senator’s question.
– I direct my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Defence because it concerns the 3 Services and I believe it is more appropriate that the Minister representing the Minister for Defence should receive it. As a means of meeting one of the problems of retention of skilled Service personnel, will the Minister earnestly consider initiating a scheme in the 3 Services whereby postings of serving members with families, with a consequent disruption to family life, will be made only when other persons with similar skills and qualifications and willing and able to accept the postings are not available? Will he undertake to require that a full assessment of the possible hardships be introduced as a new consideration when arranging such postings and that a serviceman likely to be seriously disadvantaged be afforded a full opportunity to place his case before a competent authority or tribunal for determination?
– This is a comprehensive question as the honourable senator indicated. First of all there is one basic factor that must always be considered in relation to such a proposition. That basic factor is the needs of the Services. They are paramount in such a proposition. In the movement of personnel it is not a question of saying that some other person of equal seniority could be moved instead. Particularly in the Services, the paramount consideration at all times must be to obtain for the job concerned the person - whether he be of commissioned or non-commissioned rar.k - who is the most competent and is likely to be the most effective in it. That deals with the first part of the question.
In the second part the honourable senator asks whether in cases of movement consideration could be given to the matter being put to a tribunal. I am not aware of the various requirements within the Services in relation to this matter. I would be quite prepared to have that part of the question - in fact, the whole of the question - referred to the Minister for Defence; but I believe that there would not bc in the first part the substance that there is in the second part. If the honourable senator puts the whole question on the notice paper it will be referred to the Minister for Defence.
– Is the Minister representing the Prime Minister aware that a demonstration which was conducted in Canberra yesterday and which purported to be a call for peace was led by a mass display of Vietcong flags? Does he realise that pictures of this demonstration with the Federal Parliament building as a background, will already be on their way to be used in Communist countries to claim that the demonstration actually favoured not peace but victory for the Vietcong.
– Was Senator Hendrickson in it?
– You were sneaking round the back as you always do.
– Order! I want Senator Little to ask his question in silence. I do not want honourable senators to engage in this meaningless crossplay.
– If you want me to ask the whole question again, Mr President, I will do so; but if the Minister has heard the question I will proceed with the final section. As many primary and secondary school children were persuaded to join this demonstration, will the Government take steps to explain to those children that to mass behind the Vietcong banners at this time is to betray the 400 Australian soldiers who have died protecting the rights of the South Vietnamese people?
– I did not bother to go out and have a look at the demonstration, but I have been informed that Vietcong flags were in evidence in the march and the assembly. Therefore, anybody who spoke, in some sense could be said to have been speaking against the background of the Vietcong flags. The next comment 1 want to make is that it is not unknown - we have read about this in newspaper reports of court proceedings during the last week - for people to use a technique in which they take a film away, transpose it and put it into a different context in order to create a certain impression. I seem to remember some recent injunctions in the courts relating to the use of this device. I think it would be deplorable, shameful and wicked if photographs were taken of curious children - 1 put it at that level because they would be curious to know what it was all about and they would have no significant understanding of it - with a background of a Vietcong flag, the flag of our enemy, and also of the Australian parliamentary building, and such photographs were used in the manner suggested. I think it would be a disgraceful and deplorable thing and J hope to God that it will not happen.
– Will the Leader of the Government in the Senate consider even at this late stage a sincere appeal being made through all news media throughout Australia to all young people, elderly and infirm persons, and people of good will towards the Australian sense of international responsibility and decency, to remain off the streets of Australian towns and cities during the Moratorium demonstrations both for their own safety and to ensure that by their absence from the streets they will not be claimed to be participating in this un-Australian activity?
– I would agree that it is most desirable that there should be a complete understanding of the tactics which were used in the debate here last night, tactics that could give the appearance of innocent people being part of this propaganda machine. These are Communist tactics. They are not new. They started a long time ago. Every honourable senator has a responsibility. I know that every honourable senator on the Government side will use his good offices to bring the message home. The debate on the Moratorium Campaign, if it did nothing else, was calculated to bring these tactics to the awareness of the people. We have a responsibility to bring this matter to the fore. As for having it done by way of publicity, today is Thursday and I understand this nonsense is to commence tomorrow. I again say that the substance of what Senator Marriott has said is completely right. There is a responsibility on everybody to see that the ordinary procedures of democratic government in Australia continue to prevail. Any departure from this by way of illegal means is an incitement to anarchy.
– I direct a question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate, ls the Minister aware that yesterday outside Parliament House several thousand Canberra citizens peacefully demonstrated
– Several thousand, Senator? Four hundred.
– Government supporters yap away. Those people demonstrated as part of the Vietnam Moratorium Campaign being held throughout Australia this week. Will the Minister agree that the demonstration was completely orderly and that policemen had no trouble of any nature in dealing with the crowd? Will he acknowledge, for the benefit of the tens of thousands of people who will demonstrate this week against Australia’s involvement in Vietnam and against conscription, the right of citizens to hold peaceful, non-violent demonstrations?
– I have said before in this place and I have no hesitation in repeating that there is a right in our democracy of orderly demonstration and orderly dissent. The point 1 have been making which has been brought out as a result of statements made by other people is that any incitement to break the law and any incitement to exercise dissent by encouragement - as was reflected in a debate in this place not so long ago - to go ‘ outside the law is something to be deplored, lt is something which is completely out of character in anybody who comes to this place or who takes an oath to make the laws and abide by the laws. It is quite wrong and contrary to our system. I repeat: I have no difficulty in saying that the right of dissent is recognised in the framework of our democracy, but that right of dissent does not mean that when you do not like a law you can break it by demonstrating. That is the kind of argument we heard even in this Senate, the law-making place, as late as last night. I agree with Senator Murphy that there was a demonstration in front of Parliament House yesterday, I agree that persons taking part in the demonstration did have Vietcong flags, and that it was not a disorderly demonstration. As Senator Little has pointed out, photographs no doubt were taken of persons holding Vietcong flags against the background of Parliament House. But I believe that the subtlety of that is not lost. I think we should be grateful to Senator Little for having brought out the point at question time.
– In directing my question to the Minister representing the Prime Minister I remind him of the question 1 asked of him on 22nd April which was in these terms:
Will the Minister have tabled in this chamber any documents purporting to represent a request from the South Vietnam Government in 1965 for military assistance from the Australian Government.
The Minister asked me to put my question on notice. I did so. I now ask why there should be a delay in answering this question which refers to a decision made by the Australian Government some 5 years ago?
– 1 asked that the previous question be put on notice and 1 must ask that this question be put on notice. When the honourable senator has been here a little longer he will realise that affairs between nations and documents relating to them do not normally come within the procedures in relation to the tabling of papers. should imagine that it would be an impossible situation to call for the tabling of papers relating to negotiations and affairs between nations. For how long nations would be prepared to discuss matters with one another in those circumstances, I would not have a clue.
– Has the attention of the Leader of the Government in the Senate been directed to an advertisement in today’s ‘Australian’ signed by the Registrar of the University of Sydney in which he warns the public that material being circulated to the effect that Friday, 8th May, will be an open day at the University of Sydney is incorrect? The Registrar goes on to say that no invitation has been extended to high school students or anyone else to go to the University on that day, and that the University is private property. Will the Minister see that all steps are taken to protect the University from an invasion on that day which is not desired?
– The affairs of a university are within the responsibility of the university. Moving to the second stage, if a university needs protection it has the responsibility of approaching the State Government. The honourable senator’s question simply points up one more example of the tactics that are being used in the current situation. Here again we are grateful to him for raising the matter and demonstrating what is going on.
– How does the Leader of the Government in the Senate justify parliamentary democracy when he uses Dorothy Dix questions at question time as a means of attacking the Moratorium and peaceful students who want to demonstrate against the Vietnam war? Yet he denies to the Senate a debate on a Government initiated motion which gives honourable senators an opportunity to discuss an important matter. Many honourable senators like myself were stopped from making a contribution to the debate. Will the Leader of the Government ensure that when public discussion of information is necessary senators will be given the opportunity to discuss these matters properly in the Senate?
– Senator Bishop does not realise the implications of his question. He is really reflecting on a ruling of the Chair. But putting that aside and coming to the other aspect of his question, he is suggesting that I had some foreknowledge of Senator Little’s question. Senator Little and I are very-
– Mr President, Senator Bishop has just claimed that the Minister had some foreknowledge of the question I asked. I demand a withdrawal of that statement.
– Order! Is this a point of order?
– I demand a withdrawal of that statement.
– Order! You are really making a personal explanation.
– I am asking-
– I do not know whether it is an appropriate time to ask.
– Mr President-
– Have I the floor, or has Senator Kennelly?
– Order! Senator Kennelly, arc you taking a point of order?
– Yes. Is it correct for any senator to rise in this chamber and then without leave proceed to speak? I admit that you, Mr President, either in your kindness - let us say that - or in your desire to help, asked the honourable senator whether he was raising a point of order. I say with the greatest respect, Mr President, that no honourable senator is entitled to rise in this chamber and just start to speak unless the Standing Orders of the Senate are adhered to. All I say is this: I would be very grateful if you, Sir, would see that the Standing Orders of the Senate are adhered to on all occasions.
– Mr President, I rise as I did before and preface my remarks as I did before, although I may not have been heard because the Minister was speaking, by saying thatI rise to a point of order.
– You did say that?
-I did. You did not hear it because the Minister was speaking. 1 rose to a point of order to ask for a withdrawal of the statement made by Senator Bishop that I had given the Minister foreknowledge of the question I asked. That statement is untrue and J therefore ask for a withdrawal of the statement by Senator Bishop that I gave to the Minister foreknowledge of the question I asked.
– Mr President–
– Senator Mulvihill, do you wish to speak to the point of order? Senator Mulvihill - No.
– Senator Anderson, you were still replying to the question.
– Yes.I said that I did not want - I realise on reflection that Senator Bishop did not intend–
– This is out of order. An honourable senator has asked for a withdrawal. He either gets it, Mr President, or you dismiss his point of order.
– It is very heartening to me to see that you are all taking a very active interest in the Standing Orders. I sincerely hope that you will benefit from your exercise of going through the Standing Orders and will understand more clearly the general position. Senator Bishop, in view of the explanation given by Senator Little it perhaps would be wise for you to reframe your question to put it in order.
– You have stated something which has no relation to what I said. If you had heard my question you would have heard me ask Senator Anderson about matters related to the need to continue in the Senate the debate on the Vietnam Moratorium Campaign. When the Leader of the Government replied to me he argued that he had no foreknowledge of the questions which were put to him, to which I interjected: ‘I think you did.’ As Senator Little now states that he did not give the information to the Leader of the Government before question time, I accept his explanation.
– I do not want to go much further, butI repeat what I said in response to Senator Murphy. There is ample opportunity in other circumstances for people to express views, and that opportunity is not necessarily confined to adults. The whole tenor of what I have been saying all morning is related to this incitement to make a point by a breaking of the law. As was pointed out last night we have had this debate for 3 or 4 nights until the wee hours of the morning on the adjournment motion and we had a full scale authorised debate on the subject last night in accordance with the Standing Orders. It would seem to me, as has been ruled by the Chair, that that is where the matter should finish. However, there is a matter still to be determined andI would not wish to reflect on that.
– Does theLeader of the Government in the Senate know of any protests against or violence associated with a recent mass demonstration of Victorian farmers against Liberal Government farm policy? As the right to demonstrate has been accepted in our day and age, why are Government supporters not so disturbed about Government foreign policy in carrying on an illegal, immoral and undeclared war against women and children in a foreign country?
– A demonstration which is orderly and which is carried out in collaboration with the people who administer the law of the land so as not to inconvenience the public is one thing; a demonstration in which people are incited to sit down in traffic and are being openly and deliberately incited to break the law is an entirely different thing. In fact certain resolutions were carried and some people in the parliamentary scene are saying: ‘We do not want violence, but’, and there is always a but’. The Government, with a sense of responsibility, wishing to preserve what we have built up in our democracy throughout our history, is concerned about people doing these things, inciting others to break the law and inducing innocent people - starry-eyed people, if you like - to become associated with them without realising the type of association they are getting into.
– Intruding into schools and colleges.
– They are trying to induce innocent children to be involved in something of which they have no appreciation. These are the issues involved.
– What about the kids in Vietnam being burnt with napalm?
– In all the time 1 have been in this place I have not once heard from the Opposition any statement relating to the people of South Vietnam whose country is being overrun. At no stage have I heard an Opposition speaker deplore the invasion of South Vietnam, nor have I heard a member of the Opposition express sympathy for this country which is righting for its very existence. The whole attitude of honourable senators opposite is in support of Hanoi and the people who are trying to down the South Vietnamese. That is the whole approach of the Opposition. That is its self convicted position and the Labor Party will have to live with it as a political party for the rest of its life.
– My question is directed to the Leader of the Government. Is it not the truth that in the whole of Vietnam the only foreign troops are the troops numbering between half a million and a million who are there to prop up the government in Saigon and without whom that government would crash, notwithstanding all the military and civil aid and equipment which has been given to it to enable it to stay there? Are they not the only foreign troops in Vietnam?
– The answer is obviously no, Mr President. The Leader of the Opposition knows his allegation is not true. He also knows that the people of South Vietnam are fighting for their very existence and their own nationhood and that the contribution made by their allies - the United States of America, Australia, New Zealand and South Korea - is for no other purpose than to give the people of South Vietnam the right to self government and self protection. It has always been a source of amazement to me that I never hear one good word from these apostles of democracy from the Opposition, for this country, South Vietnam, which is being racked by invasion. No good word is ever said by these people about the protection of South Vietnam. I repeat that honourable senators opposite will have to live with this fact for the rest of their lives.
– I desire to ask a question of the Leader of the Government in the Senate. I ask: Will the Government make known to the people who will be participating in the Australia-wide Moratorium Campaign over the next 3 days that it is the Government’s desire that the demonstrations be peaceful?
– The answer is yes. I think that is basic. What the Australian Government has said is that if people wish to demonstrate in order to express their dissent, all that the Government asks of them - and I say this in the light of the full responsibility I hold - is that they do so within the processes of our democratic procedures.
– My question is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. I ask: Has the Minister’s attention been drawn to a letter which appeared in this morning’s ‘Canberra Times’ from a Mr Hector C. Kinloch, who is a member of the Canberra section of the Vietnam Moratorium Committee? Is the Minister aware that Mr Kinloch suggested that the activities of this Committee have degenerated into a platform of oversimplified Marxism? Is he also aware that the letter indicates that people have been hoodwinked into supporting the Vietnam Moratorium Committee so that subjects other than the withdrawal of troops can be discussed? In these circumstances, does the
Minister regard this as striking first hand evidence of the way in which elements sympathetic to the Communist cause have taken over the organisation of the Moratorium Campaign?
– 1 have not had an opportunity to read the letter to which the honourable senator refers, but from the contents of it as given to me by way of the honourable senator’s question I would say that the letter reflects completely the point of view which is being expressed by the Government and honourable senators on this side of the chamber in relation to the procedures and methods which are being adopted by the Moratorium Committee.
– 1 wish to direct a question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. I ask: ls it not a fact that on 4 occasions in the last week or so questions have been asked in this chamber about the presence of foreign shipping in Australian territorial waters near Tasmania but no answer or explanation has been given in regard to what action has been taken? Is this matter being treated as seriously as we have a right to expect it to be treated?
– It is true, as the honourable senator has pointed out, that questions have been asked and replies given on this subject. Recently I replied to such a question, at the end of question time. The answer which was given on that occasion referred to a previous situation. The current situation is that both Senator Devitt and Senator Lillico have drawn the attention of the Senate to alleged new sightings of foreign ships off the north west coast of Tasmania. 1 have sought to have inquiries made in relation to these alleged new sightings. As to the question concerning the previous situation, an answer has been given to it. It may have got under the honourable senator’s guard because it was given to a question on notice on, I think, last Tuesday. The only outstanding matter is that of further alleged sightings, which are now being inquired into.
– I direct a question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. If the Government contends that it believes in the consistent application of the law against all forms of violent action, how does he reconcile this objective with the failure of the Commonwealth Attorney-General to take any action in regard to numerous bombing actions and threats involving the Ustashi? I refer, for instance, to the bombing of a consulate in Sydney, the threats directed at David Jones Ltd in Canberra, which were followed by the closure of an exhibit in the premises of that company’s store, and the threats to the management of radio station 2WL Wollongong which resulted in the withdrawal of a programme. These things have been occurring during a period when the Attorney-General is refusing to receive a deputation from people menaced by this terrorist group.
– I do not know the background of these matters. They are within the jurisdiction of the AttorneyGeneral. Therefore, I think that the proper thing to do-
– I have already conveyed these matters to the AttorneyGeneral by letter.
– All I can say is that 1 will follow up the question that the honorable senator has asked.
– My question is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Can the Minister table in the Senate the document, or a copy of it, which he claims sets out in detail the request of South Vietnam for Australian arms and troops to assist in military operations in that country? If the Minister cannot table the document, will he agree that in fact no request for military aid was ever received from any representative of any government in South Vietnam at any time?
– The question is improperly framed. It puts words into my mouth which I have never used. I have made no claims at all about any documents. I have carried out my duty as Minister representing a Minister in another place. There is no question of the tabling of documents. I have very properly taken notice of questions that have been asked of me so that I could make inquiries and obtain replies. I suggest that the honourable senator put his question on notice and it will be tied to the previous questions that have been asked.
– I direct a question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. When can we expect a Government statement from the Minister condemning the wholesale massacres of innocent men, women and children by the Americans in Vietnam, reports of which have been published in the Press over the last 6 months?
– There have been incidents to which honourable senators on the Opposition side have directed the attention of the Senate. They have been unfortunate and deplorable incidents. There have been questions from honourable senators on my side of the chamber concerning incidents for which enemy troops have been to blame but about which we never hear questions from Opposition senators. As to the balance of the question, I would not like to give a reply at question time. But if the honourable senator wants to seek knowledge of representations Australia has made, he should put his question on notice and 1 will get a reply for him.
– I cannot answer all of the honourable senator’s question, but I can say that there has been a loss of pilots from the Royal Australian Air Force. This loss has concerned me since I have taken over the portfolio of Minister for Air. During the last 12 months we have lost 28 pilots, and these have been from the ranks of squadron leader and senior flight lieutenant. Of that 28, 18 have gone to various commercial airlines and 1$ have gone to the Department of Civil Aviation. The reason why pilots accepted employment in both these spheres was that they were offered higher pay and better insurance conditions. I do not know how many pilots at present have applied to leave the Air Force to go to the Department of Civil Aviation or to commercial operators. The Air Force has a good many applications for pilot training. Unfortunately, it takes a good deal of time and a great deal of expense to train pilots.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Civil Aviation and refers to occasions, I as recently as last Tuesday morning, when aircraft not cleared to land at Canberra because of fog conditions were held in the area for several hours. What are the reasons for the commencement of these flights from the various capitals, in view of the existing conditions over Canberra at the time? Will the Minister investigate this matter with a view to ascertaining whether improvements to the various control systems are necessary or whether arrangements should be made with the airline operators so that inconvenience to passengers can be avoided?
– I thank the honourable senator for asking thai question. I shall deal with the two parts of it in the reverse order. I certainly will make inquiries - I already have made some, but 1 will add to them - concerning the possibility of improvement. I very much doubt whether there is any deficiency in the control systems. So far as 1 can detect, they are adequate and are operated with extreme safety. Canberra presents quite a problem to airline operators. In many cases they believe that by the time the aircraft have taken of): there will be sufficient visibility for them to land when they arrive, but the fog patterns change and the situation becomes much worse than anybody thought it would be. That is one of the difficulties. In general, I shall make a detailed inquiry about this matter. I may say that I was one of the victims on the morning mentioned by the honourable senator.
– My question, which is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate, follows the question asked a few moments ago by Senator Murphy. Is it a fact that on 13th May 1959 the Lao Dong Central Committee of the Communist Party of North Vietnam declared that the time had come to struggle heroically and perseveringly to smash the South Vietnamese Government? Is this statement not in truth, as has been said, a declaration of war by one country against another?
– I do not have the advantage of having the relevant documents in front of me, but I accept that Senator Sim is quoting from documents in that regard. I accept the point of view that he has expressed.
– Can the Minister representing the Prime Minister inform the Senate of the number of Vietnamese civilians who have been killed or injured as a result of American intervention in Vietnam?
– 1 do not think we would have statistics which purported to set out the casulty rate as a result of American intervention. I am quite certain that there have been significant casualties in life and limb and shocking hardship inflicted upon the people of South Vietnam. I imagine that such figures would be available. 1 will seek to obtain them and to table them in this place. I do not think that the refinement which the honourable senator seeks to put on the figures would be available.
– Will the Leader of the Government in the Senate tell the Senate why, if the Government considers that its cause in Vietnam is a just one, it is ashamed to declare war?
– That, of course, is a lawyer’s question and 1 am not going to respond to it. It is also purely hypothetical. The facts are that allied troops, including those from the United States, Australia, New Zealand and South Korea, have been in South Vietnam assisting the South Vietnamese to resist aggression for a long time. The question almost verges on the area of semantics and for that reason I do not intend to respond to it.
– Can the Minister representing the Postmaster-General give any information about the intention of the PostmasterGeneral to institute a uniform telephone charge throughout Australia?
– 1 cannot give a detailed answer to the honourable senator concerning this matter but because of the importance of it and the interest which 1 know many people are showing in it 1 shall get a reply from the Postmaster-General for the honourable senator.
– Has the Leader of the Government in the Senate seen today’s newspaper report that President Thieu has closed all schools in Saigon indefinitely and extended the general curfew from 11 p.m. to 5 a.m? Does this suggest that the Saigon Government is supported by a people who are allegedly fighting for their freedom?
– To me it would suggest the terrible strain to which they have been subjected by the assault of their enemies.
– ls the Leader of the Government in the Senate aware that at the meeting of the executive committee of the Australian Council of Churches held on Wednesday, 18th March, the General Secretary of the Council reported that, following the telecasts showing unnecessarily rough handling of David Mowbray by New South Wales police when he reported to serve 7 days imprisonment as a conscientious objector, he - the General Secretary - had written to the Premier of New South Wales and the New South Wales Commissioner of Police pointing out that the Australian Council of Churches had made representations to the Federal Government-
– I rise to order. I take the point that question time is a time for questions and not a series of statements read from newspapers.
– 1 must say that Senator Wood is quite right. 1 would have hoped that after the way in which honourable senators have been carrying out a study of Standing Orders Senator McClelland would know what is involved in question time. He has no right to give information. He has every right to ask a question and if he confines himself to asking his question or frames it a little differently that will be satisfactory.
– 1 will reframe my question. Is the Leader of the Government aware that the General Secretary of the Australian Council of Churches made representations to the Federal Government to transfer the custody of conscientious objectors from military to civil prisons and stated that the Council could not but be concerned and alarmed at the use of violence by the police? In view of this statement will the Minister instruct all officers of the Commonwealth who are requested to maintain law and order in connection with the forthcoming Moratorium that they will under no circumstances resort to violence?
– The subsequent part of the question took a different form from the first part which related to a matter which was quite clearly the concern of the Governement of New South Wales. The second part of the question relates to a reflection on members of the Commonwealth Police Force in that it suggests that they might resort to violence. I recognise, and I hope everybody else in this country would recognise, that a police force, whether it be State or Commonwealth, has a responsibility to uphold the law and its members would not exercise any more violence than would be necessary to meet a situation. This does not mean that a policeman who goes along to a demonstration is to let people kick him, belt him and abuse him and is not to defend himself because he is a police officer. He has a responsibility to use no more violence than is necessary to meet the situation in upholding the law. This is a simple thing that, I would hope, everybody understands. As to the circumstances of the case which were apparently shown on television, I would think that that would be a matter in which New South Wales policemen were involved and if anybody has any protest to make about the way in which they handled the situation the representations should be made to the New South Wales Government.
– ls the Leader of the Government aware of a report in today’s Australian Press from Snout, Cambodia, to the effect that the town became the first Cambodian settlement of significant size to be destroyed by American arms, that American tanks smashed through the smouldering ruins unopposed after buildings had been Rattened by air strikes and that tank crews looted what remained? ls he aware that the report continues:
One horribly maimed body of a little girl lay with 3 other civilians near a cluster of what had been shops.’?
Do not these inhuman reports justify the action of ihe people in banding themselves together to demand a cessation of hostilities so that we may endeavour to live in peaceful co-existence with all mankind?
– I have not had the advantage of reading the report to which the honourable senator refers. All I can say is that I did read a report - I point out that it also was a report- - that indicated that the Cambodian Government had expressed its delight that the Allied forces had moved into its country. That adverts to a matter that was raised in a debate here yesterday. Nobody takes any joy in the circumstances of war. Any question that points to the fact or suggests that anybody does so is completely out of character. On both sides of the Senate we have people who have suffered bitterly and tragically as a result of war. We understand what it means.
– But this is not war. The Government has not declared war.
– Senator Hendrickson is not a lawyer, and there is an old expression about people rushing in where others fear to tread. All I am saying in response to Senator Milliner s question, which is based on a report that appeared in the Press, is that this is stark tragedy; but what has been happening in Cambodia recently and what has been happening in South Vietnam for some time is part of the end result of people fighting for their very existence, fighting to survive and fighting so that they can enjoy the privileges we have. Yet because the people of the free world go in to defend and help those people they become the object of cruel criticism by the people who sit on the Opposition benches.
– I ask the Leader of the Government whether he has seen a copy of last night’s Melbourne ‘Herald’ and an article headed: ‘Pledge on Cambodia: 8 Weeks Then We’ll Quit- Nixon’, which stated:
President Nixon promised Leaders of Congress today that all US combat troops in Cambodia would be withdrawn by June 30.
Will the Leader of the Government prevail on our Prime Minister to make this Parliament a promise that all Australian troops will be withdrawn from Vietnam by the same date?
– This again is a perfect example of confused thinking. The statement relates to Cambodia, and the honorable senator wants to tie it to Vietnam. In this Parliament not long ago the Prime Minister made a statement about the proposed withdrawal of Australian troops. It was tied to a statement in which the President of the United States had made proposals about the withdrawal of United States troops. To hold up a piece of paper containing a statement that relates to Cambodia and then to try to turn it around and relate it to another situation is completely unreal.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Transport aware that complaints have appeared in the Press, including the 3rd May edition of the Sydney ‘Sunday Telegraph’, with reference to the uncontrolled dumping of rubbish by railway staff from the IndianPacific Express? Will the Minister investigate whether the allegations are well founded and, if they are, take appropriate action to prevent the view of passengers on that train becoming one of empty bottles and cans and other rubbish and prevent the Nullarbor Plain becoming a vast rubbish tip?
– I was not aware that such complaints had been made. 1 am interested to learn that they appear to relate to rubbish being dumped out on the Nullarbor Plain. What 1 will do is address this question to the Minister for Shipping and Transport and ask for a thorough inquiry to be made, because I agree with the honourable senator that it would be most undesirable for the inland vista of Australia to be clouded by a great heap of bottles, cans, cigarette packets and dead fish heads.
– My question, which is directed to the Leader of the Government, refers to statements which have been reported to have been made by Sir Reginald Sholl, the former ConsulGeneral for Australia in New York, to the effect that the present problems in the United States may be attributed largely to the fact that Jews own newspapers in that country. Will the Government make it clear that, despite the official position that Sir Reginald once held, the same anti-semitic views are not held by the Australian Government
– As a responsible Minister in the Government, I am quite clear in my mind that there are no antisemitic attitudes in this country. The whole of our Australian democracy is built around our complete freedoms. We are all equal - Calathumpians, Jews or Gentiles.
– So you disown what Sir Reginald said.
– I do not refer to what he said. I am replying to the honourable senator’s question. He used what was allegedly said as the basis for it. Equally, I would not want to make any statement that implied that that position prevails in America. Presumably, that is an expression of opinion by a person. The honourable senator should not try to run me into the use of words that I do not want to use.
We seem to have had a good morning. If I may say so at this stage, in the spirit in which we operate here, I would like us, if we can, to move away from questions now and move on to the business before the Senate, bearing in mind that we will be debating General Business after 8 o’clock tonight.
Senator Sir MAGNUS CORMACKMy question is further to the one I addressed to the Minister for Air earlier. It was a rather lengthy question and perhaps he did not catch the last sentence in it. I now ask him supplementarily whether he would be willing to answer this question: Are the rates of pay for flying personnel with the Royal Australian Air Force and the Department of Civil Aviation, the domestic airlines and Qantas Airways Ltd so disparate as to unsettle the morale of the flying personnel in the Service that he has the honour to administer?
– 1 think the honourable senator - in fact all honourable senators - will have seen from time to time the amounts of pay offered to commercial pilots, which are certainly away beyond those offered to RAAF pilots. However, there is a difference in pay between Department of Civil Aviation pilots and RAAF pilots, who both work really for the same-
– Yes, the same boss, if you like. In order to overcome this problem the Air Force - in fact all the Services have - has made representations to the Minister for Defence for an examination of pay and conditions generally. The Air Force has asked for an examination of flying pay in particular. A committee from the Department of Defence has been investigating pay and conditions for some time. I understand that it is nearing the end of its investigation. I am hoping that very shortly the Minister for Defence will be in a position to make an announcement to the Parliament.
– Is the Leader of the Government aware that quantities of Australian military and other supplies are being sold on the black market in South Vietnam? Does this practice have the support or approval of the Australian Government? If the answer is in the negative, what steps are being taken by the Government to eliminate the practice?
– I am not aware of the practice, if it is a practice: but in response to the request made by Senator Keeffe I will have inquiries made in relation to the allegation.
(Question No. 78)
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice:
Were any Australian soldiers who were prisoners-of-war during the United Nations’ operations in Korea in 1950-1953 interrogated by Wilfred Burchett; if so, was such interrogation in any way requested or approved by the Australian Government or any person acting under its authority.
– The Prime Minister has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
(Question No. 255)
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice: lt is a fact that many thousands of postaemployees have not yet received the 3 per cent wage increase based on the national total wage case, as determined by the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission on 3rd December 1969; if so, what action is the Postmaster-General taking to rectify this situation and avoid undue delay in the future payment of wage increases to employees.
– The Postmaster-General has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
It is a fact that all Post Office staff have not yet been paid the wage increase arising from the National Wage Award. To date 91,700 (86%) have been paid with 15,200 (14%) to be paid on the pay days 7th May and 21st May. All staff in Tasmania were paid by 26th March, all in Western Australia by 9th April and all in South Australia by 23rd April. Those still to be paid comprise 3,100 in Queensland (21% of Slate total), 4,100 in Victoria (14.7%) and 8,000 in New South Wales (20%). To ensure that the staff not yet paid receive the increase no later than 21st May 1970, extensive overtime is continuing in the stall pay areas supplemented by staff from other areas.
With the number of staff to be paid (106,900) the processing of the normalfortnightly pay is no mean task. Approximately 70% of total staff subscribe to the Commonwealth Superannuation Fund under a complex scheme of contributions. Special allowance payments have to be calculated fortnightly for a high percentage of staff involving mainly higher duties, overtime, penalty rates, excess travelling time and travelling allowances. In addition, for example, many lines staff regularly receive functional allowances covering approximately 290 functions and involving upwards of 530 combinations of payment, and the attached statement lists some of the functions for which allowances are payable.
As well as the addition of allowances to pay and the statutory deduction of superannuation contributions and taxation instalments, other deductions are made on request by staff for such items as group assurance premiums, hospital and medical benefits contributions, association/union dues, credit union deductions, National Savings Group deposits and Postal Institute dues.
Deductions for association/union dues are increasing as more unions take advantage of this new facility.
The proposed new Health Act would be expected to increase the incidence of variation to deductions for medical benefits contributions to a marked degree.
Most Awards and Determinations which affect only a segment of the Department at any one time have been processed speedily by the working of overtime. However, the recent National Wage Award applied to every member of the staff of the Post Office and involved action on superannuation adjustments for every contributor - this work being superimposed on normal pay.
Notwithstanding the use of maximum overtime, weekend work and the deployment of staff from other areas, the delay in completing payment of the National Wage Award is of great concern to Post Office management. The staff of the pay processing areas is to be further increased and specially trained task forces established to provide peak period assistance on an overtime basis. By this means it is confidently expected that future major awards will be paid within 4 complete pay periods after receipt of the necessary instructions from the Public Service Board and the Superannuation Board.
A feasibility study into computerising of staff pay is being undertaken.
The Director-General, Posts and Telegraphs, has recently invited the Association/Unions concerened to participate in a Joint Department/Union Working Party to consider the proposals being immediately implemented and to examine what else can be done.
Functions for which Special Allowances Payable to Lines Staff
In addition to salary, according to classification, Lines Staff personnel are paid allowances for the performance of certain functions. The rates of allowance vary on an incremental basis according to periods of employment on the particular work concerned.
The following are representative of the functions for which allowances are payable:
Felling trees involving climbing on boardsor shoes.
Building chases, pits or manholes in situ; handling explosives (including powder monkey); casting pipes or conduit in situ; reinforcing timber work in tunnels; operating machine rammers, basers, pavement breakers and similar tools over 50 lb weight (excluding point tool); tool fettler; erecting scaffolding on bridges.
Driving and operating mobile cranes having various tonnage capacities - a salary range is prescribed for the function with incremental advancement subject to compliance with normal provisions governing incremental advancement.
Driving and operating pneumatic tyred tractors up to 50 B.H.P. (excluding Front-end and Overhead Loaders).
Driving and operating Crawler Tractors up to and including 6,000 S.W.P. (excluding Front-end and Overhead Loaders).
Driving and operating small trench excavators of the Ditch Witch type.
Driving and operating pneumatic tyred tractors over 50 B.H.P. and up to and including 100 B.H.P.
Driving and operating Crawler Tractors over 6,000 S.W.P. and up to and including 15,000 S.W.P.
Driving and operating chain type trenching machines up to and including 5 feet depth or up to and including 12” width.
Driving and operating Motor Cable Hauling Winches.
Operating Post Hole Borers (including driving of unit to which attached).
Operating Horizontal Earth Auger.
Operating mechanically operated Duct Rodder.
Operating Back Hoes.
Driving and operating Crawler Tractors over 15,000 S.W.P. and up to and including 40,000 S.W.P.
Driving and operating power operated graders below 50 B.H.P.
Driving and operating Front-end and Overhead loaders over 1 cubic yard and up to and including 3 cubic yards capacity.
Driving and operating Crawler Tractor over 40,000 S.W.P.
Driving and operating trenching machines with depth greater than 8 feet and minimum width of 18” and bucket wheel trencher with equivalent capacity in cubic yards.
Driving and operating power operated Grader from 50 B.H.P. upwards.
Driving and Operating Truck Mounted Hoist.
Operating Concrete Paving Saw.
Driving and Operating Straddle Truck.
Operating Machine Dessicating Plant.
Operating Non-Portable Motor Pump-Major Type.
Complex Manhole Building.
Employment in charge of Divisional or auxiliary Divisional Lines Store involving control of at least two other men.
Driving Motor Vehicle (Non Articulated Vehicles) - 7 rates based on vehicle carrying capacity.
Driving Motor Vehicle (Articulated Vehicles) - 22 rates.
Driving and operating specified mechanical aids.
Towing-Pole Trailer: Pole Jinker; 4 Wheel Trailer: Mobile Kitchen - additional allowances for nature of vehicle towed, or - Hand truck (single pole); Stores Trailer; 2 Wheeled General Trailer: Compressor; Cable Trailer; Cable Winch Trailer; Ditcher: Caravan additional allowance for nature of vehicle towed. or - Joint Trailers: Lineman’s Hand Cart; Concrete Mixer; Water Furphy - additional allowance for nature of vehicle towed.
Party Leader/ Leading Hand (Excluding Store Party).
An employee is paid additional salary based on the Lineman Grade 2 salary range whilst in charge of a party which including himself is comprised of - 3-5 employees 6-15 employees 16-30 employees 31 employees and over.
The allowance payable varies according to the size of the party involved.
Second-in-charge Party of 5 or more - payable within the Lineman Grade 2 salary range. In charge sub-party of 3 or more Men (including himself) - salary range applicable to Lineman Grade 2 plus allowance.
Penman (District Works Division) - appropriate salary range with incremental advancement within salary scale.
Cable Jointing/Cable Distribution.
Working in Wet Trench.
Working at Depth.
Concrete pouring in Rain.
(Question No. 296)
asked the Minister representing the Minister tor Shipping and Transport, upon notice:
Has the Court of Marine Inquiry appointed to inquire into the sinking of the ‘Sedco Helen’, with the loss of 9 lives, completed its inquiry: if so, when will a copy of the report be made available to the Senate.
– The Minister for Shipping and Transport has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
No. The Court was adjourned sine die on 25th March, 1970.
Can the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral indicate the number of miles of Australian roads which have, in the past three years, been made safer and more attractive to users by the removal of unsightly telephone poles pursuant to the programme of placing P.M.G. wiring underground Is the programme continuing, and is it anticipated that all P.M.G. wiring will eventually be placed underground?
The Postmaster-General has now furnished me with the following information in reply:
In the last 3 years, a total of 8.250 miles of pole route have been dismantled. This consists of 940 miles in Capital City areas, and 7,310 miles in other areas. There is still some 109,000 miles of pole route in existence.
The systematic replacement of overhead wires on poles with underground cables is progressing at an increasing rate. Necessarily, obsolescent routes are replaced earlier, and other routes later when the limit of their circuit-carrying capacity is approached. Others in turn are eliminated in conjunction with developmental projects initiated by other authorities; for example, Municipal Councils.
The rate of replacement of pole routes with underground cable will continue to increase, but there will remain for many years, pole routes serving subscribers who are located at considerable distances from their exchange. There are both economic and electrical reasons for not removing them at the present time.
Senator Dame IVY WEDGWOOD (Victoria) [11.21]- Cn behalf of the Public Accounts Committee 1 present the One Hundred and Sixteenth Report of the Committee, which relates to Treasury minutes on the Committee’s One Hundredth and One Hundred and Ninth Reports. 1 seek leave to make a short statement.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Bull) - There being no objection leave is granted.
When your Committee is satisfied with the Treasury minute, it is published, together with the conclusions of the report to which it relates, in a subsequent report to the Parliament. This is the background to the report being presented today. In reporting a Treasury minute to the Parliament your Committee, acting on behalf of the Parliament, reserves the right to make comment on the Treasury minute as it thinks necessary. Such comments, taking the form of Committee observations, are included as the final chapter of the report. The need to made such observations, however, has arisen on only 10 occasions in the past 17 years. Your Eighth Committee believes that the Treasury minute arrangements have proved their value over the years as an important element in ensuring that, through your Committee, the Parliament maintains an important and significant role in the financial administration of the Commonwealth. The One Hundred and Sixteenth Report affords further evidence in support of that view. I commend the report to honourable senators.
Ordered that the report be printed.
– I move:
The proposal involves construction of a steel fr-ame building of 5 levels together with a basement area and roof plant room for mail sorting and associated services. The estimated cost of the proposed work is $5. 5m. I table plans of the proposed work.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I ask leave to make a statement.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Bull) - ls leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– On 16th April 1 moved a motion relating to the disallowance of Statutory Rule 1969, No. 138. Since moving this motion the Minister for the Navy (Mr Killen) has written to me as Chairman of the Regulations and Ordinances Committee and has indicated that he is prepared to amend these regulations to accord with the recommendations made by your Committee in its 29th Report.
Statutory Rule 1970, No. 61 being amendments of the Naval Financial Regulations were Gazetted on 1st May 1970 has now been promulgated and meets the Committee’s objections. Accordingly, 1 ask leave of the Senate to withdraw the motion relating to Statutory Rule 1970, 138 which is:
Business of the Senate, Order of the Day No. 1 on today’s Notice Paper.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– Having had discussions with leaders of the various parties I wish to move:
Thai order of the day No. I relating lo times of meeting of the Senate be stood over.
The intention is to bring the matter o.n after lunch. With the concurrence of the leaders 1 will move after lunch to bring on the discussion of hours of sitting.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I wish to move a motion relating to general business.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Bull) - Are you seeking leave to make a statement?
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- There being no objection leave is granted.
– The Australian Democratic Labor Party was under the impression that the debate to be resumed today would be on the motion relating to the royal commission into rural industries. However we were informed that we were under a misapprehension, that the matter of the royal commission was now included in orders of the day and that the general business would proceed according to the notices of motion in the order in which they appear.
– It was not my understanding that orders of the day would come on today. My understanding is that general business comes on today.
– Yes, that is right. The general business item in relation to the rural industries has been debated and adjourned and has now become an order of the day and will not come on in general business tonight.
– That is right.
– Therefore general business would proceed in terms of the notices of motion in the order in which they appear on the business paper under general business, the first being that a select committee of the Senate be appointed to inquire into Australia on Defence. 1 am seeking to move that notice of motion No. 1 under General Business be postponed until after the consideration of notice of motion No. 2; ia other words to rearrange the motions.
– 1 have no objection to that.
– I was not able to give Senator Murphy any earlier intimation because 1 was under the impression thai the rural industries matter would be debated again today. 1 was under a further misapprehension that Government business, orders of the day, would come on today. Although we did not sit on the Thursday evening because of the reception to Her Majesty, [ understand that it was considered to be a sitting day for this purpose and that that item lost its place in the queue. So we come back to General Business and our motion. Being under the 2 misapprehensions I was unable to inform Senator Murphy earlier about this. Both of these matters on the notice paper are in our name and it surely should be a matter of election subject to giving notice. I would have liked to have given earlier notice but in the circumstances I could not. We would like to proceed in the order I have indicated. Therefore I move:
– I presume that we now have a motion and can speak to it. I do not oppose this. As I understand the mechanics of the situation, we are dealing with General Business which will proceed according to the business paper in the circumstances as were outlined by Senator Byrne. He can rearrange it if he wishes and move to item No. 2 so far as my side of the chamber is concerned. In any event, he has the mechanics in his own hands. He simply has to withdraw item No.1 and we then move to item No. 2.
– But then it is lost altogether.
– Yes, it is lost altogether. On the other hand, the honourable senator can put it on the business paper again tomorrow. There are 2 options open. I am a man of peace. We on this side are very gentle and are prepared to co-operate.
– This is being done without any intimation having been given to us but I understand from Senator Byrne’s explanation why this is happening. I should like to make some observations. Since we have been discussing General Business - during the life of the last Parliament the practice of having General Business was re-established - it has operated very well. I have taken the view and expressed it here that although General Business is primarily Opposition business, in theory under the Standing Orders any honourable senator is entitled to put on a motion under General Business. However, I think it is reasonably properly regarded as the way in which the Opposition has been bringing up matters rather than using other devices.I have expressed the view also that a reasonable opportunity should be made within the allotted time for the Australian Democratic Labor Party and for the Independent, Senator Turnbull, if he so wishes, to bring up matters. I take the view that the right of free speech should be preserved in this chamber and, as I have said, there should be a reasonable opportunity for the Democratic Labor Party to bring forward matters that it wishes to bring forward.
There is one complication. The Democratic Labor Party put 3 matters on the notice paper on 1 occasion. If, for instance, the Opposition wished to do so we could put 50 different matters on the notice paper, or we could have on the first day of sitting. If one then stuck to the view that those 50 matters would come on in the order in which they were put on the notice paper it would mean that the paper would be cluttered for several years. That would be undesirable. Instead of doing that I think it is much better for the Senate to treat the matter asI of a reasonable division of time. SoI do not altogether agree with the basis upon which Senator Byrne put it, namely, that the DLP should have an election as to which matter should proceed in the sense that if he were to put on a dozen matters tomorrow the DLP would monopolise the General Business period for the time necessary to discuss them. Rather 1 think that the sensible and fair approach on all sides is that there be a reasonable distribution of the time available taking into account the rights of all senators and, so far as the parties are concerned, their proportional representation in this place.
We had some consideration of item No. 1, notice of motion, which we expected to come on. I do not know whether honourable senators will be ready at short notice to speak on item No. 2. That is the only concern that I have. It may be more appropriate if perhaps another matter with which we are all more familiar were dealt with. I refer to item No. 3 which relates to the ban on the export of merino rams.
– We have had a few bites at that already.
– Yes, but since it is a matter of emergency it might be easier to deal with it tonight. I submit that proposal for Senator Byrne’s consideration. I suggest that Senator Byrne’s motion be adjourned so that it can be considered at a later hour of the day. We then would have an opportunity to see what the position is. I seek leave to continue my remarks.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Debate resumed from 6 May (vide page 1186), on motion by Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Upon which Senator Poke had moved by way of amendment:
At the end of motion add - “, but whilst welcoming the extended scope for grants offered by the Bill, the Senate is of opinion that -
– When the debate on this measure was adjourned last night 1 had been tempted into discussing the wider general aspects of housing. Now I should like lo return to the details of the Bill before us. Earlier I took the opportunity to commend the Minister for Housing (Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin) for her work in relation to this part of her responsibilities. When the legislation was introduced in 1964 it was understood by all of us that it was of an experimental nature and that inevitably, in trying to implement the purposes of the legislation, some administrative difficulties would be found. Indeed that was the experience of those who were trying to give effect to the Government’s wishes in respect to 2 main objectives, firstly, to encourage young people to save, and secondly, to bring into the housing field increasing amounts of money.
Senator Devitt, I think it was, referred to the fact that the Minister was given little discretion in interpreting the measures that she was asked to administer. This is so. In attempting to do ihe right thing by the young people who made applications and found that for various reasons they had difficulty in conforming to all the requirements set out in the Act, she undoubtedly has done her best to overcome the difficulties. Last year we considered various amendments to improve the legislation. In this Bill we are discussing considerable improvements are suggested as amendments. These amendments have resulted from our experience in administering the legislation. I note with pleasure that the Opposition has paid tribute to the very good work that has been done in presenting the proposed amendments. 1 referred earlier to the increased limit on the value of a home to establish eligibility for the grant. This change undoubtedly has been brought about by a practical reconsideration of the increased cost structure evident in the housing industry. This is a commonsense movement to keep the legislation applying relatively to the housing situation. The provision for divorced persons is an eminently necessary and suitable amendment. The difficulties regarding home savings accounts will by the proposed amendment be overcome and a great deal of frustration that has been experienced will be eliminated. 1 am also pleased to note that the provision in respect of dates of application is being interpreted with some liberality. These changes have been made possible through the experience we have had in making this very liberal type of legislation work efficiently. I have referred previously to my discontent that the legislation has not fitted in wilh the objective stated by the Minister when introducing the legislation that it would apply equally to the farming sector. In theory of course it does apply, but in practice, because of other elements relating to the financial structure of primary industry it has been found very difficult to extend to young people engaged in agriculture the benefits of this legislation. The Minister is well aware of these difficulties and is sympathetic towards them. I trust that Cabinet in reviewing the situation will give very earnest consideration to a financial structure that will enable young people engaged in agricultural pursuits to receive the benefits to which they are entitled under the Homes Savings Grant Act.
I would like now to discuss some of the wider implications of the housing industry as they bear upon the Homes Savings Grant Act and the general situation relating to housing, as has already been discussed by other honorable senators. I listened with interest to Senator Devitt when he complained that nobody in Tasmania could obtain a house on a deposit of $500. I do not know how much research he had done on the matter or whether he is correct, but I happened to be turning over the pages of yesterday’s edition of the West Australian’ and my attention was drawn to an advertisement in the real estate columns for a duplex house available on a deposit of $500. It is a new brick and tile 2-bedroom building. I suggest to Senator Devitt that he recommend to young people who are in difficulties in obtaining a house in Tasmania that they go to Western Australia, because it is apparent that houses can be bought there on a deposit of $500. I cannot assure him of the numbers available, but it is evident from a casual inspection of the advertisements that houses are available on that deposit in Western Australia.
– They are available in South Australia on an even lower deposit.
– Perhaps we could set up a competition to attract Tasmanians to South Australia or Western Australia on that basis. I believe there is scope for an examination of our resources and their utilisation within the building industry in a situation where admittedly there is a backlog in the number of houses available, particularly for the lower income groups. I think we should examine our policies in relation to housing. There seems to be a need for advice to young people. Many young people expend too much of their resources, actual or potential, in entering into housing propositions beyond their means. They anticipate their needs. I think Senator Little referred indirectly to this matter, lt is a very real problem in the housing field when currently young people build in advance of their needs which may or may not be realised. In doing so they are tying up housing resources that are urgently needed in other directions.
There is an aspect of our social service legislation that has a bearing on this question. In our pensions legislation married couples owning houses do not have regard to the value of those houses in estimating their assets for the purposes of the means test. In other words, an elderly couple living in quite a large house is deterred from selling that house because, if they sell it, the proceeds then become assessable for purposes of the means test. It would make no difference whatever financially to the Government - in fact it would be an advantage in many respects - if elderly people were able to sell their houses without having the proceeds added to their assets for means test purposes. 1 have in mind particularly an elderly farmer in Western Australia who decided that rather than invest his money in a home and live in comfort he would share a shack on a farm with his sons in order to assist to establish them in the farming industry. For the purposes of the social service legislation he is deemed to have a share in that farm. As that share exceeds the limitations imposed by the means test he is not eligible for a pension. If he divested himself of that interest and bought a house in the nearby town he would receive a pension. There is neither sense nor logic in that situation. I believe that a great deal of our housing resources is inadequately used because elderly people, influenced by the requirements of the means test, are reluctant to divest themselves of their homes. If they do they pay a penalty. They have then to find money for rent and this is not taken into account. I think there is a case for some examination of our utilisation of housing resources in order to achieve a maximum utilisation without adding to the pressures that are forcing up building costs.
The Opposition has criticised the amendments which relate to credit unions, but I think the matters raised by Senator Poke prove conclusively the point that the Government has been making all along, that the credit unions are not established for the purpose of providing money for housing and, therefore, they do not in their present form come within the scope of the purpose of the legislation. On the other hand, what is being suggested in the amendments is to give an opportunity for the credit unions to restructure their organisations so that they will become a useful source of credit for housing and a useful source of funds for housing. 1 feel that the Government is doing the right thing with these amendments in respect of Ihe credit unions in suggesting to the credit unions that they alter their organisations so that they can comply with the legislation. This would mean some reorganisation of the credit union movement in order to carry out this function of financing housing. I. think that in the not very long term the credit union movement will be strengthened and enlarged if it seeks to conform to the proposals in the amendment with regard to housing. Tn the main, I repeat my commendation of the Minister and of the Government for bringing forward these very real improvements to the Homes Savings Grant Act.
[11.52] - in reply - First I should like to thank those honourable senators who have entered this debate on the homes savings grant scheme and to express my appreciation at their agreeing so readily to the excellent amendments proposed in the Bill. I believe that since this legislation was brought in it has done a very great deal for the young people of Australia by assisting young married couples to get their first matrimonial home. I hope the scheme will enable us to carry on this splendid work in assisting our young Australians. However, I must reply lo several points which have been brought forward during the debate.
This debate has been rather interesting because during it we have seen quite a change of character. When the Opposition opened the debate on my motion that the Bill be read a second time, Senator Poke moved an amendment which, in effect, welcomed the extended scope for grants offered by the Bill; but also the honourable senator asked the Senate to accept, among other things, the Opposition view that the clauses of the Bill relating to credit unions be redrafted to give savings with credit unions complete and unconditional recognition. Honourable senators will recall that the amendment was moved on Tuesday and that when the debate was resumed yesterday Senator Poke sought and obtained leave to amend his amendment, but only after he had heard the views on the admission of savings with credit unions as enunciated by representatives of other parties. What 1 find to be absolutely amazing is that Senator Poke should seek leave to amend his amendment and to have second or third thoughts on this matter. To me this is a very amazing thing.
After the Bill was first brought into the Senate it took the Opposition 15 days to prepare its views on the measure, but I am amazed that these views have been changed in the way that we saw yesterday. I believe in Senator Poke’s sincerity and in his interest in this subject, but surely one would have expected the first amendment put before the Senate to have expressed the fully considered views of the Opposition. Why have he and evidently his colleagues had second thoughts? Why was there another consideration? Why was it decided by the Opposition only yesterday that there should be some limit on a prescribed housing loan and that this limit should be $3,000 repayable over not less than 5 years? This is entirely different from the original proposition that all savings with credit unions be given complete and unconditional recognition for the purposes of the home savings grant scheme. Why was it proposed by the Opposition only yesterday that credit unions should perhaps - it does not seem very certain - be required to make loans for the acquisition of a home up to some minimum annual amount before savings with them may be approved? Is it that Senator Poke and his colleagues are coming round to agreeing with the Government that a credit union should be making some sizeable long term housing loans before savings with it will be acceptable for the purposes of the scheme? He is coming round to our view on this. But let me say that I cannot believe that the Australian public can have a great deal of faith in a political party which cannot make up its mind on a matter when it has had time to consider it, having had the legislation for 2 weeks and knowing what the proposals were.
– What is the Government doing with the National Health Bill? It cannot make up its mind either.
– It amazes me that when I say something that Senator Keeffe does not like he decides that we will debate the National Health Bill. This is complete nonsense, of course. I am very interested to know why the Opposition changed its views and why there should be an amendment to an amendment. Why is there a second line of thinking at this stage after such a short space of time?
– An amendment to which you agreed.
– 1 agreed that you should have an amendment, but I did not make the amendment. The honourable senator flatters me. I have never assisted the Opposition to amend their amendment. I agreed only that the Opposition might submit its amended amendment to the Senate.
– You agreed to it before
– Of course I did, because I thought it was so very interesting. I wonder whether the honourable senator’s views have been influenced by the views which have been expressed by other honourable senators or whether they have been altered under some outside influence. This is very interesting. I come back to the point that it seems to me thai Opposition senators have not known their own minds on this and so have needed 1 amendment and then another amendment. But I shall come now to the amendments. The original amendment raised 3 separate questions. The first, as I mentioned, relates to the unconditional recognition of savings with credit unions. As 1 go on a little later I shall speak to the further amended section of it. It has been made perfectly clear from the outset that the homes savings grant legislation has 2 principal purposes. This was made clear in this chamber when the legislation was first introduced by Sir William Spooner and it was made clear also by Mr Bury when he was Minister for Housing. I have reiterated the principles on more than 1 occasion when a Bill to amend this legislation has been before the Senate. The 2 purposes of the scheme remain. These purposes, which were expressed very clearly yesterday by Senator Little, are to encourage young people to save purposefully and consistently for the first home that they own after marriage and to promote savings with the major institutions which make relatively high ratio long term loans for the acquisition of homes.
The Government has on a number of occasions carefully considered the representations which have been made to it that credit union savings be acceptable for the purposes of this scheme. It will be recalled that the Government gave consideration to this aspect when similar legislation was previously before the Senate. But the Government is faced with the fact that credit unions make few, if any, large and long term loans for the acquisition of homes. We always come back to this point. I wish to make it quite clear that the Government does not question the fact that a significant proportion of the loans made by some of the larger credit unions is for purposes associated with housing. However until recently a majority of the loans made by credit unions for housing purposes were of relatively small amounts and for relatively short periods. In the main the loans were for subsidiary housing purposes, such as extensions and repairs to homes. However, a number of credit unions have recently been making larger loans for longer periods. In order to assist the credit union movement the Government has set out clearly the conditions under which savings with a credit union may be acceptable for the purposes of the scheme. By making this provision in the Bill which is now before the Senate the Government is making it practicable for savings with a credit union to be acceptable if the credit union is willing to make a reasonable effort to lend money to its members to acquire homes. 1 refer now to the second part of Senator Poke’s original amendment, which has not been altered in any way since he moved it. The second part of his amendment deals wilh the commencing date of the proposal to remove the requirement that savings bank accounts and fixed deposits with trading banks must be designated as home savings accounts if the moneys in these accounts are to be accepted for the purposes of the scheme. I am sure all honourable senators are aware that the Government proposes that the new conditions will apply to applicants who contracted to buy or build a home on or after 27th October 1969, which is, of course, the operative date for the new limit of $17,500 on the value of a house and land which may attract a grant. The limit will be increased from $15,000 to $17,500 under this Bill. This is the new value of a home which may attract a grant.
The Government would not wish an applicant who acquired his home on or after 27th October 1969, and who stands to benefit from the proposed increase in the limit on the value of the home, to continue to be ineligible for the grant because of the fact that the other amendment to the principal Act from which he stood to benefit had not yet come into effect. For this and other reasons it was decided that both amendments to the principal Act - the increase in the permissible value of house and the land to $17,500 and the amendment concerning designated accounts - should become effective from the same date. As the non-designation provision might reasonably have applied from the date on which the legislation would have received the royal assent, the Government’s proposal to make it operative from an earlier date - a date even earlier than that of its announcement - is, I believe, a most generous concession indeed. It will help many people. It will help to eliminate possible confusion about the dates of commencement of operation of the 2 new provisions of this legislation which, I believe, arc so very important. These provisions must be of help to many young prospective home buyers.
The third part of the amendment which was moved by Senator Poke on behalf of the Opposition concerns the right of applicants to have their homes valued by the Commonwealth Taxation Office. The Government does not think it is necessary to obtain a second valuation in every case in which an applicant contests the valuation of his home by the Department of Housing. In many cases it is quite clear that the value of the home is beyond the statutory limit. Therefore, a further valuation would be obviously a waste of time and money. There have been instances where, for example, the Department has valued a home at $19,000 and the applicant has insisted that its value is not more than $ 1 4,000. I am quite certain that if the home were up for sale the applicant would think differently about claiming for it a value of $14,000. In the few cases where the Department’s valuation has been slightly in excess of the permissible value it. has sought and obtained a check valuation by the Taxation Office. In such cases the applicant is invited by the Department to submit any additional relevant information he has in his possession. I can assure Senator Poke and other honourable senators that this practice will continue. The Government believes that it is a fair, just and proper practice.
Of course, there are a number of other channels, both formal and informalthrough which an applicant can seek a review of a departmental decision. I remind honourable senators that there is a statutory right of appeal, under section 1 1 of the principal Act, to the Secretary of the Department of Housing against any decision of an officer of the Department concerning an applicant’s entitlement to a grant. An applicant can also seek a review of a decision of the Department by having representations made by an honourable senator. We all know that this happens sometimes and it is right that it should happen. 1 also draw the attention of honourable senators to the fact that each notice of determination which is sent to unsuccessful applicants concludes with the words: ‘If you feel that we have misunderstood the position or that there are additional factors of which we are unaware which would affect the situation we would, of course, review the matter’.
The Government believes that the present system is working satisfactorily and that it contains adequate safeguards against the unjust treatment of applicants. 1 believe that if the amendment moved by Senator Poke is adopted a time consuming and costly procedure will be superimposed on the present system, and nobody could be satisfied that it would result in the making of a grant to an additional applicant who would not otherwise have received 1. This is, of course, an opportunity for this sort of thing to be done within the ambit of the present scheme. For these reasons the Government is unwilling to accept Senator Poke’s amendment.
I would like to refer now to the remarks which were made by Senator Devitt. With great respect to him - and I do not say this unkindly - I feel that Senator Devitt was making a number of suggestions off the cuff. I wish to discuss them in some depth and at some length during my remarks. Senator Devitt suggested that I should have a discretionary power to make a grant in respect of a dwelling which exceeds by only a few hundred dollars the ceiling value approved by the Parliament. He also suggested - perhaps before giving the matter thorough attention - that the number of dwellings which are being commenced in Australia should be increased. The value of a dwelling which attracts a grant is covered in the legislation. We all know the provisions of the legislation. In relation to Senator Devitt’s suggestion that the number of dwellings which are being commenced in Australia at present should be increased, I ask: From where are the manpower resources to come? This would have drastic inflationary effects on the prices of homes in the future. Surely we must accept some responsibility for preventing inflation of this nature. It is non.sence to suggest - as the honourable senator has done - that the tenants of some housing commission homes are frightened to ask for necessary repairs to be carried out because they may be evicted from their homes.
– No, 1 did not say that.
– That was how 1 understood the point when I look a note of it last night. If the honourable senator says that he did not say that. I apologise, but I was very concerned about it. However. I shall take it no further.
During the course of the debate a number of references have been made by honourable senators - as I recall it. Senator Buttfield spoke along this line - to the recent increases in interest rates on housing loans and to the possible effects on home building of these increases and of other aspects of overall monetary restraint. So because I believe this matter is important and because it was touched on. 1 think, by every honourable senator who has spoken in the debate, I propose to put to the Senate the facts about (he housing situation in Australia today and what our aims are regarding housing. I think I can say that the comments made by all speakers in the debate impose on me a responsibility to make these comments. 1 want honourable senators to look at the picture of home building in Australia. The position is that home building activity in Austrafia has been expanding at a very rapid rate.
– In some States.
– I think these figures are important to all of us. In 1967 a then record number of 118,000 new dwellings was commenced. In 1968 the number commenced was 131,600 In 1 969 the number rose further to 1 44,500. In other words, the number of dwellings commenced rose by 22% in the past 2 years. In the last half of last year, expenditure at current prices on new dwelling construction was 19% higher than in the corresponding period of 1968, although between these 2 half years the gross national product had risen by only 9%. I think these are important figures, lt is very difficult to find a satisfactory definition of housing needs. I think that Senator Devitt, in his comments last night, spoke a little along this line. But estimates may be made of needs, based on population increases - including migration - marriage trends, the growing demand for single persons’ homes and holiday cottages, and the increasing number of homes being demolished. These factors indicate that the current rate of completions could be slightly in excess of needs, as calculated on that basis.
I shall now refer to a point that I made in passing a couple of moments ago. In recent months labour has become scarcer and wages and other costs have been rising rapidly. The labour position is extremely tight. Less than 1% of our total work force in unemployed, and there are virtually no untapped sources of manpower. In the skilled building and construction trades there were 1,640 registered vacancies in March of this year, but only 1,260 registered unemployed. I turn to the point which Senator Buttfield made by interjection, it is true that the situation Ls uneven between the States but, by and large, there is a relative scarcity of building labour and widespread industrial unrest. In general, the production of building materials has kept up with the increasing demand. There may be a shortage of a few materials, especially, I am informed, of clay products in some places. But it appears that further expansion of home building is not being restrained to any significant extent by the shortage of materials.
Wages and the prices of material have been rising at an uncomfortably high rate. Investigation officers of the Commonwealth Department of Housing estimate that in the March quarter of this year costs and prices in most States were rising at an annual rate of at least 5%. In New South Wales Ihe rate of increase would appear to have been even higher. Sooner or later, these increasing costs must be reflected in the prices of new homes. This is happening. We certainly do not wish to see homes costing more than is necessary. I believe that everybody would agree with that. In recent weeks the Commonwealth Treasurer (Mr Bury) has referred to the need for some easing of the inflationary pressures building up throughout the economy. Some factors are already working in this direction.
The 1969-70 Budget was framed to produce a cash surplus. During the last half of 1969 the Government was spending in excess of its cash receipts, but in the current half veur its cash inflow is in excess of expenditure. This has the effect of reducing the supply of money available in the community. There has been some decline in overseas capital inflow. All these factors tend to make money scarcer and to push up its price. This, of course, has been reflected, as honourable senators have mentioned, in a rise in interest rates. As the Treasurer has said, policy is being directed to curbing a tendency for spending to run to excess and to bringing about an increase in saving, lt is hoped to encourage an increase in saving and, indeed, to discourage the running down of savings, by the offer of higher interest rates. If these moves in the market have the effects that are intended, there will be a return to a more sustainable level of overall spending, including expenditure on new dwellings. There are already signs that this is beginning to happen in the home building industry.
I want to make one point very strongly in reply to a question which was asked a day or so ago. This monetary restraint is not being directed largely or mainly at home building. The housing industry has not been singled out as a principal target, although it cannot expect to be unaffected by the overall monetary measures now in operation. During the latter half of 1969, expenditure on dwelling construction in Australia rose to a very high rate of 5% or more of the gross national product. Any industry which represents such a significant proportion of total community expenditure cannot escape the effects of overall monetary restraint.
Several honourable senators have referred to the higher interest rates on housing loans. As many private lenders and public authorities are now compelled to offer higher interest rates in order to attract needed savings, they must raise their interest charges on loans they make so as to cover the increased costs to them of the funds they lend. This is one of the facts of economic life. A rise in the interest rate charged on a housing loan does, of course, increase the cost of a home to the home seeker. Over the period of the loan the borrower pays more to the lender. But I think this is the point which we, as honourable senators must consider: Which is preferable - known additional interest charge on homes selling at relatively stable prices, or unknown additional charges for interest and repayments on larger and still larger loans as the prices of homes spiral up? I believe that this would surely happen if the inflationary pressures were unrestrained. I believe honourable senators would agree that a known additional interest payment is preferable and the burden of this is eased when the lender extends the period of repayment.
The interest charge on most savings banks’ housing loans has risen by about three-quarters of 1% per annum. On an average loan of $8,500 repayable over 20 years, an increase of three-quarters of 1% per annum in the interest charge will cost the borrower no more than $1 per week. During the past year average earnings per employed male rose by more than S6 per week. An increasing proportion of wage and salary earners have shown - and I think every honourable senator is aware of this - an inclination and a willingness to spend a higher proportion of their income on improved housing. We have seen this. This has led to improved housing. The increased interest charge, while unwelcome, is clearly within the capacity of most wage and salary earners to pay for the home of their choice.
– I dispute that.
– That is all right. 1 am putting my point. 1 am dealing with the points the honourable senator raised. I think it is fair that 1 should reply to them in the Senate. Senator Devitt spoke about Housing Commission homes. I wish to comment on the long term Commonwealth bond rate which now has risen to 7%. New advances to the Slate housing authorities under the housing agreements will bear interest at 6% per annum. With finance costing 6%, the economic rent for an authority house and land costing $10,000 is more than SI 7 a week. I am well aware that such a rent exceeds 20% and could even be as much as 25% of the current incomes of some families who receive at least the minimum wage but considerably less than the average weekly male eanrings. These families include those in need of housing assistance, as Senator Devitt mentioned. The extent of future Commonwealth assistance in this field is a matter to which I am currently giving consideration. All these points are tied up with the matters that the honourable senator raised about the overall housing picture.
As most people who buy or build a house borrow for that purpose, changes in the availability and cost of housing loans have an effect on the level of home building activity. In recent months, when spending has been rising at a pretty rapid rate, deposits with major institutions which lend for housing have failed to increase as rapidly as in corresponding periods in recent years. The savings banks are disappointed at the slower rate of increase in the balances of depositors. The net inflow of funds to permanent building societies recently slackened substantially. The reduced inflow and restricted number of loans being made by these societies are causes of genuine concern to many home builders and home seekers. It is easy to exaggerate the effect of what is largely a seasonal slackening. The savings banks are continuing to enter into new housing loan commitments of a value not much lower than they were approving during the last 6 months of 1969. Each year from March to June there is a customary increased rate of withdrawal of funds from permanent building societies. This year the rate of withdrawals rose a little earlier than usual. This probably was because depositors withdrew their funds to make other purchases. More recently the seasonal inflow of funds to the Commonwealth reduced the capacity of the permanent building societies to enter into new loan commitments. The present is a difficult period for these societies, but their leaders are hopeful that the rate of lending will show the usual seasonal rise during the second half of 1970. This is very much a seasonal situation.
On a deseasonalised basis, the recent March quarter approvals for new dwellings was more than 8% higher than the approvals in the corresponding quarter last year but were at a reduced rate in comparison with the preceding December quarter. Commencements fell from the seasonally adjusted figure of 36,400 in the December 1969 quarter to 35,000 on a seasonably adjusted basis for the March quarter. Although the 4% decline in the level of commencements occurred largely in the public sector, more recent indications of some tightening in the availability of housing finance and advices received from a number of the larger builders suggest that some easing in the rate of home building activity could be under way. Our hope - and I am sure everybody would agree with this - is that any decline in dwelling construction from the present exceptionally high level will be no more than a brief pause *o gather breath during the long term upward trend in home building activity in this country. In that regard honourable senators should bear in mind the figures which I gave earlier.
Whilst wishing to maintain the highest possible rate of growth in our economy, the Government feels that it must ease the inflationary pressures currently at work even if this means that some new construction must be deferred for a little while. More houses are needed to permit growth to take place. The last thing the Government wishes to see is an insufficient number of homes being built. But we are worried by the rate of increase in home building costs, as are some leaders in the industry. Some steadying down in the over rapid rate of increase in housing construction will be in the interests of the industry. Honourable senators, home seekers and builders may rest assured that the Government will watch very carefully developments in this situation in the period ahead. I believe we have a responsibility to do so. I also believe that it is important that the matters which were referred to during the debate should be answered in my reply.
Last night Senator Little spoke about marriage loans and of the importance that he placed on such loans. I believe that what we are doing through the homes savings grant scheme is assisting young people tremendously to acquire their first matrimonial home. I cannot agree with all the comments that he made, but I do agree entirely that the first priority of housing authorities in allocating dwellings at reasonable rentals should be given to those families, including widows and deserted wives with dependent children, who are most in need of housing assistance. I have commented on a number of remarks that were made by honourable senators. I have commented on the amendments moved by the Opposition. The Government cannot possibly accept the amendments which have been moved. We are quite unwilling to accept the amended amendment of the Opposition that the limit on prescribed housing loans be only S3, 000 repayable over 5 years. I ask Senator Poke how many young peole seeking to borrow to obtain a home of their own would have their substantial borrowing requirements met by a loan of only S3, 000. The minimum amount of the prescribed housing loan certainly must be higher than his figure of §3,000.
I do not believe that the requirement that a credit union must be lending $50,000 a year for purposes in connection with the acquisition of homes is too strict a condition. A society has only to make 5 or 6 loans of $7,000 and a number of smaller loans for this purpose to be lending $50,000 a year. Senator Little said that he would like to see 5% or more of the credit unions approved in the near future. For the very good reasons which I have given it is quite impossible for us to accept the amendments which have been moved. But I refer again to my second reading speech in which I showed that I agree with Senator Little in that I would like in the future to see credit unions complying with the proposed conditions and becoming approved. I thank all honourable senators who have supported this Bill. I trust that it will be passed through the Senate with all of the amendments which the Government has proposed, because I believe that the acceptance of these amendments will benefit our young people by helping them to get their first matrimonial home and will extend the areas of acceptance and the areas of assistance. This, I believe, is something which every honourable senator desires. So 1 do ask that the Senate defeat the amendment moved by the Opposition and support the Bill in its entirety.
- Mr Acting Deputy President-
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Davidson) - Senator Little, you are aware, of course, that your remarks must be confined to that section of the amendment which was amended by leave last night.
– I am very much aware that whatever remarks I make at this stage must be associated with an amendment that was most surprisingly moved after I spoke on the Bill itself and the amendment that was then before the Senate. I might say that in a career in the State Parliament and in my very short period in this Senate I have never before been faced with a similar situation in which an opposition, having moved an amendment, having had it discussed quite fully and having allowed a corner party such as my own to express its opinion on the amendment, has by leave withdrawn that amendment and replaced it with one which has an entirely different concept and which we were not given an opportunity to examine before it was brought into the Senate. This is a situation, I. suppose, to which one must adapt oneself. We initiated all of the ideas that are now contained in the amendment that is before the Senate as to the necessity for compromise particularly on the question of the stringent conditions applied to the credit unions. Senator Devitt, who preceded me last night, gave no warning to the Senate to expect any divergence from the amendment that had already been moved and certainly not one of such sweeping consequences as the one that was produced. I am sure that Labor senators in all fairness will forgive me if [ suggest that it must have been due to the remarks that I made in this Senate. Surely Senator Devitt would have at least made some reference to a changing of attitude by the Labor Party in this circumstance. 1 do feel that there has been a tremendous breach of faith in the introduction of these ideas in this manner. This, of course, is now a political exercise to try to seek aggrandisement for a political party rather than the objective that is contained in the amendment itself. If Senator Poke, who is trying to interject, feels aggrieved at my comment he must accept responsibility for the manner in which the amendment was produced. 1 challenge him to read his own speech in Hansard and to see whether at that stage he was in any way contemplating the change that is produced by this amendment.
Of course, we examine this now as to its practical consequences. What does it achieve? It expresses an opinion to the Government. It does not do a thing and it cannot achieve anything. It has embodied in it, certainly, the principles about which I spoke and which I commended to the Government for consideration. 1 believe that a stage was being reached where the Government was giving very serious consideration, not necessarily to the terms of this amendment which now, not surprisingly, has been rejected by the Minister for Housing (Senator Dame Annabelle
Rankin), but at least to the fundamental principles of the 3 areas in which I was very careful not to indicate in any way to the Government that we felt that there should be specific proposals. We commended to the Government that it should give deep and mature consideration to what I consider - and which Hansard will verify or otherwise - were very commendable arguments placed by the Democratic Labor Party before the Government for its consideration in the 3 areas of this excellent Bill in which we believed it had some limitations.
We do not wish to see this reduced to the stage of a political exercise in words that will accomplish nothing at all.I feel disposed - although some of the ideasI expressed are embodied in the amendment - to indicate to the Senate that it is still not our intention to support this amendment because it will accomplish nothing and merely expresses in more specific terms to the Government ideas that do not belong to the people who want them expressed in this manner but were indeed ideas of our own. 1 am disturbed because although the propositions that have been produced in this nefarious amendment are not identical with mine but they are so close to the area in which I was trying to accomplish something in another manner that there seems to have been a betrayal of confidence somewhere along the line andI allow the Labor Party to answer that for itself.
– Nobody has confidence in you.
– If the honourable senator lacks confidence in me that is flattering indeed. I would hate to think that I was subject to a set of circumstances in which I had to depend on somebody else to do my thinking for me and then had to say that I had no confidence in that person. The honourable senator has already expressed in no uncertain terms his confidence in me. He has stolen my ideas. What greater flattery is there than that? If he was a person who I held in high regard, I would indeed be carried away with a sense of his dependence upon me. He who asks for it and tries to dish it out should be prepared to take it. I suggest that the honourable senator would do his cause more good if he listened and learned rather than tried to promote a discussion with me by way of interjection. The terms of this amendment will accomplish exactly nothing in the way of progress along the road that I would hope to see this legislation travel. I hope it still will travel along that road despite the disruption that has been caused by this. Because of the time that we have at our disposal we should shortly enter the Committee stage of this debate. This disruption has deprived us of the opportunity to prepare completely not only the techniques with which we were trying to accomplish something but also any propositions to put at the Committee stage. Therefore, I would hops that the Government, as we propose to defeat this amendment which will accomplish nothing, will give serious consideration to allowing more time at the Committee stage for the consideration of ideas which we commended to the Government. That is a matter that I accept as being entirely in the hands of the Government now because the Opposition, by its attitude on this legislation, has made it so. I make that further plea to the Government. I commend to it the idea that the Committee stage of this Bill should be given sufficient time to allow some consideration of the areas I have suggested need consideration. It is for those reasons rather than anything in the amendment as it is now before us that we propose to reject that amendment.
That the words proposed to be added (Senator Poke’s amendment) be added.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator Sir Alister McMullin)
Majority . . . . Nil
Question so resolved in the negative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Sitting suspended from 12.50 to 2.15 p.m.
Debate resumed from 6 May (vide page 1171), on motion by Senator Anderson:
That, unless otherwise ordered, the days and times of meeting of the Senate for the period from 6th May until the end of the present period of sittings be as follows:
Tuesdays - 2.30 p.m. until 6.00 p.m. 8.00 p.m. until 1 1.00 p.m.
Wednesdays - 2.30 p.m. until 6.00 p.m. 8.00 p.m. until 1 1.00 p.m.
Thursdays - 10.00 a.m. until 1.00 p.m. 2.00 p.m. until 6.00 p.m. 8.00 p.m. until 1 1.00 p.m.
That, unless otherwise ordered, the sessional order relating to the adjournment of the Senate have effect at 11.00 p.m. each day.
– I seek leave to make a statement.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Bull) - Is leave granted? There being no objection leave is granted.
– In the period since we last debated this matter I have had discussions with members of the Government parties and, in the short term, we are not attracted to the proposal for a 2-week cycle of sittings. I am speaking now exclusively about the remainder of these sittings until 12th June or thereabout. We are not attracted to any proposal for a 2-week cycle of sittings - that is, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. The reason why we are not impressed with that proposal is that it would pose tremendous difficulties for those honourable senators who live in Western Australia, Queensland or Tasmania. They may well find themselves arriving home, at the best, very late on Friday evening or not until Saturday morning. They would need to leave their State on the Sunday afternoon or midday Sunday in order to reach Canberra for their work on Monday. We are not prepared at this point of time to countenance that as a proposition.
I want to put the motion as it appears on the notice paper. I give an assurance that when we are sitting during the Budget session I intend to speak with the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Murphy) and the Leader of the Australian Democratic Labor Party (Senator Gair) to discuss on a mutual basis any proposal that may be canvassed for the sitting times of the Budget session. In doing so we may need to have regard to the other House. I therefore move in terms of Order of the Day No.1 for the remainder of the sittings in this sessional period. There may be some variation in these times, give or take a little, but I want to keep as close to them as I possibly can for the remainder of the session. It may well be that as more work comes to this chamber from the other place I may move, even in this period of sittings, for Friday sittings. The work load may very well justify this; in fact I am certain it will.
– I ask leave to make a statement.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Bull) - Is leave granted? There being no objection leave is granted.
– The Opposition has discussed the motion on the times of meeting of the Senate. It does not seem practicable to us at this stage to make the major change. In fact, it is the Opposition’s view that there ought to be a general discussion along the lines the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Anderson) has
The Australian Labor Party will not oppose this proposition in principle. It would suggest some relatively minor changes directed towards advancing the time of sittings a little earlier into the day while rising not so late at night.I suggest that the motion be slightly amended so as to read:
Tuesdays - 2 p.m. until 6 p.m. 8 p.m. until 10.30 p.m.
Wednesdays - 2 p.m. until 6 p.m. 8 p.m. until 1 1 p.m.
Thursdays - 10 a.m. until 1 p.m. 2 p.m. until 6 p.m. 8 p.m. until 10.30 p.m.
– When you say finish at 10.30 p.m., what do you mean?
– The adjournment motion would be put automatically.
– I inform the Senate that my colleagues and I of the Australian Democratic Labor Party have discussed this question of the hours of sittings. Like the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Anderson) and the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Murphy) we feel that any major change in the programme of the Senate might be left until after the end of the Autumn session and before the commencement of the Budget session. Minor alterations in the working week have been recommended. These would be acceptable to me. I believe that having come hereI am here for one primary reason only and that is to do my job as a senator. That is why I cannot agree to the suggestion - we are not really discussing it now - that we
– You will not have very much left to talk about soon.
– At least I would not devote very much time to talking about you because I regard time as too valuable.
– That was not a kindly remark.
– Do not interrupt. If you put your big head out you might get a crack on it, as Dr Cairns did. However, I was saying when I was rudely interrupted by the Yahoo from Tasmania–
– I rise to order, Mr President. I ask that that remark be withdrawn. I come from Tasmania and I do not wish to be referred to as a yahoo from Tasmania.
– If Senator Gair used that word he must withdraw it.
– I will withdraw it. It is really surprising how hypersensitive honourable senators become when they provoke and ask for trouble. They get it, and they cannot take it.
– I have had my troubles.
– I could understand you having your periods of trouble. I bet they are long and tedious ones. However, I was saying when I was interrupted that the late sitting at night is unjustified. Certain honourable senators are abusing the Standing Orders in this connection. If the Leaders of the Parties cannot discipline their members and see that there is a proper distribution of the privilege to speak on the adjournment motion the Senate will have to make some action by some means to see that the Standing Orders are not abused.
– Leave them without a quorum.
– There are many methods but those are the things which concern me most in relation to hours.I come to Canberra regularly. My record of attendance here is as good as the best and belter than most. I want to get on with the job. 1 can see nothing that I could do at night in any free lime. Other people might have good reasons for not being here, but let us get on with our business and get home. Let us spend more time in our States doing our job in the interests of the people we represent.
– I seek leave to amend my motion to accord with Senator .Murphy’s suggestion.
– No objection having been raised, leave is granted. The question is: That the motion, as amended, be agreed to.
Question resolved in the affirmative
Debate resumed (vide page 1 206).
– We have had a chance to consider this matter, lt will be remembered that Senator Byrne moved that notice of motion No. 2 take precedence over notice of motion No. I. May 1. suggest that if that is done we can conveniently deal at the same time with notice of motion No. 4. 1 doubt whether the matters would be finished tonight in any case but they are 2 matters dealing with the same kind of subject. If that were done we would agree to Senator Byrne’s motion, ls that acceptable, to Senator Byrne?
– by leave - I would have some reservations about that because 1 notice of motion is in critical vein. Item No. 2 proposes the setting up of a joint select committee whereas item No. 4 states:
The Senate considers that the Government has failed to make reasonable financial arrangements with the Stales. . . .
The 2 subjects are in a completely different context and I do not think it appropriate to debate them together. There is no implied criticism of the Government in item No. 2 but there is a very strong implied criticism of the Government in item No. 4.
– by leave - The idea behind the motion which stands as item No. 2, notice of motion, under General Business, in the name of Senator Little was that the time had come, as evidenced by the obvious concern being experienced and articulated in Australia in the States and in the Commonwealth, for a look at the totality of the financial relations between the Commonwealth and the States. Whether blame lies here or there, whether anyone is not getting enough or whether he should get his allocation in a different form is, in our concept, by the way. The point is that the whole structure now requires a review and the idea of putting it in this form was, firstly, that it should be looked at in an objective fashion, not in any party political fashion. Secondly, it will be noticed that, rather differently from our usual proposition, we have suggested a joint select committee of both Houses, the reason being that the Senate has a responsibility as the States House in its original fundamental form.
– We should not be arguing the merits of it.
– I know that. We can only put the concept forward. The second reason is that, after all, the House which is substantially responsible for the raising and disbursement of revenue is the House of Representatives. That is why we thought that the particular skill of members of that House and their position in the functioning of the Commonwealth should be drawn on in association with honourable senators to constitute a joint committee. I feel that our objective approach to our proposition could well be destroyed, and certainly could be marred, if intruded in this was to be some criticism by one Party of the Government, or by the Government of a previous government, or something of that character. lt would be open, of course, to honourable senators - Senator Willesee propounds and other honourable senators would support notice of motion No. 4 - to express, in the debate on notice of motion No. 2, the views that they have. It might be said that in the context there is nothing wrong with the present arrangement but it is not being worked fairly in the interests of the Commonwealth, or something of that character. Nevertheless I think that is a debating point to be made rather than a point of substance in association with the motion which was put.
– You might force us to submit an amendment to your motion.
– We would not want that but that would be a matter for you.
– The purpose of our amendment would be to displace your item if we could not have the other one considered at the same time.
– The debate could very well run on and views could be expressed, and according to the views which emerged during the debate the Opposition might then say that perhaps the resolution did not adequately express its views. At that stage it could propound an amendment to our motion if it so desired. That course would be open to it according to the ebb and flow of the debate. I have dealt now with the first point as to whether item No.1 and item No. 4 should be considered together.
I would not see any great merit in advancing item No. 4 to discuss it in association with item No. 2, but if the Opposition feels that that condition precedent not having been satisfied, it might have to take a point of view in relation to the movement of item No. 2 above item No. 1 to give precedence to Senator Little’s proposal which I moved, then there are 2 ways in which that could be done. One would be for us to withdraw our motion and the other would be to translate the items. When my motion was put on it preceded a defence statement by the Minister for Defence (Mr Malcolm Fraser) which was of considerable length and in very great detail. That is why we feel now that the other matter has assumed an urgency which could justify its promotion above item No. 1. However, we do not desire to denigrate in any way the importance of the defence statement by taking it off the business paper. For this reason we would rather support and present to the Senate a proposition that Senator Little’s motion be advanced, that item No. 1 be dropped below it and that the Senate proceed on the basis of discussion of Senator Little’s motion dissociated from any other motion now on the business paper. 1 would hope that the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Murphy) and honourable senators supporting him could see the reasons which justify my contention in adopting this procedure, and we would hope to get support for it.
Senator MURPHY (New South WalesLeader of the Opposition) - by leave - To put the matter in order I move, as an amendment to Senator Byrne’s motion:
At end of motion add ‘and that the Senate shall consider concurrently with Notice of Motion No. 2, Notice of Motion No. 4, General Business, in the name of Senator Willesee, namely “That the Senate considers that the Government has failed to make reasonable financial arrangements with the States for carrying out the activities of the States, local government and semi-governmental authorities “.’.
– We will oppose that. I suggest that it be put to the vote.
That the words proposed to be added (Senator Murphy’s amendment) be added.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator Sir Alister McMullin)
Majority . . . . 3
Question so resolved in the negative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from 23 April (vide page 1059). on motion by Senator Wright:
Thai the Bill be now read a second time.
Ssr.a.cr GREENWOOD (Victoria) [2.40] -The motion before the Senate is for the second reading of a Bill to establish an Office of Parliamentary Counsel and for purposes connected therewith. I generally support what the Bill proposes and, not being desirous of being repetitive, I endorse most of what has been said by honourable senators who have preceded me in this debate. I think we all agree that a particular situation has arisen with regard to the volume and nature of the work which has to be performed by the Parliamentary Draftsman and that the situation requires radical revision. However, I think that this Bill is only one step, and perhaps the first step, in a series of steps which must be taken. 1 have doubts as to whether this Bill, taken by itself, will achieve any remarkable changes, but it indicates an approach which, if pursued, undoubtedly will bring changes of benefit.
I would imagine that the 3 members of the Drafting Division who are likely to be the parliamentary counsel established by this Bill have for many years given dedicated service which, even without these proposed changes, they would continue to give as they have done over the years. Whilst no doubt it must be satisfactory to them and to both Houses of Parliament that they should be accorded the status and preferment intended to be given by this Bill, I would not have imagined that it was necessary to introduce this legislation in order to secure the continuance of their present services. Therefore I doubt very much that taken by itself this Bill achieves a great deal.
What in fact does the Bill do? As I read the provisions it seeks to achieve 2 objectives. Firstly, it will permit an improvement in the status of these people and, as the Minister has indicated - because the Bill does not say anything about it - it will allow an improvement in salary of the 3 parliamentary counsel. Secondly, it defines in a way that has not been denned before the functions of parliamentary counsel. The functions are set out in the Bill. An examination of those functions is an exercise which permits elaboration of some of the deficiencies which are at present apparent in the work or the output of the office of the Parliamentary Draftsman. I believe that we should not be tolerating the present situation. I am sure that we should not tolerate it for very long into the future. That it has been tolerated at all is, I think, a recognition of problems in the Draftsman’s office which have justified the tolerance so far extended.
Other honourable senators have referred in some detail to the present situation in which we lack these volumes of the annual statutes which enables not only members of Parliament but also lawyers and other people interested to ascertain what is the law. We have not yet received even the 1968 bound volume of statutes. Further than that, not only are the 1968 Acts not available in a bound and indexed form; that is also the position for 1969 and for the completed part of this year. Of course, it is very difficult to ascertain when one looks at any piece of legislation what precisely is the current state of the law, because there is no set of annotations. There are very few consolidated individual Acts which will enable one readily to pick up the matters to which one is referring. The same situation applies to the regulations which have an increasing importance in ascertaining the legal provisions on particular subjects. As I understand the position, we are still in that area lacking the 1968 and successive years’ bound volumes.
I believe that an even worse situation exists with regard to the ordinances and regulations of the Australian territories - particularly the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory - and the extent to which the Draftsman’s office in Canberra has responsibility for the drafting of ordinances and regulations for the Territory of Papua and New Guinea. This is highlighted by the fact that 1 of the ordinances which has been tabled in the Senate this year dispenses with the requirement that any amendments to the New South Wales statutes which are deemed to apply in the Australian Capital Territory should’ be reprinted, this having been a statutory requirement under the Acts Amendment Incorporation Act since 1906. I sense that because hereafter there is no requirement that any amendment to a pre- 1906 Act is to be reprinted, that is a indication of the problems which the drafting office has, firstly in ascertaining what the state of the law is prior to 1906 and, secondly, coping with the physical requirements of obtaining a reprinting, lt is important that a body of law should be available not only to the citizen but equally to the lawyer and the judiciary. That body of law should be readily ascertainable and readily understandable. With such a volume of statute law having appeared in recent years and so many amendments to substantial Acts having occurred, the present situation is highly unsatisfactory.
– Yes. The annotated Acts represent one sphere in this general question which needs a radical change in the Commonwealth area. There is so much with regard to regulations and statutes which is inconveniencing in the extreme to those who have to ascertain readily what a particular legal position is. I appreciate that this was said earlier in the debate and has been said in this place on other occasions, but I feel that nothing is lost in this area by emphasising from as many quarters as possible and on as many occasions as possible that this situation is totally unsatisfactory.
When one looks at an area other than the printing of legislation, that is, the area of the drafting of legislation - I mention this because the functions of the Office of Parliamentary Counsel are set out in the Bill - one finds that there is a confidence, a broad expertise and a very considerable wealth of learning which the existing parliamentary draftsmen bring to the drafting of the measures which are introduced into the Parliament. But lack of numbers has prevented the standard from being generally available in the presentation of measures to the Parliament. I understand that some 40 years ago when a measure was introduced into the Parliament it was not introduced in the manner that it is now, which is simply a set of amendments to a preexisting Act; in those days there was set out not only the amendments but also the Act itself which was to bc amended. I do not know how general that practice was, but lest I am making too general a statement of what was not the position, 1 understand thai it wa.s n procedure which was followed on some occasions. But I should think that notwithstanding what the general position was many years ago, it would certainly facilitate a greater participation by legislators in the work of legislation if, when a measure was introduced to the Parliament to amend an Act, there could be a ready appreciation of the effect of that amendment on the existing legislation.
I notice that in part this is recognised by a measure yet to come before this chamber in the National Health Bill which is currently before the House of Representatives. But even that does not go sufficiently far along the directions I would envisage because it would be prudent to see the existing Act, to see what the amendment is and then to look at what the Bill would be like when it had been amended by the legislation currently before the Parliament. One appreciates that at present there is not the time or the members of the Drafting Division of the Attorney-General’s Department to enable this to be done and it may be some lime before there are both the time and the numbers. However, I think this is an objective for which we should be striving, and 1 would hope that this would be one of the objectives which the AttorneyGeneral and the parliamentary counsel will set themselves in the procedures in which this Bill is but a first step.
The problems in the drafting office have been adverted to on occasions by committees of this Parliament. I have with me the 103rd Report of the Joint Committee of Public Accounts wherein there is a report of an extensive investigation which was undertaken by that Committee into the delays and problems associated with the drafting of financial regulations.
– Is it very long? 1 am wondering whether, apart from your referring to it, the particular passage could bc incorporated as a matter of convenience.
– I am indebted io Senator Murphy, but I feel that it is too long to be incorporated. However, I feel that it is a report from which honourable senators who are interested would derive much profit from studying.
– What are the conclusions?
– A number of conclusions are set out in the report. I do not refer to the report for the purpose of endorsing the conclusions because they were based on an existing situation in the Attorney-General’s Department, in particular within the Drafting Division and the relationship of the Draftsman to other officers of the Department. But it certainly indicates that there should be strenuous efforts to improve the quality of the instructions put forward for drafting, that strenuous efforts should be undertaken to ensure that all changes in regulations in particular are kept under scrutiny, and that some challenge be put before the universities and law schools to see whether undergraduates could be persuaded to come into the area of the drafting office. These are some of the matters that were referred to when the report was made about 3 or 4 years ago. lt is apparent from the presentation of this measure and what has been said in connection with it that although some action has been taken along the lines of the report of the Public Accounts Committee, those actions have not produced the desirable results which are wanted within the Drafting Division. Of course, the report was concerned in particular with the drafting of regulations. This undoubtedly must represent a very substantial and fairly tedious part of the Draftsman’s work. I think it is quite proper - the report makes this point - that all subordinate legislation should be handled by the Drafting Division of the AttorneyGeneral’s Department and, as this Bill proposes, by the staff under the parliamentary counsel. I think it is important that that be the case because in those circumstances there would be at least the best advice available to this Parliament and even to Government departments that the measures proposed are in accordance with the statute. That, as 1 understand it, was the original justification put forward for the AttorneyGeneral’s Department having the control of the making of subordinate legislation.
There is a tendency, I think largely as a result of the pressures which were engendered by the report of the Public Accounts Committee to reduce the range of subordinate legislation, but we have in the place of subordinate legislation an increasing number of administrative arrangements. There is usually some discussion about these aspects when the measures come before the Senate, but we find provisions whereby executive acts of some consequence will be undertaken simply by ministerial approval or simply by the creation of an instrument in writing. Occasionally they are undertaken simply as the result of determinations by a board, a Minister or some officer. One can appreciate that it would be the tendency of an overworked drafting office to avoid as far as possible a continuing pattern of amendments to regulations because of various administrative changes. This desire to avoid the amendment of regulations will find expression in the adoption of ploys and devices which, 1 am quite sure, Ministers and senior officials within departments will be quite prepared to accept which in effect bypass the Parliament. I have no doubt that this would represent effective and good administration from a department’s point of view, but the fact that such decisions will not be open to parliamentary scrutiny is, I think, something which any parliament conscious of its functions will endeavour to avoid. I hope that with an improvement in the status, personnel and performance of the drafting office - as I have said, I believe this is the first step in procuring suitable staff - we shall have less of the tendency to find administrative decisions embodied in measures which are not open to parliamentary scrutiny and, if necessary, to parliamentary disallowance. I think that this involves a vital function of the Parliament.
Although 40 to 50 years may have elapsed since it was a live issue in parliaments there has been over the years within this chamber a, very useful and 1 think commendable readiness to assert basic parliamentary principles. These matters have, of course, also been referred to by the Regulations and Ordinances Committee of the Senate, which has been in existence since 1932. More recently - in the twenty-ninth report of the Committee - reference was made in part to the practices to which I have been referring. I think the Senate should be concerned about the increasing range of drafting procedures whereby these administrative determinations are made. As I said earlier, it is attributable in part to the pressures of the drafting office. However, I must concede that I do not recognise this as being entirely the reason for the development of the procedures 1 have mentioned.
I referred earlier to a report of the Joint Committee on Public Accounts concerning the drafting office, but the work of the drafting office has been the subject of examination over a much longer period. I think the Public Accounts Committee first looked at the problems associated with the drafting of financial regulations in the drafting office in 1960 and. as a result of its report, reorganisation of the Office of the Parliamentary Draftsman and reclassification of some of the drafting officers within the office was suggested. In 1962 positive action was taken by the Attorney-General’s Department for not only a reorganisation but also a reclassification of salaries. Unfortunately, this did not meet with the agreement of the Public Service Board and, on appeal to the Public Service Arbitrator, certain proposals for a reorganisation of the office were accepted but the Attorney-General’s Department’s proposals for a review of salaries was not accepted. The Arbitrator took the view that the problems confronting the drafting office - as they were regarded by the then Parliamentary Draftsman - were not properly within the scope of the Public Service Arbitrators functions. I quote from the 103rd Report of the Public Accounts Committee concerning the Department’s proposals. The report states:
In this regard, the Public Service Board observer, Mr Vanthoff, confirmed that over the years Arbitrators have taken the view that recruitment supply and demand is not. in fact, their area of interest and if a shortage of staff exists, the Arbitrators are not justified in going beyond the salaries that are considered appropriate, having regard to the work value of the positions lo be filled.
Whilst the Public Service Arbitrator and the Public Service Board take that view I believe that the work of the drafting office - the work of the draftsmen who are working under the Parliamentary Draffsman at present who, in the future, will be working under the Parliamentary Counsel - is never likely to be adequately or properly recognised, f have said on other occasions in this chamber that 1 believe that some steps should be taken to remove the officers of the drafting division from the control of the Public Service Board and to place them in some other category. I hope that this is one of the steps which will follow the introduction of this measure. As I said earlier, this was the altitude which was adopted by the Public Service Arbitrator in 1962. Further alterations in the organisation of the drafting office and salaries took place in 1965 and 1967. I think this all demonstrates that over a long period the outcome of representations designed to improve the status and salary of legally qualified people in the AttorneyGeneral’s Department has been unsatisfactory, particularly for those concerned with the drafting division. I am firmly of the view that the next step or a step consequent upon the passing of this Bill is for the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel to have accorded to it and its officers a status and salary which is appropriate to the importance and significance of the work performed which is not accorded at present.
I made inquiries in the middle of March when this Bill was first introduced in the other place and I found out that at that time there were 18 positions in the office of the Parliamentary Draftsman. I think it is useful to set out how those persons were designated and what their salaries were at the time. The Parliamentary Draftsman was receiving a salary of $17,899 per annum. There were 2 positions of First Assistant Parliamentary Draftsman at a salary of $14,253 per annum: 4 positions of Senior Assistant Parliamentary Draftsman at a salary of $13,038 per annum; 5 positions of Principal Legal Officer within a salary range of S9.I4I lo $9,776; 2 positions of Senior Legal Officer within a salary range of $7,590 to $8,225; and 6 positions of Legal Officer within the salary range of $4,177 to $7,129.
Without having any appreciable knowledge of any description as to the work which is done by these officers, but merely from seeing from time to time the outcome of their efforts, I would have thought that they are considerably underpaid, particularly when using as a standard of comparison what people performing similar work would be able to command in private legal practices. The salary is not the sole criterion upon which the work of a parliamentary draftsman should be judged nor is it the only matter which it is necessary to rectify in order to increase the supply of parliamentary draftsman or to raise the standard of the work. I understand that parliamentary draftsmen in the United Kingdom are amongst the highest paid, if not the highest paid, parliamentary draftsmen in the world but, notwithstanding that fact and a recognised superiority in performance in the United Kingdom, there still are vacancies in the drafting office in that country.
I certainly believe that an improvement in the salary of ail officers in the drafting division in Australia is imperative. It is very difficult to obtain accurate assessments of what people are able to obtain in private legal practice as any surveys which have been undertaken are inaccurate because not every individual in legal practice is prepared to co-operate. But I have been able to converse with persons in Melbourne as to what the younger graduates may receive as solicitors or barristers. Whilst the starting salary of a person in the drafting office may compare quite favourably with what a person may get in his first or second year in private practice the comparison is highly unfavourable thereafter to the people in the drafting office. Even if one is to look at the ultimate to which one can strive, for the Parliamentary Draftsman of the Commonwealth to receive a salary substantially less, than that of heads of departments I think indicates that for too long the drafting officer has been regarded as on a level which is too low for what should be appropriate recognition of his worth. If we raise the status and salary of the Parliamentary Counsel, then I suspect that we shall in due course find that we can elevate the status of all members of the drafting office.
I agree with most of what has been said by persons who suggest that steps should be taken to obtain more people for the drafting office. I say that knowing it has been said for many years and knowing that action has been taken in a variety of ways. I would suggest that one of the things which has to be done is to popularise the role, significance and functioning of the drafting office. This, of course, comes with some upgrading of the professional position with regard to salary. But I think it requires more than salary increase. It requires taking such action as indicates that it is an important role, that it is a role of considerable significance in parliamentary affairs, and showing that at an early stage in an undergraduate’s career at the university.
– Surely it is at the hub of parliamentary life.
– I think I would agree with Senator Sir Magnus Cormack, and I do not think it is regarded in that way within the university law schools. Whether it means that the Parliamentary Counsel have to go on an Australiawide popularising tour or that some other step has to be undertaken, I think a lot more can be done to indicate that the life of a parliamentary draftsman has its rewards in the influence which can be brought to bear and, as Senator Sir Magnus Cormack says, by pointing to the fact that you really are at the hub of affairs when you are in the drafting office.
I am not aware whether there is an association of parliamentary draftsmen throughout Australia. If there is, then one would think it could become a little more outspoken. On the other hand, if there is not I should have thought that such a body could be created, because there is a community of interest which could achieve certain common objectives by action which an association of that character could promote.
– It could become a trade union.
– It could be regarded as a trade union. I should think that what trade unions have secured for their members over the years is something which draftsmen could secure for themselves by much the same method of organisation. I do not want to suggest-
– They could register as a Commonwealth organisation of employees.
– I suppose they could, but they may not wish to, having regard to the status of the work which they are doing and the fact that they feel they want to remain separate from the general body of industrial unionism in this country.
In conclusion there are 2 matters to which I would refer. One is a suggestion by Senator Rae about the provisions in the Bill, whereby travelling allowances, or all allowances other than annual allowances, should be fixed by ministerial determination. 1 think that features such as this appearing in draft legislation are expressions of the vices to which I earlier referred, and I should have thought that it is appropriate that all payments of public money to officers appointed under statute should be made, if not by the Parliament, then by regulation made under an Act of the Parliament. I would welcome the proposed amendment which Senator Rae suggested.
The other matter to which 1 refer is the fact that under the proposed legislation it is suggested that the salaries and annual allowances of the First Parliamentary Counsel and the Second Parliamentary Counsel should be as prescribed. I fail to see why the salaries of officers appointed under this legislation - and they are highly important officers, being at the hub of affairs - should have their salaries fixed by regulation and not as the Parliament provides. There are many officers whose salaries are fixed by the Parliament, and I understand that as the outcome of the recent report from the Regulations and Ordinances Committee, it is probable, if the Parliament approves, that the salaries and allowance of the Chiefs of Staff shall be fixed as the Parliament provides.
If one looks through legislation of considerable standing, considerable antiquity within this Parliament, one finds that a number of senior parliamentary appointees have their salaries fixed by the Parliament. The Chairman of the Public Service Board, the Commissioner of Taxation, judges and certain heads of departments alt fall within this category. I appreciate that in recent years there has been a growing tendency for salaries and annual allowances to be fixed not even by regulation but simply as the AttorneyGeneral determines. I for my part, whilst recognising that what has happened in recent years might have developed into something approaching a principle, think that this practice is undesirable and, as a practice, as far as I am concerned it should be changed in the most convenient and acceptable way that can be arrived at. 1 think it is important that senior officers appointed under legislation, officers of statutory commissions and officers of boards appointed by the Parliament should have their salaries fixed by the Parliament.
– Is somebody going to move that way at the Committee stage?
– I would be personally quite prepared to move that way, providing there was an indication that I am not talking in a way which suggests that I am expressing a purely individual view. I should hope that this ls something which would commend itself to the Senate.
– If it would help you to make up your mind on the matter. I think there is a great deal of force in what you say, certainly about allowances being fixed according to the determination of the Attorney-General and also on the other matter of the legislation. I think this is an important principle, if it could be preserved.
– I am grateful to hear Senator Murphy express that view because I think it does represent a parliamentary viewpoint as to what ought to be the parliamentary approach to these matters. I believe that the officers and appointees to which I have been referring ought to have the security of parliamentary fixing of their salaries because it gives them an independence which they may well exercise and feel they have. The only way in which they can be disadvantageous^ affected is by the Parliament itself. I feel that there is inherent in ministerial determinations and ministerial fixations of salaries a tendency for the person whose salary is so dependent to become, or to appear to become, too close to the department or to the Minister to whom he is responsible. I say that without wishing in any sense to denigrate the officers about whom 1 have spoken. But I think that there is an issue of principle, and it is only by asserting principles that one can hope that other people will be persuaded to see the merit in what is put forward.
But these, of course, are more appropriately matters to be elaborated on in Committee. As 1 said, I support this measure. I hope it will be regarded as but the first step in a series of steps because 1 sense that by itself the Bill will not achieve a great deal, but it is a very welcome step in getting some relief in an area which has been long awaiting remedial action.
Senator DEVITT (Tasmania) [3.15J- Since honourable senators appear to be in complete agreement with the general purposes and intentions of this Bill, I believe that we should direct our comments towards ensuring thai the new Office of Parliamentary Counsel serves the Parliament to the fullest possible extent. After all, the very name implies its importance in the functioning of the parliamentary system. I think that the observations we make on this Bill should be governed very largely or controlled by our wish to ensure that the parliamentary institution is developed and fostered and that all the sections of the parliamentary institution work to the maximum possible extent. Before I direct further comments to the Bill, 1 understand that this is the first Bill to be introduced by the Attorney-General (Mr Hughes). I believe it is customary, on occasions such as this, to extend congratulations to the Minister on having launched his first Bill since attaining office. Perhaps I should sound a note of warning here. Whilst honourable senators appear to be in complete agreement with the purposes and intentions of this Bill, and whilst it is fairly obvious that the Bill will be passed by the Senate, I would not want the AttorneyGeneral to assume that all the Bills he introduces will receive the same general accord and approval.
My interest in the Parliamentary Counsel was stimulated very largely by my association over a number of years with the Regulations and Ordinances Committee. From time to time in that Committee 1 learned of the difficulties involved in the preparation of Bills, regulations, ordinances and matters of that kind. The Regulations and Ordinances Committee has been very greatly concerned that deficiencies which have become so obvious to us have not been apparent. They have not been apparent, as I am sure we all know, because of the lack of a sufficient number of people in the office of the Parliamentary Draftsman. This Bill sets out to give that office a new status and a new opportunity for development. The Bill sets out to establish a new office in terms of numbers which, we hope, will lead in the ultimate to a better performance and an enhanced ability on the part of the Parliamentary Counsel to carry out the work of the Parliament.
When the Bill was debated a few days ago I was interested in the suggestion that an officer of the Parliamentary Counsel should be available to guide and assist private members. At this juncture I go one step further than that and suggest that the time may well have arrived for the appointment of a high ranking and experienced lawyer to assist members of Parliament. Private members of Parliament seeking legal help and legal guidance could go to him at any time for assistance. I do not know whether such a system exists in any other Parliament, but we do not necessarily have to be guided by other Parliaments in any case. For my own part, I frequently need help or guidance from a person who has a very extensive legal knowledge and a wide legal background. I refer to someone of the calibre of the person who at the moment advises the Regulations and Ordinances Committee. I think that this is perhaps one area in which the work of the Parliament may be facilitated. Some of our misconceptions and misapprehensions could be dispelled by the ready availability of a high ranking legal officer divorced completely from the Executive - an officer of the Parliament to whom we could go. The practicalities of such a situation would have to be worked out. The scheme may not have sufficient practicality to warrant such an appointment. But at least I would like the idea considered. If the scheme has any merit, perhaps it could be taken further.
From time to time the Regulations and Ordinances Committee has attempted to make suggestions which could alleviate some of the existing problems in the office of the Parliamentary Draftsman. 1 suppose that members of that Committee know a good deal more than other members of Parliament about the tremendous amount of work that is required to be done by the drafting office. Sometimes I am amazed at the amount of work that actually emanates from that source. Notwithstanding that the Draftsman has a heavy work load imposed upon him, very often the work of the drafting office contains glaring deficiencies. From time to time the Regulations and Ordinances Committee has met with officers of the Parliamentary Draftsman in an endeavour to resolve some point of difference or to get clarification or explanation of a point on which we have not been clear. In turn, we have made suggestions to the Draftsman as to ways and means of improving a Bill, a regulation or an ordinance. Quite frequently the mutual exchange of ideas between the 2 parties has led to improvements in the legislation that comes before the Parliament.
I do not think we should be greatly concerned with the positions of First Parliamentary Counsel and Second Parliamentary Counsel - the people whose salaries and allowances will be fixed in due course. 1 am concerned about the limitations which are likely to be placed upon the salary and allowances and other conditions of service that will affect those persons in the Office of Parliamentary Counsel who are required to have their salaries and conditions fixed by the Public Service Board. Here we strike a very real problem. I. believe that we have to recognise that this Office will be something quite unique and quite distinct from other sections of the Public Service. I do not know how the end result can be achieved. My purpose in rising is to make observations on points which 1 believe may be of some value and which may come under the consideration of the persons responsible for making judgments on such points so that the whole scheme can be properly and adequately sifted and ultimately worked out. J am concerned that serious limitations could be placed on the salaries and conditions of service of people in the Office of Parliamentary Counsel. Unless these problems are resolved, I cannot see that very much progress will be made merely by changing the name of the drafting officer to that of parliamentary counsel and by giving a certain status to the three top-ranking personnel in that branch of the Public Service. The problem goes much deeper and much further than that. [ offer the opinion that something like 5 years will elapse before we see any worthwhile result. Perhaps I should clarify that statement by saying that in all the circumstances it could conceivably be 5 years before we see any improvement or enhanced performance from the Office of Parliamentary Counsel. 1 have a number of reasons for making that statement. 1 refer to matters such as recruitment and the determination as to whether a person is suitable for the job of draftsman. Honourable senators should realise that the work is of a specialised type. It is not the specialised type of work that I, as a layman, can see existing in the medical profession where a person goes into a particular line such as surgery or something of that kind. This is a line of legal practice which seems to me to lead to a dead end. One joins the staff and there one stays. Unless the conditions of service are sufficient inducement for young legal officers to enter this branch of the Public Service, those who join could very well go up a blind alley and be lost there. Very much of the good which this Office could do for the community would be lost. 1 have thought a great deal about this matter. I have discussed it with quite a number of people, many of whom would be in a position to appreciate the problems of drafting. They have offered me opinions on a multitude of things I of which is, of course, that persons suited to the role of drafting may not be interested in it, and persons interested in drafting may not be suited to it. Just how one determines this question initially I do not know and this is 1 of the difficulties with which we are faced at the present time. It is certainly most desirable for us to have the sort of thing that 1 understand exists at the Harvard School of Law in the United States of America, that is, a division for the training of draftsmen. I understand that in England there are areas where young lawyers can be trained for the job of drafting. I am told that to make a good draftsman it would be necessary for one to have had some private practice and, to have gone through the whole range of the responsibilities of law. lt would also be desirable for one to have had practice at the Bar in the courts where one would have an opportunity to assess the need for certain expressions in matters of law. lt would almost appear that for one finally to settle for the role of a draftsman one would need to have had a great deal of legal experience in a relatively short period. These are some of the problems with which we are faced at the present time.
The proposal before us now changes the name of the Parliamentary Draftsman’s office to the Office of Parliamentary Counsel, lt probably is a more glamorous name, because instead of becoming a draftsman one will become a counsel. As a member of Parliament I am interested not so much in names as in performance and in giving to this area of parliamentary responsibility an opportunity to function in the best interests of the parliamentary system. One of the things that somebody has to do - and I do not know where the responsibility lies - is to convince ihe Public Service Board - if that is the authority that will be dealing with salary and conditions of service - that this is a special branch of service, that it is very difficult to induce people into it and that the conditions have to be made favourable, firstly to attract people, and secondly to hold them. In this connection let me suggest that rather than it be a service in which one has to wait for somebody else to die or to retire through effluxion of time, or to leave by some act of his own, in order to move up the scale there should be a provision in the terms of service in the Office of Parliamentary Counsel that the salary range lifts as a natural consequence of period of service in this branch of the service. 1 believe that we have to do something like this because a lawyer who is thinking of joining the Office of Parliamentary Counsel must have at least some assurance that he will not be at any disavantage compared with his brothers in other branches of the legal service. This is a numerically limited area of endeavour and it very often follows that there are limited opportunities available in such an area. One would be disinclined to enter a branch of the service which is a specialised area from which, after a period of years, it would be very difficult to return to some other form of service. In fact, one having gone there, unless there is a high level of wastage among the people employed, ihe opportunities are extremely limited. So I would suggest that there should be increments after given periods so that there is in fact no financial disadvantage. As J said earlier this is a specialised branch of legal service and people almost have to be born to it rather trained for it. I would think that unless one had a very special liking for drafting one could find oneself shut within 4 walls of an office somewhere, doing the same routine work day after day year in year out. If that is the case we have to give some thought to making the work more interesting, for instance, by giving the people concerned with drafting an opportunity to confer with other organisations and client departments with which they will be required to collaborate from time to time.
I do not know what limitations are imposed on the movement of people in the drafting section at the present time but by way of making the conditions of service more interesting people ought to be encouraged as much as possible - if it can be arranged within the department - to confer with client departments and with other people. In fact, on occasions - say, at international conventions - people from the Office of Parliamentary Counsel ought to be encouraged and taken to sit in so that they will have an opportunity to study the climate and the spirit in which observations are offered concerning legal measures to bc taken to implement international conventions and things of this kind. A recent example was the Civil Aviation (Offenders on International Aircraft) Bill. There are quite a number of ways which have not yet been employed which might have the effect of inducing people to come into the service. As I understand it - I may be quite wrong - it is a pretty dull atea of endeavour so far as the legal profession is concerned and unless we can persuade people by some means or other there may be a reluctance to join the Office of Parliamentary Counsel. All around the world the work of the Parliament is increasing, [n every department of the Parliament there is a great deal more activity and more to do.
The work of a parliamentarian is becoming more complex day by day and his appreciation and knowledge of the law has to grow apace if he is to give a proper representation to his electorate and to his constituents. To enable him to do this all avenues of government have to be able to operate at the highest possible level of efficiency and if one gets a department of government like the drafting section which has been bedevilled by a lack of adequate staff over a number of years, bearing in mind all the complexities and responsibilities that go with drafting, the work of the Parliament itself must suffer. I think there is evidence of this. Drafting is an absolutely essential element of the Parliament and we must have the drafting section working at maximum efficiency. There has to be a creation of some kind of job interest. 1 have heard the suggestion that there should be some form of apprenticeship. I do not know how one would work this. I have also had the suggestion made to me from various quarters that perhaps there should be a pool of young legal officers in the AttorneyGeneral’s Department who could be given duties and responsibilities in various sections of the Department including drafting and advising. Perhaps somebody could assess the ability of a legal officer to follow a particular course. From this it may be possible to pick out people with special adaptability for drafting.
From time to time in the councils of the Regulations and Ordinances Committee 1 have put up the suggestion that the Service departments, which give a great deal of work to the draftsmen, might very well employ on their own staffs as officers in the service of the Army, the Navy and the Air Force, people with skills in drafting who could lighten the load on the drafting section by drafting legislation themselves and giving effect to the wishes, needs and requirements of their departments. I understand that this procedure does not work very well. That shows that a layman, even with the best intentions in the world, very often can be quite wrong in his approach to and appreciation of a certain problem.
I believe that in the Service department area there could be consultation with the departmental drafting officer who could then prepare, in general terms or in a broad sense, a draft of a certain regulation or ordinance as the case may be. He could take that to the parliamentary draftsman in a half-baked or semi-prepared form. But I understand that this procedure does not achieve any worthwhile purpose because the draftsman has to have consultations with the client body in order to understand what is intended to be conveyed or written into the legislation. So very often it is a waste of time.
These are some of the areas that have been canvassed over the years in an endeavour to solve this problem. I believe that solve it we must. We have to realise that in this area of endeavour special conditions prevail and special facilities will have to be provided and special attitudes taken to meet those special conditions. I hope that what I have said this afternoon in this rambling way has conveyed some points that will interest those people who have the ultimate responsibility for setting up this new department and making it work. lt is tremendously important that the parliamentary counsel be given all the facilities in the world with which to work. People should be given all the inducements in the world to encourage them into the service. In this regard there should be proper recognition of the salary needs, and the terms and conditions of service will have to be taken into account. There will have to be opportunities for promotion if they do not exist already. In a limited area such as this there will be terribly limited opportunities for promotion. Perhaps those opportunities would come from the adoption of the suggestion I made or some other similar suggestion such as that after a period of satisfactory service there should be increments, as there are in some other forms of human endeavour. By and large, this department of government has to be given the teeth, the encouragement, the inducements and the facilities to make it the worthwhile parliamentary institution that it has to be.
I believe that I have covered most of the points that I wanted to raise this afternoon. So I will content myself with saying that I most earnestly hope that as a consequence of this Bill coming into force as an Act of the Parliament and the establishment of this office the work of the parliamentary draftsmen will be facilitated by the increase in staff and the adoption of many of the other suggestions which have been made and which might help towards achieving this end. I earnestly suggest that the Government give very serious consideration to my suggestion that an experienced legal officer be available to the private members of the Parliament somewhere in the parliamentary institution and free of the Executive.
– I wish to make only a few remarks on this Bill which, as has already been pointed out by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Murphy) and Senator Devitt, the Australian Labor Party is supporting. I personally am supporting it very largely for the reasons that Senator Greenwood has put forward this afternoon. I believe that the Senate is indebted to him for the attention he has given to this Bill and for the many math-re which he has brought to the notice of the Senate and of which I should imagine most of us would not have been aware - at least in this context - until he spoke this afternoon.
Let me refer briefly to several reasons why I believe this Bill should be supported and passed. 1 hope, Mr Acting Deputy President, that you will not mind if I appear to digress a little from the strict terms of the Bill. One of its most important characteristics is that provision is made in it for additional assistance to be given to members of the Parliament to act as legislators. One of the weaknesses in the system of parliamentary government as it operates in this country is the very small amount of staff available to members of Parliament to enable them to engage in proper research, to study Bills that are being presented to Parliament, to prepare Bills and to prepare amendments to Bills, in the past we have had a quite absurd situation in which members of Parliament, who have not only a large number of constituency matters to deal with but also quite burdensome extraparliamentary duties within their political parties and elsewhere, have had to operate with virtually no assistance whatsoever in attending to the matters which come before the Parliament or which should come before the Parliament. 1 do not make these criticisms in any partisan way. I believe that the most substantia] improvements that have been made in this direction have been made over the past few years, first of all, with the increases in staff in the Commonwealth Parliamentary Library whose officers have been made available to members of the Parliament for research into different fields of human activity, and now by the establishment of the Office of Parliamentary Counsel. I do not say that this means that all of our problems are solved or that there is yet anything like a satisfactory state of affairs in which we can operate effectively as legislators; but certainly this is a step that is very well along the road in the right direction.
Another point*- 1 wish to make it only briefly - is in regard to the establishment of the Office of Parliamentary Counsel itself. I hope that it will not be taken that in what I am saying I am reflecting in any way on the people who at present occupy the various offices of parliamentary draftsmen, because that is not my intention or my wish. But it has seemed to me, as 1 think it has seemed to a number of other lawyers, that in the past and until this Bill was introduced the status of parliamentary draftsman within the whole hierarchy of legal practitioners has been absurdly low. Although Senator Devitt said earlier that he thought the work could become tedious, 1 can well imagine that for a person interested in the law one of the most fascinating branches of it could be the job of acting as a draftsman in preparing legislation, regulations and ordinances.
Whether it is fascinating or not fascinating, this certainly is 1 of the most important occupations that any lawyer can follow, because upon the ability and knowledge of the lawyer who is drafting the piece of legislation depends quite often the validity of the law itself, the manner in which it has to be applied and also whether the intention of the legislature is properly conveyed by the legislation when it ultimately appears on the statute book. Certainly in some of the States there have been occasions on which judges and counsel have found it almost impossible to understand what has been meant by a particular piece of legislation, i do not think that has ever occurred with regard to the Commonwealth Parliament. There have been occasions when one could find a battery of senior counsel sitting before eminent members of the judiciary arguing about the meaning of a section of an Act. The reason why there is some difficulty about the section of the Act is that the person who drafted that section did not have the competence to write a proper sentence. To me it seems anomalous that in one of the mast important branches of the law, that is the actual writing of the law, something like equivalent status is not given, in the eyes of the profession, to the persons who actually write the law, as is given to those who practice and interpret the law. 1 do not wish to reflect on our parliamentary draftsmen, but it does seem at the present time that most of the people who become parliamentary draftsmen have tended, in some way, to drift into the occupation of parliamentary draftsman. I do not mean that in any way pejoratively. I mean it is very seldom that anybody sets out upon a legal career with the ambition of becoming a parliamentary draftsman. It is generally through a series of circumstances that one becomes a draftsman. Very frequently those people who are draftsmen are looking for promotion into other fields of the law. This is not to say that some of the most eminent lawyers in this country are nol draftsmen because there are certainly very eminent lawyers among the draftsmen. I would certainly agree with Senator Greenwood that this Office of Parliamentary Counsel, whatever the salary may be should have some independence from the Public Service Board. I think the arguments Senator Greenwood raised on this matter are very compelling arguments.
I think the status of the draftsman ar Parliamentary Counsel is being enhanced by this Bill, but if it is to be further enhanced one can envisage a time when what 1 believe is a desirable state of affairs will have been obtained; that is when people enter into a study of the law for the purpose of becoming draftsmen and not any other purpose; for the purpose of writing laws, not to become advocates, solicitors or even judges for that matter, but giving their lives and their skills to the preparation of legislation which is an essential part of democratic government. Laws should be as clear, as precise and as explicit as they possibly can be. In order for this to be the case one needs to have singularly well qualified and gifted lawyers operating as draftsmen and counsel. I have spoken at greater length than I had intended to. In conclusion, I believe that this Bill which the Opposition is supporting brings about a desirable improvement in the operations of this Parliament and also iti the manner in which the laws of this country are to be dealt with. Along with other members of the Australian Labor Party I welcome this Bill.
– in reply - It is gratifying to know that from all quarters of the Senate that this Bill has met with acceptance, sometimes with modified rapture but in most cases with a good deal of conviction that it will represent an opportunity for improvement in the services of parliamentary draftsmen. I think that what Senator Wheeldon has just said is quite pertinent. The provision of clearly drafted legislation and the clarification of all law is necessary so that everybody bound by law and everybody whose duty it is to enforce the law should have the laws stated as clearly and as simply as possible. The Bill is designed to correct difficulties which have confronted this Parliament in the provision of parliamentary draftsmen’s services for some time. lt seeks to solve the problem by the creation of the first 3 offices to the statutory Office of Parliamentary Counsel and by according to those offices a degree of status, independence and salary together with the stiff that will be under their control. It is thought that that will enhance the attractions of this department of law and so enable careers to be developed with this function in mind.
After the debate has been considered I think the Senate will be convinced that that represents the first step but a quite significant step to attract the attention of Parliament to the Parliamentary Draftsman’s office as a distinct and distinguished office with the duty of drafting the laws.
I want to answer a few of the points that have been made during the debate. Quite a number of honourable senators have referred to the availability of draftsmen for non-government members of Parliament to assist them in the problem of drafting legislation. I am happy to say that the Attorney-General (Mr Hughes) has specifically authorised me to make this statement to the Senate outlining quite clearly the policy which he proposes to adopt in future:
Consistently with the practice of my predecessors I will be sympathetically disposed to the giving of drafting assistance by the Office of Parliamentary Counsel to private members. However, the present shortage of draftsmen is such that I could give no undertaking that all requests for such assistance will be met. It will be necessary for each request to be considered in the light of the commitments for drafting required by the Government.
Secondly, having regard to some of the particular aspects of this problem referred to by Senator Murphy the AttorneyGeneral has authorised me to say:
Where a draftsman is made available to a private member, his dealings with the private member will be regarded as confidential between him and the member. This would mean that the draftsman would not communicate drafts or other particulars to the Government without the permission of the private member concerned. I shall not attach a condition that the draftsman furnish a copy of his drafts to the Attorney-General or to any other Minister or officer. Nor will the officer be under an obligation to report to a Minister concerning his work for the private member. However, I can envisage circumstances in which the officer would genuinely find himself in a position in which it would be inconsistent with his duty to serve the Government for him to continue to provide assistance to a private member. In such circumstances, the officer would cease to provide further assistance to the private member.
As I say, the Attorney-General specifically wished me to make that known to the Senate. It will be on record for the reassurance of any who question it on future occasions. That was referred to by Senator Murphy, Senator Byrne, Senator Devitt, Senator Wheeldon and by my colleague Senator Rae. I only wish to add that I have taken notice of what Senator Devitt mentioned in his remarks with regard to the appointment of a specific officer to assist private members of Parliament. That falls outside the scope of the Bill. 1 just acknowledge the contribution that the honourable senator made.
During the debate there was a reference by Senator Byrne and Senator Rae to the consolidation of statutes, lt will have been noticed that one of the functions of the Office of Parliamentary Counsel is to attend to the reprinting of statutes. The honourable senators, however, were referring to the consolidation of statutes. Their comments will receive the active consideration of the Attorney-General. Thirdly, reference has been made to the possibility that scholarships might be made available to encourage study of the work of parliamentary draftsmen. It has been suggested that steps might be taken to encourage law societies and universities to consider setting up postgraduate courses in legislative drafting. Some reference was made this afternoon to the existence of such courses al Harvard. The Senate will be reminded that within the last 2 years f had occasion to announce that the Attorney-General had sent the Senior Parliamentary Draftsman abroad for the purpose of studying the problems inherent in this matter. So far as that officer has been able to ascertain, there is no such course at Harvard or at any other American university or, so far as we know, in any Canadian university.
That notwithstanding, I want the Senate to know that at the Wellington conference of the Attorneys-General of the Australian States and the Commonwealth as recently as last February the practicability and desirability of setting up post-graduate courses in legislative drafting was 1 of a number of matters discussed. As a consequence it now is due to be discussed at the next meeting of the Standing Committee of Attorneys-General in July. Therefore 1 hope that my colleague Senator Rae would consider k to be premature to proceed with the suggestion that he made in the course of the debate to the effect that the matter should be hastened for consideration at a meeting of the executives of the law societies in the current week.
I should like to refer now to a few matters which were mentioned this afternoon by my colleague Senator Greenwood in the course of his thoughtful contribution. First of all, he referred to the annual reprints of statutes. I am sure that we all, with a real sense of regret, share his concern at the arrears which have developed there. I have no doubt that it is only necessary for me to speak in those terms to assure the Senate that the matter will be given close attention in the sense in which the honourable senator .spoke. With regard to his reference to the presentation of Bills in the form of a reprint of the statute showing the amendments proposed by the amending Bill, 1 am assured that it is loo wide a statement to say that it was the practice to do that until a given number of years ago. It has never been the general practice, but on occasions when clarity required it and when it was practicable to do so, that practice was adopted, lt still is. The honourable senator will recall that not merely the present National Health Bill but also several taxation measures have been printed in that way.
The honourable senator then referred to the Public Service Arbitrator and seemed to express the view that the proceedings in question emanated from the Department or from the Parliamentary Draftsman. Those proceedings were advanced by the association of officers. As to the result, the figures that Senator Greenwood cited relating to various salaries pertaining to the officers are in accordance with fact. 1 assume that he would not suggest that we in this Senate should engage in a particular consideration of the appropriateness of any individual salary but would leave that to some properly constituted tribunal. However, 1 take on board what he has said and 1 have no doubt that the Attorney-General will give specific consideration to the honourable senator’s view that the salaries in that scale are tow.
As to the fixing of salaries, we come to matters which really present issues that I expect the Committee may be called upon to deal with more specifically. 1 think it would serve to enable the Senate to consider the course of action appropriate if I indicated that, in relation to the matter to which Senator Rae referred during the debate dealing with other allowances as referred to in clause 6 (2.), it is proposed that the clause take the following form: (2.) The First Parliamentary Counsel and a Second Parliamentary Counsel shall be paid such other allowances, being allowances in resect of travelling or other expenses of office, as would be payable if he were an officer of the Public Service included in such Division of the Public Service as is prescribed in relation to him.
– Is the
Minister foreshadowing an amendment?
– Yes. I am indicating the amendment that 1 will circulate when we come to deal with that clause at the Committee stage. 1 indicate that it is an acceptance, in my view, of the idea that Senator Rae had in mind, namely, to make the fixing of other allowances a matter of regulation. If this proposal were accepted it would be a matter prescribed by the regulations having regard to what has been prescribed for the appropriate Division of the Public Service. Therefore it would give some relativity.
I come now lo the next point that Senator Greenwood raised this afternoon, lt relates to the fixing of the salary of the Parliamentary Counsel The Bill provides:
The First Parliamentary Counsel and the Second Parliamentary Counsel shall be paid salary at such respective rales, and annual allowances if any at such respective rales, as are prescribed.
It will be remembered that when the Bill was introduced in another place the salaries and annual allowances were to be the subject of fixation by the Governor-General. An amendment was there offered and accepted by the Government to make the fixation of those rates and annual allowances by regulation. The purpose of the amendment was to give either House of Parliament the right to intervene if it disapproved of the rate of salary or annual allowance proposed.
This afternoon Senator Greenwood has advanced the idea that the salary should be actually specified in the Bill and in that sense prescribed by the Parliament itself and set out in the statute. He has referred to various methods by which salaries of other statutory officers have been fixed. It is true to say that there are statutory offices, mainly established before 1942, the salary of which was fixed by statute. I refer to the offices of Auditor-General, Commonwealth Railways Commissioner, Commissioner and Second
Commissioner of Taxation, members of the Public Service Board, Commissioner of Trade Practices, and the Public Service Arbitrator. Perhaps the Senate would permit me to repeat that for its consideration. The class to which I have referred contains the Auditor-General, Commonwealth Railways Commissioner, Commissioner and Second Commissioner of Taxation, members of the Public Service Board, Commissioner of Trade Practices, and the Public Service Arbitrator. It will be seen that very special duties in regard to arbitration, trade practices, the Public Service Board, taxation, the Commonwealth Railways or the Auditor-General pertain to those offices.
The statutory offices the salaries and allowances of which are determined by the Governor-General are those of members of the Atomic Energy Commission, Australian Broadcasting Commission, Australian Broadcasting Control Board, Australian Capital Territory Electricity Authority, Australian Coastal Shipping Commission, and the Australian National Airlines Commission; the Director-General of Security, Governor and Deputy Governor of the Reserve Bank, Managing Director and Deputy Managing Director of the Commonwealth Banking Corporation, General Manager of the Trading Bank of the Commonwealth Savings Bank and Development Bank, Solicitor-General, and the Commissioner and Associate Commissioner of the National Capital Development Commission; and members of the Australian Tourist Commission, Australian Industrial Research and Development Grants Board, Austraiian Universities Commission, and Repatriation Commission. That list is not complete. It has been taken out to indicate statutory officers whose salaries are fixed specifically by statute and statutory officers as to whom the Governor-General fixes salaries.
It is to be noted that the amendment accepted in another place in regard to the salary of the First and Second Parliamentary Counsel is an intermediate stage where the statute itself is not required to fix the actual salary, but the salary is to be fixed as expressed in a regulation made under the statute. In sooth, I would have thought that ample parliamentary control is given to the Parliament in regard to the fixation of the salaries of these parliamentary officers. I would urge upon the Senate that in that situation it would be mistaken here, where we have accepted the viewpoint that Parliament should have this immediate control, to go further than the amendment that was accepted in the lower House. It would be a procedure which here today would involve the necessary delay of this Bill, inasmuch as we are not at the present stage in 3 position to offer Parliament a suggestion as to the figure at which the salary should be fixed.
Having regard to the fact that clause 6 (1) of the Bill docs provide that the salaries of these statutory officers shall be as prescribed, giving to each House of Parliament consequently an immediate and specific right to have its view stated in respect of the fixation of salary, I would think that in some ways it is a measure which attracts the intervention of either House of Parliament if it differs from the regulations’ view as to the appropriate salary more readily than if the adjustment of salary on each occasion required a specific amendment of the Act. That is so, 1 believe, because in regard to the regulations 1 House can express its opinion and it is definitive. If it is to be a Bill to amend the Act, it is not to be expected that 1 House could have its view accepted contrary to the view of the other House on every occasion.
I realise that no argument in politics is conclusive or that it is the only argument, but I have offered those views in my reply in the hope that the Senate when sitting at the Committee stage will consider clause 6 (1) of the Bill to be appropriate. 1 commend the Bill to the Senate.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
– I desire to refer firstly to clause 6 of the Bill which reads:
I do so for the purpose of developing a point which 1 made during the second reading debate. I appreciate the force of the practice to which the Minister for Works (Senator Wright) referred. Whilst recognising that in recent years a pattern has developed under which the salaries of officers appointed by the Parliament are determined by the Attorney-General or by a Minister. I regret that practice. 1 feel if the practice should yield to a superior principle-
– I think the honourable senator intended to say ‘Governor-General’ instead of ‘Attorney-General’. The salaries of statutory officers are never determined by the Attorney-General.
– 1 am indebted to the Minister. I had intended to refer comprehensively to Executive determination under which the salaries arc fixed. Appreciating the point that the Minister has made, I think there are occasions when it is done by ministerial determination. I think this was the way in which the Bill was originally drafted before it was amended in the lower House. Be that as it may, I feel that the principle, if it is a principle that commends itself to the Senate, should be accepted that the salaries and annual allowances of officers created by the Parliament should bc by parliamentary decision. I move:
Thai the following new sub-clause be inserted in the clause: 11a.) On and after the 1st day of .January, One thousand nine hundred and seventy-one ihe salaries and annual allowances referred to in the last preceding sub-section shall be as the Parliament provides.
If that is acceptable to the Senate it should indicate in respect of the administrative arrangements which currently are a concern of the Attorney-General that he should be able to bring in train the consequences which the passage of this Bill would enable and that for the balance of this year the salaries and annual allowances would be fixed by regulation. But to indicate that the Senate is concerned with the principle, it gives due notice that in the remaining 8 months of this year there will be opportunity for an appropriate enactment to be made whereby the salaries and annual allowances referred to in clause 6 can be given effect. Accordingly, I move the amendment which 1. have proposed.
– We think that the principle which has been advanced by Senator Greenwood is a very desirable one. The Senate has always been conscious of the need to maintain parliamentary supervision over the Executive. That may be for several purposes, but in the matter of salaries one of the reasons may bc to ensure the independence of the officers That view is not confined to the Senate and is not confined to my Party. In the House of Representatives, the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam) advanced certain proposals designed to bring about a better supervision of such salaries by the Parliament, and the Attorney-General (Mr Hughes) readily acceded to those propositions on the basis that it was important for Parliament to be maintaining a control over them. He did not express it that way, but that was the basis of the ready accession. I should say that he was not given the opportunity to consider these matters in the other place because we did not put them forward. But these are matters of important detail relating to the way in which the supervision should be maintained.
I have had the opportunity of considering and discussing these matters as they have emerged from discussions inside and outside the chamber with Mr Whitlam, and the view that I have come to is that we ought to support this proposal, that it goes a step further than we went but it is in accordance with the spirit of what we are trying to achieve. As has been pointed out by various speakers, there is a principle which can be asserted and which we ought to assert. If we can assert this principle without interfering with the bringing into being of these offices we should do so now rather than perhaps have an exception which might be built upon. In Senator Greenwood’s proposition a period is permitted - that is up to 1st January next - during which the salaries and annual allowances may be fixed by regulation. Thereafter it would require a parliamentary enactment. My understanding is that it would enable the administrative arrangements to proceed and there would not be a hold-up in the appointment of these counsel, that there would be ample opportunity to include these officers, by amendment or otherwise, in a salaries Bill. Consequently I think this amendment ought to be accepted.
This is not really a party political matter; we do not see it as such. 1 am sure that the Attorney-General would not so regard it. It is a matter which we have had an opportunity to reflect upon and discuss in and about the chamber. If it were possible I would hope that the Government could agree to it. It may be that because of the procedural steps that take place it will be difficult for Cabinet to take decisions on it because it is not meeting all the time. We think it is a worthwhile matter. The principle having been raised, if it is possible to achieve it now we would like it to be achieved. Therefore I support the proposal put by Senator Greenwood.
– This matter, as Senator Murphy has said, has been discussed by honourable senators in all parts of the Parliament. I think that those who have given their minds to it are unanimous about the desirability of writing into the statute the principle which is embodied in Senator Greenwood’s amendment. But what I am concerned about is the form which the amendment takes. The form actually, and I think undesirably, prescribes a method which will operate for some months. We take that as our standard to frame a new and acceptable method which shall come in after that. 1 would much prefer that we set the principle and then made this a dispensation from it. Therefore I would suggest for quick consideration that in lieu of the words proposed by Senator Greenwood we adopt words somewhat in these terms: In sub-clause (1.) delete all words after ‘rates’, second occurring, and insert in their stead ‘as are determined by statute, but so that until 1st January 1971 any such allowances may be such as are prescribed’. We then state the principle and allow a dispensation from it rather than state an incorrect principle and replace it with a correct one after the expiration of some time. This may be a matter of semantics, but it may be of substance.
– Would it not be preferable to let Senator Greenwood accept your wording?
– Perhaps the honourable senator would indicate his views on it. He has indicated his views to me privately, but perhaps he might indicate them to the Committee.
– I am not attached to the form of words that I used. I certainly see the point which Senator Byrne’s proposal endeavours to convey. Provided that it is in terms which the Minister representing the AttorneyGeneral is prepared to indicate are acceptable, I would not insist on my wording in preference to the wording suggested by Senator Byrne.
– I did not hear or clearly understand the terms of the amendment foreshadowed by Senator Byrne. As I shall have to attend to it with very close precision, I should like him to restate it for my benefit as I read what might be a difficult manuscript.
– I assure the Minister that his best fears will be realised. The amendment I propose to move is in these terms: In sub-clause (1.) delete all words after ‘rates’, second occurring and insert in their stead ‘as are determined by statute, but so that until 1st January 1971 any such allowances may be such as are prescribed’. The proposed amendment insists upon a statutory requirement. The Senate would then give a temporary dispensation which, I think, would be a sounder principle than the present one.
– Perhaps Senator Greenwood will agree to consult with the Minister representing the AttorneyGeneral. The matter rests with Senator Greenwood. He may then ask leave of the Senate to alter his amendment accordingly.
– I am quite prepared to follow that course. I am concerned about whether the exact language which Senator Byrne has used is acceptable to the Minister for incorporation in the legislation by way of an amendment. If it is, I shall seek the leave of the chamber to alter my amendment to adopt Senator Byrne’s wording.
– I would like to say something about my understanding of Senator Greenwood’s amendment before the matter proceeds any further and the question of leave to amend his amendment is dealt with. For the sake of brevity I shall refer only to salaries. The Committee will appreciate that any reference I make to salaries is a comprehensive reference to salaries and annual allowances. The Bill, as amended in the other place, provides that the salaries shall be as are prescribed. During the second reading stages of the Bill I pointed out that this gave either House of the Parliament the right of direct intervention. Senator Greenwood has advanced an amendment to the effect that sub-clause (1a.) be added to clause 6 after sub-clause (1.) to read that on and after 1st January 1971 the salaries and annual allowances referred to in the last preceding sub-clause shall be as the Parliament provides. Senator Byrne has offered a further amendment to clause 6. His amendment takes the place of a part of sub-clause (1.). If Senator Byrne’s amendment is accepted clause 6 sub-clause (1.) would read:
The First Parliamentary Counsel and the Second Parliamentary Counsel shall be paid salary at such respective rates, and annual allowances (if any) at such respective rates, as are determined by statute, but so that until 1st January 1971 any such allowances may be such as are prescribed.
I think his amendment could be with advantage trimmed up. I suggest that the only difference is that Senator Byrne’s proposed amendment is an attempt to improve upon the language used by Senator Greenwood.
– No, it embodies a slightly different principle.
– I would want that principle to be clarified. Senator Byrne’s proposal is, as I see it, simply a verbal alteration of Senator Greenwood’s amendment. At present I am engaged in a consideration of Senator Greenwood’s amendment. I am unable to see the alteration in substance which Senator Byrne’s amendment proposes. Therefore, I would seek further elucidation from the honourable senator before considering the matter further.
– Senator Greenwood, am I correct in assuming that your amendment entails the addition of a new sub-clause to clause 6 whereas Senator Byrne’s proposal is to amend the words of the existing clause?
Senator GREENWOOD (Victoria) [4.291 - It is a categorisation with which I would not disagree. The point which is sought to be covered by my amendment and the proposed amendment of Senator Byrne is identical except that his proposed amendment places emphasis upon the Bill asserting that salaries and allowances be paid by statute with the proviso that for a period of 6 months they may be paid by regulation. The amendment I have moved is to the effect that they may be prescribed by regulation as a matter of primary intention but after 1st January 1971 they must be paid by statute. I think the only difference is a difference in emphasis. If, as I have indicated, the Minister representing the Attorney-General is satisfied in terms of language with what Senator Byrne has proposed, I would seek leave to amend my amendment to incorporate his language.
– Due to the good offices of the Parliamentary Draftsman, who has very generously anticipated his forthcoming position, it is suggested that the amendment 1 propose to move might emerge in this form: Al the point of insertion add ‘as the Parliament provides, but so that until 1st January 1971 those salaries and allowances shall be as prescribed’. The difference may be a difference of subtlety, but the amendment as proposed by Senator Greenwood postulates 2 principles. In the absence of knowledge in the future by people of what the Senate was adverting to when it included this provision there may be confusion. The 2 principles embodied are that the Senate authorise payment for 6 months expressly by regulation and thereafter by statute. Those 2 principles are involved. If my amendment is accepted the Senate will authorise 1 principle - the payment by statute - plus a dispensation from it for 6 months or thereabouts. As the Senate is so sensitive about the principles which it will be writing into the Bill I think it should be sensitive about ensuring that clause 6 is expressed in terms which best and most effectively embody those principles so that in years to come all who run may read the actual circumstances. The knowledge of them should not be denied to those who have occasion to consult the statute. I submit that an amendment in the form I have outlined is preferable.
– Am 1 correct in assuming that Senator Byrne is now adopting an amendment in the form transmitted to him by the Parliamentary Draftsman?
– It embodies my principle, yes.
– Clause 6. sub-clause I . would then read:
The First Parliamentary Counsel ami the Second Parliamentary Counsel shall be paid salary at such respective rates, and annual allowances (it any) at respective rates, as the Parliament provides, but so that until 1st January 1971 those salaries and allowances shall be as prescribed.
– One has then to consider what the significance of the use of those words would be as distinct from the use of Senator Greenwood’s words, which would be introduced in the form of another paragraph, lt seems to me that there is a verbal distinction only. Senator Greenwood’s amendment engages my consideration at present. As I said earlier, I am having it considered by minds other than my own.
– Does Senator Greenwood not adopt Senator Byrne’s proposal?
– I know that Senator Greenwood would be prepared to give way to Senator Byrne’s amendment if it is put in such a form. But I am indicating that at the present time the meaning of Senator Greenwood’s amendment is clearer to me than Senator Byrne’s amendment, and 1 am a I i ti te reluctant to consider Senator Byrne’s amendment at this stage, i am here, of course, in a representative capacity and, as I say, I am having Senator Greenwood’s amendment actively considered by minds other than my own for my assistance. In that state of scepticism towards Senator Byrne’s amendment and being in doubt about accepting Senator Greenwood’s amendment, I am just indicating that my tongue is moving but my mind perhaps is not advancing. 1 wonder whether it would be an acceptable course for the Committee to proceed to clause 6 (2.) so that it could be indicated to me whether any member of the Committee proposes to move an amendment to that sub-clause. With that in mind, any such amendment could be taken in conjunction with the amendment to subclause (1.), and while discussion was proceeding on sub-clause (2.) I would have an opportunity to endeavour to finalise my viewpoint on the amendment to sub-clause (1.).
– in order to aid the Committee, and while a collection of thoughts i» taking place, 1 think we should adopt that suggestion. We will proceed to clause 6 (2.). Has any honourable senator an amendment to propose to this sub-clause?
– With regard to clause 6 (2.), in the absence of and at the request of Senator Rae who gave notice of an amendment to this sub-clause during the course of the second reading debate but who is unfortunately indisposed, I move:
In clause (2.) leave out ‘the Attorney-General determines’, insert ‘are prescribed’.
I think that Senator Rae. in the course of his speech in the second reading debate, indicated the reasons why he desired to move this amendment, and I share the views which he then expressed. I think it is appropriate that when allowances of the character which are envisaged in clause 6 (2.) are to be paid, they should not be, as is at present proposed, as the AttorneyGeneral determines. They should be as prescribed by regulation. I think that again is a principle which the Committee should assert.
– Especially in the light of the fact that it looks as though we may amend clause 6 (1.), [ think that Senator Greenwood’s proposal is an eminently reasonable one and that also it is a good principle to establish in relation to all such high offices. I indicate that we of the Opposition would support the amendment.
– I support the amendment. I think that it is in keeping with the spirit of the action which the Regulations and Ordinances Committee has taken for some time. I believe that these matters should be kept within the control of Parliament. Parliament has to decide the Budget and the annual expenditure. 1 thnk that what is proposed in the amendment is one way of keeping matters more closely under the control of Parliament. I think it is a very good move and, as I say, I support the amendment.
– Having regard to what 1 said al the closing stages on the second reading debate, it would seem that there is no difference in principle between ihe proposal concerning clause 6 (2.) advanced by Senator Greenwood and that which I put forward. 1 remind the Committee that what 1 had in mind to propose to meet the views of those honourable senators who suggested that it was not appropriate for the Attorney-General to determine these allowances and that they should be determined by regulation, was to amend sub-clause (2.) to read that these other allowances, being allowances in respect of travelling or other expenses of office, would be such as would be payable if the First Parliamentary Counsel or the Second Parliamentary Counsel were an officer of the Public Service included in such Division of the Public Service as is prescribed in relation to him. For the consideration of honourable senators we have copies of that amendment and I would ask that they be distributed so that honourable senators can see the language of the amendment while 1 discuss what I think is an inconsequential difference between my proposals and Senator Greenwood’s proposal. lt is not a matter upon which I propose to engage the Committee at any great length, but I would ask the Committee to see whether or not it can accept the form of my proposal. Honourable senators will note the amendment provides that instead of these other allowances, being allowances in respect of travelling or other expenses of office, being determined by the AttorneyGeneral, they would be as prescribed. That is the principle which is accepted there. But the allowances would not be as prescribed completely independently; a regulation would fix those other allowances and expenses in relation to those payable in some Division of the Public Service, and that would be the appropriate Division of the Public Service to which the office of Parliamentary Counsel was equated according to the salary that is given to the officer, whether he be a head of a Division or a Second Division officer. I suggest that there would be the advantage of those allowances and expenses having some parallelism with the other allowances that are already prescribed for the Divisions of the Public Service.
It will be seen that these allowances are prescribed as a certain amount for an officer whose salary is up to, say, $8,000 a year and another amount for an officer whose salary is up to $9,500 a year. Then another level of allowance is prescribed for officers who receive a higher grade salary. Senator Greenwood, by his amendment, would seek to make those other allowances as prescribed, without having any necessary relativity to any grade of the Public Service. For my part, having accepted the principle that these other allowances should be fixed by regulation, 1 want the Committee to accept the further view that the prescription by regulation should be in relation to one of the recognised levels of allowance which is appropriate to an already established salary grade of the Public Service.
– lt would act as a guideline.
– Not only would it act as a guideline, but it would make it obligatory to follow one of those levels and keep the allowances in step. I should have thought that that would give the Committee an assurance that these allowances will relate to already established levels of allowances in the Public Service, rather than the introduction of a high, wide and handsome new prescription in relation lo these 3 offices. I should have thought that having regard to that fact, we would have a much greater consistency as between these new statutory officers and officers already graded in the Public Service. Instead of taking the general right by prescription, without relation to any grade of the Public Service, to fix these allowances - in the expression which I have used and which I will use again - in a high, wide and handsome fashion, under my proposal we would be bound not only to fix the allowances by regulation, but to adopt, in the fixation of the allowances by regulation, not merely as guidelines but as the actual allowances, the allowances already fixed by regulation for the appropriate level of the Public Service. I put to the Committee that the form that I offered to the Committee, as circulated, is preferable to the form offered by Senator Greenwood. I resume my seat as an invitation to honourable senators to express a viewpoint.
– At first sight what the Minister said seemed to be attractive, but looking at the proposal and listening to what he said I do not find it so attractive because we are trying to establish principles so that the salary and annual allowances shall be fixed by statute - that is as I understand the mood of the Committee - and so that the other allowances shall be fixed by regulation. The Attorney-General said that it had been chronically difficult to find men lo fill positions in this office. He asked for the right to determine payments other than annual allowances - presumably because of differences between what was required by these officers and what was required by other officers. That is why, in relation to payments other than annual allowances, the Bill uses the words ‘as the Attorney-General may determine’. I have no complaint with the proposition that in substance the decision should be made by the AttorneyGeneral. I want to ensure that the method arrived at is one over which the Parliament will have control. The allowances could be fixed by regulation which would be subject to disallowance. 1 do not want to tie down to any particular form those who make the regulation. I concede that Senator Greenwood’s proposal would give those who make the regulation the right to fix the allowances.
I think the regulation could provide that these officers receive such travelling expenses as are received by officers in a certain division of the Public Service. These officers could be brought in under a general regulation that would cover people under this Act and other Acts. They could receive certain allowances, if those who make the regulation think, in their wisdom, that because of the necessities of the office these officers should be provided with some kind of allowance - whether it be a book allowance or a drafting allowance does not matter - which does not apply to other people, why should those who make the regulation be precluded from giving such an allowance? It seems to me that they probably would be precluded. Why place any limitations on them? We do not want to tie them down in any way.
I would be content if we could reach the stage at which salary and annual allowances were determined by statute of Parliament, the same as salary and allowances are provided for in the various salaries legislation. A simple statute could set out those allowances. Otherwise the salary and allowances should be fixed by regulation. I do not want to tie down those who are responsible. We could deal with the regulation. We would have an opportunity to disallow it, if we so desired. I do not think that for all time we should tie the hands of those who make the regulation by saying that the salary and allowances shall be fixed by statute. If they want to adopt the simple scheme that has been suggested, they can do so and fix the salary and allowances by regulation. If they do not want to adopt that scheme, they can do something else.
I do not think we should determine it, with great respect to the Minister. I say that with great respect because, when first put, it seemed quite an attractive proposition and to have some reason. On analysis, I prefer to leave the discretion to those who make the regulation. They should have such amplitude as we can give them to make the regulation. We should exercise our judgment as to whether any regulation should be disallowed. It is for them to choose which method they prefer to bring these officers into line with other officers, if they so desire. If they do not desire such a course, they need not adopt it. I would not like to impose a limitation on them. I think that would be an undesirable principle to attach to the regulation-making power. To me it starts to do something which we have not done before. We have left the regulationmaking power to the judgment and discretion of those who make the regulations and have relied on our right to intervene under the Acts Interpretation Act if we think the regulation should be disallowed.
– The Minister has agreed to write in 1 principle on these minor allowances. I am concerned that, having created the Office of Parliamentary Counsel and having put its officers in a particular category - that of statutory officers - we put them in a different category when it comes to the allowances that we are now discussing. The Office is created by statute. The salary and allowances are fixed by statute. It is interesting to note that no similar provision is made in respect of other officers who might be called statutory officers. Their allowances are not fixed in relation to any category of the Public Service. I have been supplied With a list of statutory office holders. They include the Auditor-General, the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner, the Commonwealth Commissioner and Second Commissioners of Taxation.
– Are you dealing now with sub-clause (2)?
– Yes, the salary and annual allowances fixed by statute. No express provision is made for other allowances to be fixed by statute. In some way those allowances are at large. The list of statutory office holders also includes members of the Public Service Board. Their salary and annual allowances are fixed by statute, which means that they are fixed by the Governor-General. In respect of other expenses, again they are not tied to a particular Public Service category. The allowance for the Commissioner of Trade Practices in respect of travelling expenses is fixed by the Attorney-General. For the Public Service Arbitrator, amounts in respect of travelling expenses are fixed by the Minister. For members of the Tariff Board - this is interesting - the allowances are determined by the Minister after consultation with the Public Service Board. The Minister does not fix them in relation to a particular Public Service category. No doubt when the fixing comes about the Public Service Board is consulted, which may well put them in a particular category if it is thought appropriate; but they are not required to be put in any particular category.
The list of statutory office holders includes the terms and conditions of employment of the General Manager of the Australian Broadcasting Commission. They are determined by the Commission with the approval of the Public Service Board. The list contains a considerable number of other statutory office holders, including members of the Australian Atomic Energy Commission and the Governor and Deputy Governor of the Reserve Bank of Australia. These are described as statutory office holders whose salary and allowances are determined by the Governor-General. Whether those allowances mean the type of allowance that we are considering or some type of annual allowance is not clear. I presume they would include rather than exclude these allowances. On this list I can see no statutory office holder whose allowances of this type are fixed in any particular Public Service category. The officers to whom this Bill refers will become statutory officers. As we have put them in this position, I do not see why we should exclude them from the list and put them in any different position from that of other statutory officers in relation to these allowances. Quite apart from the other considerations which were presented by Senator Murphy, I see no good reason why we should discriminate in this area of allowances. If we make these officers statutory officers, we should treat the allowances in the same way that the allowances of other statutory office holders have been treated.
– In response to Senator Wright’s invitation to express a view in the light of what he said, I indicate that my general view is along the lines indicated by Senator Murphy and Senator Byrne. I see nothing inconsistent in what they have said. I find them complementary one to the other. I feel that once the principle is accepted that these allowances should be by regulation a simple expression of that fact is far more satisfactory than the way in which the Minister has expressed it. To add a further reason to those advanced by Senator Murphy and Senator Byrne - I do not know why the language of the proposed amendment which Senator Wright has circulated is as comprehensive as it is. I have looked at the Public Service Regulations which appear to me to be the relevant regulations which fix travelling allowances and I find in Regulation 75a that there are 3 grades of allowances, 1 for persons whose salaries are below $7,760, another for those whose salaries range between $7,761 and $9,499, and a third category for those over $9,500. Now, I have assumed that I have been looking at the relevant regulation and if that be so there cannot be any question that the 3 parliamentary counsel who are envisaged by the Bill will all be in the third or maximum category. If that is so, I find some difficulty in appreciating why there should be the phrase at the end of the proposed amendment stating that there should be a prescription of a division in relation to a particular parliamentary counsel. It may be that there is some good reason for that which escapes me, but in my present state of mind I feel that that is a further reason why it is simpler and more satisfactory to leave it as I originally proposed.
– In relation to the last point mentioned by Senator Greenwood, just to put the record straight let me say that there are regulations other than the regulations quoted dealing with other grades, namely, heads of departments. But J have been assisted with sub-clause (2.) by the discussion we have had which enables me to say that the Government will accept the amendment proposed by Senator Greenwood. By one of those sweet mysteries of life the same discussion enables me to say that as to sub-clause (I.) we will accept either the amendment proposed by Senator Greenwood or the one proposed by Senator Byrne, with a preference for the one proposed by Senator Greenwood. So in this spirit of - may I say - cordial understanding I would resume my seat. This shows how the deliberations of the Committee may proceed with the object of giving expression to a principle. I have indicated that on subclause (2.) we will accept Senator Greenwood’s amendment. I would prefer his amendment to sub-clause (1.) but honourable senators may choose for themselves.
– I am grateful for what Senator Wright has said and I hope I am not ungrateful when I say that though he has expressed a preference for my wording the points which Senator Byrne has made in support of his wording appeal to me as being desirable in the expression of a principle. I am not sure whether or not I should seek the leave of the Committee to withdraw my amendment.
– You should seek leave.
– I seek leave of the Committee to amend my amendment to incorporate Senator Byrne’s wording. I seek leave also to incorporate the amendments into one comprehensive amendment.
– ls leave granted? There being no objection leave is granted. The amendment to subclause (1 .) of clause 6 now reads:
Leave out ‘as are prescribed’, insert ‘as the Parliament provides, but until the first day of January, One thousand nine hundred and seventyone, those salaries and those allowances shall be as are prescribed’.
The amendment to sub-clause (2.) of clause 6 now reads:
Leave out ‘the Attorney-General determines’, insert ‘are prescribed’.
Amendments agreed to.
– I would just like to suggest that the Committee is indebted to the Attorney-General (Mr Hughes) and to the Minister for Works (Senator Wright), who represents the Attorney-General for the way in which these matters have been dealt with. They are very important matters and the Attorney-General has obviously approached them in a spirit which earns the admiration of the Senate. We thank the Minister representing the Attorney-General also for the manner in which the matter was dealt with.
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 April (vide page 991), on motion by Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– The Bill that is now before us will, without doubt, create a lot of interest throughout the rural community and I think that it is advisable when we are having a look at a Bill of this nature to examine the attitude of members of the public generally who are involved in it. What are their reactions and what are the demands that they have brought forward up to the present time? Anybody who has moved around in the rural districts and rural communities in Australia - that would include the majority of senators - will have been interested to discuss with primary producers the problems they are facing at the present time.
I am dealing mainly with primary producers. It is interesting to discover that on every occasion, after they have dealt with low prices, high costs, the cost-price squeeze and tariffs and have hammered the people who have come to address them on the problems of rural industry, inevitably at the end they want to discuss the matter of probate duty. Much interesting informed and uninformed thinking goes on with regard to probate duty or estate duty, as it is called in the Commonwealth sphere. The opinions that are held on this question are really surprising. I put them down under 3 main headings. They concern mainly the smaller primary producers who find the greatest difficulty in meeting probate duty when the head of the family and owner of the farm dies.
The first matter with which they are concerned is the low valuation at which probate duty becomes assessable and the rate of probate duty. They are also concerned with the demand for payment. Of course, they are all living people and not people who have died. Their general impression, which is quite incorrect, is that probate duty has to be paid practically on demand and that this means that, if they have not substantial funds or liquid assets, some or all of the property has to be sold in order to meet the demand for probate duty. The third concern of primary producers with whom I have discussed the matter - I have had quite some difficulty in trying to convince them otherwise - is that, when an estate passes from a husband to a wife or son and the person to whom it has passed unfortunately also dies within a very short period, probate duty is payable again.
These arguments are all met generally under the Act as it exists at the present time, with the exception of the first 1 I mentioned. We know that at the present time a period of 2 years is allowed for the payment of the duty. This takes away the first cause for concern. At the same time, the amendments that we have before us now will widen those provisions. I approve of that. They will make it possible for the period of payment of the duty to be extended. This has been brought out quite well in the second reading speech made by the Minister for Housing (Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin) on behalf of the Treasurer (Mr Bury). It is to be subject to the determination of the Commissioner of Taxation after he has heard the circumstances of the case. This is a good point that is incorporated in this Bill. Also, variations are being made so that liability for estate duty will be narrowed and rebates will be allowed to people who are either in rural industry on a smaller scale or in a business proposition that comes within the ambit of this legislation.
In introducing this Bill the Government has met the first argument which is raised by farmers and which I mentioned a short while ago, namely, that the point at which probate or estate duty becomes payable should be raised. The amount has been increased by 20%. Possibly people in the rural community and in small businesses will feel that in the light of the increase in land values this is not a reasonable variation. They will feel that this amendment should have gone very much further. But this Bill does provide for an alteration which is to the benefit of the producer. In the Bill we also have a definition of a bona fide rural producer, namely, a person who obtains in excess of 50% of his gross income from rural industry. Such people will be eligible for the rebates that the Bill envisages.
As is well known to honourable senators, estate duty is applied by the Commonwealth; but in addition each State applies its own probate duty. It is very difficult for the ordinary man in the street to distinguish between 1 tax and the other. That is why he feels that this is an imposition and that his estate will be asked to bear much more than it should. Income from estate duty represents only a small portion of total Commonwealth income. It is only about $50m per annum in the total Commonwealth income of about $5,000m. So it represents only about 1%. A greater measure of assistance than has been given could have been given to people in smaller businesses and primary producers.I think the Minister pointed out in her second reading speech that the relief granted by this Bill would be of the order of $8m per annum. It seems to me that, with estate duty producing such a small section of the total Commonwealth income, greater assistance could have been given in this Bill. The Opposition is going to move an amendment to the Estate Duty Assessment Bill. I feel that one should have a broader look at this Bill. The Bill as presented is a good Bill but the Opposition considers it is not going far enough. It does not take into account the fact that the various States have their own rates of duty. The States impose these rates quite independently of the Commonwealth. The whole subject of estate duty throughout the Commonwealth should be looked at. If honourable senators look at the amendment which is now being circulated they will see it is along the lines I have just indicated. The Opposition is not objecting to the Bill but it does think it should register its opinion that the Bill should go further and it should provide for an examination of both State and Federal Legislation. I circulated a copy of this amendment to the Government and the Australian Democratic Labor Party Whips earlier this afternoon. On behalf of the Australian Labor Party, I move:
It is obvious from this amendment that the Opposition is not opposing the measure before the Senate. However, in view of the circumstances in which estate duty and probate duty are imposed on each estate at the time of death, the Opposition feels there should be some co-ordination and some thinking about this. In Western Australia I think probate duty, on an average, amounts to about $6m a year. This is a very small amount we are dealing with but it is a matter which is of tremendous concern to the farming community and people with small businesses. I think that although many people would press the case for small businesses, the proposition mainly concerns the rural industry. Rural industries are in the unenviable position that their assets are very difficult to divide for the purpose of paying probate duty. In some very difficult cases the property has to be sold in order to meet this duty. I am quite ready to admit that this amending legislation empowers the
Commissioner of Taxation to investigate a situation in an individual case. 1 think he is quite prepared to make allowances where there is need, to extend the payments over a considerable period. The provision for a limitation of 2 years as set out in the original Act will be deleted.
I hope the Government will give consideration to the Opposition’s amendment and see the value in it. This is something that the rural community is concerned about, ft is very difficult to separate State probate duty from Federal estate duty. The taxpayer regards them as the same thing. The federal tax does not apply until the estate attains a pretty high value. In the States the duty is applicable on much smaller estates. In the minds of beneficiaries of estates these duties come together. This is a matter that ought to be looked at. Some sort of legislation should bc introduced which will help the farming family retain control of the property without having to realise on it in order to meet death duty, because this duty can be quite considerable. 1 hope the Government will feel favourably moved towards our amendment and will look at it from the point of view of trying to bring some co-ordination between State and Federal laws, perhaps by holding a conference. This would help the rural community. The Australian Labor Party does nol oppose the Bill.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Bull) - ls the amendment seconded?
– I second the amendment.
– I support this Estate Duty Assessment Bill. lt represents a big concession in a tax which has been very detrimental, especially lo the primary producing section of the community. While the Bill applies mainly to primary producers it also applies generally to other sectors of the community. Its general application is very important because it allows extended time to pay the duly at the discretion of the Commissioner of Taxation, lt allows the time to be extended without the administrator, executor, or whatever the case may be, being required to lodge a large sum of money or bond or some security for payment. In some cases it is embarrassing and very difficult to comply with this provision.
There is another reason why I say that the Bill applies mainly to the primary producers of the community. These people have their capital or nearly all their capital tied up in their businesses. For that reason they find it difficult to make a disposition of their estates during their lifetime. They have to carry on and in some cases it is very difficult to make provision for the payment of duty. One can take out life assurance or other forms of insurance but as the estate tends to get bigger the assurance ceases to have the full value. It merely increases the total value of the estate and so increases the rate of duty. The primary producer may be a man not long married, or one just building up his estate. He may die before he has time to make full provision for his wife and young children. He may be killed in a car accident. Usually this creates great difficulty because there are no other assets and in many cases the farm has lo be sold to pay the duty.
As has been pointed out, this Bill was promised last year. 1 understand that its provisions will be retrospective to 25th September 1969. The Bill sets out in considerable detail how a rural estate will qualify under its provisions. It spells out clearly how the gross value of the rural property section must be more than half of the gross value of the estate to qualify for the rebate, lt lists the kind of assets which will qualify as primary production assets or as rural property. It provides a 20% increase in the statutory exemption before duty is payable. That means that a farm or property worth $24,000 or less passing to near relatives - a widow, children or grandchildren - will be completely exempt from the payment of duty. There is really a bit more to it than that because the value of the property for purposes of Commonwealth duty is assessed after Stale duty has been paid. The procedure is for the administrator or the executor of the estate, as the case may be, to finalise his dealings with the State - that is the position in my State, at any rate - before he commences his dealings with the Commonwealth authorities. Whatever amount of duty is paid to the State authorities, whether it be large or small, is deducted from the value of the estate which the Commonwealth assesses for duty purposes. The basic value of an estate for duty purposes so far as the Commonwealth is concerned is $24,000. Commonwealth duty, as 1 have said, is “not payable if the estate, after payment of State death duty, does not reach that value.
There is a very important departure in the matter of rebate. The rebate will be equal to 50% of the part of the duty which, by a process of direct apportionment, is attributable to rural property included in the estate. As I have mentioned, many estates would comprise almost wholly rural property. I know many of them which are in that category. Therefore the rebate will apply to a considerable number of primary producers’ estates. 1 believe that the Commonwealth has adopted the principle which exists in the United Kingdom where I understand that the value of land, not the value of the rural section of the estate, is taken in at 50% of the sworn value. A problem which exists in relation to rural estates - this is the field in which there has been considerable inflation in the 25 years since the war - is that many farmers are not aware of the true value of their property. The property has appreciated but they still have in mind the duty that was payable 25 years ago. Therefore they do not realise what their estate will have to pay in duties by reason of the appreciated value of the property. The rate of duty does not follow a steadily increasing pattern as the value of the estate increases. Instead, it goes up at a considerable rate after the estate reaches a certain value.
I know many farmers who have not taken this point into consideration and when I have tried to tell them what they might have to pay by way of estate duty they have become a little unbelieving. I have suggested to many of them that they have a rough valuation made of the property to see what their estate will really have to pay. Those who have done what I have suggested have been rather surprised at the amount for which the estate would be liable and the amount which would be left to their family. In some cases the property has had to be sold because there have been no other saleable assets. It is difficult to sell part of a farm or part of the livestock and maintain a proportionate income. For example, if one-third or one-half of a property is chopped off to pay the duty, you just cannot carry on with the income from the remainder. The income earning capacity of that asset has been destroyed.
Another problem arises in the case of a man who dies in middle age and leaves a widow with young children. Many questions of the Commissioner’s representatives have to be answered and in many cases of which I have knowledge it has been very difficult for widows with young families to provide the answers. If they were able to get advice I am sure that they would save duty on some items on which they have had to pay simply because they did not have the particulars as to value and so on which were required.
The Bill provides what are called quick succession rebates. These will be a big help. I think they might have been applied in some modified form previously. The Bill provides that where the beneficiary of an estate dies within 5 years of succeeding to the estate, or part of it, the rate of duty on the 2 estates - the 1 he received and the 1 he leaves - is reduced by 50% if the beneficiary dies in the first year after having received the estate, and by 10% if he dies in the fifth year after having received it. That is a considerable concession.
I should like to mention also the extension of time that is granted for the payment of estate duty. The Commissioner has considerable discretion. When the amount becomes payable, if the administrator or the executor can show that he is not able to pay at that time he can obtain an extension of time without interest being payable provided that he meets certain conditions. Let me mention also the matter of the valuation of estates. As is generally known, an approved valuer must swear to the valuation of the assets at the date of death. As I have pointed out, you deal with the State before you deal with the Commonwealth. It is not uncommon for up to 2 years to elapse before finality is reached, depending on the size of the estate and the amount involved. After the State’s requirements have been met you then deal with the Commonwealth. It has been the practice in recent years for the Commonwealth to send out its own valuers. They do their best to revalue the property. Mind you, this is at a time anything up to 1 or 2 years later. I submit that even with the best of intenions in respect of many of the assets it is very difficult for a valuer to make a valuation as at the time of death, a year or two before. Perhaps some of the improvements may have been altered during that year or two. It is even more difficult to make any sort of assessment of the value of livestock or growing crops at that time. I believe these matters warrant attention. 1 have encountered them in my experience. 1 commend the Bill. As to the amendments suggested by the Opposition I do not think we would achieve anything by considering those points now. They refer to the relatively small farms in the rural sector’. 1 do not know what the word relatively’ means in mat context. 1 have pointed out already that complete exemption is granted to farms up to a value of $24,000. if state duty has been paid shortly beforehand the level of exemption could be increased beyond $24,000. I think that the Senate should pass the Bill as it has been submitted to us and should reject the amendments proposed by the Opposition. I draw the attenion of honourable senators to the fact that the legislation will have retrospective application of about 8£ months. The relatives of people who passed on in that period will be able to get the benefit of the rebates and the other proposed concessions. Not only is provision made for individuals who own farms, but also for persons who have carried on primary producing activities through proprietary farm companies. They may also qualify for relief. The terms of qualification are spelt out in considerable detail. For all the reasons I have given 1 believe that this is a very good Bill. It is a breakthrough in concessions in respect of estate duty. I support it and commend it to the Senate.
– I support the Bill and reject the amendments proposed by the Opposition. 1 am moved to speak in this debate because I have found that death duties and other matters concerning death generally and the management of financial affairs after death are surrounded by more myths and fantasies than is any other aspect of the law. One of the great myths that resides in the community is that if one dies without a Will the Government takes the whole of the estate. The number of intending testators who come to make a will and give that as their reason is fantastic. It is a rather peculiar attitude that has spread throughout the community.
Another reason why I wish to speak on this matter is that there is a lot of misunderstanding as to how these matters operate after a person’s death. I cannot speak of what happens in other States, but 1 have bad about 17 years practice in this jurisdiction in a small country town. The mayor of my home town would not thank me for describing it as small, but the fact is that it is a relatively small town in Western Australia. Over a period of about 1 7 years our practice has handled the estates of hundreds of primary producers. The thing that has interested me is that in all that time we have had difficulty in establishing the estate duty payable on only I estate. We were able to enter into negotiations both with the Commonwealth Commissioner of Taxation and the State Commissioner of Probate Duty. Through those negotiations and the complete understanding of the taxing authorities we were able to delay payment of the estate duty until we could realise the assets at the best possible price.
As I have gone from meeting to meeting in Western Australia I have often heard it said that one of the curses of probate duty is that estates are sold up to pay it. However, to date 1 have never been given a concrete example of such a case. Often a widow sells a farm not to raise the probate duty but because it is impossible for her to carry on. In these days of shortages of skilled farm labour a widow with children aged, say, 10 aud 12 years, finds it physically impossible to carry on farming operations. My experience of advising many executors and administrators is that a sale takes place through sheer physical inability to run a farm and generally farms are not sold merely to pay death duty.
I turn now to consider a wider issue. I hold the personal belief that the time is long overdue for the Commonwealth Government to get out of this field of taxation altogether. I appreciate that it is worth about $69m annually to the Commonwealth, but I believe that it should completely vacate that field. One of the most frustrating things about estate duty is the necessity to lodge dual returns. In effect one supplies the same information to 2 taxing authorities and then goes through the business of answering basically similar requisitions from those 2 authorities, ending up with 2 taxation assessments. Of course, this adds to the burden of administering estates, lt is not a substantial burden, but it must be carried by the beneficiaries.
I have always been somewhat surprised that the States and the Commonwealth have not been able to get together and to agree on a common return to be submitted by executors and administrators. This would be a service to the community. However, to return to my original point, I feel that the Commonwealth should get out of this field completely. I am not generally in favour of death duties, anyhow. I think there was a case for the imposition of death duties before the rise of the modern progressive income tax rates payable during one’s lifetime. The interpretation of the Commissioner of Taxation is that many capital gains are taxable during a person’s lifetime as well as after his death.
I appreciate that death duties are among the oldest forms of taxation. My friend the honourable member for Curtin (Mr Garland) in another place referred to the imposition of death duties commencing in 1694. If my knowledge of legal history serves me correctly they were imposed long before then. In fact, some fairly vicious death duties were payable in the Middle Ages. One of the complaints of the barons to King John at the time of Magna Carta concerned the abolition of Wardship. Interestingly enough, it was not abolished until after the civil wars of the seventeenth century. It was a rather interesting situation which no doubt the Commissioner of Taxation would like to have brought back today. Wardship provided that where an infant beneficiary was entitled to an estate the king took the revenues until the ward attained the age of 21 years.
Some quite harsh taxation measures were imposed as death duties. I think heriot was one. There were others which provided that the lord of the manor took the best beast, and other such varieties of payment were applicable. It is not a new form of taxation. I think it was reasonable in the days when there was no tax on income. I suppose that income tax could hardly be imposed when the system within the community was basically a barter system. It is fair enough that a tax should be imposed on immovables or even on movables at one’s death in times such as that, but in this modern age income tax is paid during one’s lifetime, even on Capital gains and one wonders whether there is really a philosophical basis for taxing an estate after death.
I understand that honourable senators opposite would not agree with that philosophy because fundamental to much of the philosophy of the Socialists is the fact that estates should be broken up; that there seems to be something inherently wicked in a man accruing assets in his lifetime and passing them on to his beneficiaries - his widow or children. But I belong to a Party the political philosophy of which is that people should be entitled to own property; that they should be encouraged to accumulate property, and that 1 of the great incentives to accumulating property is that one is able to pass it on to beneficiaries, to a wife or to children.
Sitting suspended from 5.45 to 8 p.m.
Genera] Business Taking Precedence of Government Business
– I move:
Select Committee of both Houses should be appointed to investigate the raising and distribution of revenue, to ensure that the Commonwealth and States be able to discharge properly their Constitutional functions.
In moving this resolution on behalf of the Australian Democratic Labor Party let me first of all emphasise to members of this Senate, this State House, that this is a question to which we in particular should give the lead at this time. It needs no words of mine to emphasise the need for something to be done in this area. The dispute between the States and the Commonwealth is not of recent origin and I emphasise that it is not a political dispute. The evidence of this is in the day to day reportings of the newspapers throughout Australia. They have emphasised the needs of the States which are not being met and the ever increasing role of the Commonwealth in the control of finance.
The greatest critics and those who have pleaded most for something to be done for the States might well have been of the same political party as those who at the time were controlling the Commonwealth. I would venture the opinion that had the people in Canberra controlling the Commonwealth been of a completely different political complexion, and had those in government in the States been of a completely different political complexion, the same problem of Commonwealth and State financial relations that has received so much prominence would be with us today and we would be discussing this subject. This would have happened irrespective of the political complexion of the various State or Commonwealth governments because this is a question which in itself is bigger than the politics of the various parlies which are in control in the States and in the Commonwealth.
If one turns back the pages of history it becomes apparent that the beginnings of this problem were in the immediate postwar years when in 1946 there was in Canberra a Federal Labor government led by the late Mr Chifley. Representatives of the States met him in the postwar years to talk about their financial requirements and the financial responsibilities which the States had ceded to the Commonwealth in order to meet the national crisis that we knew in the war against Fascism and against Japan. At thai lime there were 4 Labor Slate governments and a Labor Commonwealth Government, and in the whole of the Commonwealth there was only one Liberal Party government, that being in South Australia. The 4 Labor Governments of Victoria, New South Wales, Queensland and Tasmania ceded to the Commonwealth broadly the financial taxing rights that the Commonwealth still controls today. The Liberal Government of South Australia also ceded those rights to the Commonwealth. But at that time the real problems had not emerged.
The financial agreement between the Commonwealth and the States existed until about 1959 when it was renegotiated on a new basis, lt was in the years from 1959 to 1965 that the real problems began to make themselves apparent to the States. Many people were inclined to believe that the problem arose perhaps through the States’ mismanagement of their finances and that the States should have been managing better than they were. But the figures disproved this suggestion. The figures show that the problem arose because of the agreement that had been reached, because of the growth rate in income tax in this rapidly expanding nation, circumstances which could not have been dreamed of in 1946. At that time there were for our people none of the practical problems which now face the people of this country, whether they were politicians in the State or Federal sphere or whether they were tradesmen, businessmen or professional men in the community. Australia’s need to develop, to grow and to expand caused us to venture on a programme of immigration and expansion which before 1946 we had not even dreamed about. Thank God for Australia s sake it was a successful programme. Nevertheless, it left the States with tremendous problems of development that they had not expected, and the financial agreement with the Commonwealth left them little margin to continue with what was required in terms of hospitals, schools and all the other requirements of a growing community. lt is true that the States brought their problems to the Commonwealth, but their indebtedness to the Commonwealth, because of a system, to which the States had agreed, of allowing the Commonwealth to collect all the income tax, because of the tremendous growth of income that came about with our development and our improved prosperity for the families which were already here and the new families which were being added from day to day, meant that the returns to the States were inadequate to meet the demands for expenditure on education and hospitals and all the other expenditures that the States were required to meet.
In 1965 another new agreement which was to last for 5 years was negotiated. But even at that stage in 1965 - we are now in 1970, the year in which the agreement ends - the Liberal Premier of the State that [ represent in this Parliament prophesied at the time of the negotiations for the agreement that it would collapse or smash within 12 months. He was proved to be right. The agreement was inadequate and the States had to adopt all sorts of subterfuges and wrong, unjust and stupid methods of taxation in an attempt to meet the financial crises in the States.
So far in this debate I have tried to say nothing provocative from a State or Federal political point of view, but I think it must be said that when the States were forced into the field of the turnover tax because no other field of taxation was available to them, they were forced into a situation where they either chose that method of raising further finances to meet their requirements or, as happened in some States, they had to legalise forms of gambling that are not good for us as a nation or as a people. We saw introduced forms of gambling which eat into the very heart and sou! of family life in the community in the State in which they are applied. ( refer to the gambling machines which were introduced as a method of raising the finance needed to meet the crisis through which the State was passing. Perhaps my choice of words is bad because it was not passing through a crisis; it was getting deeper and deeper into the mire. Even the State that resorted to gambling machines ultimately was forced to accept also the idea of turnover tax, an insidious tax which is a tax upon a tax, as is obvious to anybody who investigates it. It is applied even to the sales tax that is levied by the Commonwealth.
Sales tax becomes part of the turnover price on any article and the turnover tax is applied to that price. As the retailing firms act as the collector for the Commonwealth of sales tax it becomes part of their turnover and they have to pay turnover tax on the sales tax, too. It was said by the then Treasurer that providing the turnover tax rate remains small it is an acceptable form of taxation from the Commonwealth’s point of view for the States to levy. But he was succeeded by the present Treasurer (Mr Bury), who has expressed the opinion publicly that the rate could and should be increased by 10 times. In my view it was a hasty statement to make. Surely nobody thinks that industry or commerce could absorb in all of the ramifications of modern productivity a turnover tax 10 times larger and still retain a stable economy and an economy which is not subject to gross inflation.
The Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) said that the tax which was levied in Victoria on wages - apparently wages were designated in some way as being turnover because they were received by the employee who earned them - would have to stop because it was inflationary, but he did not regard the turnover tax which could be applied on any article at every section of the manufacturing process as inflationary. On previous occasions in this chamber I have used a humble pair of shoes as an illustration, but one can use a motor vehicle or anything else one wishes as an illustration of the number of times during the manufacturing process a turnover tax can be applied to an article before it reaches the consumer on the street. The Prime Minister did not in his wisdom consider this form of taxation to be inflationary.
I have recounted the factual events which have taken place to prove the need for an inquiry of the type which the Australian Democratic Labor Party suggests. The financial agreement between the States and the Commonwealth has to be renegotiated this year. Some may argue that the present basis should apply whilst others may argue that a better agreement should be negotiated. There are many signs which indicate that the necessary knowledge is not available to permit a better agreement to be negotiated. I would hope that it is not due to a lack of will to solve the problems on the part of those who are responsible. There should not be a successful Commonwealth with impoverished and degraded States. We can have a great Australian nation and a successful Commonwealth with prosperous States only if the commitments of the States can be legitimately met out of a fair form of taxation based upon the ability of everybody to pay, as income lax is, and not on impoverished and degraded States endeavouring to snidely raise the necessary revenue by turnover tax, particularly turnover tax levied on businesses which are losing money at the time.
Is any honourable senator prepared to say that that is a fair method of taxation? If one is losing money in trying to make a living or establish a business, a firm or anything else should one be taxed on one’s turnover? Is this the principle upon which we are endeavouring to build a great nation? If it is not, then turnover tax is wrong in principle. Income tax is based on the success of one’s enterprise, on the profits that one makes and on one’s capacity to pay. All income taxpayers receive allowances to meet the cost of rearing families or keeping their wives. The Democratic Labor Party has grave doubts that this matter of CommonwealthStates financial arrangements can be left any longer to a straight-out negotiation between the States and the Commonwealth unless all the best political brains in the country are urged to think about the problems and try to solve them. This is the objective of the Democratic Labor Party.
Earlier this year the High Court of Australia ruled that certain States had no right to collect a form of turnover tax which they were collecting. The newspapers are my only guide on this aspect, but I have read in newspaper after newspaper that the Prime Minister promised the States that he would legislate to collect at a Commonwealth level the turnover tax which was denied to these States by the courts. As a member of the Parliament I have been waiting for the legislation to he introduced which will result in the implementation of this proposal. The newspapers also said that the proposal was to be made retrospective to cover the period of time which elapsed between the decision of the High Court and the ability of the Commonwealth Government to collect the tax which was said to have been illegally imposed by the States.
– lt would not be any more just.
– There may not be any more charge, but it will be very hard on the businessman who has been losing money during the last 6 months suddenly to discover that, together with the losses which have been made, he owes the Commonwealth a turnover tax which has been imposed retrospectively. Do honourable senators not have any sympathy for such a person? Should he not. have the same rights as prosperous Australians? Senator Dame Ivy Wedgwood indicates by her interjection that this is something which is desirable, lt was a desperate measure which was adopted by the States because it was the only way out of a situation which developed as a result of the mismanagement of financial relations by the Commonwealth and the States.
– Senator Dame Ivy Wedgwood said ‘just’’.
– Senator Young is desirous of helping me. I think 1 am doing all right. However, I shall continue to endeavour to make my speech without his assistance. It is also a fact that in this period a practice has grown up which the Commonwealth itself accepts because it has signified to the States that it will do something about their indebtedness to the Commonwealth. I refer to the practice under which States have to borrow vast sums of money from the Commonwealth at rates of interest which the Commonwealth has not been able to maintain at a stable level. The money being borrowed is money paid by the residents of the States to the Commonwealth in the form of income tax. This money is going back to the States so that the States can provide the services which they are required to provide. The States are becoming indebted to the Commonwealth to such an extent that the stage has been reached where the interest bill which they have to meet almost equals the amount of money to which they are entitled from the Commonwealth under the CommonwealthStates financial arrangement.
Some people are inclined to accept this as being a sensible proposition, but I honestly do not think that children in second grade at school would contribute to the suggestion that this is a commonsense arrangement, if it were a financial arrangement between themselves in terms of pennies these children would sec the fallacy of the arrangement. They would know that the arrangement must fall down under its own weight. Because of the situation which has developed the Democratic Labor Party is of the opinion that the stage in thinking has been reached where honourable senators should be reminded that before they represent the various political parties in this chamber, or anybody else, they should represent the States from which they have come and they should protect their own States from this very thing which has happened in the course of the development of Commonwealth-State financial relations.
I want to return to the point al which 1 started by reminding honourable senators that in spite of anything that I may have said to prove that a situation has developed, I think that precisely the same course of events would have happened irrespective of the politics of the governments which held office in the States or the Commonwealth. The development of this situation is something for which we all must accept our reasonable share of responsibility. We cannot blink our eyes and suggest that if we fail to look the problem straight in the face and make a reasonable attempt to do something more than has been done in the past, the problem will go away. We cannot adopt the policy merely of paying off some of the State debts or forgetting some of the tremendous interest burdens that are now owed to the Commonwealth by the States. The situation has reached the stage at which 1 State Premier, the Liberal Premier of Victoria, Sir Henry Bolte, has placed before the Commonwealth figures to prove that the Australian States have now taken over the responsibility for repaying the national debt of this country. Not only have the States taken over this responsibility; they have also taken over the responsibility for meeting the interest commitments.
The Commonwealth is responsible for fixing the general interest rates that are charged on money borrowed throughout the Commonwealth, and even before the recent increase of three-quarters of 1% in interest rates, Sir Henry Bolte claimed that the Commonwealth was enriching itself with every increase in interest rates. I do not know what comments he is prepared to make, in the midst of the Victorian election campaign, about the Commonwealth’s recent action in increasing interest rates, but if his argument was sound in February of this year., when he and the other 6 Premiers put before the Commonwealth what they considered to be an unanswerable case regarding the financial state into which they had fallen, then it is sound today.
We can no longer continue to shut our eyes to the consequences of the patches that we have been applying to the system. If we have not got the courage to face up to the situation, -to learn from our experience of 24 years of application of the present system and to realise that unless some of the right to levy the only just method of taxation that exists in our community - income taxation - is returned to the States, then the problem will always remain with us, irrespective of the patches that we may apply to the system. So we suggest that a joint select committee of both Houses should be appointed to investigate the raising and distribution of revenue, to ensure that the Commonwealth and States may be able to discharge properly their constitutional functions, and naturally we suggest that this resolution should be communicated by message to another place with a request that that House agree to the Senate’s proposal.
– Why a joint select committee and not a Senate select committee?
– As I said in the course of my remarks, I do not think that all the best brains of this country are in the Democratic Labour Party, I do not think that they are all in the Australian Labor Party and I think there is plenty of evidence to indicate that they are not all in the Government, otherwise we would not be discussing this proposition tonight. 1 do not think that all the best brains are in the Senate, either. The responsibility rests with the Commonwealth. We hope that politics will be forgotten in this matter. If we can appoint a joint select committee of both Houses of the Commonwealth Parliament, surely there should be members on that committee with sufficient capacity and ability to apply themselves to this problem and if not to come up with a perfect answer - indeed, that may be very difficult to do and it may need a period of trial and error - at least to start us on the right road. We do not want to continue as we have done in the past. This question has been discussed on two occasions at conferences between the Commonwealth and the States. No matter who may have been Prime Minister and Treasurer at the time of the conferences, all they have been able to do is to apply patches which have not succeeded in the objective of granting the States what they want.
I think that members of the Government Parties and of the Labor Party will agree, because they are all politicians, that it takes tremendous pressure to make people who all belong to the same political party say what has been said by the various State Premiers about the Commonwealth’s management of Australia’s finances in the last 10 years. I earnestly believe that honourable senators would agree with me when I say that these things would have been said about the Federal Government irrespective of whether the people who said them were of the same political complexion as the Government or not. So a departure from the previous procedure is required. We are not advocating something that is tremendously extreme. What we are saying, in effect, is: ‘Let us get the best brains of the people who have been elected to both Houses of the Federal Parliament to examine the situation, with politics cast aside, to see whether they can come up with a proposition which is better than the 1 which has developed out of the present system’.
I think I need say no more to prove the case that a problem exists. If anybody should doubt what I say, I suggest that he read in State Hansards the reports of what the various State Premiers have said. Surely ail the Premiers cannot be cranks. Surely they cannot all be wrong in the explanations that they have to make on this question to their own Parliaments. If I have proved that a case exists, let us all agree with the proposition that has been brought forward tonight. Even if some of us might have to strive a little to forget from where the proposition comes, it is brought forward genuinely in the interests of making a better and great Australia. For that reason I ask honourable senators at least to carry the proposal through the Senate which has such a tremendous responsibility to the States.
– In rising to give my views on the motion which has been moved on behalf of the Australian Democratic Labor Party by Senator Little, I cannot but preface my remarks by saying what a coincidence it is that in the Chair at the moment is Senator Wood, a man who is so well-versed in the problems of local government finance. Local government must be in our minds as an integral part of the question before the Senate. As is normal for the Democratic Labor Party, Senator Little emphasised his non-Party political approach to this subject, in the hope that this approach would continue. I believe that the Liberal Party is continuing this approach, I hope to the satisfaction of Senator Little. 1, a Liberal Party back bencher, will speak first and give my views.
This matter has been on the notice paper for a long time. The current session has been a busy 1 for the Parliament. Most of us, including myself, have not looked ahead to see what might or might not be debated. I blame no-one for this debate being brought on now. Our first knowledge that it would be brought on was at about 2.30 this afternoon. Recently when I criticised the Opposition for bringing on a debate on a matter of urgency Senator Murphy interjected and said that I should know the subject off by heart. Possibly all of us in the Senate know sufficient about the problems of financial relations between the Commonwealth, the States and local government bodies to enable us to give our views on the subject.
I believe Senator Little and his Party colleagues should be congratulated for bringing forward this motion. Senator Little has given us an opportunity in General Business time - not in Government Business time - to discuss, unlimited by time and untrammelled by Party politics, a subject of very great national importance. I do not agree with any of the Democratic Labor Party’s other suggestions. I am aware that the Minister who will reply has decided to listen to the debate. In due course he will take part in the debate and will inform the Senate of the Government’s thoughts on the subject. 1 am opposed on 3 counts to the setting up of a joint select committee of the Parliament or a select commitee of the Senate to inquire into this vast and important field of national finance. My first ground for opposition is based on the not unreal problem of manpower.
The majority of honourable senators are engaged in as much committee and parliamentary work as I believe they could carry out and still fulfil their duties as senators in their home States. We have to realise that a Senate election will be held and must be held at any time from OctoberNovember to the end of May next year. Within 12 months we will have had a Senate election. As at all such elections, some of our members, of their own free will, will not seek re-election and will not return. Their places will be filled by new senators. Others who will face the electors in the hope that they will be returned may be disappointed and may not return. Therefore on 2 scores I say that the Senate could not be represented properly and adequately on such an inquiry because of the manpower situation. 1 believe it would be unwise to set up a Commonwealth parliamentary committee to inquire into this subject. The suspicions of State and local governments would be aroused immediately. I believe that sources of information would be closed to a committee of the Commonwealth Parliament because of the differing views and rivalries that exist between the Commonwealth and State governments at this time.
– You agree with the necessity for an investigation, but you do not agree with the nature of the invesigalion is that right?
– I did not quite catch the interjection. I do not like interjections. 1 do not like making them although sometimes I am forced into doing so. I have given the reasons why I believe a committee of inquiry of the Commonwealth Parliament to inquire into this subject of national importance affecting government at the State and local level would be doomed from the start. State governments and local government bodies are calling for a change in the relationship. 1 believe I have established a reasonable case for opposition to the Senate taking part in such an inquiry or for recommending that a Commonwealth parliamentary committee be set up. 1 am willing to agree that Australia has great problems about financial responsibility. These problems have existed and still exist in every federal form of government. Every federal form of government is desirous of setting up some form of committee to solve its problems so that they will not remain problems in future. The United Kingdom is having problems because of its financial relationships with and responsibilities to Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland. Searches for a solution have been made and currently are being made. I understand that those searches are not being undertaken by parliamentarians.
I have admitted that a serious situation exists in Australia. I emphasise that at heart I am a federalist, and very deeply so. I believe I know what are the States’ rights. know something about their needs, their sovereignty and the way in which they carry out their sovereign rights. In Australia today local government is facing a growing need for financial help - not loan funds but revenue from the central purse. I believe that local government cannot exist and develop its own responsibilities, which involve the facilities nearest to and most required by the ordinary people, if left to continue with its present financial burdens. There must be a division of financial power and responsibility. I refer to the responsibility for raising revenue and the expenditure of that revenue. There is the responsibility of raising loan funds and allocating those funds. There is the responsibility for repaying the loans as and when they fall due.
There is in addition the responsibility and the burden of paying the interest charges. If some control were not placed on moneys borrowed, financial disaster could overcome local government bodies or State governments in future because of the burden of interest commitments and loan repayments that unwise government may have placed upon them.
In all 3 areas of government - in the Commonwealth, in the 6 States and in the many hundreds of city and suburban municipalities and country shires - there is need for some solution to their financial problems. We in Australia are in a way blessed by the Constitution, but in many cases we find as we try to legislate for the people’s welfare that we are seriously handicapped, first of all, by the Constitution and secondly, this Government and other governments have found to their cost that it seems to be part of the Australian way of life to say no to any government that asks for a change in the Constitution. In fact, I have heard somebody say that unless a government is prepared to put a question to the people so framed that they have to answer no to it, and that is the answer that the Commonwealth wants, it will never get its ideas on amending the Constitution put into force. So I believe that the idea of having a constitutional inquiry with a notion of changing our constitutional rights will never, or not in our time, be successful. We know the problems now facing the States and their attempts to raise revenue outside what have been their normal sources, and we know what happened to their efforts regarding the receipts tax. So we have a problem. It is not new. We know that it is serious and something must be done about it. We know that there is a vast area to be covered, a vast area which will require the most intensive study by experts in many fields of finance, financial responsibility and government responsibility.
So far as parliaments are concerned, each parliament and each State feels that it has its own traditional rights to certain aspects of revenue and, indeed, certain rights as to expenditure. Each State considers that it has certain traditional claims on the Commonwealth to provide money and to provide loan funds. But it is obvious that if this system is not working the old order might have to change. I think everyone will agree that no State parliament or, I think, municipal authority, could be coerced or persuaded to agree to change its traditional means of obtaining revenue or its expenditure by the decisions of a committee of the centralist Federal Government. A committee of inquiry to bring a solution that needs to be long lasting would have to sit for a considerable period - I say a year or more - and this is another reason why I oppose a committee made up from the Commonwealth Parliament. I have talked about Senate elections. We know that almost every year now this Commonwealth Parliament is either facing with fear and trepidation an election or is suffering the results of an election, and we know that once the Parliament is dissolved to go to an election the committees of the Parliament under the law cease activity. We know that under the law these committees of the Parliament cannot reform to continue their work fill Parliament meets again and gives them the right to reform and get under way, so we would have almost every year a delay in the work of the committee.
This is a handicap. The changing personnel would be a handicap, and because of the almost full time duties many of us have in this Parliament today we would have irregular attendances at the meetings of such a committee. I believe this would be a grave handicap to a final successful result. It is said that the Parliament should be able to provide the brains and the wherewithal and it could be said that a committee of Parliament has great powers to draw evidence. I cannot imagine a solution being found in a committee drawn also from members of the State Parliaments. I do not think a joint Commonwealth-State parliamentary committee would do the job that is needed to be done and which the Democratic Labor Party, I believe, wishes to be done. I am confident that the Premiers of the 6 States, together with the Commonwealth Treasurer and/ or Prime Minister, would not have the time, even with all the expert advice of their Treasury officials, to devote to getting down to solving the present problems. It appears to me as a layman that after each Premiers Conference the problem becomes worse, the rivalry more keen and the frustrations on all sides more worrying. What is needed to take the nonsense out of Premiers Conferences and stop the begging and bargaining that must go on under the present CommonwealthState financial set-up is for a solution to be found to take us into the next century. So I have come down on the side of suggesting that we need a small committee of full time experts in the fields of government, economics and finance.
I would not in any way support a move for a royal commission. I believe, with great respect to the courts and the legal profession, that such an inquiry needs to be completely free of legalities and legal argument and counsel. I picture it more as a round table conference of chosen experts which would have some members representing the State outlook and some representing the local government outlook. They would have discussions with experts and, where necessary, take evidence on oath as does a committee of this Parliament. They would naturally look to Treasurers and Treasury officials to give evidence. I appreciate the fact that the moving of this motion tonight has been a useful means to start a debate in the Senate which was rightly reminded by Senator Little when he said: ‘Are we the States’ house?’ We are looking for a solution to a problem that we know exists, which I honestly believe is handicapping Australia today and which is such that it is doing no good to the stature or reputation of Parliaments in either the Federal or the State sphere in the eyes of the people. I do not think there would be a person - unless he is most biased against parliamentarians - who would criticise the Parliament if it were to say: ‘Yes, this is a job for a committee of experts in the field to report not only to the Federal Parliament but to the State parliaments.’ Let it be a committee set up with the goodwill of the Prime Minister and the Premiers of the States. Let it sit continuously until it comes to the end of its task and then let the report come back to the Parliament and let us hear then what we think about it. I do not propose at this early stage in the debate to move an amendment to the motion but I do suggest to the Democratic Labor Party and to the Senate on the completely non-party political basis on which this was introduced that the idea that I have put forward be given serious consideration before the debate ends with the idea of an amendment coming forward.
- Mr Acting Deputy President, like Senator Marriott, I pass on to you my felicitations. I am pleased to see that at this stage of the debate on a matter that concerns the various levels of government in this country a man with such a long and distinguished record of service in local government is occupying the chair. The proposition now before the Senate was moved by Senator Little. It reads:
That is the operative part of the motion. The second part of it reads:
I suppose that one could say that the financial relationship between the Commonwealth and the States is an extremely important matter, one that is causing a great deal of concern throughout this country at the present time and one that has to be resolved before too long if the institution of democratic government in this country is to survive. I believe that one could say that without reservation.
Unfortunately, however, the motion meets only part of the problem and not the entire problem that exists in Australia today. If it were adopted in its present form, the terms of reference of the joint select committee would have to be drawn in such a way as to empower it to make an examination of the financial arrangements between the Commonwealth and the States - it would certainly do that - but also in a restrictive way to the extent that the inquiry would not embrace the problems of local government and semi-government institutions. This is one of its weaknesses. I believe that it has 3 fundamental weaknesses as we see it before us now. I am not condemning for a moment the proposition that there should be an examination of this matter. In fact, I believe that the time is fast arriving when the Government will not be able to dodge it any longer because if it does the system of government in this country will collapse.
Before I proceed any further I want to hark back for a moment to something that occurred earlier today. I want to keep the debate as near as I can to the motion whilst not being restricted in putting my Party’s point of view. I want to keep the debate on the level and in the atmosphere in which it was commenced, namely, that this is a serious national problem and we should put aside, as far as we can, the attitudes of the various political parties to it. But in order to develop my case properly it is necessary for me to draw attention to the fact that earlier today an endeavour was made to link Notice of Motion No. 2, which we are now debating, with Notice of Motion No. 4, which stands on the notice paper in the name of Senator Willesee.
Reference was made at that time to a deficiency in that 1 motion is a serious attempt to do something without castigating the Government and the other is a form of condemnation of the Government for a certain shortcoming. I believe that we would have been able to accommodate to that deficiency had there been a will to do so. In fact, it will be recalled that an attempt to do so was made, but it failed. At that very point the intent of the motion now before the Senate must have failed because that, decision removed from our consideration 1 of the most vital, most important and most desperate sections of government in this country. I refer to local government and semi-government institutions.
Before I came here, like yourself, Mr Acting Deputy President, I had the honour of serving in local government for a great many years. So I talk with some experience of this system. I suggest to the Senate quite seriously that unless one had some background knowledge of the problems and disabilities of local government it would be quite difficult to have a complete appreciation of those problems and disabilities. This is an essential part of the whole field. So, at this stage, I express my regret. I had hoped that we would have been able to go into this whole question. Whilst this is 1 of the fundamental weaknesses in the proposition that has been put forward, I believe that at some stage in the future there must be a will to come to grips with this extremely important and complex matter.
– It can still be discussed on this motion.
– I propose to discuss what I consider to be deficiencies which I hope will be taken into account and which are ingredients of a complete understanding and appreciation of this system. I hope that at some stage in the future this matter will come to a proper resolution.
The motion takes no account - at least as far as I can read and interpret it - of the very serious situation of local government in Australia today or of the problems of semi -government institutions. Later I hope to have an opportunity to refer to a number of the institutions to which I am referring when I use that expression. Any inquiry of the nature of that now proposed would be quite inadequate. I believe that the cost of undertaking an examination of this kind cannot be justified unless it deals with the whole range of finances of all forms of government in Australia.
In the past 1 have expressed my displeasure and unhappiness at the facility with which the Commonwealth seeks to regard itself as not being involved with the problems of local government. Honourable senators will recall that 1 have raised this matter on a number of occasions. Perhaps I have not raised it as expertly as one might have done, but at least I have raised it on a number of occasions because of my knowledge of the background to it. The reply that I receive on each occasion is the old stock reply, if I might be permitted to refer to it in that way; namely, that the Commonwealth makes money available to the States and the obligation to see that there is a viability in local government rests almost solely on the shoulders of the States.
– If the States were better off they could afford to alter the situation.
– I propose to come to that very point in a moment. In fact, I propose to go beyond that point and make a serious reference to a trend which is now occurring in local government and which may give greater point to the proposition that is before the Senate at the present time. In the past I have expressed my displeasure at the facility with which the CommonWealth can wipe off this problem or sweep it under the carpet by saying: ‘It is not our responsibility. We have not an obligation to make sure that this area of government works’. Notwithstanding the tremendous differences between the financial situations of the central or national government, the State governments and the local government authorities, the Commonwealth can express its attitude in these words: ‘It is not our responsibility. It is somebody else’s responsibility. We are doing everything we possibly can for the various areas of government responsibility in this country, and that is all there is to it’. That is just not so. I will demonstrate that as I go on.
Not very long ago there was a belief - at least, this was the way the Commonwealth Government expressed itself - that there was no responsibility on the part of the central government for the education system of this country. Of course, if one was considering the Constitution except insofar as it relates to the Territories under the immediate administrative control of the national government, that would be a reasonable interpretation. What was not stated at that time was that the Constitution did not, in fact, bind the Commonwealth Government hand and foot. There was a clause in the Constitution which allowed grants to be made for certain purposes. Of course the Commonwealth, pressed by public clamour for some better response and some better performance in the field of education and some acceptance of the responsibility in this tremendously important area of human endeavour found a loophole. It was not really a loophole, but the Commonwealth Government found that it had power and it was obliged to exercise that power to attempt to bolster up the situation in this piecemeal way. We will not go into that at this stage, but it was piecemeal, and until we attack it on a proper basis we will not solve the great problem of education. But this is to be the attitude: ‘We are not involved in this. We look after our area of responsibility in the territories and that is the end of the matter.’ Honourable senators have seen a dramatic change in that attitude. I accept that change as having done a great deal of good for this country. lt will be recalled–
– You are not doing any good for Tasmania.
– If you do not mind, I am trying to make an objective comment on this subject. I hope that in due course you might get up and demolish me if what I say is incorrect.
– I will demolish you all right.
– I accept that.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Wood)- Order!
– I am not terribly worried about this, Mr Acting Deputy
President. I am sorry if I am hurting the Government senators but these things have to bc said.
– You are hurting a Victorian Senator, that is what you are doing.
– 1 am terribly sorry about that, too, Senator. 1 would not have that happen for the world if 1 could possibly avoid it. If the Government could perform better in the held of education it would not have to happen. Perhaps in the future we may be able to persuade the Government to take such action as will free you from this sort of thing, from this particular situation
– Can we sell you to New Zealand?
– I will come to New Zealand in a moment. If we turn to New Zealand wc may find out a little more about the local government situation there. 1 say that they are not-
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT - Order! J ask honourable senators to stop this crossfire of interjection.
– lt is all right, Mr Acting Deputy President. 1 do not really need protection, you know. I know something abou! this subject so it does not really worry me a great deal. The time has arrived in the history of government in this country when 1 do not believe that this Government, as the central government, can validly claim that it can be absolved from any responsibility or any liability in the affairs of local government, lt is not right to say this any more. Why is it not right? It is because the central government is the taxing authority. This Government collects a tremendous amount of revenue out of die pay packets of all Australians. The tax comes into the central fund, lt is farmed out. Often it is farmed out on the basis of a very high interest rate charged against the States from which the tax was initially collected. I have never seen such a wacky form of taxation or money collecting in my life.
I make the point that the money comes from the various States of the Commonwealth and is not returned to them except in some small measure as grants which are repaid at a quite huge interest rate. I do not believe the Commonwealth Government can any longer opt out of this tremendously important field. The institution of Parliament and the problems of governments throughout the world are growing day by day as it has been illustrated and demonstrated in so many ways. It is becoming a much more important and complex business to run the governmental affairs of a country, ft is becoming very difficult at the federal level and it is becoming extremely difficult at the State level. Honourable senators do not need me to point this out at any great length. The fact is that every Premier - and bear in mind that they are all on the same side of politics as this Government - is clamouring day by day for financial assistance and for some measure of help from the Commonwealth Treasury. The Stales are not doing terribly well at the moment but at least they are highlighting a tremendously important matter. I guess that in lime to come even the hard hearts of the people in the Treasury will be softened to an extent. They will have an appreciation of these problems. I think that day will come because it has to come. I do not think the issue can be dodged any further. 1 think it is correct to say that the indebtedness of the Government is diminishing despite all the complexities of government and the problems of-
– It is a fact.
– That is right, lt is a fact. The indebtedness of State Government institutions have increased in recent years, I believe fourfold. As I understand it the indebtedness of semi government and local government institutions have increased 7 to 9 times. I do not think this can be allowed to go on year after year into the future without some proper attack upon this problem. I think it is wrong to assume that because one level of government is viable the responsibility should Stop there. I am not saying it is the responsibility only of the Commonwealth Government to fund these things. I think the responsibility flows right down through the whole system of government. Certainly there are shortcomings on the part of the Commonwealth towards the States. But if one were to listen to the pleas of local government one would quickly learn that there are shortcomings as far as the performances of State governments are concerned to their local government instrumentalities as well. Complaints exist at all levels and complaints are likely to continue at all levels. One can never assume that in the system of government we practise in Australia that because one level of government- is financially viable the whole system is OK.. It is not. It seems that because one particular system of government is viable - I am talking about the Commonwealth system at the moment - this seems more to have accentuated the problems of the other two levels of government than assisted them.
Responsibility docs not stop in the compartmented areas of government where it may be claimed that because one system is OK it does not matter a great deal what happens to the rest. Government to me is an action which follows upon the concern for people and the affairs of people. I think we all accept that as a reasonable proposition. If one level of government is financially in order and another is not surely it can not be claimed that we have good government. As I say, government runs through the whole system, from the federal level, to the State, and to local government, the grass roots form of government.
– Is this Senate responsible for what happens in Scottsdale?
– Yes, I think so, Senator. I think, as a national parliament, we have a corporate responsibility for what happens in Timbuktu, if necessary, not only Scottsdale. Every other centre throughout this country is deeply concerned and we ought to be deeply concerned. After all, is it not plain that we are the States House? We must have a responsibility for every part of this great Commonwealth of ours. If there are deficiencies showing up in any form of public administration or in the performance of any functions of government or semi-government institutions then we certainly have an obligation. We just cannot hide our heads in the sand and say the responsibility is not ours. Quite frankly, I believe the responsibility is ours. Do we not accept this responsibility every time we make a grant or every time we make some financial contribution towards the affairs of any State? To take it down to the level on which Senator Sir Magnus Cormack has put it, if wc ask: ‘Are we responsible for what happens in Scottsdale?’, I reply: ‘My word we are, very much indeed.’
Australia, as I said, has a 3-tier system of government. This system poses problems. The very nature of this system introduces problems which are of a complex nature. I do not think we can get away from that. While I lay a certain blame upon certain areas of government, it is a 3-tier system. I think w>; accept without question that great complex areas exist when we do have these 3 tiers, these 3 levels of government responsibility. We have had this problem for a great many years. In Tasmania, for instance, the local government situation was established in, I believe 1906. Prior to that time there were Roads Boards, but local government was established on a proper constitutional basis in the year 1906 in Tasmania. At about the turn of the century local government institutions were established in other parts of Australia.
Very largely we are still working on the horse and buggy system of financing the affairs of local government. In the years immediately following the war and in the years that have passed since, great and complex problems have arisen in local government administration. In the first place, we had a great postwar expansion of the need for services and facilities of all kinds - roads, water schemes, sewerage undertakings, housing developments, the provision of public halls and recreation grounds, lighting schemes and a multitude of other things - which pressed upon the responsibilities of local government. Local government was hardly equipped at that stage to meet that sudden thrust, that sudden very heavy demand upon its resources.
In the early stages we had a ready facility for raising funds by loans. As the number of claims on available liquid funds through lending institutions increased, local government, which was subject to a restriction placed upon it by the Commonwealth Treasury passing down through the State Treasury, could pay only a certain level of interest on its borrowings. The situation then arose in which local government found very great difficulty in raising the funds necessary to carry out its functions. There were demands upon its engineering resources and upon its physical resources in so many different ways. I believe that local government throughout Australia is to be highly commended for the manner in which it undertook its tasks in the face of extreme difficulties imposed upon it, very frequently imposed upon people who gave their services willingly and voluntarily and put up with the brickbats and the abuse and so on of the community at large but who went on undaunted, nevertheless, to provide the sinews for this form of government.
However, the problems became very complex and very difficult. I do not believe that those problems and difficulties were ever brought fully to the notice and the consciousness of the national Government. Certainly, as I understand it, they were brought before the State Government. In Tasmania the State itself has had continuing financial problems as a consequence of its obligation to provide the form of government that it was required to provide. It had very little, if any, resources with which to bolster the sagging exchequers of the local government institutions. In New Zealand, on the other hand, the system works in a very much better way. I am not suggesting that, we abolish I of the 3 tiers of government in Australia, but I am saying that as distinct from the situation in Australia with its complexities and difficulties, in New Zealand there are 2 levels of government - the national government and local government. There is a very good understanding and a very good financial arrangement between the 2 levels of government. I guess that if that were the position in Australia we would have a similar kind of arrangement here where there would be a far better understanding, hut being a 3-tier set-up someone has to be in the middle through which agency is passed the responsibility, or the buck if you like, from the Federal Government to the States and to the local government institutions. Local government institutions are crying out to the States, their immediate senior relative, for help because they have no immediate access except through us, with our problems at Scottsdale and elsewhere, to the national Government, So there are the problems that always arise when 3 parties are involved.
The system in New Zealand has many commendable features. There is an overlapping of responsibility for the provision of public services. A much better system of finance is pracised there. For instance, if a paricular body set up to determine the merits of a proposition agrees that the proposition is valid and good and should be implemented, then a loan to carry out that proposition is available immediately to the local government institution. The situation in Australia is very much different from that and adds greatly to the administrative problems of local government. For instance, if you wish to raise a loan in Tasmania you have to go through 1 7 processes and take each hurdle in turn before you can take up the loan and proceed with the project. If at any stage along the line something goes wrong, as like as not you have to start at the beginning again and go through the whole process of loan raising. This may or may not be the case in other States, but even if it is not 1 .suggest that the system is very much more complex in Tasmania because that Slate is subject-
– Tasmania has had local government for 100 years. lt should have been able to solve the problem in that time.
– The honourable senator could not have heard me properly. 1 said 64 years.
– He heard but could not understand.
– I want lo educate him if it is possible to do so. I have a job to perform and I am not against doing it. The problems that 1 have mentioned do not exist in New Zealand. The point I am coming to is that in Australia our systems of government are unique. We have a 31ier system which has been built up over a period, lt differs very radically from the system of local government in the mother country from which we look many of our local government institutions. However, the role and responsibility of local government in Great Britain is very much greater and local government receives a very much higher recognition from the national Parliament than is the case with local government in this country of ours. For instance, local government in the United Kingdom runs the police forces and the education system and it has a very important and distinct role in the raising of funds, lt does not have the intrusion of the Commonwealth to the extent that we have here into the revenue raising or the taxation fields in their particular areas of responsibility.
– Was it not a famous Englishman. Herbert Morrison of the London County Council, who pioneered a lot of that?
– That is right. Local government in the United Kingdom runs its own housing institutions. The Commonwealth persistently claims that it provides funds and that lt is the responsibility of the States to ensure that those funds are expended equitably in the States either in the form of State Government operations or in the form of the local government expenditures which come down in turn from the State Government. With the States clamouring for money, as they are, how in heaven’s name can they pass on something that they do not have to the next level of Government? That surely must be obvious to everyone. The problem then arises that if a local government or a semigovernmental authority has not sufficient funds to carry out work on a proper economic basis there is the likelihood that it will make a botch of the job. I have seen plenty of botches made, do not worry about that. I have seen local government institutions in the situation of having inadequate funds, or an inadequate back-up of potential financial support from the community to warrant the raising of sufficient funds to carry out a job to the standard to which it should be carried out, so it has proceeded to do work which by no means will meet the needs of the community. I recall the installation of the first water scheme in a particular area of my responsibility once upon a time. Because of not having sufficient money to do the job properly a 4- inch water main was installed instead of a 6-inch water main. It was not very long before water usage rose, as it inevitably will when a scheme is installed in a community.
– That was not the fault of the Commonwealth Government, surely?
– I am trying to get my speech down to a level of simple language that you can understand but 1 am having terrible difficulty. I am trying to point to a scheme or an undertaking of some magnitude in the particular context about which I am speaking. It was an innovation, the provision for the people of a simple service that they had not previously had. But in the space of a few years the scheme was totally inadequate. What was to happen? The scheme was not paid for. The rates were insufficient to pay for the scheme and the municipality was forced to undertake a duplicate scheme using larger pipes, lt was obliged to face the problems associated with that move. Had a loan been raised in the initial stages sufficient funds would have been available to meet the particular need. Two loans were raised but they finished with a botch job.
I would like by contrast to point out what happens when sufficient finance is available. Works can be undertaken and the community at large can be saved a tremendous amount of money. As an example 1 cite the National Capital Development Commission in Canberra. Whatever problems that body may have, it does not have the problem of lack of money. This is the very problem that bedevils local government institutions. Last year about $45m was expended by the NCDC. 1 cannot recall 1 occasion when any squeal was raised about that body not having enough money to do a job. And what a magnificent job ihe National Capital Development Commission is doing. Do we not commend what is happening in Canberra? Are we not proud of the fact that this city will be 1 of the greatest in the world and of the fact that it is the only city in Australia that is being planned for the future? lt is designed having regard to the needs of the people to live in the happiest and most pleasant surroundings in which to carry out their day to day functions. Is not that a most desirable target to aim at? I am proud of what is happening here, as a member of the Joint Parliamentary Committee on the Australian Capital Territory. Perhaps we do become involved with breathalyser and milk inquiries, but I am proud as an Australian and a member of that Committee of what is happening in this community.
Because the NCDC has in hand sufficient money to do its work it is able to save about 20% on costs. Any local government instrumentality throughout Australia would want to reach that situation, but 1 warrant that not 1 of them can. I also warrant that very little planning goes into local government activities in Australia. It is obvious in every city one visits that problems arise through deficient planning, finance, technical skills and so on. There is a deficiency in these elements necessary to develop a city as it ought to be developed.
I have often heard it said that Sydney, the largest city in Australia, has very substantial areas without sewerage facilities. Is it any wonder that I am trying to draw the attention of the national Parliament to all the problems affecting local government? When I commenced my speech I pointed to the difficulty of supporting the proposition moved by Senator Little because it does not go far enough. 1 think 1 have an obligation to expand that statement. I want to spell out in specific terms the problems that arise if we do not embrace the 3 levels of government. Any claim to good government in Australia must collapse when the States are clamouring for more funds from the Commonwealth. They claim that they cannot finance their responsibilities and have not the money to pass on to local government bodies.
A State government has a very important area, of responsibility. We look to it to discharge its responsibilities. I would not think that for many years past the Premier of any State has been happy about the amount of money he has had to his hand to provide the necessary services and facilities to run his State as he would desire. But this situation has had to be accepted. It has been part of the system. But when the States are made so much aware of the fact that the Commonwealth debt has dropped while their debts are increasing and they are obliged out of their meagre resources to pay interest to the Commonwealth on moneys which the Commonwealth has collected from the areas of responsibility of the States, the Premiers have legitimate cause to complain that they are not getting a fair go.
– They are getting a better go than they used to get. In the fields of education and hospitals the Commonwealth has come to the party to a greater extent than it did in my time.
– Perhaps that is so. The situation is now arising where the 2 senior tiers of government - the national Government here in Canberra and the State governments - are engaged very largely in a campaign of buck passing while local government languishes. There is a great clamouring and urging in the community for local government to fulfil its role and to provide all manner of services which are not provided by the Commonwealth or State governments. They must get the money from somewhere and the only source available to them is rates and charges.
Home ownership in this country is becoming something of a luxury rather than a right. 1 have turned over in my mind on a number of occasions whether one is belter off renting a home or buying 1. lt is sufficient to say that the problems and difficulties are growing day by day. The people who in the main are discharging the responsibilities of local government are volunteers. They give their time voluntarily, and it is a great deal of time. 1 do nol think it is good enough to expect them to go on taking al) the abuse which is levelled at them by people in their immediate areas. Local councillors are very accessible. That is I of the things about local government which makes it extremely difficult for those people who participate in it and give their time to it. They cannot go very far before meeting an irate ratepayer who asks why such and such a street has not been completed or why sewerage has not been made available in his area. A multitude of other things may be exercising the minds of the local citizen.
– The most important form of government as far as the people are concerned is local government.
– -That is right. Rates have reached the point where they have become punitive and as a consequence great hardship is imposed on the Australian community. It is not adequate simply to proceed on a course which will involve restrictive measures in dealing with part of the problem. This is the point that concerns me about the motion that is now before the Senate. I do not think an inquiry can properly be set up, with all the attendant costs and expenditures, without embracing also a complete assessment of the situation of local government.
– You can move an amendment if you choose to do so.
– As you know, this afternoon we tried to incorporate this in your measure and it was not acceptable to you. So I am proceeding on the basis of the motion now before the Senate. It would be ill-advised and extremely foolish, to say the least, in view of the frequently stated opinions of local government representatives who have attempted to bring forcibly to the attention of the State ‘and Federal governments the plight they are in, to proceed with an inquiry on such a restricted basis. From time to time lobbying goes on in Kings Hall by people who are concerned with the affairs of local government. They come to Canberra to meet the various representatives of the Government and the elected representatives of their particular areas to impress upon them the nature of the very great difficulties they are facing. One wonders why there is such a strong voluntary element in the service of local government. One wonders why they continue to give so much of their time, effort, skill and attention to the affairs of their own immediate areas when they receive so little recognition, particularly from the Federal government; and because of the reasons I have stated, often enough they are not sufficiently recognised by State governments.
The second problem which concerns us is the physical ability of the Parliament at present to provide the staff and the various facilities necessary to conduct another committee. lt has been quite an exciting era in the life of the Parliament over the last few years while there has been such a development of the committee system of Parliament. Whereas at 1 time we used to sit here and from time to time make observations about various things, now, as individual members of Parliament, we can give our abilities, however large or small they might be, to the work of these committees. It has been quite exciting and quite an experience for me. I have found it to be tremendously educational to be able to take part in the deliberations of the committees of this Parliament-
We found that when this proposition was put forward about 18 months ago and we sought to institute an additional committee it was pointed out that there were physical limitations on the staff and the facilities of the Parliament. At that time I was inclined to believe that we ought to have gone on with the proposed Committee. Subsequent to that I found myself involved in a Senate select committee. It was quite remarkable that on almost every occasion when I arrived at Parliament House - I will not go so far as to say it happened every time, but it was frequent - I could not even find the secretary of the committee because he had been moved somewhere else. The physical limitations of this place are becoming more apparent every day. Getting away from the moment from the committee aspect, I find some difficulty in being able to carry out my role as a private member of this Parliament in the facilities that exist here at present. I understand that a move is being made to extend our facilities, but I have some quite deep appreciation of the tremendous problems that are imposed when there are physical limitations of 1 kind or another on the ability of a committee to function. So far as the committee of which I was a member is concerned, the secretary did not finish up in Parliament House but over in what I believe is called West Block, right away from the Parliament. So it can be seen that there is a limitation on the sort of work that can go on in these committees.
There are physical limitations in so many other ways. I believe that the staff of the Parliament has had to be trained and is being trained apace to meet the requirements of the new expanding committee system. This is commendable. But here we have before us a proposition to undertake an inquiry into perhaps the widest ranging aspect of government in the country today. I think it would be lamentable if we were to launch ourselves on a committee of this kind unless we go into this question to the fullest extent.
– We have 2 Houses of Parliament and the facilities of both Houses.
– Yes, but there are difficulties there also. We still have the physical limitation which would apply in respect of probably the most important committee, if we go into this to the fullest extent and deal wilh the whole range of problems. It would be 1 of the most important committees that this Parliament has ever set up. Whilst I shall not go into the whys and wherefores or the pros and cons of whether we are capable, because of our experience, to undertake an inquiry like that, I invite honourable senators to give some thought to the tremendous range involved in this question. I ask them to consider what will be entailed in making a proper searching inquiry and determination of all aspects of this matter. I wonder whether we have reached the point in our history where we are able to undertake an inquiry of that kind. But not only have we become involved in committees; also we are engaged in many other ways. One day this week I had to attend 4 meetings of 1 kind or another in Parliament House besides attempting to keep up with my electoral work through the relatively limited facilities available to me here and making some contributions to the debates in this chamber.
Our life here at the moment is quite demanding: it is much more demanding than it was 5 years ago, for instance. I find myself running from place to place and at the end of the week I go home quite exhausted from trying to keep up with all the problems here. Then there is the problem of reading. Do not lei any honourable senator tell me that he can keep up with ali the material that conies to him. Much of it is quite important. In a moment when there is some free time one picks up some important document, reads it and realises just how much one is missing by one’s inability to keep up wilh all the demands of his work as a senator.
– We have certainly made the old Senate function al last.
– Yes, the Senate is a much more active and much more productive chamber than it was. Whereas at I time a quite legitimate argument could have been advanced that this was a redundant chamber. 1 do not think this is any longer a valid argument. This situation has arisen largely as a consequence of the tremendously important responsibilities that we are discharging in this place relating to matters that are of tremendous interest to the people of this country. I believe there is justification for the system remaining when we fulfil that laudable objective. I believe there are quite serious limitations on the ability of a committee of this kind to cover the range of work that would have io be dealt with if it were to fulfil ils function. I know that I have other commitments and 1 know that other honourable senators have them also, that many others have far greater responsibilities than 1 have and are much busier than I atn. I would very much want to be on a committee of this kind because I believe I could make some useful contributions because of my quite intimate knowledge of local government. A committee of this kind which leaves out a thorough investigation of the whole system, including ihe 3 levels of government, must fail. If it did not deal with the whole system it would not We good enough and I do nol believe its establishment would bc justified.
– The 3 levels are all part and parcel of the government of Australia.
– Yes, and we have to deal with the whole range.
– Local government cannot raise money on its own account and looks to the States for finance. Then the States look to the Commonwealth for finance.
– That is so. Local governments could raise money to a prohibition level at which people could no longer afford to own their homes. 1 do not know where the limit is.
– They are subject to Loan Council approval.
– That is right. In my own Stale at present the Municipal Association of Tasmania is about to meet. I was very pleased to note that one of the items on the agenda for that meeting will be the desire of the Municipal Association of Tasmania to collate all the information available and to build up the strongest case possible so that representations can be made to bring about greater understanding and a greater appreciation of the role of local government so that its particular problems can be learnt and understood and so that it will receive better response from the national and State governments.
I deal next with the composition of the committee. Senator Byrne quite properly said by way of interjection a moment or two ago that the resolution provides that the composition of the committee shall be from representatives of the Senate and of the House of Representatives. I wonder what sort of reaction one would get in the community to a committee which was composed wholly of representatives from the national Parliament with, one would expect, a majority of its members coming from the Government parties, looking into the question of Commonwealth and Stale financial relations. I do not want to write down the importance of the role of such a committee or the integrity of its members, because I think there is a high level of integrity in the functioning of these committees, but 1 wonder what sort of response one would find in the community if it were suggested that the question of Commonwealth and State financial relations was to be resolved by representatives solely from the Federal Parliament.
In this respect I think we might run into some problems. The States might very well say to us: ‘Wait a minute; with all the good will in the world you cannot conduct an inquiry into all levels of government if you leave us completely out of it. We could provide evidence which you could take into account and which would enable you ultimately to come down with a report.’ Any inquiry that leaves out the State governments or representation of local governments would not meet the full needs of the situation. I seriously suggest that when bringing our minds to a consideration of this problem at some time in the future we give consideration to the sort of composition that the committee would have to enable it to function in the way that we want it to function. I hope that, the suggestion of a committee such as this does not die although, quite frankly, it frightens me to consider the range of work that would have to be undertaken by it. Unless the committee were to cover the whole range and deal with the whole situation it would be abortive, lt would be doomed to failure before it got off the ground if it did not deal with the whole range of problems and unless it were composed of people who were seriously interested in all levels of government. Unless we have available the physical and administrative facilities which are an important part of an undertaking of this kind I think it may be doomed to failure or else its report may finish up far short of what it should be. lt would be most unwise to launch ourselves into the establishment of a committee which fails to meet the sorts of things to which I have just referred.
– Docs the honourable senator agree with the need for it?
– 1 think that the whole thing is quite wrong at the moment. I think that almost everybody in the Australian community will agree that there are serious shortcomings at the various levels of government in regard to financial arrangements. I do not think that anyone can argue against this proposition. I think that there is evidence al hand of the need for an inquiry of this nature.
– Periodic arguments between the representatives of the Commonwealth and State governments are not going lo solve the problem.
– Arguments will not solve the problem. Of course, there has to be firstly a wish to solve the problem.
– Nobody knows that better than I do. I was Premier and Treasurer of a State. 1 have been through the grind. 1 know what is involved.
– The honourable senator has seen the situation at that level and I have seen it at another level. I think that there has to be recognition of the problems involved. I have drawn attention to them. Of course, one hears very little about this subject in the national Parliament. The occasions when anybody raises in this chamber the subject of the different levels of government are remarkably rare, lt is strange when one comes lo think of it because all moneys go into the national Treasury and unlimited finance seems to be available in certain areas to do all manner of things.
– -The formula under which these reimbursements are made is agreed upon by the Premiers of the States in conjunction.
– That is right. I said that I was going to try to keep politics out of my speech, but I think I of the problems at the moment is that there cannot be too much of a fuss made because the Premiers of all the Stales ure of the same political persuasion as the Commonwealth Government, lt is very difficult to criticise one’s own family. Perhaps I should conclude my speech by spelling out the altitude which the Austraiian Labor Party has adopted towards this important matter, f hope the Senate will bear with me for a moment or 2 while I quote an expression of opinion which was arrived al by the Australian Labor Party. I hope the Senate will accord me that privilege. The document from which 1 wish to quote is headed “Commonwealth, State and Civic Finances and Functions - Statement by Federal and State Labor Leaders at Fourth Conference, Melbourne, 13th March 1970’, which is only quite recent, lt stales:
We believe that a new era of joint Common wealth, Stale and local government co-operation is essential. We propose joint secretariats in each area of common interest between the Stales an.l the Commonwealth to ensure maximum involvement of all elected persons and the public in decision milking. The Inter-Slate Commission will be re-established and the role of the Commonwealth Grams Commission expanded to service these joint secretariats.
The meeting of the Premiers and the Prime Minister has made it clear that the present Liberal and Country Party governments will continue to wrangle about who has what moneys to spend separately without consulting together about priorities to gel the job done for the people.
Stale and local governments, as a result of Liberal policies, have resorted to oppressive and unfair taxation to meet their expanding responsibilities. Even so, they cannot meet just demands on them for public services and meet their increasing debt charges. We believe that the States and local government must be assisted in those areas where expenditure will inevitably rise more rapidly than income and population. States must be guaranteed no loss of present revenues. States must be relieved of their growing interest burden and State and local governments must be given non-repayable Commonwealth grants for their capital works.
The Commonwealth must accept increased responsibility in a number of areas. In each of these areas such Commonwealth grants as are made should not be on conditions set solely by the Commonwealth but on conditions on which both Commonwealth and States fully consult and agree. The Commonwealth should accept full responsibility for tertiary and teacher education. The schools and pre-school commissions already proposed by us should ensure additional moneys for buildings, equipment and staff. An Australian hospitals commission should promote the modernisation and regionalisation of hospitals.
The Commonwealth Government must assume as much responsibility for city development and redevelopment as do the Federal governments in the United States of America, Canada and West Germany. The moneys released by the approaching completion of inter-city rail standardisation should be turned to modernising internal city public transit systems.
The Commonwealth and the States should jointly plan the development of water, power and mineral resources and of industry to ensure proper priorities and an improved growth rate.
The Commonwealth and the States must give joint leadership to primary industries in production, marketing and restructuring.
Nearly 1 million Australians are victims of poverty or marginal poverty. The Commonwealth is causing hardship to them and burdens on State budgets by making inadequate cash social service payments and by allowing large gaps in welfare services. We believe that, as in Canada, the Federal Government must now take the initiative in consulting and reimbursing State governments, local government and voluntary agencies on and for the provision of such necessities as food, shelter, clothing, transport, health care and tools of trade.
The document concludes with the names of the persons who were in attendance at the meeting. I shall not read the names unless the Senate wants me to do so.
– Let us hear them; this is very important.
– The Federal Parliamentary Labor Party was represented by Mr E. G. Whitlam, Q.C., Leader of the Opposition, Mr L. H. Barnard, Deputy Leader of the Opposition and Senator D. R. Willesee, Deputy Leader of the Opposition in the Senate; the New South Wales Parliamentary Labor Party was represented by Mr P. D. Hills, its leader, and Mr S. D. Einfeld, its deputy leader; the Victorian Parliamentary Labor Party was represented by Mr A. C. Holding, its leader, and Mr F. N. Wilkes, its deputy leader; the South Australian Parliamentary Labor Party was represented by the Hon. D. A. Dunstan, Q.C., its leader; the Western Australian Parliamentary Labor Party was represented by the Hon. J. T. Tonkin, its leader; and the Tasmanian Parliamentary Labor Party was represented by the Hon. E. E. Reece, its leader. The Queensland Parliament was sitting at the time and therefore there was no representative of Queensland at the meeting. It can be seen that the meeting was attended by people who are very much concerned with government institutions in this country. The statement which I have quoted emanated from the meeting.
I did say earlier that I might give some indication to the Senate of the particular problems, spelt out in actual figures, of Commonwealth, State and local government in terms of responsibility of raising revenue, in terms of loan raising and in terms of their commitments to the servicing of loans. I have statistics on these matters. However, I shall content myself at this stage by saying that if anybody wishes to see these figures I shall be quite happy to supply them. I conclude by saying that however much need there is for an examination of the financial arrangements between the Commonwealth and the States - and I am not denying for a moment that there is a need - unless that examination is a complete one of all levels of government I think it would be quite abortive. I do not think it would warrant the amount of money that would have to be spent on it or the tremendous amount of effort involved. I think that such an examination could be doomed to failure before it commenced. I indicate that, for the reasons which I have given, the Australian Labor Party is unable to support the proposal which is before the Senate.
Senator Sir MAGNUS CORMACK (Victoria) [9.48] - While I have been sitting here listening to Senator Devitt my mind bas been turning over the circumstances in which I found myself when being trained as a soldier. One thing which is stressed to commanders, staff officers, soldiers, gunners and this, that and the other is that as the night hours draw on it is important to bring out what is known as harassing fire. The object of harassing fire is to prevent anyone having any rest whatsoever, ft seems to me that for the last hour or so we have been involved in semantic harassing fire from Senator Devitt. 1 must confess that the operation has been very successful because it has reduced me to the level of an intellectual cabbage. From the moment he began his speech until his last sentence T did not know whether Senator Devitt was supporting or opposing, lt was only in the last sentence that 1 discovered that he was opposing the morion moved by Senator Little under the heading of General Business.
There is - or there used to be, according to the Hansard reports - a merciful provision in the reporting of speeches in the House of Commons which takes the form of not reporting speeches verbatim in certain circumstances. The Hansard reporters would say: The honourable member concurred with the previous speaker’, or: ‘The honourable member opposed the argument put forward by the previous speaker’. Any Hansard reporter would have been baffled, if he were compelled to observe the House of Commons form, as to what on earth he should report in the context of Senator Devitt’s speech because, as I said, it was not until the last sentence that 1 discovered what was the object of the exercise, and that was to oppose the motion moved by Senator Little under the heading General Business.
I want to speak to the motion, but I want to do so on the ground that I represent in this Senate the State of Victoria, a State that has been bled white by the other States over the last 20 years. Victoria has had to carry a most substantial burden of taxation over the last 20 years in order to underwrite the exigencies - practical, imaginary or otherwise - of the other States of Australia, including New South Wales. I can understand perfectly well Senator Little’s motive in raising this matter tonight on the eve of the Victorian elections. The party which he represents is struggling for some sort of representation in the Victorian Parliament, in order to provide a political foundation on which some sort of argument can be evolved. Therefore, it is proper that the Australian Democratic Labor Party should raise this question tonight. Of course. I find myself in accord with the theory and concepts of Senator Little in attempting to provide some means by which Victoria may be put in the position of not being bled whiter and whiter.
It is not the fault of the Commonwealth Government that Victoria is being bled white. The thing that is causing Victoria to be bled white is, in a substantial degree, what I, as a Victorian senator, believe is the greed of the other States, and not the least of the States that have been importuning central revenue for Us subsistence is the State of Tasmania which Senator Devitt, who has left the chamber, represents.
– And from which you arc a descendant.
– It is a historical fact what happened. Some fellow called Batman - and Fawkner was another one - ran away from Tasmania looking for a fat country.
– You cannot dodge the issue that you are a descendant from Tasmania.
– The facts are that times have changed and history has moved on. Tasmania is in the most privileged position of all the States in Australia. On every occasion on which there is a taxation reimbursement of 1 sort or another - whether it is in relation to road grants or whether some other reimbursement formula is devised - Tasmania gets favoured treatment; it gets a better deal than any of the other States in Australia.
– And so it should. It is the best State.
– No one knows for what reason it gets a better deal. But this does not forgive the importunities of Senator Devitt whom we have just heard speak for an hour tonight. I am not going to refer to Tasmanian senators who sit on this side of the chamber because they acknowledge the fact that Tasmania gets a good deal and, therefore, they do not complain about the treatment which Tasmania receives. But Senator Devitt, Senator Lacey and other Opposition senators from Tasmania have no mercy. They constantly try to bleed Victoria, through the operations of the parliamentary system, in order to get increased grants for Tasmania. When Senator Devitt was speaking I interjected in a facetious sort of way, and I preface the point I will make by saying again in a facetious sort of a way that a reasonable way in which to solve this problem is to encourage Tasmania to enter into a new federation with New Zealand, to form an insular federation with New Zealand. Federation is the most difficult form of government.
I now abandon my facetiousness to examine the difficulties of a federal form of government. A federal form of government can never be a static form of government. It is subject to the day to day, month to month or year to year pressures of the components of the Federation. In the context in which we find ourselves in Australia at the present time, we are involved in the difficulties of trying to manage a federation, the most difficult of all forms of government. I do not think that there should be any doubt in the minds of any member of the Senate that in fact we have 2 problems in the Federal structure of Australia at the present time. One is to obtain a uniformity of capacity in the continent in which we live so that, as the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) has said on many occasions, no child, say, in the remote area of Scottsdale in Tasmania, which I understand is the preoccuption of Senator Devitt, shall be disadvantaged in comparison with a child in an area in Brisbane or in any other area in Queensland, the State that you adorn, Mr Acting Deputy President. That is proper. It is a concept of uniformity and lack of deprivation.
But in addition to this, of course, the Federal structure in -Australia is involved in the problem of not attempting to get uniform development in terms of a physical nature, because this is not possible. But the Federal structure in Australia is under strain in order to obtain, in the public sector of investment, a degree of development that will nurture the whole structure of the
Federal system. That is why in the last 20 years, under governments of Liberal and Countries Party hue there has been in a sector of public investment vast sums of Government money devoted towards development of sparse areas in Australia - sparse in terms of economic resources - in order to enable the whole Federal structure ultimately to benefit. For example, that is the reason why enormous sums of money from the Federal investment capacity, from the revenues of the Federal structure, have been invested, for example, in the Savage River development in Tasmania. That is the reason why great sums of money have been invested in Western Australia from the Federal Government’s resources. There have been investments in Queensland, the State which you, Mr Acting Deputy President, adorn, in order to enable the development of Queensland. In the ultimate, the Federal structure benefits. This has been the Government’s policy.
Senator Devitt adopted the spurious attitude that local government is being deprived as a result of these policies. Let me illustrate this by showing how the States can benefit. For many years I have been a landowner on the Victorian side of a meridian of longitude that distinguishes the boundary between South Australia and Victoria. It is alleged against the Commonwealth that there is a deprivation of the smaller States, in terms of numbers and resources. An acre of land which I own on one side of a wire fence in Victoria bears Ik times the municipal rates that are paid on similar acre of land on the South Australian side of the wire fence- The only division between the 2 properties is a wire fence. The reason why the municipal rates iti South Australia are approximately a little above one-third of the equivalent rates in Victoria is because the flow of federal funds into South Australia is of such an order and nature that municipal government in South Australia can maintain itself at less than half the rate at which Victoria can maintain itself. In South Australia the shires are called district councils.
For 50 minutes we listened to Senator Devitt’s complaints about the problems of local government in Tasmania. He never established, nor did he decide to do so, that if one examined and analysed the level of rates in Tasmania one would find that they are probably only one-quarter of the rates in Victoria. As a senator from Victoria, I find it very difficult to explain to my constituents, but I substantiate the need for the maintenance of the federal structure when they justly complain about it, why the Victorian taxpayer and ratepayer has to maintain this burden in the national interest.
– Very unhappily.
Very unhappily, 1 agree with Senator Dame Ivy Wedgwood, lt is very difficult to explain to a Victorian landowner who lives near Apsley which is just across the border from Naracoorte why he should pay 24- times the rate that the owner of equivalent land in South Australia pays for land that has the same trees growing on it and the same plain underlying the trees. The problem in Australia is I of managing a federation. I shall remind the Senate of the terms of Senator Little’s motion. I do not think Senator Devitt addressed himself to it until the last sentence of his speech. He would have baffled the House of Commons Hansard reporter. The motion is:
That the Senate is of. opinion thai a Joint Select Committee of both Houses should be appointed to investigate the raising and distribution of revenue, to ensure thai the Commonweatlh and Slates be able lo discharge properly their constitutional functions.
That is the essence of the motion. I have in my hand a report with which Senator Little may have concerned himself at some stage but with which Senator Devitt did not concern himself at any stage. I refer to the blue book known as the Report of the Joint Committee of Constitutional Review. By the formal motion. Senator Little asks lhat the Senate examine the setting up of a committee to deal with a matter which a committee of both Houses of Parliament was set up to examine in 1959 - only 1 1 years ago. Therefore I think I should quote portions of the report to honourable senators who care to listen or read Hansard because we have the beneficence of everything I am saying being reported verbatim and not, as in the House of Commons, the report merely being that Senator Sir Magnus Cormack said that he disagreed with Senator Devitt. At page 133, in paragraph 979, we see the heading “Economic Powers’ and the sub-heading Recommendations of the Committee’. Thai paragraph and consequential paragraphs deal with the matters raised by Senator Little. Paragraph 981 reads:
The Committee further commented, in paragraph 150, that, when the Constitution was drafted, no government in Australia was responsible lor the general state of the economy, including the level of employment, stability of the value of the currency and the rale of balance of economic development.
Those are matters about which I have been speaking tonight. The report is I from a committee of the Parties of both Houses which examined the problem that Senator Little with great forensic ability, drive, energy, charm, force and emphasis-
– He is not here to hear this.
– No, but he can read it by virtue of the beneficence of Hansard. He recommended certain things which have been done and which have been followed up. Paragraph 1026, headed The’ Commonwealth’s Assumption of Economic Responsibility’ stales:
Since the Constitution was written, it has become generally accepted that governments have a responsibility for Ihe state of the economy. This is true, nol only in Australia, but in all modern democratic countries.
– Would you agree lhat there has been a tremendous deterioration in those 1 I years?
That, is what the honourable senator says. The paragraph continues:
The development of economic understanding since Federation has made the factor* determining the level of employment and affecting the value of the currency sufficiently clear for governments to plan effective action to maintain a high level of employment. . . .
Senator Wright, the Minister for Works and Minister-in-Charge of Tourist Activities, who adorns the front bench where he properly belongs - he should have sat there many years ago - helped compile this magnificent document. Paragraph 1034, headed National Development’, states:
Australia’s national development requires, among other things, a vast programme of public works to provide the facilities, such as power, water and communications, without which the industry cannot continue to expand. The provision of public works along with the capital equipment programmes of private industries, continually taxes the productive capacity of the Australian economy.
More follows. I turn to the report of Ihe dissidents. I could term it ‘Marriott on Ihe
Constitution’. ( will not embark on that. The distinguished father of the honourable senator who responded first to the motion had many things to say. Senator Wright quoted him with great approval. I have read this and I consider the approval is justified. I have cantered across the field for the benefit of the Democratic Labor Party and to correct the mistakes made by Senator Devitt who is away restoring himself, 1 hope, after the long speech that he made, lt is perfectly true that the States find themselves in financial difficulties, as they found themselves in 1929. In this chamber in which wc represent the States, I represent Victoria. I am proud to represent Victoria, which has carried most of the economic responsibility as far as the States are concerned for the last 20 years. The problem that confronted the Commonwealth in 1929 was the uncontrolled and untrammelled capacity of the State governments to engorge the public revenue in the time in which they governed and to pledge and to engorge the revenue of the States for the foreseeable future. In 1929 circumstances arose whereby it was considered proper and fitting - and I agree - that a responsibility had to be assumed to curb the natural appetite for expenditure by people. Therefore we found ourselves involved in the system of Loan Councils, Premiers’ plans and finally the responsibility of the Commonwealth to take over the liabilities of the States. The Commonwealth has been funding the liabilities of the States since 1929, in addition to finding revenues to fight a war in defence of Australia.
Although I am a State man - and 1 believe in the rights of the States - I also believe, as a senator, in the responsibilities that devolve upon the Commonwealth Government. The States, faced with problems, claim 2 things. They claim the right of access to income tax. This has been rejected. Any sensible senator would agree that the States cannot have the right of access to income tax because income tax is the basic regulator of the economy. The States claim that, if they cannot have access to the income tax, they must have the right to a reimbursement to the States which is commensurate with the growth of the Commonwealth revenue. Now, this in itself is a built in contradiction because we cannot control the economy and automatically allow the expenditure of money in terms of Commonwealth revenue, lt may be proper in modern economic circumstances, however much we may be disgruntled about it as taxpayers and even as senators, to increase the rate of taxation to curb inflation. I am not putting this forward as an argument. Let us suppose that the Government of the day, whatever its hue, decided, for example, that sales tax had to be increased in order to curb the high rate of consumption. Then we enlarge the Commonwealth’s revenue in doing so, and then we have to submit to the reimbursement formula. The States are reimbursed to increase the consuming power in the States. Alternatively we find oneself in the circumstances where the Commonwealth has to reduce revenue from taxation in order to encourage private consumption.
If this formula is applied then we must diminish the revenues and the reimbursements of the States. So this is not an argument, but it is seriously put forward. Then finally, of course, as I see it in this contest, is the problem that the Commonwealth Government may find itself in an emergency involved in responsibility for the defence of this country and have to impose penal rales of taxation in order to fund the defence structure and make a proper application of resources in terms of defence. The claim is then made that the States get an automatic reimbursement of the enlarged revenues and we get a misuse of resources. So there is no escape from this. The Commonwealth Government of the day supported by the Parliament has a responsibility towards the problem of the economic management of this country. This cannot be avoided. What is the basic problem that the States find themselves in at the present moment? I think there are 2 levels in the problem of the States. The first is the demand for an enormous increase in expenditure on education which in Victoria, for example, is 43% of the entire resources of the State, and the second is the problem of the States in meeting their interest bills.
I do not think there is any escape from the problem of devoting more money to education but sometimes when I look at some of the people on the university campuses I wonder whether we are spending it wisely - not because of their appearance, although that is inducive, to say the least, to a bit of disgust on my part because they are dirty and if one gets near to them down to leeward they smell. Worse than this is lhat they have no sense of responsibility. 1 refer to a great number of these university students - let us say 7% or 8%. 1 wonder whether we are entitled to spend these vast sums of money on trying to make silk purses out of sows’ ears.
The second part of this problem is that of interest. The Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) at the last meeting of the State Premiers here in Canberra put forward the suggestion - and I think it is an important suggestion - that the problem of the States’ resources and their application can best be solved by the Commonwealth Government assuming the burden of responsibility which it assumed in 1 929, lhat is, for the CommonWealth Government to take over as its own responsibility $1 00.000m worth of the states’ indebtedness. That is $1 billion in American terms. If this is possible, 1 think it is the only sane way to solve the problem that exists although I am fearful that in another generation we will be confronted wilh the same problem again. The immediate method of relieving the States is to do what the Commonwealth Government had to do in 1929 and that is to assume responsibility for a major portion of the States’ debts. 1 think $ 1,000m worth of relief in terms of relief and sinking fund will restore the Stales at least to a position in which they will have the capacity to devote themselves to the interests that so preoccupied Senator Devitt for 1 hour. Therefore 1 recommend that the Senate reject the motion moved by Senator Little
– One could not read the reports of the conferences of Commonwealth and State Ministers that have been held in recent years without coming to the conclusion that the States are thoroughly dissatisfied - and in most instances justifiably - insofar as their treatment in respect of CommonwealthSlate financial relations is concerned, In my view the motion that has been moved by Senator Little is a proposal to divest the Commonwealth Government of its economic responsibility for the management of this nation. I do not believe that a committee of such a character would have either the capacity and/or ability or the time to be able to analyse thoroughly in depth and detail the broad subject matter which is contained in the proposal. It is true lhat in the year 1970 the agreement that was reached in 1965 will be renegotiated. lt is also true to say that in 1965 the Premier of Victoria gave notice that in his view the formula that was being agreed to would not meet the demands of the States, lt must be conceded that on that occasion the prediction made by Sir Henry Bolte was proved to be correct inside 12 months.
In introducing this subject matter Senator Little endeavoured to suggest to the Senate that this was a matter over and above politics. In my view that is, to say the least, a calculated insult to the intelligence of the people of Australia, because every decision that has been made by the Commonwealth Government over the years has affected the broad range of fiscal measures which ultimately bring together the revenues which at some point of time by negotiation and/ or by a predetermined decision are allocated to the States. That in itself is a political decision.
Although Senator Little almost implored the Senate in the course of his address to believe that he did not propose to be provocative I do not, but at least I do wish to be factual. Senator Little bemoans the fact that the current state of affairs has been brought about by a series of incidents over the last 20 years. He attempts to discount the role of his Party in contributing to the current state of affairs. He can claim that his Party and its supporters - and he has done this on numerous occasions - have been responsible for the Commonwealth Government and for most of the Slate Governments. If 6 Premiers who are all members of one political party and meet with a Prime Minister and a Treasurer from the same party cannot iron out the difficulties that are posed and recognised by both sides of this chamber, I cannot imagine a committee as proposed by Senator Little’s motion to be the answer to the problem. I propose to point out that there has been a continuing and almost irreversible decline in the relationship between the State governments and the Commonwealth Government and that the debt and interest burden is being placed on the States at a greater rate than it is on the Commonwealth.
I may have to beg your indulgence, Mr Deputy President, and that of the Senate in the limited time at my disposal and ask to be forgiven if I use words that might be described as unparliamentary in the course of making quotations from some Victorian Hansard reports which describe in detail and are a criticism of the Commonwealth’s dealings with the State of Victoria. But I point out that the words that I will be called upon to use will not bc my words; they will be the words of the senior Premier in Australia, namely, Sir Henry Bolte.
I refer to page 164 of the Victorian Hansard for 18th September 1968. Sir Henry Bolte, in addressing himself to the Legislative Assembly, made the following comment:
The matter of further Commonwealth assistance towards this drought-caused shortage-
Honourable senators will recall that Victoria was experiencing difficulty in that sense at that time - , . was raised at the Premiers Conference in June. The Prime Minister then said that the Commonwealth is always ready to consider making assistance available if any Slate is faced with serious financial difficulties and serious problems arising from circumstances beyond its control. . . However, I have to report to the Committee that, true to form, the Commonwealth Government has rejected our approach . . . So much for the words of the Prime Minister about the Commonwealth being always ready to come to the aid of a State faced with serious problems arising from circumstances beyond its control.
Referring to a suggestion that State legislation known as the Stamps Act of 1967 should be repealed, he said:
Specifically in relation to our Stamps Act of 1967, 1 make it clear that the Government has no present intention whatsoever of recommending to Parliament the repeal of any part of that legislation. Canberra may well wish to sweep under the carpet the whole mess they have created of CommonwealthState financial relations. They have done so for a long time. However, the people are awake to the confidence trick the Commonwealth has been perpetrating on the States and 1 am confident that this will force Canberra to change its tune.
Remember that these words were said in 1968.
– Who said them?
– The Premier of Victoria, Sir Henry Bolte. So, in the first instance he is saying quite clearly that he cannot rely on the word of the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton). Secondly he refers to the Prime Minister and the Treasurer who would have been with the Prime Minister on that occasion as confidence men. At page 166 he referred to the question of debt. He said:
In addition, Victoria has to meet the annual interest payments on these moneys, and apart from a minor contribution by the Commonwealth under the Financial Agreement of 1927 Victoria has to find the revenue io pay the money back. All this has to be authorised by this Parliament, lt is plain dishonesty on the part of the Commonwealth to include State loan expenditure’ in its own expenditure lt is State expenditure, and it adds to the debt of the States, not of the Commonwealth.
Here he is charging the Commonwealth Government, the Prime Minister and the Treasurer with being dishonest. Had 1 used those terms, honourable senators opposite would have said that I was being political. In addition, Sir Henry Bolte says by implication that the books have been cooked by the Commonwealth Government. 1 propose to disclose this to the Senate by referring again to the Budget Speech made by the Premier of Victoria on 18th September 1968. He sa.d:
In point of fact the debt owed by the Commonwealth has been dramatically reduced in recent years while the debt of the States continues to grow. The figures at 30th June last are revealing. They show the debt of the Commonwealth at $3,600m and the debt of the States at $3,316m. But the Commonwealth debt includes an amount of $ 1,505m which is merely money advanced by the Commonwealth to the States for expenditure under the housing agreement. The States have to repay the money to the Commonwealth and pay interest to the Commonwealth in the meantime. This is really State debt, not Commonwealth debt, and $ 1,505m has to be subtracted from the published figure of Commonwealth debt and added to the published figure for Slate debt. This makes the debt of the Commonwealth at 30th June 1968 only S2,095m and the true debt of the States $9,821m.
I do not want to weary the Senate, but this is important:
But the Commonwealth picture is even rosier than it appears because it holds vast quantities of Commonwealth securities as investments of its revenue surpluses. In fact, at 30th June 1968 it owned no less than $ 1,700m worth of these securities.
Sir Henry Bolte then set out the figures in the following table:
He then went on to say:
Not too bad for a Government which claims to have had deficits totalling more tha’n $3,6O0m in the last 10 years. Compare a Commonwealth debt of S395m with Victoria’s debt of S2,450m, and the total debt of all States of S9,821m.
I have not the time to complete the quotation. The position is that the States have been bled white by what the Premier of Victoria has described as the money lenders in the Commonwealth Government. The Premier has made it quite plain that the States cannot take the word of the Prime Minister. He has charged the Commonwealth with perpetrating confidence tricks. He has charged the Prime Minister and the Treasurer with dishonesty, by implication. He has also stated that they have cooked the books and have resorted to usurious practices or worked on the basis of the old fashioned money lenders. More recently he referred to the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr Snedden) as one who was talking through his hat.
In conclusion, let me repeat that we do not believe that the proposal to set up a committee will meet the requirements of the present situation.
– It is not fair dinkum anyhow.
– That has already been said. We believe that the responsibility for the economic management of the Commonwealth of Australia through a properly defined formula that will meet the requirements of the States rests fairly and squarely on the Commonwealth Government. Accordingly, we oppose the motion.
– I must say it has been a fascinating evening. One has come out of it with a tremendous addition to one’s knowledge.
– 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.
– I rise to discuss a matter which I commenced to discuss at the beginning of the proceedings this morning. I raised the question of procedure this morning based on a resolution which was carried on Wednesday night by the Senate. My procedure this morning was based on the wording of a resolution.
– Mr President, 1 rise to a point of order. 1 direct your attention to Standing Order 419 which says:
No Senator shall digress from the subjectmatter of any Question under discussion; nor anticipate the discussion of any subject which appears on the Notice Paper.
May I support my point of order by saying that Sir Richard Baker gave his ruling in Rulings of the President of the Senate’ on page 4 paragraph 15:
The subject-matter of an order of the day cannot be discussed on the motion to adjourn the Senate, as so doing would anticipate the discussion of the order of the day.
It is my understanding that your ruling was dissented from and the debate on it is to be an order of the day for next Tuesday. I believe the honourable senator is out of order.
– My remarks were only a preamble. This is not the substance of what I want to talk about. I want to talk about the records and the Journals of the Senate. They are the records and they must be corrected if I am to proceed on Tuesday with the motion of dissent from your ruling. I am not discussing the subject matter of what was discussed this morning. My opening remarks tonight are a preamble into what I want to discuss.
- Senator Cant, if you keep discussion of my ruling this morning in the background I will let you go on as apparently you wish to break new ground.
– Thank you, Mr President. I will go straight in to what I want to talk about. I question the Journal of the Senate based on the resolution carried this morning, based on the wording that appears in the Journal. There are 2 records of the proceedings of the Senate, One is the official record, that is the Journal, and there is the record in Hansard which is not an official record.
I support what I say about the Journal by referring to the work prepared by the Clerk of the Senate, Mr Odgers, ‘Australian Senate Practice’. On page 134 he says:
All proceedings are noted by the Clerk, and constitute the Journals of the Senate. The Journals, which arc signed bythe Clerk, arethe official record of the proceedings of the Senate. They include no record of the debates, the reporting of which is the function of Hansard.
This record is very important, Mr President.
Further down on that page we find:
By Section 7 of the Evidence Act 1905-64, it is providedthat: (2.) A document that purports -
to be a copy of a motion, resolution or proposed law moved in, agreed to by or introduced in a House of the Parliament, or a particular committee of a House of the Parliament, on a date specified in the document; . . . is admissible in all Courts as evidence that a motion, resolution or proposed law in the terms set out in the document was moved–
The resolution which was circulated and moved by Senator Greenwood said: ‘That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn till tomorrow at 9.55 a.m. for the purpose of debating a matter of urgency’. What does the Journal say? The Journal says:
MOTION FOR ADJOURNMENT, TO DEBATE MATTER OF URGENCY:
Senator Greenwood, in order to debate a matter of urgency–
The words of Standing Order 64 are clear. Standing Order 64.(1). provides:
A motion without Notice, that the Senate at its rising adjourn to any day or hour other than that fixed for the next ordinary meeting of the Senate, for the purpose of debating–
The Journal does not use the phraseology that is contained in the Standing Orders.
– Do you say the Journal is wrong?
– I say the Journal is wrong. It is the official record and it should record the proceedings that take place in the Senate. Because of its importance as evidence under the Evidence Act it should be a correct report. It should be a correct record of the proceedings that take place in this Senate. Later 1 will be asking for a correction in the record of the words used. The Journal which we have before us is only a proof copy and it is open to correction. Page 81 of the ‘Australian Senate Practice’ says:
Hansard is a report of the Parliamentary Debates: it is not the official record of the proceedings of Parliament–
NeverthelessI did go to Hansard to find out whether the resolution that had been carried by the Senate was recorded in Hansard. I found that it is not, because you, Sir, at the end of question time said:
I have received from Senator Greenwood an intimation that he desires to move the adjournment of the Senate for the purpose of discussing a matter of urgency.
It was not’debating a matter of urgency’ but ‘discussing a matter of urgency’. Then the subject matter of urgency was set out. Senator Greenwood then proceeded to debate the question which he had put forward. You, Sir, called him to order and told him that he was required to move his motion. Senator Greenwood said:
I am delighted to do so, Mr President. I move:
That is what Senator Greenwood moved. If my memory serves me correctly Senator Greenwood read out the whole of the subject matter that he wished to discuss before the Senate. It does not appear in Hansard. My case is weak because Hansard is not the official record. But neither is the Journal an official record of the proceedings that took place yesterday in this Senate.
If this matter proceeds I have to proceed with a motion for dissent from your ruling on Tuesday. My dissent from your ruling this morning was based on the use of the words: For the purpose of. These words do not appear in the official record of the proceedings of the Senate, nor do they appear in Hansard. I will be in great difficulty if the record of the Senate is not corrected. I therefore request that the record be corrected in accordance with the Standing Orders. I am not concerned with a practice that has taken place in this Senate over a good few years. This morning an attempt was made to get away from practice. I know that this question has not been brought forward before. No resolution has been passed about the matter which I raised this morning. I have now placed it on the record for a ruling from you, Mr President, and perhaps an interpretation of Standing Orders could bring this matter out into the open.
I am particularly concerned about this because it seems to me to be quite an innocuous way for the Senate to be discussing matters of urgency. Senator Greenwood thought that the matter he was discussing was of such importance that he had raised it on 3 previous occasions on the motion for the adjournment of the Senate and then brought it in here as a matter of urgency. What satisfaction could Senator Greenwood get? He could get no more satisfaction than to adjourn the Senate until 9.55 this morning. Is that the way that the Senate wants matters of urgency discussed? Surely if people bring matters of public interest into this place to be discussed and debated they are entitled to get a resolution for or against the matter that they present to the Senate. Under the Standing Orders at the present time this cannot bo done. I will be suggesting. Mr President, that there should be a standing order to provide for this kind of thing.
I also question Standing Order 64 (2.) because it presupposes that the only motions for the adjournment of the Senate of the nature that I have been discussing will be presented from the Opposition side. It presupposes that because, in the first instance, it gives the mover of the motion 30 minutes in which to present his case and the Minister first rising also 30 minutes. This seems to me to be quite illogical. It cropped up yesterday when Senator Willesee was granted an extension of time because 2 speakers on the other side were to take up 1 hour of the 3 hours allowed for this debate yet the leading speaker for the Opposition in reply was entitled under the standing order to only 15 minutes. I might say that the method of granting Senator Willesee an extension of time was completely out of order. Even though the Senate gave leave for the extention of time, the correct method for granting the extension of time was to suspend standing order 64. At no time was standing order 64 suspended to allow Senator Willesee to continue.
These are the kinds of weaknesses that one finds in standing order 64(1) and (2). They should be corrected. I think that this matter should be sent to the Standing Orders Committee for investigation. I request that the journal of the record of proceedings of yesterday be amended to conform with the motion which was moved by Senator Greenwood.
– It is quite plain that Senator Cant feels himself capable of moving mountains because on both of the bases upon which argument has been addressed to us I would think that there was not a shred of reason that he could invoke. Before I proceed to those two basic arguments I just pause to notice his concluding comments as to the construction of standing order 64 (2). He deduces from the fact that the mover and the Minister first speaking are given 30 minutes each and each other senator 15 minutes, that that is to be interpreted to indicate that a motion of urgency can emanate only from the Opposition. I would have thought that that was a completely superficial view of the matter because obviously the Standing Orders do not have regard to parties and it would be a poor position–
– What rot.
– Please no not refer to my submissions as rot, Senator Cant, or I will ask you to withdraw.
-I made no such remark, Mr President.
– Did you not say what rot’?
– No, I did not. I did not open my mouth.
– Then who said it? If you did not, someone else did.
– Maybe someone else did, butI did not.
– That remark emanated from the neighbourhood of the honourable senator and if J do not distinguish the speaker, let it pass. It is obvious that the right of an individual senator on the Government side is comprehended by standing order 64 as is the right of every other individual senator. But pass that by because the Standing Orders Committee can always be requested to consider a matter of that kind. What we are considering tonight on the motion for the adjournment is a request by Senator Cant to amend the Journals of the Senate. In the first place 1 should have thought that Senator Cant would have some hesitation in impugning the Hansard record which, at page 1 1 34 indicates that Senator Greenwood was requested by the President to move his motion. On page 1135 the Hansard record shows the following:
-I am delighted to do so, Mr President.I move:
That the Senate at its rising, adjourn till tomorrow at 9.55 a.m.
– May I interrupt you for a moment? Did not Senator Greenwood read the whole of his motion then? That is as I recall it.
– I will not be hammered down by an impudent Leader of the Opposition. His direction to me of an interjection of that kind in that presumptuous and rude way is such as would indicate the intolerance which an unbridled temper can generate. I was proceeding with my argument that the reason why we have records is to put on the line of the record the actual proceedings of the House which may often differ from the varying recollections of individual senators. For myself 1 have not the slightest recollection of whether the terms that came from Senator Greenwood’s lips were those that are printed or whether they were amplified to something more, but the Hansard record is to be read and anyone who questions it is assuming a rather heavy burden if he imputes to Hansard an abridgement so sizeable as that.
The second point is that the Journals of the Senate show that the question that was put was:
That the Senate, at ils rising, adjourn till tomorrow at 5 minutes to 10 a.m.
– 1 am reading the entire record from the Journals.
– Surely Senator Greenwood knows what he said.
– The croaking is now substituted for the bellowing. I am reading the record and if those who will listen will also think they will understand. I read it again:
Thai the Senate, at its rising, adjourn till tomorrow at 5 minutes to 10 a.m. - put accordingly. ls there anyone in the chamber who suggests that that is not the question that was put by the President?
– Yes. lt has been questioned tonight.
– There again we find a varying assertion of recollection, lt would take a seer to sift the evidence and, from the assertions that come from the recollections of individual senators, decide whether the record is actually in accordance with the question as put by the President or whether he used some other phrase.
That is why we have the chief staff of the Senate and the Hansard staff as an auxiliary to it. lt happens that the 2 records - the Hansard record conceded by Senator Cant to be evidentiary, and the Journals conceded by Senator Cant to be the record of the Senate - both show the form of the Senate’s resolution in this way:
That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn till tomorrow at 5 minutes to 10 a.m. - put accordingly.
So that on the record Senator Cant does not have a foothold. But even if he did, even if the language used yesterday was as he alleges that language has to bc interpreted and would be understood with the guidance of a proper interpretation of standing order 64. lt is the most precocious and fallacious statement that we have had to listen to in the Senate for a long time to suggest that-
– Surely that is to be argued next week. Do you have to go into that now?
– It is quite obvious that there is more temper than reason amongst the members of the Opposition. Now that they have raised this point they are quite impatient to hear a brief response to it. The first response is based upon the 2 records. The second response is based upon the obvious reading of standing order 64. Having dealt with other kinds of motion, standing order .64 deals with a motion for the adjournment of the Senate to debate a matter of urgency. The standing order states: (1). A motion without notice, that Ihe Senate at its rising adjourn to any day or hour other than that fixed for the next ordinary meeting of the Senate, for the purpose of debating some matter of urgency, can only be made alter petitions have been presented-
The standing order then goes on to provide that the motion must be supported and that not more than I motion can be made during a sitting of the Senate, lt is quite obvious that the words ‘for the purpose of debating some matter of urgency’ characterise Ihe type of motion, lt is only a motion which has that purpose that can be interpolated in the proceedings of the Senate without notice at that stage, and if it is supported. The standing order also provides that the debate on the motion shall run for 3 hours to enable the matter of urgency to be debated.
– We know all that.
– That is right, and it is supported by our invariable practice. Therefore I submit that on both the record and the Standing Orders the proper understanding of the motion yesterday is that the Senate resolved at its rising ‘to adjourn until tomorrow at 5 minutes to 10’. That was put accordingly and resolved. I submit therefore that there is not the slightest pretext for the claim that Senator Cant has made to correct either the Hansard report or the Journal of the Senate.
– We know that a matter has arisen as to the proper application of one of the standing orders of the Senate. This is a matter which has exercised the minds of some of us for quite some time. I was concerned about the way that this standing order has operated before this matter arose. It is quite a serious matter. There seems to be at the very least some ambiguity in the standing order. 1 would think that the practice is inconsistent with the way that the standing order is read. But however that may be, the motion put before the Senate yesterday was resolved in one way. Senator Cant has said that he thinks the effect of that resolution is that we should have met this morning to deal with the matter. He says that a plain motion was moved by Senator Greenwood and that the effect of that motion, carried by the Senate, was that we should have met to discuss it. Senator Cant, after examining the Hansard report and the Journal of the Senate, said that those records do not really set out what the Senate did. He said: ‘I would like them to be corrected for the purpose of the Senate properly considering my proposition. Let the record show exactly what was moved by Senator Greenwood. It does not show it.’
No-one is criticising those people who put the Hansard report together, or the people who compile the Journal. They are following the usual practices. There are procedures that they follow and they endeavour to do their best. But now and then a question arises and a very serious question has arisen as to what is the effect of what we are all doing. When Senator Cant states that the record is not right, surely he is entitled to have it right without any question.
Often there are abbreviations. I mentioned a few weeks ago that notices of motion were not recorded in Hansard. Through common consent that practice has been changed and they are now recorded. We have an abbreviated record; a record which is not quite right. We have accepted what has gone on in the past, but tonight Senator Cant has said: ‘I want to have my point decided exactly.’ Senator Wright rose in reply and said: ‘On the record Senator Cant has not got a foothold.’ That is the very point that Senator Cant raised tonight. He said: ‘Look. If you take the record, it is prejudicial to me. The record is not right.’ We know it is not right. I say that without any criticism of those who compile the record, because in this matter in their way they were condensing it, fitting it into whatever the practices were, and so on, but the fact is that Senator Greenwood moved a motion and Hansard has an extremely abbreviated version of it. Hansard records at page 1135 that Senator Greenwood said: I am delighted to do so, Mr President. I move:
That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn till tomorrow at 9.55 a.m.
The fact is that Senator Greenwood went on to read the whole of his motion. I ask Senator Greenwood who is now sitting in his place whether he agrees with what I say. It is correct, is it not, Senator Greenwood?
– Let him speak for himself.
– He can speak for himself.
– I shall.
– I think it is a reasonable proposition, in the way we conduct these matters, for him to disagree if what I say is not right.
– I do not disagree, but I shall speak on it.
– I was in the chamber at the time and I recall Senator Greenwood reading the whole of his motion. His motion was:
That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn until tomorrow at 9.55 a.m. for the purpose of debating a matter of urgency, namely:
That the objectives and tactics of the Vietnam Moratorium Campaign are to be deplored because they are deliberately calculated to -
That was the motion which was considered and debated by the Senate. There is no doubt about that, whatever the consequences may be and whatever the standing order required should be done, whether Senator Greenwood’s motion was strictly in accordance with the standing order, as I think it was, or whether it should have been something different if it was to accord with the practice which had been followed. Whether it should have been put somehow differently, it was not. That was the motion which was considered and debated by the Senate.
Senator Cant says simply that he would like the record to be corrected so that the matter can be dealt with on the basis of what actually happened. He says: ‘Let us look at the standing order. Let us argue the matter fully and properly. I should not be prejudiced in the way that has now been confirmed by the Minister for Works who says that on the record I do not have a foothold.’ The Minister may or may not be right, but it is true that the record prejudices Senator Cant’s position. Senator Cant asks that that prejudice be removed and that the record show what actually happened. I support what Senator Cant says and I think the Senate should support it. If we are going to debate the matter the record should be correct.I say that without any criticism, recognising that the record often is a condensation made to fit perhaps what ought to be done. On this occasion we are going to consider what was done and consider whether Senator Cant’s point of order is right in the light of what actually happened. I would suggest, therefore, that this ought to be done. This matter has been raised in this way on the adjournment whereas perhaps we need some substantial motion when the matter comes to be dealt with. But surely all honourable senators would agree that if what I have said is correct and if what Senator Cant has said is correct, the honourable senator is entitled as a matter of right to have the matter dealt with according to what actually happened and the record should be brought into line with that.
– If I may enter the debate on this matter, there are 2 points to be considered. One is that the matter should be considered by the Standing Orders Committee. I understood, Mr President, that you gave an assurance for undertaking this morning that the whole of standing order 64 would be looked at. 1 think that disposes of that question. We then come to the accuracy or inaccuracy of the Journals of the Senate. I support the proposition that the Journals are accurate. That is the only point that I wish to discuss, the accuracy or otherwise of the Journals. Standing order 64 states:
A motion without Notice–
This is in fact the motion: that the Senate at its rising adjourn to any day or hour other than that fixed for the next ordinary meeting of the Senate . . .
Surely that is the motion which must be moved and no other motion can be moved under standing order 64. Then standing order 64 goes on to say why one may do that.
– Do not be dishonest; read it.
– Wait a minute. Let me develop it.
– Be honest. Just read what is in the standing order.
– Mr President, may I speak through you to the Senate?
– May you read the standing order.
– May I address the Senate through the Chair?
– Order! Senator Withers is entitled to make his own speech. 1 should imagine that he is the last person who would mislead the Senate.
– Mr President, I rise to order. Senator Willesee said in reply to you, when you said that Senator Withers was entitled to address the Chair, ‘honestly’, implying dishonesty on the part of Senator
Withers. I ask that Senator Willesee withdraw that unparliamentary offensive imputation.
– Order! Senator Willesee did make use of that word and I call on him to withdraw it.
– What am I to withdraw?
– The honourable senator knows what he has to withdraw.
– Will you please tell me?
– The word ‘honestly’.
– I withdraw the word honestly’.
– I do not wish to get into smart alec tricks. As I was trying to explain, Mr President, standing order 64 commences by saying: (1). A motion without Notice, that the Senate at its rising adjourn to any day or hour other than that fixed for the next ordinary meeting of the Senate . . .
That deals with the motion. Why does one move that motion? One moves that motion for the purpose of debating a matter of urgency. I intend to read the whole standing order. But I think that the whole of this argument depends upon those opening words. So, as I understand standing order 64, it is a vehicle for any honourable senator to bring on a matter of urgency without notice. It has much the same purpose as the adjournment motion in this place each evening which is a vehicle for any honourable senator to raise any matter without notice.
When one looks at what Senator Greenwood wrote - I have a copy of the letter which he wrote to you, Mr President - perhaps it may not be expressed as clearly as one would now express it in the light of what has been said. May I quote the letter written to you. It reads:
Dear Mr President,
I wish to give notice in accordance with Standing Order 64 that on the 6th Day of May 1970 I propose to move
That the Senate at its rising adjourn until tomorrow at 9.55 a.m. for the purpose of debating a matter of urgency, namely . . .
Then the letter spells out the rest of the detail. The Clerk recorded it in a slightly different form in the Journals of the Senate.
I believe that the Clerk is quite entitled to interpret Senator Greenwood’s letter as reading:
Dear Mr President,
I wish to give notice in accordance with Standing Order 64 that on the 6th day of May 1970 for the purpose of debating a matter of urgency-
Then the whole list would be spelt out:
That the Senate at its rising adjourn until tomorrow at 9.55 a.m.’
That is the substantive motion.
As I understand standing order 64, the only substantive motion which can be moved is a motion without notice that the Senate at its rising adjourn to any day or hour other than that fixed for the next ordinary meeting of the Senate. That is the motion. The balance of the standing order, which I am prepared to read in full but which I will not read because I do not see why I should waste the time of the Senate - I believe that all honourable senators can read - goes on to explain what may then follow after that substantive motion has been moved. That motion is for the purpose of debating some matter of urgency. For these reasons I cannot understand why the Clerk at the Table should be criticised or why the past or present procedures should be criticised in regard to how such a matter should be recorded in the Journals of the Senate. I was looking through the Journals earlier. Page 1 of No. 20 of the Journals of the Senate - 6th May 1970 - in relation to the motion for the adjournment of the Senate I think spells out, in accordance with standing order 64, what was in fact in the letter.
– We do not accept what you think.
– At least I can think. Mr President, I think that the Clerk has quite rightly interpreted what Senator Greenwood wrote to you. In order to debate a matter of urgency, namely the matter which is spelt out in the Journals of the Senate, Senator Greenwood moved ‘That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn till tomorrow at 9.55 a.m. Sir, under standing order 64 he could not do otherwise than as the Clerk has spelt out in the Journals. Perhaps Senator Greenwood did not spell it out as elegantly and as accurately in his letter to you, Mr President, as the Clerk has spelt it out in the Journals.
– Defend Senator Greenwood.
– My friend and colleague Senator Greenwood does not mind me saying these things about him. Honourable senators on this side of the Senate are not touchy. It would appear from their argument that honourable senators opposite are touchy. They seem to be terribly touchy. Perhaps it is the fact that the Moratorium Campaign is to be held tomorrow and they are worried because it may be a flop. I think it is very poor tactics, at 12 minutes after 11 p.m. on a Thursday night, to discuss the accuracy or otherwise of the Journals of the Senate, which document I support.
– I agree that normally a matter of this nature should be discussed at greater leisure at another time, but when the accuracy of the Journals of the Senate is being questioned it is perhaps proper to, as far as possible, discuss the matter as soon as practicable. Standing order 64 has been read out over and over again. An urgency motion requires 2 things. Firstly, a foundation should be laid by the person who proposes to move it. The condition precedent to the moving of the motion is that the mover of the motion shall view it as a matter of urgency. Of course, the Journals of the Senate only purport to be the records of the proceedings of this chamber. I refer to the book entitled ‘Australian Senate Practice’, which was written by the Clerk of the Senate, Mr Odgers. I. refer in particular to page 198. In relation to who makes the decision as to whether the matter is a matter of urgency which falls within standing order 64 it states that if the Senate decides that it comes within that category it must go into the Journals of the Senate as part of the record of the proceedings. But in this case the condition precedent, the basis, the foundation for the motion is not within the determination of the Senate as I read page 198 of this book, which states:
Before the business of the day is proceeded wilh, motion may be made that the Senate- at its rising - adjourn to an unusual time, for the purpose of debating some matter of urgency.
The limitations placed upon senators wishing to move an urgency motion were summarised by President Givens on 27th April 1921 as follows:
The first is lhat the question to bc discussed must be one of urgency, and it has been laid down by my predecessors lhat the matter of urgency is not 1 for the Presiding Officer to settle, as that is decided by 4 honourable senators rising in their places in support of the motion, which is regarded as sufficient proof of urgency.
The condition is that 4 honourable senators should rise in their places in support of the motion. The Senate makes no decision on that aspect at all. In other words, the condition precedent or the foundation for the motion is severed from the motion itself. The first condition is not within the competence of the Presiding Officer; it is proved by 4 honourable senators rising in their places. Perhaps that fact should be recorded. That having been done it comes down to a question of a decision on the severed motion, and that is a decision of the Senate which is properly carried into the record. It may be carried in that isolated form. In those circumstances I would suggest that the procedures have been completely proper. Hansard, no doubt, should have carried the full record, but so far as the accuracy of the Journals is concerned I think the proper practice in terms of President Givens’s interpretation and decision has been followed and 1 think, therefore, that Senator Cant has no substance in the proposition which he propounds.
– You know that the record is wrong Senator. How can you talk about it having nothing to do with the effects of the standing order? It is what actually happened in the Senate.
– lt is not what happened in the Senate; it is what happened at the will of the Senate and at the direction of the Senate and what the record would carry is ‘and the motion being duly supported’ and so on. That would be the record that is required by standing order 64.
– A senator is entitled to have his matter determined on the basis of what actually happened.
– It is not what actually happened. From the Journals of the Senate-
– You know-
– I must protest.
– Order! I will not have these interjections. This is completely wrong.
– I think the Journal record is completely accurate in terms of the standing order and in terms of the precedent established by President Givens and I cannot see why an attempt should be made to rectify it.
-I heard what Senator Cant had to say andI think I appreciate the point he was endeavouring to establish. He made it with some cogency and, 1 may say that if I disagree with the conclusions which ultimately he will seek to draw regarding the accuracy of the record it is beside the point. 1 think it is a fair matter for the Senate always to consider whether what appears in the Journals is consistent with the record, but 1 feel on the other hand that there is always a necessity for the Senate to ensure that its proceedings are consistent with the Standing Orders. All I say about standing order 64 is that it is a standing order which apparently, with the general concurrence of the Senate, is to be looked at by the Standing Orders Committee, because there are expressions in it which, by examination, could be clarified. As it stands at the moment I think I will concede that there arc 2 interpretations open. One is the interpretation which, at another time, I imagine Senator Cant will be interested to develop. The other interpretation is the one which I have heard expressed tonight by Senator Weight, Senator Withers and Senator Byrne and the one with which I also would concur.I also feel that it is the interpretation which the Clerk, as the person responsible for the Journals of the Senate, has undoubtedly adopted. But that is for the future. All I say is that insofar as the question has been raised as to what did occur in the Senate yesterday when this motion was moved, 1 have a positive recollection that, contrary to what does appear at page 1135 of Hansard, I read in full the notice of motion which I had given. I do not think that Senator Wright denied that. As I understood Senator Wright he was simply saying that he had no recollection one way or another. I think a person is entitled to take that view. I have only risen because I have a very positive recollection that I did read it in full, albeit with some difficulty in the light of the noise which was occurring. Mr President, with the concurrence of the Senate I incorporate in Hansard the letter which I sent to you. 5 May 1970
The Hon. Sir A. M. McMullin, K.C.M.G.,
President of the Senate,
Dear Mr President,
I wish to give notice in accordance with Standing Order 64 that on the 6th day of May 1970I propose to move
That the Senate at its rising adjourn until tomorrow at 9.55 a.m. for the purpose of debating a matter of urgency, namely “The opinion of the Senate that the objectives and tactics of the Vietnam Moratorium Campaign are to be deplored because they are deliberately calculated to
Senator for Victoria
– I would hate to be up on a traffic charge with some of the lawyers who have argued tonight. 1 come back to the very simple approach of Senator Cant who mentioned what appeared in Hansard. I have just looked at the records and if the records are wrong then, Mr President, you have the grave duty of looking at the whole situation. I interpolate here that for 15 years I have been saying that every senator has the grave responsibility of looking at the Standing Orders of this chamber. Senator Cant has given a simple explanation of what occurred. He has referred to what is recorded in Hansard and what is recorded in the Journals of the Senate, and Senator Greenwood tonight has confirmed what Senator Cant said. Senator Greenwood is recorded in the Journal as having moved:
That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn till tomorrow at 9.55 a.m.
He says that he moved what Hansard did not pick up. I do not criticise the Hansard reporters. I think they are amazing people to pick up what docs go on in this place.
But the Journals of the Senate completely reverse this. They say:
Senator Greenwood, in order to debate a matter of urgency . . .
Then they set out his motion. I agree with Voltaire: I may disagree with what he says, but I defend with my life his right to say it. He has moved a motion, but the Journals of the Senate have completely reversed what he has said.
– Has this happened before?
– Here is the negative approach of Senator Sim. He asks: Has it happened before?’ He is the most negative man ever to walk into this Parliament. The fact is: Whether we agree or disagree with what Senator Greenwood said last night, he says that he moved the motion in its full context. He wants it to go into the permanent record of the Commonwealth Parliament, and we want it to go in. However much we disagree with what he said, we defend his right to say it. Yet the Journals of the Senate reverse the very thing which Senator Greenwood says he said. How can you criticise Senator Cant for raising this matter tonight? We are always doing something to sort of fit in with what the Senate wants to do. The fact is that the minutes of a meeting of any trade union would be challenged in the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission if they were falsified. The minutes of any meeting of a bowling club would be challenged if they were falsified. We sit here in the supreme Parliament of the Commonwealth. Senator Greenwood has moved something, and he confirms that he has moved it. We uphold his right to move it although we disagree with what he says about it. We have had this out. We have had these debates, which is what this Senate is for. Yet the Journals of the Senate falsify what we are doing and the lawyers on the other side of the chamber - and Senator Wright is raising his head-
– I take a point of order. I submit that the expression ‘falsify’ is not an appropriate word to use when it imputes that the Journals of the Senate falsify the Senate’s proceedings. I submit that the word carries an imputation that should not be made on the floor of Parliament against those responsible for the compilation of the record. I ask the honourable senator to substitute an inoffensive contention that the Journals are inaccurate.
– Senator Wright knows perfectly well that there is no point of order invovled. A point of order is involved if one offends the Standing Orders of the Senate. Senator Wright disagrees with what I say. You know, he is a fellow who can be upset. The fact is that if he disagrees with what I say, that is just too bad for him. I have not offended the Standing Orders of the Senate. There is no point of order involved. The fact is that I have said something and he disagrees with it. He disagrees with it because of his guilt. He knows perfectly well that what he says tonight is-
– I raise a point of order. The honourable senator has made an assertion that my submission of disagreement is because of my guilt. That is to say that I know that what I am disputing is correct. I ask that he be ordered to withdraw that remark.
- Senator Willesee, first of all you raised the question of the falsification of the Journals of the Senate, and then you have been offensive to Senator Wright. I call on you to withdraw that remark.
– The whole debate concerns the falsification of the Journals-
– I do not want any further debate.
– What do you want me to do?
– I want you to withdraw the remark which you made.
– Which remark?
– The remark which is offensive to Senator Wright.
– Oh, to Senator Wright I apologise. I mean I would apologise to Senator Wright immediately. Is that satisfactory? The fact is that the whole of Senator Cant’s argument is-
– You must withdraw the word ‘falsify’.
– I will withdraw the word ‘falsify’ - whatever you want.
– He is making an ass of: himself.
– The fact is that Senator Cant has raised a question regarding what has happened in the Senate-
– I raise a point of order. An honourable senator on the other side of the chamber says that the Deputy Leader of our Party “is making an ass of himself. I believe that that is an objectionable statement and that it should be withdrawn.
– To whom is the honourable senator referring?
– 1 am referring to Sena:or Sim.
– To satisfy the honourable senator, I will withdraw the remark.
– If it is Senator Sim, I do not want any withdrawal.
- Senator Willesee should continue with his speech.
– 1 want to make my speech to responsible people. I do not consider Senator Sim a responsible person.
– Order! That is an offensive remark. Senator Willesee will withdraw that remark as well.
– I will withdraw whatever 1 said about Senator Sim.
- Senator Willesee knows what he said.
– Whatever I said I will withdraw. The fact is that Senator Cant has raised a very valid point. He said that what has happened in this Senate has not been recorded in the Journals of the Senate. That is a pretty simple proposition. It is time we got down to recording what happens in this place. A lot of hokery-pokery is going on. I agree completely with what Senator Cant has said. It does not matter how the lawyers argue about this situation. He is completely right. Senator Greenwood has confirmed tonight, whatever else we disagree on, that what he moved was as Senator Cant said. Why is it not put in the Journals of the Senate? Why do we not stop the humbug that is going on here?
– I hope that the Senate will settle down in this debate on the motion for the adjournment of the
Senate so that we can discuss the matter of this standing order in a proper atmosphere. In the long period of time that I have been here 1 have always accepted the situation that the Standing Orders provide vehicles for honourable senators on all sides of the chamber to raise matters by moving for the adjournment of the Senate.
– And we should record what was said. Does the Minister think we should record what was said?
– Order! I will not permit the honourable senator to interject while the Minister is speaking.
– I will not respond at all to Senator Willesee’s interjection, and I believe that it is in his very best interests that I do not. It has always been my understanding that standing order 64 provides a vehicle so that an honourable senator may in his own right raise any matter. For as long as I can remember - and 1 have a clear memory on this - standing order 64, which is the 1 relating to the adjournment of the Senate to a time other than that provided for under the Sessional Orders, has been a vehicle to allow a senator to raise a matter which he believes to be a matter of urgency. I am fortified by references in the records to previous rulings in my contention that the motion is only a motion for the adjournment to a different time. The subject matter does not become part of the resolution for the adjournment. The adjournment procedure is to enable an honourable senator to raise any matter he wants to raise. He moves for the adjournment and then states his case.
– The Minister is reflecting on the Chair.
– Order! I am the best judge of whether he is reflecting on the Chair.
– I repeat that this is the only question at issue, despite all ihe sideswiping that has been going on. lt nas always been the procedure of the Senate that what follows a motion for the adjournment of the Senate to a certain time is a matter of substance in the view of the people who want to debate it. For that reason 1, along with other honourable senators on this side of the House, believe that the Journals of the House to that extent are completely accurate, and I would support the preservation of their accuracy.
– Despite what has been said by Government senators this evening, i think Senator Cant is to be commended for his efforts in this matter because, on all that has been said this evening, the record of what took place in the Senate yesterday is wrong. Senator Cant rose to point that out to the Senate when he spoke during the debate on the motion for the adjournment of the Senate. He raised this matter at the earliest opportunity this evening. No matter what Government senators said, they confirmed what Senator Cant said. Senator Withers gave us, by transposition of words, an interpretation of what he thought was meant by Senator Greenwood in Senator Greenwood’s letter to the President. Having regard to the Hansard record and to what Senator Greenwood has confirmed this evening, there can be no doubt that what Senator Cant said during the debate this evening is correct. What happened yesterday was that after question time the President rose and, according to page 1134 of Hansard, said:
I have received from Senator Greenwood an intimation that he desires to move the adjournment of the Senate for the purpose of discussing a matter of urgency, namely:
Certain matters were set out then. The President asked whether a sufficient number of senators supported the proposition being put by Senator Greenwood. A number of senators on the Government side rose. Senator Greenwood commenced to speak. The President said:
Order! Senator Greenwood, you are required to move your motion.
Senator Greenwood said:
I am delighted to do so.
He read the whole of the motion. Having read it, that became the motion. Therefore Senator Cant was quite right in saying that the motion attributed to Senator Greenwood at page 1135 of Hansard is wrong and that the Journal of the Senate is wrong. Because of that, I believe the Senate is indebted to Senator Cant for drawing to pur attention, at the first instance, the inaccuracy of the record.
Senator BISHOP (South Australia)
Cant’s opposition in a particular form. The point 1 make is that the President is the Chairman of the Standing Orders Committee. I suggest that this matter could be solved best by referring Senator Cant’s reference to standing order 64 to that Committee to decide whether we have a correct record of the proceedings of the Senate. I do not think anybody will dispute that, when the Standing Orders Committee comes to determine what is the proper procedure in relation to standing order 64, it will serve the purposes of the Senate best if we have a correct record of what took place in the Senate. In my opinion, the President should be concerned as to whether he has a record to which he can give a great deal of weight if he wants to know what happened in the Senate. I agree with the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Anderson). I think we have to settle down and treat this matter as a serious one. It certainly should not be treated as a political matter. I am astounded that honourable senators who spoke in rebuttal - and I refer to Government senators - have been so intemperate. I hoped that they would try to do what Senator Greenwood did - to make the record straight.
What is the purpose of the Journal of the Senate? The Journal of the Senate ought to be a correct record of the proceedings of the Senate. Standing order 40 provides:
AH proceedings shall be noted by the Clerk, and shall constitute the Journals of the Senate, and shall be signed by the Clerk.
The next standing order prescribes the security that should be applied to the records of the Senate. If we have not a correct record of the proceedings of the Senate, upon what can we rely when we argue about a standing order or the procedure that ought to be adopted? I am astounded that honourable senators should become so upset about this matter which to me is a very formal matter. The point has been made that in any organisation a complete record of proceedings is the best record of proceedings. When I moved an urgency motion in relation to that very vexed South Australian question of Chowilla, the Journals of the Senate recorded what I moved.
Senator Greenwood has been good enough and straight enough in this discussion tonight to indicate that the Hansard record is incorrect. Mr President, you had left the Senate when I commenced speaking, so 1 should put what seems to me to be the primary argument. When you. as Chairman of the Standing Orders Committee, convene the meeting which will consider what Senator Cant has referred to you, you will ask your colleagues to evaluate standing order 64. You will be guided not by what Senator Cant or Senator Cavanagh or somebody else on the Committee says but by what the record says. 1 agree with Senator Murphy. The record of the Senate is not correct, lt ought to be correct. Consequently it seems to me that Senator Cant’s proposition should be accepted and the record corrected.
– That depends on whether it is to be a complete report.
– That is the very point that I am making. Senator Greenwood has corrected Hansard, so we know at least from tonight’s record what was really moved. The records shown in the Journals of the Senate have been described fairly fully. I do not agree wilh what Senator Wright and Senator Withers have said, that is. that the Clerk is entitled to translate or interpret or shorten or to put what happened into his own words. That should not be so at all. If this is right generally, it is not right in this particular case. As a result of the debate today - and honourable senators on the Government side have agreed wilh us - standing order 64 ought to be considered. There are arguments as to what practice ought to be applied. If this is to be evaluated by the Standing Orders, Committee, as is in fact the case, the Standing Orders Committee ought to have a correct record, and surely the Senate ought to have the most complete record of the proceedings of the Senate. If we have to rely, as we do have to rely, mainly upon the Journals of the Senate, those Journals should accurately describe, as they have done broadly in the past, the proceedings of the Senate.
– I would just like to say a few words on this subject. What amazes me is that honourable senators should be beating the air on this particular question at this time of the night. 1 would have thought that honourable senators should know something of the conduct of the Senate. If they feel that there is something wrong with the recordings in the journal, why do they not move a motion on Tuesday to the effect that the journal be altered? To my way of thinking that is the simple way to do it. But here we are, talking away and beating the air around midnight and where are we getting? To my way of thinking the sensible attitude in these sorts of things would be to move a motion and then the Senate would have an opportunity to declare itself. Otherwise we are just wasting time.
– Despite Senator Wood’s condemnation of our continuing this debate at this hour, as a member of the Standing Orders Committee I think there are one or two things that I should say. My impression of the debate as it evolved tonight was that we were discussing a highly legal question as to whether or not there was a true interpretation of Standing Orders. As it is a legal question, nol being a legal man I am nol competent to solve the problem. If the legal men on the Government side are correct in what they have said and in their interpretation, a true record has been kept in accordance with the Standing Orders. If they arc correct in that interpretation obviously there is no need for the Standing Orders Committee to look at the question because it is recorded as it should be. if honourable senators on this side are correct, it looks as though the Committee should have a look at the record. I do not think it has been suggested that sub-clause (2.) of standing order 64 should not be considered to see whether it offers complete fairness. .1 think a more important thing for the Committee to consider is whether a motion of dissent from a ruling of the President should be debated, because apparently on Tuesday we will debate whether the ruling given by the President today was right. I do not know whether if we find he was right or wrong it is going lo alter the position.
The legal question as to the Standing Orders was brought up because the motion of dissent has to be decided on Tuesday, and I think Senator Cant felt justly that he would be prejudiced in ‘ presenting the case if it was accepted that the Journals truly recorded what the Senate did or that the resolution which led to the ruling was as recorded. No-one has disagreed with ihe proposition that there could bc some prejudice against an honourable senator if we simply read the standing order which was read” this morning but while not denying t!i.- possibility of prejudice, it has been said that whatever has happened is in accordance with the particular standing order. I think Senator Greenwood cleared the matter up tonight by stating what he actually moved, and what he actually moved was the resolution that the Senate carried. If that is expressed correcly in accordance with the Standing Orders, although the Journal may not state the actual wording of the resolution I think the discussion on Tuesday on the motion of dissent from the President’s ruling must be on the premise that the President’s ruling was based on the honourable senator’s motion. Perhaps we should not rely on the Journals of the Senate because there is no dispute as to what the honourable senator moved and what the Senate carried. Honourable senators having been of the same opinion as to the resolution that was carried, it is the President’s ruling on the resolution that should be discussed.
No-one can take any exception to Senator Cant’s moving a motion saying that the President was wrong in that the resolution determined that we should adjourn to do something specific. That is what the Senate did decide. The question is: Should that be recorded in the records, or are the records in accordance with the relevant standing order?
– I would like to raise another question.
– You have already spoken.
– I would like to raise a fresh question. It is most important. I think it would be wise. I ask leave to raise a fresh point, Mr President, if you take this point of order.
– I am not taking any point of order. I am only following the standing order. I am not taking points of order.
– I accept that. I ask leave to make a very brief statement which I think all honourable senators will agree is very important.
– Do you wish to make some sort of personal explanation?
– No. lt is a fresh matter. I think that every honourable senator would want to deal with it if they could. I ask leave to make a statement.
– I point out that Senator Cant is obviously rising to try to get the call. He is in the same position.
– I want to make a personal explanation. That is why I rose.
- Senator Willesee, if you will state your reasons for asking for leave the Chair will know the position.
– Do you want to deal with the personal explanation first?
– Yes, 1 shall hear that first.
Senator CANT (Western Australia)During the debate that has taken place, at least by inference reference has been made to me in respect of criticism of the Clerks and the Hansard reporters. 1 want to state clearly that at no time did I criticise any of those people, nor did 1 intend to criticise them. I want there to be no misunderstanding about that. I did not intend at any time to criticise any of them. While I am on my feet 1 would like to thank Senator Greenwood for his forthright honesty.
– I ask for leave to make a very brief statement.
– In what context?
– In the context of what we have been talking about tonight and the fact that in respect of our dealing yesterday with the subject raised by Senator Greenwood, there seems to be in the Standing Orders a matter which deals completely unfairly with the Senate. I would like to put it before the Senate because I feel that in view of what has arisen the Standing Orders Committee will be looking at the subject.
– Are you seeking leave?
– Is leave granted?
– Leave is granted.
– I thank the Senate for its forbearance in the mood it is in at present.
Honourable senators will recall that yesterday in dealing with standing order 64 Senator Wright, in a most unusual burst of generosity, allowed me to continue with my remarks when, Mr President, I doubted your deputy when he wanted me to conclude my remarks after 15 minutes.I have always understood that anybody who moved the adjournment of the Senate to discuss a matter of urgency was allowed 30 minutes and that the Minister first speaking was also allowed 30 minutes.I understand completely how the situation came about. Senator Greenwood is a most unusual person–
– We are all unusual, senator.
– You are most unusual, but Senator Greenwood is unusual in a different way. Senator Greenwood has raised a matter in the Senate andI defend his right to do so. It is amazing that the Standing Orders can stand for 70 years without our looking at this sort of thing. Senator Greenwood did the Senate a service yesterday by directing our attention to the fact that: standing order 64 (2) reads:
In speaking to such Motion, the mover and the Minister first speaking shall not exceed 30 minutes each . . .
Those who framed that provision, it is quite obvious, imagined it would always be the Opposition that moved for the discussion of urgent matters. Senator Greenwood, in his exuberance, has moved such a motion from the Government side, and has thereby thrown the standing order into disorder, as it were. I am not complaining about that.
– We gave you leave.
– Come to the point.
– Please, will those great democrats. Senator Anderson and Senator Wright, give me just the 5 minutes that I asked for? Senator Greenwood brought into the limelight the fact that we have a standing order which is completely incompatible with the situation today. It may be all right to say that 70 years ago this standing order was germane. I ask you, Mr President, and Senator Anderson, even in his mood tonight, to refer to the Standing Orders. Committee the position that obtained yesterday. It is obvious that we all - even Senator
Anderson - want the person who moves the motion to have 30 minutes and the person who is rebutting the motion to have 30 minutes. Senator Young is interjecting, butI suggest that he be quiet because he does not know anything about this matter.
Yesterday’s debate was initiated perfectly legitimately by Senator Greenwood. 1 defend his right to do so. But because of the way we are operating the Senate today, 105 minutes was given to speakers against the Labor Party and 72 minutes was given to speakers for the Labor Party. I concede to my opponents that even in the heat of debate on such things as the Moratorium Campaign they would not want that position to obtain. They would not want a situation in which about 50% more time was given to the argument against the case than was given to the argument for the case.I am keeping withinthe 5 minutes for whichI asked.
I ask that you, Mr President, and Senator Anderson have a look at these 2 situations. I know that neither of you is very partial to me tonight.I ask you to look at a situation in which what occurred yesterday can occur, namely, that 2 senators attacking something can have an hour and under the Standing Orders the leading debater for the other side can have only a quarter of an hour. I do not think that even the Country Party would want that. I do not think that even the Democratic Labor Party would want that. That would be extending my argument quite a lot. In a debate such as the one we had yesterday one side would have 105 minutes and the other side should have only 72 minutes. I do not believe that even the most biased person in the Senate would want that situation to obtain.
Therefore I bring the matter before you, Mr President. Tonight I have done something thatI have never done before in the Senate.I asked for special leave in order to request you. Mr President, your advisers, Senator Anderson and the Standing Orders Committee to try to right this situation. There is an old legal maxim that justice not only should be done but also should appear to be done. On this occasion it is notbeing done, and allI am asking is that it appear to be done.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 11.53 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 7 May 1970, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1970/19700507_senate_27_s43/>.