27th Parliament · 2nd Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Alister McMullin) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
Senator KEEFFE presented the following petition:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament Assembled.
The petition of the undersigned citizens of Queensland respectively showeth,
That due to higher living cost, persons on social service pensions, are finding it extremely difficult to live in even the most frugal way. A parity allowance should be paid to pensioners in remote areas.
We therefore call upon the Commonwealth Government to increase the base pension rate to 30% of the average weekly male earnings all states plus supplementary assistance and allowances in accordance with the A.C.T.U. policy and adopted as the policy of the Australian Pensioners’ Federation and by so doing give a reasonably moderate pension.
Your petitioners most humbly pray that the Senate in Parliament assembled, will take immediate steps to bring about the wishes expressed in our petition: so that our citizens who are receiving the social service pensions may live their lives in dignity and your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
– I give notice that on the next day of sitting or so soon as the matter can be heard I shall move:
Committee at any time when there is no Chairman or the Chairman is not present at a meeting of the Committee.
– Will the Minister representing the Postmaster-General tell us whether an inquiry is being made into the secret recording of telephone conversations by members of the public ringing up the telephone branch in Adelaide, and can she tell us how this breach of decency and of the ordinary rights of the citizens occurred? What has been done about it? Will an assurance be given that this will not be repeated in any circumstance whatever?
– I draw Senator Murphy’s attention to the stop press item in this morning’s ‘Sydney Morning Herald’, which reports that the Postmaster-General has said that his
Department would not again record telephone conversations, as was done in South Australia. I shall give some further information concerning the question raised. The Postmaster-General, when informed of this yesterday after a question had been asked in the Senate, immediately instructed that it be cancelled as an operation. Senator Murphy inquired as to the reasons for the telephone conversations being recorded. The Postmaster-General indicated that the conversations were recorded for a genuine purpose, authorised by the Director of Posts and Telegraphs in South Australia, the purpose being to ensure that proper selling techniques were used by officers of the Department when inquiries are made regarding new installations or varying the installation of telephones. The conversations were recorded in an endeavour by the Department to ensure that people who answered this type of inquiry answered it to the best advantage of the Department. As I have informed the Senate, the PostmasterGeneral immediately instructed that the operation should be cancelled. He informed the House this morning, in answer to a question about this matter, that this practice that had been carried out in South Australia would not be repeated.
– I ask a question of the Minister representing the Minister for Health. As the private hospitals in Queensland recently increased their fees to approximately $200 a week and as the maximum benefit payable by hospital benefit funds is approximately $100 a week and the Commonwealth Government since 1958 has paid only $14 a week, will the Minister give urgent, serious and favourable consideration to increasing the Commonwealth daily payment to a more reasonable level than $2 a day? Will the Minister seek the co-operation of the hospital benefit funds in establishing a table to provide for the payment of benefits more consistent with need and present day costs?
– I will take that matter up with my colleague the Minister for Health.
Housing. Is it a fact that figures released yesterday by the Commonwealth Statistician show that approvals for new homes and flats in July of this year were 11,000, compared with 15,000 in July 1969? Is it also a fact that the cost of the 15,000 in 1969 is stated at $249m and of the 11,100 in July 1970 at $255m? Will the Minister give the Senate some information about the sharp fall in home and flat building and the cost increases as stated in the Statistician’s figures?
I deal now with the figures for the current quarter. The number of dwellings to be commenced in the current quarter is likely to be little different from the number commenced in the June quarter, although there may be a further decline in New South Wales. However I expect the level of home building activity throughout most of Australia to be rising again within a month or two. As all honourable senators are aware, the Reserve Bank has asked the trading banks and life assurance companies to maintain the volume of their housing loans in the current quarter. It has also been announced that the savings banks will be making a substantial increase in their lending for housing. The rate of housing loans approved by permanent building societies is also rising and I expect this rise to accelerate. I think it would be interesting, particularly to my Western Australian colleagues, to note that in the past few weeks the number of new loans approved by .the permanent building societies in Western Australia, where the decline has been most severe, is now up to 80% or more of the very high rate at which they were approving loans in the March quarter this year. So I come back to the point I made earlier, that I have every reason to expect building activity to be rising during the December quarter although I accept that there was a decline during the June quarter.
– I desire to ask the Minister representing the Minister for Education and Science a question. May I say at the outset that I have spoken to the Minister about the matter I propose to raise and he suggested that I ask him a question. I ask: Will the Minister have a correction made in a statement he presented to the Senate on Wednesday, 19th August 1970, on behalf of his colleague the Minister for Education and Science. Under the subheading ‘Scholarships’ the statement reads:
Since the introduction of the Commonwealth scholarships scheme in 1951. . . .
That portion of the statement is contrary to fact, as Commonwealth scholarships were first made available in 1943 during the life of the government led by the late John Curtin, when the Minister responsible for education was the Hon. J. J. Dedman. The correction is necessary in order that interested people will not quote that portion of the statement as being correct.
– I am obliged to the honourable senator for drawing my attention to this part of the statement that I made to the Senate. He refers to a phrase since the introduction of the Commonwealth scholarships scheme in 1951’ as being ambiguous and which without further explanation, he says, is likely to mislead. The fact is that associated with the war time organisation of industry the Labor Government, I think as early as 1942, restricted the admissions to universities and at the same time provided scholarships for people to attend universities. Following the war, as part of the Commonwealth reconstruction training scheme, the Government made scholarships available. Those 2 schemes are not referred to in the Commonwealth scholarships scheme of 1951 and it is there that the unfortunate and regrettable ambiguity occurs. I want to make it plain that the Labor Government that preceded us and went out of office in 1949 did have Commonwealth scholarship schemes such as 1 have mentioned.
– Is the Minister representing the Postmaster-General aware that there are delays in the installation of telephones in Tasmania, especially in the Devonport area, of up to 18 months from the time of application? Will the Minister inquire into this matter with a view to obviating such a long period of inconvenience.
– The honourable senator speaks of an 18 months delay. I was certainly not aware of any delay as long as that. In fact I had thought that the delays were not in excess of 4 weeks. I say this only as a quick answer to the honourable senator’s question. But I shall certainly take the matter up with the Postmaster-General. If there is any particular case the honourable senator can refer to I will certainly place it before the Postmaster-General.
– My question is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Has the Minister seen a report in today’s ‘Australian’ that evidence is mounting swiftly in the United States of America that President Nixon and his critics no longer disagree about even the timetable for full disengagement from Vietnam, which is to be completed by the end of next year? Is the Australian Government so obsessed with its stubbornness over Vietnam that it is unable to announce our timetable for disengagement and withdrawal in clear and positive terms? Should we not be now working out the extent of assistance that Australia is prepared to give South Vietnam when our military commitment is terminated?
Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSONQuite obviously the question is tied and geared to a motion which was proposed and a debate which took place in another place several days ago. The honourable senator referred to a statement in the ‘Australian’ of today’s date. I think the term statement’ is rather deceptive. What the honourable senator referred to was an expression of view by a journalist.
– lt was a leading article.
– - Yes, there was a leading article which 1 also read. It was no more or less than an expression of view and it must be evaluated on that basis. The circumstances of Australia’s participation and involvement in Vietnam are clearly defined. Government policy is clearly defined. We have a programme in relation to our troops and commitment there. Statements have been made in relation to the movement of those troops. I do not see any point in developing the question further. This is a debating point. In fact, the whole matter was canvassed and debated in another place yesterday. The Government’s policy in relation to the matter is quite clearly denned.
– My question is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Has the Minister seen an open letter from the intellectuals of Cambodia to intellectual friends throughout the world in which they solemnly accuse the Vietcong and the North Vietnamese, as well as their mentor, the People’s Republic of China, of trying to erase Cambodia and the Cambodian people from the face of the world? Has the Minister also seen a further statement in which they blame the current crisis in South East Asia on the leaders in Peking and Hanoi? Is it a fact that Dr Cairns invited to Australia for Moratorium Campaign discussions representatives of North Vietnam and the Vietcong, who are regarded as enemies not only of Australia but also of the nonCommunist countries of South East Asia?
Dealing with the first part of the honourable senator’s question, yes, I have seen a reference to the open letter to which the honourable senator referred. This again is an expression of view by certain people in relation to the problems in South East Asia, notably in Cambodia. I think it is quite important as an expression of view. As to the reference to Dr Cairns, I can rely only upon what I have read. I have in fact read - and nobody has challenged the statement - that Dr Cairns did invite certain people from the countries concerned to come to Australia as a part of the Moratorium Campaign and matters associated with it. I think it would be deplorable if we encouraged those people to come here having regard to the fact that we have an Australian involvement in Vietnam. It would be a complete affront, having in mind the policy of the Government in this matter, to those men of ours, and also women in certain fields, who are in the South East Asian area representing Australia and who are confronted by enemies from North Vietnam. To talk of bringing people here from North Vietnam when we have our own troops in Vietnam is quite shameful. It would do irreparable damage to those people who have accepted the situation of being in Vietnam as part of an Australian force.
– Can the Minister representing the Prime Minister provide for the Parliament an accurate assessment, in layman’s language, of the degree of nuclear fallout in the eastern States of Australia as a result of recent French bomb tests in the Pacific? Can he further advise in how many areas of Queensland the fallout was measured and the degree of difference in the fallout measurements in the various areas of that State?
During the last 2 days I replied to a question asked by Senator Wilkinson about radioactive fallout. But Senator Keeffe now raises the question and I notice that during the recess he spoke in terms of fallout in the Atherton Tableland. At that time I felt an obligation to obtain some information because his comments did not seem to me to be consistent with what I believed to be -the position. In reply to the honourable senator’s specific question concerning the Atherton Tableland, I can say that the comments I made concerning radioactive fallout in Australia from the current French tests apply equally in that area to other parts. This would have to be related to the answer I gave yesterday. The Atherton Tableland is included in the monitoring programme of the Atomic Weapons Test Safety Committee but, as I mentioned earlier, it is no: possible at this stage to provide any information concerning radioactive fallout from the latest French tests because the data is not complete. I will go back to the statement I made. It is in Hansard and I will try to paraphrase it. It says, in effect, that the investigations that were made by the 2 authorities which are set up to watch this matter show, as a result of monitoring, that there has not been any appreciable increase and, indeed, there has been a significant decrease.
– What are the measurements?
I suggest the honourable senator take time out to read what I said several days ago. If he is not satisfied he should pose another question. I do not want to repeat what I said yesterday or the day before about this matter.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Education and Science. Does the Minister consider that there is a great and increasing need for added support in the very basic area of primary education? Further, does the Minister agree that more intense Federal aid could be directed into this field?
– The question asked by the honourable senator enables me to state the position with regard to the Commonwealth’s contribution to education. At the present time the Commonwealth has not been invited nor has it decided to enter upon direct assistance for primary education, rt will be remembered that the Commonwealth has assisted by substantial votes the increase of teachers, thereby enabling a greater number of teachers to be available in the schools. During the last triennium the Government devoted S24m to that purpose and it is proceeding in the next 3 years to appropriate S30m for teacher training colleges. It is also important to be reminded that since the Commonwealth has been assisting education in other fields it has enabled, together with the State’s own efforts, a reduction of the teacherpupil ratio from about 32 pupils per teacher in the early 1950s to 26 last year. I remind honourable senators that I attached to my statement to the Senate on the subject of Commonwealth education about 2 weeks ago a statistical table, but stated in another way the position can be expressed by saying that in 1962 the number of classes of more than 40 pupils in the primary schools represented 35.6% of the pupils attending. Today the classes exceeding 40 pupils have been reduced to 8.7%. It is necessary for me to add only that in addition to these very sound votes of great increases that the Commonwealth has made, due to the policy of increasing State grants, the States by their own efforts over the last 10 years have increased their expenditure on education from $325m ten years ago to $898m this year. In relation to their budgets that represents a great increase in the percentage of appropriation and not merely an increase in the amount.
– I address a question to the Minister for Housing, and in doing so I refer to the Minister’s answer to a question asked of her by Senator Dame Ivy Wedgwood. The Minister said that the number of dwellings to be commenced in the current quarter is likely to be a little on the increase from the number commenced in the June quarter, although there might be a further decline in New South Wales. Can the Minister explain why there is likely to be a further decline in the number of dwellings commenced in New South Wales when it appears that there is likely to be an increase in other States? Can anything be done to divert the millions of dollars being spent on large multi-storey office complexes into essential homes and modern hospitals to meet the urgent needs of ordinary people?
– I repeat what I said to Senator Dame Ivy Wedgwood, that during the June quarter there was a small decline in the level of home building activity in that the number of dwellings commenced was down by 7% as compared with the March quarter. I say again that in that quarter, the March quarter, dwellings were being commenced at a near record rate of more than 140,000 per annum. Because of the exceptionally high volume of work in progress at the beginning of the June quarter, the decline in home building activity and employment was very much less than 7%. I think it is known that the decline which occurred in May and June was due largely to the tightening of the overall availability of finance and after this quarter, as I have said, I believe there will be an upturn. Already we are seeing an increased amount of money being made available for housing. Even in the Press this morning I read that in New South Wales housing loans by permanent building societies rose by 200% in July. This shows that more money is being made available and that we will see a rise in housing activity. I believe that before the end of the year we will see a marked improvement in the housing situation.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Postmaster-General. Yesterday I asked the Minister to take up with the PostmasterGeneral the need to pay 25c in order to have a guarantee of delivery in Sydney within 24 hours of a letter posted in Canberra before 9.30 a.m. I point out that Sydney is only an hour’s travelling time from Canberra by air. Has the Minister seen an article in today’s New South Wales morning Press stating that a priority mail service costing 10c per letter was introduced on 10 July and already 10,000 articles a week are being handled successfully under this scheme? Anticipating that the PostmasterGeneral will tell the Senate of this scheme in answer to the question I asked yesterday concerning the 25c requirement, I ask: Will the Minister ask the PostmasterGeneral whether he will ensure that members of the Post Office staff are fully informed of the various costs of the differing services available so that people will not be asked to pay 25c for a service that can be obtained for 10c and the staff will be able to explain that the 25c charge is for a personal messenger delivery at the city of destination?
– My understanding of this matter is that yesterday Senator Buttfield asked me a question concerning the amount that was charged to have a faster delivery of mail. As I understand her question, she is informing me again that information concerning what the rates were was not given to her, that she was informed of only one rate, namely 25c, and she now finds that another rate of 10c is also available. My understanding is that an information card or sheet concerning these rates for priority deliveries is available at all post offices. I suggest that the honourable senator should see whether she can obtain one. But I certainly will take the matter up with the Postmaster-General, putting her case before him and endeavouring to see what information is available and to obtain that for her.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Civil Aviation. Does the Government accept the principle of equal pay for equal work? If so, can the Minister advise why New Guinean girls employed as air hostesses receive $35 a week whilst Australian girls doing the same work in the Territory of Papua and New Guinea are paid $58 a week?
– This is news to me. I shall have inquiries made, find out what I can about it and see what 1 can do about it.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for External Affairs. Acknowledging that he is aware of the history of Australian external financial aid to less developed countries, I ask: Is he aware that, according to preliminary figures, obtained from the Development Assistance Committee of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, Australia ranked among the first 3 countries in the world in 1969 in terms of net flow of official aid? Is he aware that until recently Australia had provided all its official aid in grant form? What is the area of official aid that now prohibits Australia from claiming that all its official aid is in grant form?
– It is true, as the honourable senator has suggested in his question, that Australia has a magnificent record in giving aid to less developed countries both in the form of direct aid and in the form of special tariff arrangements we have entered into with respect to underdeveloped countries. It is equally true that we rank among the first 3 countries in the world in terms of our contributions in an overall sense. But the question really requires a documented answer because it would be necessary to show in a reply prepared by the Department the categories of aid, the form it takes and the countries to which it is directed. If the honourable senator puts his question on the notice paper I will obtain a completely comprehensive answer which may well be of tremendous value to us in any subsequent debates that we may have.
-My question is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. I refer to the ministerial statement which he made on Tuesday this week and which he said might answer my question on the proposed nuclear power station at Jervis Bay. The statement was with reference to radioactive fallout. My question related to radioactive waste, which is a rather different matter. I ask: Will radioactive waste be produced by this plant, as is generally the case? By ‘radioactive waste’ I mean the usual production of plutonium, which is radioactive, from uranium, and the possible radioactive pollution of cooling sea water.
Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSONI gave to Senator Mulvihill a fairly comprehensive answer on this matter. My reply dealt not only with flora and fauna but also in some part with radioactive waste. The answer which I gave previously to Senator Wilkinson obviously did not cover the points he had in mind. This morning Senator Keeffe asked a question which is obviously related to the answers I gave previously. In the circumstances I think I had better tidy up the whole question by giving a consolidated answer which will cover any points that it is felt have been missed. That consolidated answer should include details that Senator Mulvihill and Senator Keeffe, in respect of his question about the Atherton Tableland, may feel should have been supplied previously. In that way we should get a comprehensive coverage which will be acceptable to everybody.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Civil Aviation. By way of explanation I would like to say that this week a blind man was conducted round Parliament House while explanations and descriptions given to him were recorded on a tape recorder for later study and reflection. This tour of Canberra was the last leg of a long journey around Australia undertaken by this courageous blind man. He was alone because airline officers were not able to guarantee him that his guide dog could accompany him throughout the long journey. I ask: Is it a fact that Ansett Airlines of Australia certainly, and possibly Trans-Australia Airlines, provide a free passage to a guide dog accompanying its blind master if he is travelling first class, with certain requirements for safety, convenience and hygiene in respect of other passengers? As many courageous blind people desirous of such a service could not afford a first class fare, will the Minister take up with the internal airlines the possibility of extending this generous service to a blind person travelling tourist class?
– That is a very worthy suggestion and I shall take it up immediately.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Prime Minister. Since the Prime Minister has announced the Government’s decision to grant pensions of $7,500 a year to 2 former Governors-General, will the Minister advise the Senate whether such pensions are to be paid retrospective to 1st January 1970, pro rata for the remainder of 1970, or alternatively, from 1st October 1970?
It is true mat as an act of grace it has been decided to pay pensions to 2 former Governors-General. I understand that in one case the payment is supplementary and in the other case it is a new payment. The gentlemen concerned are Sir William McKell and Lord Slim. I cannot give the honourable senator the information he seeks, beyond what I have said. I will obtain further information for him and make it available. I believe that there is an overwhelmingly good reason for doing what is being done in each case.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry aware that the South Australian Egg Board has to transport some of its eggs to other States for the purpose of pulping - a very costly process - because its own pulping plant does not meet the required health standards? Will the Minister confer with the Government with a view to having reconsidered the request of the South Australian Egg Board for a loan to build a new pulping plant? This request was previously rejected. If a loan is granted, the Egg Board will be able to build its own pulping plant, thereby saving the extra cost involved in processing eggs interstate.
– I am not aware of the details to which the honourable member refers. I shall approach the Minister for Primary Industry and obtain some information for the honourable senator, and I shall give it to him when I receive it.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister for Air, refers to complaints by servicemen, including the current public complaint by Flight Lieutenant Refeld, that allowances paid to servicemen transferred from Melbourne to Canberra and other locations are less than those paid to members of the Commonwealth Public Service. I ask the Minister: As it is evident that members of the Royal Australian Air Force and of the other Services are being unfairly treated in respect of allowances, including rent allowances, and other payments as compared with people in private industry and that these disabilities must be adding to the complaints of servicemen which are causing them to leave the Services, will the Minister take action in his own Department to correct the position and also to refer the complaints to the Ministers who are responsible for the other Services?
– I think the honourable senator would realise that when I first took over this portfolio I expressed concern about the rate of allowances paid to those engaged in the particular Service for which I am responsible. I referred in one instance to flying allowances. I can say to the honourable senator that 1 was in the crew room at the Butterworth Air Force base when I announced an increase in flying allowances. In some cases it was almost a 100% increase. If any honourable senator had been there with me at the time he would have noticed the favourable reaction I received when I made the announcement. There was an atmosphere of almost complete jubilation. But since that time a great amount of misconception has arisen about flying allowances and I think that the matter is getting out of hand.
– There would be some Corns in there upsetting them, I suppose.
– I have not said that. A committee has been examining the question of the rates of pay and conditions applying in the Services. For a long time the representatives on this committee have been studying the rates of pay and allowances paid to members of all the Services. The Air Force is represented on this committee by the head of my Department. The committee has made a number of recommendations which are presently being examined. Some of them, such as the increase in flying allowances, have been accepted by the Government. Other recommendations are about to be examined by the Government, and no doubt in due course further announcements will be made.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior. The Minister is no doubt aware of the growing public consciousness of the need for plans for mitigation of the effects of natural disasters, such as floods, fires and cyclones, and the need to gather information for scientific research into the subject. Will the Minister for the Interior, as head of the Division of National Mapping, have a photographic survey made of the flood areas in Tasmania while they are flooded so that the fullest background information relating to this costly flood, and similar floods that occur in the State, could be available for study and evaluation for flood mitigation planning in the future?
– The honourable senator directs a question to me as Minister representing the Minister for the Interior. It is concerned with natural disasters and the gathering of information in order to try to have plans laid ahead for the control of such natural disasters. He has referred to the floods in Tasmania. I am sure that every honourable senator sympathises with the Tasmanians and hopes that something can be done to alleviate their position and to help them. The Division of National Mapping is within the Department of National Development, but fortunately, as I also represent the Minister for National Development, I can direct the honourable senator’s inquiry to the Department of National Development.
I think I should say to the honourable senator that the Division of National Mapping is a very forward looking and progressive division. One of the great romances in Australia has been the national mapping work carried out by the Division. It is well worthy of study. I think the honourable senator would find that the Division of National Mapping had most of the data necessary for evaluating the Tasmanian problems. Nonetheless, I will have inquiries made for the honourable senator to ascertain whether this information has been made available to the Tasmanian authorities which are, in some areas, the responsible authorities for natural disaster control in that State.
– Is the Leader of the Government in the Senate aware that at a ladies Liberal Party meeting this week Justice Roma Mitchell, Australia’s only female judge and a most distinguished feminist, warned that because of the continual increase in the cost of living all women in the very near future would have to .work to provide a second income? Might I say that this certainly is a grim picture for the future. Will the Government institute an investigation into this matter in order to stop this vicious increase in prices and, if need be, introduce price control on essential everyday commodities thereby trying to give some protection to parents with young families where the wife is unable to take an extra job, to pensioners and to those on fixed incomes?
I shall deal firstly with that part of the question which referred to a purported remark by a judge who was obviously a guest speaker at a Liberal Party branch meeting or women’s rally. It should be clearly understood that when a judge speaks at a meeting such as that, he or she speaks as a guest speaker and in a completely detached way. The comment which has been referred to by the honourable senator could have been made at a Labor Party rally. I would not like honourable senators to think that-
– She was not far off the mark, though.
I do not agree. The honourable senator should not try to tie the judge to a contribution she made at a political party rally. Quite obviously, as a guest speaker she could have been speaking in a completely detached way. As to the second part of the honourable senator’s question, 1 point out that what the States do in relation to price control is a matter within the constitutional responsibility of the States. Unless the States exercise their prerogative to implement price control, that is outside the province of the Commonwealth. The third thing I say to the honourable senator is that he is drawing a very long bow when he tries to tie to the subject matter of his question something that was said by a guest speaker at a political function.
– Has the attention of the Minister representing the Minister for Education and Science been drawn to a recent statement made by the Principal of the Armidale Teachers College, Mr A. R. Crane, in which he is alleged to have said that a crisis in teacher education was developing throughout Australia? Will the Minister obtain the text of Mr Crane’s address and examine its contents to ascertain the reasons prompting such a forthright and critical statement?
– Although the statement lacks any element of novelty, I shall be pleased to obtain it to “glean from it such new information as I can. This morning I have already troubled the Senate to listen to statistics which show that over the last decade the increase in expenditure on education has been striking indeed and a very great achievement on the part of governments. Nevertheless there still remains a lot to be done, but it is quite unavailing to describe the situation in teacher education in catch terms such as ‘crisis’. We should identify need and then not only supply the money but supply the knowledge and work that will solve the problem.
– My question is again directed to the Minister representing the Prime Minister. The Minister will recall that a few moments ago he drew my attention to a statement that he made on 25th August regarding nuclear fallout and invited me to ask another question if 1 were not satisfied with his answer. I am not satisfied with the reply. I now ask the Minister whether he can supply the Parliament with exact and up to date details of the measurement of the following nuclear fallout elements: Caesium 137, strontium 90 and iodine 131? Can measurements be given for the following areas: Launceston, Tasmania and the Atherton Tableland, north Queensland?
As I indicated earlier I will now set about getting a consolidated reply to the questions asked about nuclear fallout. I would like to incorporate in that reply the answer to the matter that Senator Keeffe has just raised and eventually to give all the infor1mation to the Senate. I will certainly include the matter he has raised in the matters for consideration. I am assured that at no stage has there been any indication of danger to health on the Atherton Tableland, nor is a danger expected to arise. I expect that when we receive an answer to the various inquiries that have been made it will reassure Senator Keeffe and the people on behalf of whom he has raised this question. As to the point subsequently made by Senator Wilkinson, it is true that the statement made last week in response to a question asked by Senator Mulvihill did not go far enough to cover the question asked today. Therefore we will have to take that matter up also.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Housing. Can she state the reasons for the likely further decline in home building this quarter in New South Wales while, as she said in reply to Senator Dame Ivy Wedgwood earlier this morning, there is likely to be an increase in home building this quarter in the other States.
– I think Senator McClelland has misunderstood or misheard me. This is not intentional, 1 know. First of all I said that during the June quarter there was a small decline in the level of home building. Then I referred to the rate of commencements during the March quarter which reached the record rate of almost 140,000 dwellings per annum. I then went on to say:
The number of dwellings to be commenced in the current quarter is likely to be little different from the number commenced in the June quarter although there may be a further decline in New South Wales.
That is the point the honourable senator took. He stated that I said, as I understood him, that the number of dwellings to be commenced in the current quarter was to be increased. I want to make it perfectly clear that what I said was:
The number of dwellings to be commenced in the current quarter is likely to be little different from the number commenced in the June quarter.
I then went on, after referring to New South Wales - and I will come back to this later - to say that I believe that after this quarter we will see, as a result of the money that is going into housing, the numbers rising and a trend towards an increase in the housing figures. Then the honourable senator referred to my comment that there may be a further decline in New South Wales. Let me explain to the honourable senator - and, of course, he knows this - that there is more than one stage in a housing programme. There is the stage of applying for a loan, then that of obtaining the required money; then we have the approvals figure, then the commencements figure and finally the figure for completions. I remind the honourable senator, as I thought I had already done, that the decline in the number of housing loans made and dwellings approved for construction in the June quarter would almost certainly result in a further decline in commencements in the current quarter. This is because of the decrease in housing loans. The States most affected are Western Australia, New South Wales and Queensland during the period about which I was speaking in discussing the decline in housing loans and dwellings approved for construction, that is, the June quarter. But now I say that we will shortly be seeing an increase in housing figures because of the amount of money which is being made available for housing loans. What 1 said to the honourable senator this morning was that a newspaper article disclosed that a report issued by the Permanent Building Societies Association Ltd in Sydney yesterday showed that New South Wales housing loans rose by 200% in July. This, of course, must affect the commencements in New South Wales.
– But you say there is likely to be a further decline.
– I said that there may be, on the figures that we have, a decline in commencements in this quarter. But, as 1 have said, the increased money that is coming in now must begin to show a rising trend in housing before the end of this year.
– In New South Wales as well as the other States?
– All Australia. I believe that all over Australia as the money flows through we will see an increase in approvals and an increase in commencements. I believe that after this quarter the figures will show a rise in housing figures throughout Australia.
– I direct a further question to the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Transport. Will the Minister investigate the circumstances of an oil spillage that occurred in the last 72 hours in Botany Bay and which is of serious concern to the Kurnell Citizens Anti-Pollution Committee which is unable to obtain any information about it from the local oil refinery?
– I first heard of this matter this morning. What I am not clear about is whether this purported spillage is from the oil refinery or from a ship either taking on or discharging oil. If the honourable senator has any other information about this which he can let me have I will be glad to receive it because I shall be making immediate inquiries for him.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Supply. I refer to the work load at Woomera and at the Weapons Research Establishment at Salisbury and a report that there will be a British satellite launching sometime in September. I ask the Minister whether the redundant staffs from the operations of the European Launcher Development Organisation have been satisfactorily re-employed as a result of changes at both places. I also ask: What are the future prospects for similar launchings or activities both at Woomera and at Salisbury which would keep the present skilled and scientific staff maintained in employment?
– Some time ago, I think in response to a question asked by Senator Bishop, I gave a pattern of what would possibly happen with the staff at Woomera and Salisbury. It was thought a component would be absorbed through the Service. I know of no change to the reply 1 gave then. As to the workload at Woomera, the curtailing or the closing down of the European Launcher Development Organisation programme is the loss of a very valuable client. Let us acknowledge that. But it should be understood that the workload at Woomera is still significant. Australia has an agreement with the United Kingdom in relation to a joint project and that will continue for a number of years. Other proposals, some classified but most not classified, are in process. All in all the position at Woomera has not changed since I gave the honourable senator an answer some time ago. If he wants the answer updated I will be happy to have that done for him.
- Mr President, I respectfully address a question to you as a very just and fair President. By way of preface I illustrate my dilemma and that of Senator Fitzgerald by referring to the labourers in the vineyard in biblical days. We know some of them started work at 6 in the morning and worked until 6 at night in the heat. They received 2d a day. The other workers started at 4 o’clock in the cool of the evening and they also received 2d a day. I respectfully put to you, Sir, that question time started shortly after 11 a.m. and it was 11.45 a.m. before Senator Fitzgerald or myself received a call. When my Leader asked a question and two or three other honourable senators and myself stood up I noticed you made pencil notations. Do you list the people who from the start stood up seeking to ask a question, or does this not have any interest at all? I do not mind but I have a sense of grievance as has Senator Fitzgerald and as did Senator Dittmer yesterday. I would just like to know the ground rules. I do not object. I respect you. But I would like to know.
– There is quite a simple explanation. In calling honourable senators from the Opposition side I call the Leader of the Opposition first. If the Whip has a question to ask I am duty bound to call him because he may be asking a question for his Party. The honourable senator raised the matter of Senator Dittmer. I think any sensible person would agree that I would not respond to the way in which Senator Dittmer was trying to attract my attention. I would be foolish if I did. As far as Senator Fitzgerald and yourself are concerned, if your Party is agreeable I will give you priority all the time. 1 will even put you ahead of your Leader. But let me tell you this: It is simple enough to be critical. You stand up and look very fiercely at me to make sure that I have seen you. Of course I have seen you. But 1 also see other other honourable senators who have not asked a question. You are a prolific questioner, and good for you. But other honourable senators have rights just as you have and I try to distribute those rights as much as I possibly can. With the incapacity from which Senator Keeffe is suffering, I try to give him an early call to save him the embarrassment of repeatedly standing up. Senator Mulvihill, you receive a good share of question calls. I think you should be the last to complain.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Housing. Can the Minister inform the Parliament of the current waiting period for war service homes finance for new homes and secondhand homes?
– I am very appreciative to Senator Keeffe for asking this question. I have been wanting to answer it for days. Honourable senators will recall that towards the end of the last financial year the period of time before loans for existing dwellings could be granted was altered. There was a waiting period for loans for existing dwellings, but not for people who were building homes. I draw the attention of Senator
Keeffe to the Budget in which there is provision of $60m for war service homes. This represents an increase of $5m on the allocation for the previous financial year. On the test estimates which can be made at the present time it is anticipated that the proposed provision of S60m will be adequate to meet the demands for loans in this financial year. Action is therefore being taken to eliminate the existing waiting time for loans to purchase dwelling houses.
– I ask the Minister for Air whether it is a fact that effective operation of the Phantom aircraft to meet Australian defence requirements will depend upon in-flight refuelling and the use of tanker aircraft because of the Phantom’s short range? I draw the attention of the Minister to a great deal of speculation and the views of a number of aviation writers who have put forward this proposition. Is it proposed, as rumoured, to lease or purchase the recommended manufacturers tanker aircraft or a substitute tanker aircraft?
– There has been a great deal of speculation as to whether we should have tanker aircraft with the Phantoms. On the flight out from America, under the lease arrangements a tanker will be coming with the aircraft. With regard to our own position in Australia, we are studying the tanker situation at present. The aircraft mentioned by writers are the KC135 and the CI 41, but these aircraft are no longer being manufactured. Consequently, at present we are looking at the situation to see whether we can have an aircraft to serve the dual role of transport cum tanker. The aircraft which we are considering is the Boeing 707-320, but until my Department has carried out a thorough examination we will not know what the situation is. Many aviation writers are overlooking the fact that our Phantoms will have external tanks which will give them a very much greater range than the writers are stating in their articles.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Civil Aviation. Is it correct that the landing charges for overseas aircraft in Australia are much higher than those at overseas airports? For a Boeing 707 are these charges roughly of the order of SI, 005 for Sydney as against S591 for London, $388 for Tokyo, S391 for Hong Kong.. S30 at John F. Kennedy Airport. S49 for San Francisco and $34 for Los Angeles? Is it estimated that the landing charge for a Boeing 747 at Sydney will be approximately $2,342, and is it proposed that that charge will be increased by 10% if the new charges go through as forecast in the Budget papers? Can we compare that charge with $1,324 for London, $946 for Tokyo, $926 for Hong Kong, $174 for John F. Kennedy, $130 for San Francisco and $90 for Los Angeles? Will the Minister agree that it is in the interests of our international trade and commerce and the promotion of tourism in Australia to reduce the costs of travel to Australia? Is it especially important for Australia, as the most isolated continent on earth, to see to it that we do everything to remove unnecessary burdens and costs because of the cost of communication and travel to and from Australia? In the light of that, will the Minister tell us how the Government justifies these great charges or, better, will the Minister start afresh to consider the sense of these charges in the light not merely of paying for the costs of installations but also of Australia’s position in the world in trade and commerce and in regard to improving our communications with other countries?
– That is an extremely long question. I do not want to ask that it be put on the Notice Paper; so Mr President, if you and the Senate will bear with me, I will endeavour to answer the points made by Senator Murphy although I could not write them down. I am aware of the figures he has quoted because Pan-American World Airways was good enough to let us have a copy of the letter which it wrote to Senator Murphy and which contained these figures. So, if there are some slight variations when I refer to some figures later on, he will understand that it is because our calculations of what the figures will be do not square entirely with some of the calculations made by Pan-American. The Boeing 747 situation is an estimated situation at the moment, and it is being studied. So these are theoretical calculations, not actual figures. 1 have some very great reservations about Senator Murphy’s request to me to agree with his general propositions. They will come out as I go along. I believe that the Senate and the Australian community are entitled to have this information. Every year the Government reviews air navigation charges, lt does so in the light of a policy of moving gradually towards a position in which the costs of civil aviation facilities attributable to commercial aviation are being more fully recovered.
As announced by the Treasurer - I might say, with my full support - the Budget brought down recently provides for a further increase of 1.0%. In looking at this matter, the Government did not overlook the value of international and domestic air services in the development of the economy, in tourism and in trade. But it has to balance with this other factors in the interests of the Australian people. One aspect that is taken into account is the extent to which the general taxpayer of Australia is called upon to meet the cost of aviation facilities. The total estimated operating costs of the Department of Civil Aviation in 1969-70 were approximately $75ra and its revenues were only $20m. So, the Australian community - .the taxpayers in the broad - have lo find for aviation purposes, apart from the other demands on them, something of the order of $55m.
It is perfectly true - we accept this - that Australian air navigation charges are on the high side. But we have some problems that other countries do not have, such as geographical size, terrain and economic development leading to differences in the levels of aviation facilities provided and the volume of air traffic that uses those facilities. We need to remember that the number of movements at airports such as the John F. Kennedy Airport is 3,000 or 4,000 a day, whereas the number of movements at our airports is very much less than that.
– Aircraft are left up in the stack there for a while, occasionally.
– Yes. Widely varying circumstances, therefore, determine the charges that have to be levied by governments. I am indebted to Senator Murphy for raising this matter. I know that he does so in the general public interest, and I am replying to the Senate in the same sense.
The 1.0% increase announced recently, according to our calculations will mean a charge for a Boeing 707 in and out of Sydney of about $988. We agree that this is probably one of the highest single charges in the world for comparable aircraft. But there are other countries that impose a number of charges, such as passenger charges and fuel charges, which can be shown to be roughly comparable in total with the single Australian charge. The United Kingdom charge for a Boeing 707, on our calculations, is $676 - not the $591 shown in the letter. Charges in the United States vary very considerably from airport to airport. So. comparisons of this character, both on the figures supplied by PanAmerican and our own figures, are not always that valid because there are factors that make the comparisons not on common ground.
Lel me also say to Senator Murphy that our own international carrier, Qantas Airways Lid, is taking about 42% of the movements in and out of Australia, so that the Australian user of Qantas makes his own contribution to that extent. As far as we can tell, the effect on tourism may be measured in this way: The additional cost brought about by a 10% increase in Australian air navigation charges represents less than one-fifth of 1% of the relevant international airline operating costs. On the average aircraft load of passengers, it represents 50c per passenger. Therefore, it is difficult for us to see that we are, in effect, delimiting tourist opportunities. Equally, as a Department we are confronted all the time with increasing demands from international air carriers - particularly those of the United States of America - to fly into Australia, lt does not therefore appear to us that the charges have inhibited Australian opportunities in aviation in any sense at all.
T am quite well aware of the fact that there has been a substantial American lobby in Australia arguing vociferously against our air navigation charges. But the Senate will appreciate, as will Senator Murphy, that my job is to look after the Australian public interest in the first place, and that is what we seek to do. We believe that our facilities are of a very high order. They are very costly to establish. The total cost at Tullamarine, including the cost to the State Government of building the freeway, was about $81m. We think it is fair that the international user of the services should pay something towards their cost. It is admitted that it is a high cost, but after all, it is a free country and we expect that the operators who want to come here will share the burden that is imposed on the Australian community to support those services.
– Will the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service obtain from the Employment Division of the Department of Labour and National Service a statement on employment trends in manufacturing firms which service rural industries in Victoria? I ask this question particularly in the light of a recent statement that one firm manufacturing agricultural implements has been forced to dismiss about one-fifth of its employees. Will the Minister in the course of the report indicate whether his Department has been able to absorb in other positions those employees who have been dismissed?
– The honourable senator’s question strikes in me a note of very keen interest. I shall direct the attention of my colleague to the question, with a view to his providing this significant information.
(Question No. 225)
asked the Minis ter representing the Minister for the Interior, upon notice:
– The Minister for the Interior has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
(Question No. 200)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior, upon notice:
– The Minister for the Interior has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
We would like to point out that we have been unable to give an unqualified audit report regarding the accuracy and reliability of the accounting records kept by the club and the attached financial statements. This matter should be treated by the Executive Committee and members of the club as extremely serious and we trust that immediate action will be taken by members to rectify this position along the lines we have suggested. Our examination has revealed that the accounting books, particularly the cash receipts book, have not been properly kept. In many cases no receipts have been issued for cash received and entries have not been recorded in the cash receipts book. Although we do not intend to criticise any particular person, we trust that the members will appreciate the fact that without these basic recording entries we are unable to prepare accurate financial statements.
(Question No. 204)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior, upon notice:
– The Minister for the Interior has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
and (2) The decision that the sum of $1 per fortnight for males and SO cents per fortnight for females should be deducted from their pay for the purchase of a bus was made by all Aboriginals resident at Yuendumu following discussions held with them by the Yuendumu Village Council. No complaints were made by Aboriginals to the settlement staff at Yuendumu about the deductions Following representations in September 1968 from Mr C. Orr, then a member of the Legislative Council for the Northern Territory, that the deductions did not have the support of all Aboriginals, the deductions were discontinued.
(Question No. 224)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior, upon notice:
– The Minister for the Interior has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question: (!) A settlement was established at Yuendumu in 1946 although the reservation of the Yuendumu Aboriginal Reserve was not proclaimed until 1952.
– I seek leave to make a statement relating to Notice of Motion No. 1, Business of the Senate, in the name of Senator Wood.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Bull) - Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– The notice of motion by Senator Wood relates to the disallowance of the amendments of the Military Financial (Pacific Islanders) Regulations, contained in Statutory Rules 1970 No. 51. Since notice of motion was given, discussions have been held between officers of the Department of the Army and the Standing Committee on Regulations and Ordinances relating to the Committee’s concern with the provisions in those regulations. As a result of the discussions amendments have been drafted which will overcome the Committee’s objection. These have been submitted to the Executive Council for approval.
– I seek leave to make a short statement on this subject.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- Is leave granted? There being no objection leave is granted.
– The Standing Committee on Regulations and Ordinances has had an opportunity to examine the draft regulations which have been submitted to the Executive Council. It agrees that these overcome all objections the Committee had to the original amendments. Honourable senators may recall that on 19 August when this matter was debated, I said on behalf of Senator Wood, Chairman of the Committee, that the draft regulations which met the objections of the Regulations and Ordinances Committee had been submitted to the Executive Council for consideration on 20 August and it was anticipated that the normal course of events would follow. I subsequently learned that circumstances arose to prevent consideration of the matter at last Thursday’s meeting. In view of the Minister’s assurance that amendments have been submitted to the Executive Council - and I believe that the Executive Council dealt with the matter as recently as today - in the absence and at the request of Senator Wood, I withdraw notice of motion No.l Business of the Senate, standing in his name.
– May I have leave to speak on the matter?
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– Time limits are imposed under the Act for notices of motion to be given. Let us take the simple position of this being the last day. This point has arisen before. I think it is important that if a notice is disallowed, it ought to be on the basis that any other senator who would want to move on the matter during the course of the day would be able to do so, because there are special provisions.
– The notice of motion has been withdrawn. You said ‘disallowed’.
– If this notice of motion is withdrawn, as I understand the way the statute operates and as it was discussed on an earlier occasion, the time for notices of motion having passed there would be no opportunity for any other senator to invoke the provisions of the Acts Interpretation Act. I do not anticipate that anyone will in this case. There has been discussion on the merits of how these matters are conducted, but it seems to me quite unfortunate that it should be left to the last day. I do not know whether leave is necessary for it to be withdrawn, but it ought to be on the basis that if any honourable senator does desire to give notice today, even though the time for giving notice of motion is past he ought to be able to do so. Otherwise, by taking this course the Senate is depriving itself of the power to disallow a regulation if it is so minded.
I think we need to pay some attention to how this ought to be dealt with so that we do not have the position in which the rights of an individual senator might be prejudiced. I am not referring to this particular subject matter. I do not regard the existing practice as being satisfactory, and I suggest, with respect, that the Regulations and Ordinances Committee consider a procedure whereby, if a notice of motion is withdrawn, it is done in a way which will give ample opportunity to any other senator to invoke the procedures for disallowance under the Acts Interpretation Act.
– May I have leave to make a very brief comment?
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– I have taken on board what Senator Murphy has said. He took an extreme case involving the premise that in this instance we would be rising, say, in 5 minutes time. He dealt with the effect of withdrawing a notice of motion on the last day, which would prevent any senator who was so minded from moving for disallowance. Senator Murphy has made the point that the
Regulations and Ordinances Committee should be having a look al this issue and discussing it. At a suitable time I have no doubt the Committee will have some comments to offer on this matter and will report back to the Senate.
– by leave - It is proposed that the Senate will rise at 4.30 this afternoon. It is planned that we will deal with 2 short Bills listed on the notice paper. I hope then to ask for leave of the Senate to raise some matters relating to the conduct of the Senate, including days and hours of sitting. Possibly I will do that after luch, Other matters I have in mind are the length of speeches, urgency motions, and the incorporation in Hansard of answers to questions. We may even get to the stage of discussing procedures in relation to petitions. After we have dealt with the 2 Bills on the notice paper, that is, the Anglo-Australian Telescope Agreement Bill and the Book Bounty Bill which, I gather, will not be opposed by the Opposition parties, it is envisaged that this afternoon we will move on to discuss the conduct of our own affairs. 1 understand that the debate will take place on non-party lines and that a free vote will be taken.
Motion (by Senator Murphy) agreed to:
That Notices of Motion Nos 2, 3, 4 and 5, Business of the Senate, be stood over until the next day of sitting.
Motion (by Senator Rae) agreed to:
That Notice of Motion No. 6, Business of the Senate, be postponed until the next day of sitting.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Bull) - The President has received message No. 73 from the House of Representatives requesting concurrence in the appointment of a joint select committee to inquire into and report upon the defence forces retirement benefits legislation. Copies of the message have been circulated to honourable senators.
Motion (by Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson) proposed:
– I would like to support this motion with an amendment. If I might express the amendment in simple terms, it is:
Thai in paragraph (2) the phrases ‘one Senator to be appointed by the Leader of the Government in the Senate’ and ‘one Senator to be appointed by the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate’ be deleted and instead thereof be inserted ‘twu Senators to be appointed by the Leader of the Government in the Senate’ and ‘two Senators :n he appointed by the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate’.
The effect of that amendment would be that on the committee there would be 5 senators - 2 from the Government side, 2 from the Opposition and 1 appointed by the Leader of the Australian Democratic Labor Party. I appreciate that we cannot amend the resolution of the House of Representatives, but I am suggesting that we agree to the principle in the proposal and send a request to the House of Representatives.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Bull) - Do you propose the amendment as a modification?
– Yes. I suggest that the motion be modified in the way that I have indicated. The view is that there ought to be better representation as between the 2 Houses: that there should be equality as between the 2 Houses. The Government would still appoint the chairman of the committee. There would be a chairman, as Ls proposed, from Government parties in the House of Representatives. He would have a casting vote as well as a deliberative vote. The representation would be more consonant with the position as between the Houses and the Senate and between the various parties in this chamber, in that 2 senators would come from the Government side. 2 would come from the Opposition side and 1 would come from the Democratic Labor Party. It would not alter the balance on the committee by adding 2 further senators - 1 from the Government side and 1 from the Opposition side. I do not need to go into the merits of the matter because they have been discussed elsewhere. We are in favour of the topic being investigated. I suggest the amendment as a modification.
– To enable consideration of the amendment, I propose to move that the debate be now adjourned.
Debate (on motion by Senator Wright) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 25 August (vide page 190), on motion by Senator Wright:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– Mr Deputy President, this Bill is the culmination of some years of discussion which has been going on between the United Kingdom , Government and the Australian Government. It arises from the fact - a geophysical fact, actually - that . the best place for viewing all sections of the sky is in the Southern Hemisphere, not too near the Equator and not too near the Antartic Circle. The position in New South Wales which has been chosen as the site for this telescope is admirably suited for a number of reasons. Cloud cover and air pollution are minimal. The site is quite outstanding for a number of reasons.
The construction of this telescope will give Australia a further impetus to carry on work in the scientific and astronomical world. Australia already has achieved outstanding results not only with optical telescope work but also in radio astronomy. I think it is well known that even with our smaller optical telescopes we have been able to achieve some outstanding results in the search of the heavens. We are well in the forefront of research work which has been carried on with radio telescopes. So it is with considerable pleasure that I have to announce that the Opposition believes we have reached the stage when the agreement for the construction and operation of this telescope can be ratified in this Bill. It will be to the benefit not only to Australian scientific circles but also to research which is being carried on in astronomical circles throughout the world.
It is intended to build a 150 inch telescope. It will be quite a large telescope - comparable with the 200 inch telescope at Mount Palomar, which is the largest in the world. It will have a resolution factor which will enable it to be used to considerable advantage for research into the Milky Way and matters pertaining thereto. The Bill also empowers the setting up of a board which will be sited in Canberra. It will control and be responsible for the operation and maintenance of this telescope. I believe that the original intention was that 3 members of the board would be appointed by the Commonwealth Government and that 3 members would be appointed by the United Kingdom Government. Those members will have full responsibility for carrying on at this stage the operation, maintenance and general conduct of the telescope. The Opposition believes that the setting up of the telescope will be a very good example of cooperative arrangement between the United Kingdom Government and the Commonwealth Government. We have much pleasure in supporting the Bill. We will give it a speedy passage.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from 26 August (vide page 242), on motion by Senator Cotton:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– On behalf of the Opposition, I indicate that we do not oppose this Bill. Nevertheless, I believe that some observations should be made in the interests of the people of Australia and of the printing industry. This bounty is not entirely satisfactory. However, I do not criticise the Government for introducing the Bill. The Government believes that this is the best way to attack the problem. It certainly will assist. Nevertheless, other measures and other means of assisting the industry could have been employed to the advantage of the Government and the industry. In that regard I mention books, copy or material sent to overseas countries to be printed. We believe that the success that this Bill will achieve by the provision of a bounty could have been achieved if a tax were placed on the film or the material sent overseas. As a result Australians would not be paying a bounty on the product, but the employer or the individual who sent the material overseas would be required to pay the tax. I offer that suggestion, as I have done previously, to the Government.
I suggest that it would be a particularly good idea if the Minister brought into consultation the unions and the employers to ascertain whether the printing industry is being geared tq the 1970s. Quite frankly, 1 have seen adopted within the industry practices that have operated for many years. It is not only the small printer who is adopting these out of date measures; the big printers are in a similar category. 1 question whether the industry is gearing itself to the requirements of the 1970s. 1 believe that fruitful discussions could be held if the unions, the employers associations and the Minister were to meet on this aspect. The matter is not just one for the present. Apprentices are coming into the industry. They are being trained in methods that were employed when I first served my apprenticeship. These methods are not adopted in other areas of the printing industry. Consequently a lad serves his 4-year or 5-year apprenticeship and is trained in methods that are not successful in 1970. lt is true that those methods were successful when I served my apprenticeship, but they are not successful with the modern trends in printing. 1 seriously offer that suggestion to the Minister. 1 also believe that the Government should take into consideration its position in relation to books printed overseas for Government departments. I have raised this matter before. I have had no reply from the Minister. One example is a publication, issued by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, which was printed overseas and could have been printed in Australia. The situation is a most serious one. It is a serious matter when private employers are sending material overseas to be printed, but I suggest with respect that the situation is even more serious when the Government allows work, which could and should be done in Australia, to go overseas. 1 have also questioned the late arrival of copies of Hansard. I have not had the opportunity for some time to see what takes place at the Government Printing Officer in Canberra, but it appears to me that something is wrong when copies of Hansard are not available to members of Parliament for perusal.
– Does the honourable senator mean the daily Hansard?
– No, not the daily Hansard. I mean Hansard in book form. I again raise the issue on this broad basis. Something must be wrong somewhere else, as well as at the Government Printing Office. Copies of the National Service Act cannot be bought anywhere. If people want to obtain copies of that Act to ascertain their obligations or entitlements, copies should be available. Recently when I tried to buy a copy I found there was none available. I had to get photostat copies of the Act from the Records Office. I also tried unsuccessfully to buy a copy of the consolidated Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act. Surely copies of these Acts should be available for distribution.
– It is disgraceful.
– It is not only disgraceful but very embarrassing if somebody comes to my office and wants to know something about the National Service Act or the Conciliation and Arbitration Act and 1, as a member of the Federal Parliament, have to say: ‘I am sorry, the Commonwealth is unable to make copies available to us*. Perhaps that is stretching the matter a little. Nevertheless, the fact remains that these publications are important documents. They are important to the people, particularly those who are involved in spheres in which the Acts operate. Copies should be readily available for the general public. I hope that the Minister will bring into consultation with him the unions and the employers to ensure that the industry is gearing itself for the 1970s.
– I merely rise to speak for the Democratic Labor Party and to say that we support and welcome this Bill and the proposition which is involved in it. I think Senator Milliners point was well made and has implications beyond what he said. This
Bill of course is to assist by providing a bounty for printers who print books in Australia for State or Commonwealth governments. In the absence of such a bounty that printing is done outside. First of all that is bad, in one sense, in that a modern nation like Australia should attempt to command in available numbers all the available technical skills. After all the presentation of the publications of a nation in the modern world of communication is of great importance and significance. Nations can be known for the level and standard of their various presentations or of their manufactures just as some nations are known for their manufacture of pottery or glassware. It is to be regretted if inferior publications were to emerge from Australia because of the absence of skilled staff to present them.
Senator Milliner said that the Commonwealth Government printery is obviously well behind in ils work and the reason for that undoubtedly would be a shortage of trained manpower. We will continue in that unfortunate condition unless we stimulate the printing industry generally and provide it with work on an economic basis which will attract employment and attract apprentices to the industry. Therefore I would regard this measure as having 2 purposes. First, it will assist Australian publishers, Secondly, it will expand employment and training opportunities for young men in Australia interested in printing and ultimately will help to relieve the tremendous shortage of technicians which has the consequences to which Senator Milliner has referred. On behalf of the Democratic Labor Party I welcome this Bill. We support it.
– Senator Milliner has indicated that the Opposition supports this measure and 1 agree with what he has said. 1 am a little concerned with one aspect of the Bill; that is that we see the necessity for extending the book bounty to cover work done on behalf of the Commonwealth and the States while excluding the work done by the Commonwealth or the States. This will inevitably mean that it will be more economic to get printing done on behalf of the Commonwealth or States than it would be to have it done by the Commonwealth or States.
This is an important matter that ought to be further considered by the Government.
Whilst we welcome the step forward that has been taken we point out that this Bill discriminates strongly against Commonwealth and State printeries. This effect ought to be considered because those printeries are extremely important establishments. We need not go into arguments about public and private enterprise. We know that we need Commonwealth and State printeries. We need them as much as we need transport facilities run by the States and the Commonwealth. There is no real difference of opinion between us on that. I would ask that the implications of this Bill be studied; otherwise we will inevitably have a drive towards taking away the work from those Commonwealth and State printeries.
Next may 1 say that I believe that the efficiency of this industry in Australia needs to be improved. A few years ago we had a committee known as the Joint Select Committee on Parliamentary Papers and Government Publications. I was a member of that Committee, as were Senator Dame Ivy Wedgwood and Senator Toohey. The honourable member for Ballaarat (Mr Erwin) was the Chairman. The name of the other member from this chamber on it evades me for the moment. We found that the printing industry in this country could certainly do with some great improvement. There was an absence of specialised persons, the creative artists to design the work in the industry. There were virtually no typographers, as they were called. There was apparently a complete dearth of them in this country. This was extraordinary. Those in charge of the printing industry were apparently not undertaking the improvement of the industry as a whole with which one would think any great industry would be concerned. That is on the private side.
In relation to Government publications Senator Milliner referred to some difficulty in getting copies of some Acts. The Committee to which I referred was set up by the unanimous vote of both Houses in order to deal with this very problem. Dissatisfaction was so great that the Committee was set tip. The Committee’s conclusions were endorsed by the Cabinet. I understand that an announcement was made that every recommendation was agreed to with one minor exception relating to the standard size of paper. The Cabinet’s decision on this matter was agreed to informally by the Committee. The informal agreement of the Committee was endorsed by the Cabinet so one might say that everything was endorsed by the Government. This Committee of both Houses was set up by a unanimous vote and presented a unanimous report. One would think that the executive authorities would have seen to it that its recommendations were carried out. They have not been carried out.
– What were some of the major recommendations?
– For instance a recommendation which concerns us related to bound copies of Hansard. The bound copies of Hansard for last sittings should be in our hands today if the recommendation of the Committee had been carried out. It has not been carried out.
– Does Senator Murphy mean paper bound copies and not the cloth bound volumes?
– I am saying that the bound final copies of the last sittings should be in our hands. This is a comparatively simple matter to do. In 1969 I could not get a bound copy of the 1967 Acts of this Parliament, let alone the 1968 ones. I tried without success to get a bound copy from the Government Printing Office. Of course it was not available in Sydney. Finally in desperation I approached the head of the Public Service Board to see if anything could be done, but the impasse in printing seems to be so great that not even the Chairman of the Public Service Board could possibly do anything to get the work of the Commonwealth Government printery up to date. We are among the first to be supplied with bound copies of Acts, but it is now August 1970 and we have not received the bound copy of the 1969 Commonwealth Acts. We do not even have the 1968 ones. This is not satisfactory.
– We cannot get copies of the consolidation after 1950 either.
– This is right. Of course the annotated supplement is away behind. All of this in a very practical way makes it difficult for us to do our work. I constantly find a problem here in attending to the questions which come up on legislation. It is all very well to get these things years after the event. They can form part of the historical record.
– That is not a criticism of the Printing Office, is it? It is doing its best.
– Let us leave it this way: I am not satisfied that those responsible are doing their best. Where the blame is to fall I do not know.
– The Printing Office did a magnificent job under pressure in printing the report of the Senate Select Committee on Water Pollution; I must say that.
– I thank Senator Byrne for that information. I am pleased to know that is so. I would still like to see our bound Acts and bound Hansards available within a reasonable time, in accordance with the recommendations of the Committee which were endorsed by the Government. Generally the printing industry is composed of highly skilled persons of whom we are proud. We would like to see improvement in this industry so that it can compete effectively with printing industries overseas. The bounty is a step towards protecting the industry but ought not be looked upon as a solution to all its problems. It ought to become more efficient, and that requires efficiency at all levels. There ought to be efficiency in management. We ought to have the best skills, the best techniques and so on. There ought to be no feather-bedding either in management or in labour. I do not think that anyone would tolerate inefficient practices in industry at any level.
We would like to see increased productivity and to see the benefits of that flow not only to the community by having the printing done here but also in better wages and conditions for those who are working in a highly skilled trade. This industry is extremely important to us for the reasons mentioned by Senator Byrne, including the presentation of Australia overseas and the provision of employment. We must remember that the emphasis in Australia is turning away extremely rapidly from not only the primary industries but also the heavy secondary industries and towards the service industries of which printing is really one. Printing does not mean merely the production of goods; it is really a service industry, and more and more employment opportunities and activities in trade and commerce will be in such areas. We cannot afford to fall behind other countries. This bounty ought to be looked upon as an opportunity for the industry to get itself into gear. It should be looked on as something that is temporary. The industry should look not to bounties but to improving its efficiency and being able to compete through superior organisation and superior skills. We hope and trust that our printing industry will be an example to the rest of the world and that we may look forward to other countries having their books printed, here instead of us having our books printed overseas. I therefore commend the Bill to the Senate but I would ask that the other feature of the exclusion of the Commonwealth and the Slates be looked at.
– in reply - Although we are eating into our lunch hour at a fairly fast rate the Senate is entitled to consideration of some of the excellent suggestions that have come forward in this very brief debate. I know that the Opposition accepts the Bill and, as I said, it offered some suggestions which will certainly go forward to the Minister. I appreciate the comments made by all honourable senators, and in particular those of Senator Milliner who speaks from a lifetime of experience in the printing and book publishing trades. All I want to say to the honourable senator without taking up too much of his time is that my own experience in industry prior to coming here was that there is tremendous benefit in management and the people who work in an industry getting together on the common problems of the industry. That view has certainly always had my support and always will. The comments made by Senator Milliner, Senator Byrne and Senator Murphy will be communicated to the responsible Ministers. One or two brief points should be made. The printing of Hansard is fundamentally a matter which comes under the responsibility of the Treasurer and not of the Minister for Customs and Excise, but I will see that the comments about delays in the printing of Hansard are sent forward.
The printing of publications overseas for the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation has been due in the past to lower costs, but the proposed amendment should help to overcome this problem. The question of costs and labour, etc, in the printing industry will be and. I believe, is being studied by the Tariff Board. I understand that the point made by Senator Murphy is that the exclusion of Commonwealth and State publications from the bounty perhaps reduces the chances of the industry becoming big enough to get itself perhaps into a stronger position. As I understand it, it is a capital intensive industry. It is true that it is one of the industries on the tertiary side that Australia is well qualified to conduct on the most modern and up to date scale with all the new devices of computer typesetting and the very latest techniques that can properly be brought in and are things which properly, this being a capital intensive industry, we as a country with high living standards can perhaps develop more effectively than some other countries. Accordingly I accept the various views put forward and thank honourable senators for them. They will be put forward to the appropriate Minister. I would also express the gratitude of the Minister for Customs and Excise (Mr Chipp) for the passage of the Bill without opposition although with those observations.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Sitting suspended from 1.2 to 2.15 p.m.
[2.15] - Mr President, I ask leave of the Senate to move a motion and to debate the question of the sitting hours of the Senate.
– There being no objection leave is granted.
– I need to make some preliminary comments on this matter. This is rather an historical occasion for the Senate as we will be debating a proposition relating to the sitting days of the Senate. In this type of debate it is understood that we will have a completely open and free discussion and we are not bound by the decision of any Party Caucus or by Party barriers. Each one of us will express his own view in an attempt to reach a decision on the sittings of the Senate. In that context it is necessary for somebody to act as the guinea pig. Since I am the Leader of the Government in the Senate I propose to move a motion and speak to it. Naturally it will be open to the leaders of the other parties to exercise their priorities to speak if they want to do so. Then every honourable senator can speak for himself about the matter.
I shall go a little beyond the motion relating to the sittings of the Senate to forecast for honourable senators where we go after we deal with the first item. I have in mind that, if not this afternoon, certainly next week, we should continue by arrangement our discussion in relation to the management of the Senate. I hope to bring forward for open and frank discussion the question of the limitation of times of speeches, the procedure for urgency motions, the possibility of the incorporation of questions on notice in Hansard and possibly the procedure for looking at and handling petitions. That is for the future. At the moment I direct the attention of honourable senators to the question of sittings of the Senate. I move:
I have asked my staff to run off copies of the motion and I will circulate them as quickly as I can. I shall hand the copy I have to the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Murphy) because I feel I can speak to the motion without having it in front of me. It is envisaged that when we come back after the present cycle of the 3 weeks sitting we then have a week off because of our commitment to the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association. The Parliament will then go into a new period of sittings in October. It is intended that commencing with that series of sittings in October the procedure I have suggested should be adopted. For the purpose of description I shall call it the 3 weeks cycle. I think that is an easy way to describe what is being talked about. To an extent this proposal is geared to a decision which has already been taken in another place to adopt a 3 weeks cycle commencing with the October sittings. The only difference between what I am proposing and what has been decided in the other place is that the other place has agreed to a 3 weeks cycle - that is sitting for 2 weeks and having a week off - with the days of sitting declared as Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday of one week and then Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday of the following week. In my proposal I have suggested the Senate should adopt the cycle of 2 weeks sitting and 1 week oil but that we should not commit ourselves to the days of sitting. The reason I have put that proposal is that we have 60 senators as distinct from the House of Representatives which has 125 members. Inferentially we should be able to dispose of our work which, in the main, comes from the other place in a far more restricted period.
The most important aspect is that if honourable senators adopt the 3 weeks cycle, with the 2 weeks sitting, we have to bear in mind that in our own right as senators we have evolved a committee system - a process of considering matters by the committee method. We have select committees and quite a number are in existence. Notice of motion was given this morning for the establishment of another select committee. We also have our obligations in relation to joint statutory committees. Today I put down a resolution to embark upon another joint select committee. The debate on whether there should be more honourable senators on that committee has been adjourned but nevertheless it is another commitment for the Senate. In addition we have resolved to embark upon a standing committee system which envisages 7 standing committees. Subjects will be referred to them from the Senate in session.
I have to speak for myself because I am the fellow who is putting this proposal. I believe complete justification exists for us not to bind ourselves in this cycle to sitting on the Friday or the Monday. I certainly envisage that during that period when we are sitting in the cycle it may well be that we could do considerable committee work either on the Friday of one week or the Monday of the next week. All this proposal does is to suggest that we link ourselves with the other House to the extent that we agree to this proposed cycle of the 3 weeks sittings; that is, agree in principle but not necessarily endorse that we sit as a Senate on the Friday or the Monday. At all times I have in mind that we would have work to do in committee fields if we chose to do it and, in the circumstances, if it is the will of the Senate, we might elect to sit on the Friday or the Monday. That will be a matter for a decision of the Senate when the appropriate time comes.
– Senator, are you suggesting a 3 weeks cycle or a 3 weeks sitting?
– 1 am sorry, I was hoist on my own petard. I am suggesting a 3 weeks cycle in which we sit for 2 weeks and have 1 week off.
– Are you suggesting the decision as to whether we sit on each Friday should be made each week?
Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSONNo. In the normal circumstances we have a provision for sitting on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. I do not propose to alter that at all unless the Senate took a decision that, for some reason, it wanted it altered. Our justification for not following the House of Representatives to the ultimate in this 3 weeks cycle conceptis because it is envisaged that on those Fridays and Mondays we may be doing committee work. That will be a judgment of the committees when the lime comes. There are tremendous advantages iri our being in the same 3 weeks cycle because we belong to political parties and party discussions will take place in those parties while the Parliament is in session. Therefore if we are in the same cycle as the House of Representatives we will not incommode ourselves in relation to such things as party meetings, sub-committees of party meetings and things of that nature. I suggest that there is good reason why we should follow the House of Representatives in the 3 weeks cycle principle without necessarily committing ourselves to Monday and Friday sittings. I think 1 have covered the matter widely enough for everybody to have an understanding of how the system would function. I would merely say in conclusion: Let the Senate speak and say what it wants.
– Are you moving in this direction?
Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSONYes, 1 have done so.
– What is the motion?
My motion is:
That the Senate agrees in principle that the sittings of the Senate should be on the basis of 2 weeks of sitting followed by I week’s adjournment, wilh the actual sitting days to be decided upon by the Senate, as the occasion arises.
– lt seems to me that in common sense we should agree at least with the first part of what has been proposed by the Leader of the Government (Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson).
– As to the 3 weeks cycle?
– Yes, that the Senate should agree in principle that the sittings of the Senate should be on the basis of 2 weeks of sitting followed by I week’s adjournment. I suggest that we should in common sense agree to this because we have raised in this chamber - I spoke on this earlier in the year - a proposal to sit more days, lt was suggested that we sit on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday followed by Monday, Tuesday. Wednesday and Thursday. We had some discussion of that. 1 believe that eventually we got to the point where we could not really proceed with the proposal because it would have put us out of gear with the House of Representatives, m the way that these things work the proposal has now come up through the House of Representatives where it has been adopted in principle. I think that in common sense we should agree lo that. Otherwise we will be out of gear. I assume that there would he fairly general agreement on that point. There may not be agreement, but I imagine that that is the sense of the Senate.
As to the remainder of the motion, that the actual sitting days be decided by the Senate as the occasion arises, I do not know. I am still of the view that we should sit on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday followed bv Monday. Tuesday. Wednesday and Thursday. If (here is a marked difference of opinion on this aspect of the motion 1 would suggest, with respect to the Leader of the Government, that a very happy way of dealing with the matter would be to subdivide the motion and to deal with the first part of the motion, on which I think there would be almost unanimous agreement, and then deal separately with the other part of the motion.
– Do you mean to deal with the first part of the motion down to the word ‘adjournment’?
– Yes, because there might be differing opinions on what days we should sit. If we can get a general consensus on the cycle I believe that we might dispose of the matter almost without argument.
– The last two lines of the motion were added so as not to inhibit anybody who would accept the change and to enable them to discuss the matter as the occasion arises.
– Some honourable senators may say that they want a cycle of 2 weeks on and 1 week off but others may say that this should be decided when the time arrives. Others may say that they want the matter settled beforehand. However, 1 believe that there would be a consensus on the cycle proposed. I suggest that we might very easily dispose of the matter relating to the 3 weeks cycle. I believe that it is always better to separate the matter upon which agreement can be reached. If we can agree on that it would be an easy matter to dispose of.
– Will your Party have a free vote on this?
– Yes. I indicated the other day that there should be a free vote. On all these questions of days, times and alterations of procedures, my Party is approaching the matter as one for a free vote. These are matters on which each senator may speak as he thinks proper. I am speaking for myself.
– May I interrupt to point out one weakness in what is being suggested? If we break the motion into 2 parts we are in the difficulty that some senators may want to vote for the first part if they believe that the second part will be binding in relation to Fridays and Mondays. That is why 1 proposed the motion in its present form.
– That is so, senator; it is conditional upon what we do in the other days.
– Keeping the other matter free for further decision.
– I understand that. We may find out the feeling on this as the debate proceeds, but it is my thought that it might be preferable first to adopt the 3 weeks cycle. Frankly I would rather see us accept as our sitting days the Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday and Friday followed by the Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday and then, if we did not want to sit on a paticular night, we could agree not to sit on that night. I think that would be a more satisfactory arrangement.
– I do not think your back bench senators or our back bench senators would have much say about sitting nights once we adopted sittings on 4 days a week.
– I do not know about the honourable senator’s Party, but I can tell him that my Party is a very democratic body. If the honourable senator has the impression that in some way these things are decided by me in an arbitrary fashion he needs to be better informed because it is a very mistaken impression. Only so much rein is given in this peculiarly democratic position where all are peers and all are .equals. Although one might be the spokesman, if he starts to make suggestions which are out of accord with the wishes of his fellows he will soon learn differently, as I have had occasion to learn in the past. This is a matter for an entirely free debate. My suggestion is that we should stipulate the sitting days. I do not know whether at this stage we need a formal amendment, but I propose, if it will help to elucidate the matter, that we deal with the two parts separately and determine first the sitting days.
– 1 can agree with that.
– My amendment would be:
Leave out the words ‘with the actual sitting days to be decided upon by the Senate as the occasion arises.’
I have in mind to insert in their place the following words: > and that the sitting days would be Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday followed by Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.
That would be on the understanding that, as the Leader of the Government suggests, if we thought we should not sit on some particular days we would not sit.
– Would you add to that the thoughts you have hud with regard to the sittings of committees of the Senate and the days on which they will sit?
– ls the honourable senator asking me to suggest those days now?
– 1 am certain that the Leader of the Opposition had it in mind to discuss this matter. If we are considering cycles, obviously committees would sit in the third week.
– I think we should establish times for sittings of the Senate, and sittings of the Committees would fit into those times. I do not regard sittings of committees as in some way an alien matter. It seems to me that if we decided that select committees should sit on a Friday instead of the Senate sitting as a whole Senate or as a Committee of the Whole, that would be entirely appropriate. But 1 hope that at some stage we will adopt a more realistic approach to the times of sitting. If honourable senators want to know how my mind is working on this whole matter, although it is not entirely on this subject, let me say that I would like to see the Senate operating in this way: We would sit on committees in the mornings on days on which we were not having party or Cabinet meetings-
– You are covering a broad canvass, are you not? Cannot we make a decision on this motion?
– lt is true that this is not strictly relevant to this motion; but, if honourable senators want to hear my views on this, I will give them. Then I would like to see the Senate sitting from 2 p.m. until about 7 p.m., when it would stop. I do not think it is reasonable that any body of men such as ourselves should start, as we do, at 9 a.m. - whether in party, executive or Cabinet meetings or elsewhere - and then sit here until 11 or 12 o’clock at night. I do not think that is sensible. If we were to start at 9 a.m. and finish at about 7 p.m., 1 think it would be more healthy and more efficient. That is my view, it would enable us to attend to committee work in the mornings, when there were party or Cabinet meetings. If we needed extra days, such as the Mondays or Fridays, we could use them for committee work. I am not dogmatic about this, but it seems to me to be a reasonable way in which the Senate could work. I do not think the present setup is sensible al all. We inherited it, and we should realise that there is nothing sacrosanct about it and try now to evolve reasonable sitting days and times suited to our needs. That is what I have in mind, but I have not a closed mind on it by any means.
I ask the Leader of the Government in the Senate to let us deal with the first part of his motion first. If he will accept that proposal, he might modify his motion accordingly. Alternatively, I will move for the deletion of the words at the end of the motion.
– I think you should move for the deletion of the last part of the motion; otherwise it might inhibit a senator who wants to vole for the first part only on the understanding that the subject matter of the second part will be left open. I cannot afford to seek to amend the motion because by doing so I would be prejudicing somebody who wanted to vote for it only on the basis of knowing what will happen about the second part.
– J move as an amendment:
Leave out alt words after ‘adjournment’.
I do so on the understanding that there is no party question about it at all and that it is merely a convenient vehicle for having the matter discussed. I will not be concerned in the slightest if my colleagues support the Leader of the Government in the Senate-
– 1 think you had better call me ‘Senator Anderson’ for the purposes of this exercise.
– I will not be concerned in the slightest if my colleagues support Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson because I want to have the matter in a convenient form in which to bc dealt with.
– I believe that it is desirable that matters such as this be discussed and settled in an atmosphere of co-operation. I rise merely to say that the members of the Australian Democratic Labor Party have been told that they may vote freely on all the issues that are to come up for decision, as, I understand, is the case with other senators; but all the members of my Party agree with what is set out in this proposal. We see nothing wrong with it. We believe that it is a good idea to say that the actual sitting days shall be decided as the occasion arises, because we are entering a period in which we will be experimenting with committees. In these circumstances it is a good idea to leave a decision on the days of sitting as open as possible. For that reason, whilst we members of the Democratic Labor Party have no desire to obstruct any co-operation that may be felt desirable, we believe that this proposal is the right way to deal with the matter and we are prepared to vote for it.
Senator Sir MAGNUS CORMACK (Victoria) [2.40] - I wish to raise a matter that I believe is built into the motion that has been moved by the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson). I have heard Senator Murphy, standing in his place here in the Senate, say that the validities and virtues of the Senate should be preserved. I found myself on that occasion, as I find myself today, of the same opinion. I wish to remind honourable senators of how this matter has crept into the Senate underneath the doors, as it were. Let me remind honourable senators of what happened.
It was agreed in the House of Representatives - since it seems to be the fashion these days, I will not use the traditional expression - that the Standing Orders Committee of that House should sit and examine the problem, as the House saw it, that related to the sitting days, times and periods of the House. On that Committee sat the Prime Minister (Mr Gorton) and the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Whitlam). Then last week the report of the Standing Orders Committee of the House of Representatives was brought before the House, as I understand it, by Mr Speaker, and it was debated for 3 days. The House of Representatives then came to the conclusion that the proposed cycle that we have before us today was the method by which that House should sit and conduct its business.
There are 2 interesting points to observe from that. One is that the matter was referred to the Standing Orders Committee of the House of Representatives, which produced a report. The other is that the House then decided that that was the way it wished to have its sittings. In this process there was one significant parliamentary and constitutional point that was advanced, maintained and sustained, and that was that the House should refer to its appropriate committee a full examination of the problem that apparently arose and caused the Standing Orders Committee of the House to sit and report.
It is conclusive, on the experience I have had in the last week, that in this context the House of Representatives paid no regard whatsoever to the Senate. It did not consider in any way what were the problems that confronted the Senate. It just moved to adopt the proposal. Now, sneaking underneath the doors of the Senate comes this motion which the Senate has not had enough time to look at. I have been a soldier and I have been a politician. As a soldier, I have a good look at the ground over which I am to advance because, as likely as not, it is filled with mines. As a politician, I know that there are many booby traps unless these matters are fully examined.
I consider that, at the very least, any proposal that related to the conduct of the business of the Senate should have been discussed between the managers of the 2 Houses at some level or should have been the subject of some expression of opinion by the Senate as a result of which our Standing Orders Committee could have examined this matter pari passu with the examination by the House of Representatives. But it is now brought into the Senate as a whole with very little warning, and we are expected to embark upon a process of changing the sittings of the Senate to conform with decisions that have already been taken in another place. The problems that are involved are not yet fully discerned. At this stage I will not say anything further, except to indicate that the matters that will flow from this motion, if it is carried, will be examined by me at least in some depth before we reach final conclusions on the matters that are buried inside this motion.
Senator POYSER (Victoria) 12.441-1 support with some reservations the motion moved by Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson. I have some misgivings in relation to the situation outlined by Senator Murphy because the Senate has a freedom that does not exist in another place in relation to normal debates, question time and other matters. 1 can visualise, that if we reach the stage where we are sitting 3 days a week for 2 weeks and then not sitting for a week, we will be sitting for far fewer hours than we are now. I expected that any system to be introduced would give us a number of sitting hours at least equal to those operating at present, and would involve less travelling for senators, particularly for those who live in the States furtherest from the capital. We should introduce more sanity into our sitting arrangements. Now I find that we are discussing a system of sitting for 3 days in each of 2 weeks and then adjourning for the third week, accompanied by a move to restrict question time. Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson has indicated a desire to curtail our present privileges in respect of questions on notice.
– Only for incorporation in Hansard.
– Yes. I for one would not support cutting down our present privileges. If we desire to use the time, it is available to us to speak for longer periods. I can visualise a return to the situation that exists in another place, where a time limit of half an hour instead of an hour is imposed. Should that method be introduced here I could visualise that the guillotine, which has been rarely used in my time in the Senate, would be used more frequently to enable the Senate to get through the business. Under the new system we would be sitting far fewer days, if flexibility was retained and the numbers in the Senate were great enough to force an adjournment on Thursday nights.
The first that I heard of the proposal was at a meeting in the Senate Club Room called by the Labor Party. Our aim was to introduce more sanity into our sitting hours. It was proposed that members stay in Canberra over the weekend, perhaps using that time for party committee work, and not necessarily for parliamentary committee work. If it were to be used for parliamentary committee work that would be an imposition on the staff that I would not care to support. We now sit on 3 days for each of 3 weeks and then have off a period of about 10 days. If we are to have off a period of 12 days after sitting for 2 weeks our present privileges will have to be cut if we are to get through the business of this House.
– You are taking 2 weekends when you refer to 12 days.
– Certainly. We will rise on the Thursday night instead of on the Friday night. Senators who live in the closer States to Canberra will be home early Friday morning, while others will be home a little later. We will not then return to Canberra until the following Tuesday week. This is the general proposal. We will be sitting far fewer hours than we sit now. This involves a tremendous danger because in the Senate we will have to cut our speaking times to suit the sitting hours. I appreciate that there are members who are willing to leave this place the day after they arrive here if it is possible to do so. I want to see that the privileges we now enjoy are not cut back.
I understand that in the early days of the Senate no limitation whatever was placed on the length of speeches and that a filibuster could take place on a matter of principle. That situation no longer obtains in the Senate. Perhaps it is a move for the better, perhaps for the worse. Let us not make today a decision that on some future occasion will limit this House to a continuous sitting period of only 3 days a week until the last fortnight of the session when we will be sitting 4 days a week, and around the clock. Associated with a system like this there has to be a real attempt by the Government to bring business before the Senate, in the early stages of the session. Unfortunately I was not able to attend here in the last week of the last session when the Senate sat for greatly extended hours. We on this side of the chamber and many Government members have often pleaded for action to be taken in respect of the method of presentation’ of business in this Parliament.
– Would not longer sitting hours in the House of Representatives ensure that now?
– Perhaps so, but there is also the danger I have suggested, of a cutting back of our privileges in association with it. Last session Bills were introduced in the House of Representatives which did not see the light of day in the Senate until 6 or 7 weeks, later although in the early stages of the session we could have handled those Bills without any trouble. 1 agree with the principles that have been laid down by Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson. I would like the Senate to have an opportunity to vote also on the days of sitting but my first thought is to ensure that our rights to speak, at question time particularly, and our other rights will not be interfered with in order to tailor the business of the Senate to the times that members want to sit. That is my only fear. I think we are now approaching with more sanity the problems of travelling that face members coming from Queensland and Western Australia, for instance, but let us not make that approach at the expense of cutting back, our privileges.
– I wish to put my individual view with regard to the proposal. I would hope that my position in this matter has been well known for the last 12 or 15 years. I am strongly in favour of the proposal and I shall briefly state my reasons. As to the travelling of senators from outlying places and States, the travelling effort today is altogether incommensurate with the time spent on a weekly basis here in Canberra. Further, the cost of travelling must be reduced if the proposed system is adopted; that is to say, a 3 weeks cycle instead of a 4 weeks cycle. If I were to come to Canberra for 2 weeks, interrupted only by a Saturday and Sunday, I would usually stay here over the weekend and therefore would continuously consider parliamentary matters over those 2 weeks without interruption by electoral matters or matters pertaining to business other than Parliament. I think that is a great opportunity for added efficiency in this area.
I also believe that to go home for 2 weekends and 1 week, with the knowledge that that would recur regularly, would give an opportunity to plan electoral work, and also a degree of leisure at home on a much better basis than applies at present, whereby we try to travel over the weekends. The House of Representatives has now considered this matter after great resistance over a number of years, lt was not considered in any degree surreptitiously, secretly or suddenly. The House of Representatives took this matter on to the floor of the House and decided on a vote of its members.
– An open vote.
– It was decided on an open vote of members by 66 ayes to 39 noes. I think we should recognise that we are merely one of two Houses. It is of the utmost importance for the proper operation of Parliament that in the mechanics of consultation of each other’s view and considering each other’s Bills and proposals, from the point of view of sittings we ought to be available to each other as nearly as possible on a basis of conformity. I am dealing with the question from the point of view of times of sitting. One has to reflect only upon the advantage which would be gained, if we were to sit during the same weeks as the House of Representatives sat, from the point of view of party consultations and joint committee discussions - whether they be party committees or parliamentary committees.
Then there is the further fact that the Parliament can operate only with the aid of the services that are available - the broadcasting, dining and other staff services which are available to us and without which we would be infinitely less able to discharge our duties. If we are going to allow for the practicable, mechanical arrangements of those services which are provided by the various members of the staff, I would think that, unless there is some real reason in principle for us to disagree with this proposed new cycle, the only practical course would be for us to join with the other House in the arrangements which it has made for times of sitting.
That brings me to the only other point that I wish to make and it is in answer to the argument advanced by Senator Poyser. He expressed concern about loss of privileges. That is a concern which I completely share with him, and I will join with him la any effort to maintain the privileges and opportunities of this chamber to debate matters and to reach decisions upon them effectively. But the reason why the last 2 lines were inserted in the motion, as 1 interpret it, was so that honourable senators could vote upon the proposal for a 3 weeks cycle in substitution for the 4 weeks cycle without prejudice in any way to the days upon which we would sit and the hours during which we would sit.
– It just becomes a numbers game in this chamber.
– I hope that it will always be a numbers game in any house of parliament. I think that the simple counting of numbers of elected personnel should be the decisive factor in any house of parliament, subject, of course, to a lot of limitations. But all I am saying is that, having listened to Senator Poyser, I believe it is the very concern that he expressed which prompted whoever drafted this motion to include those cautionary words, to remind us that the adoption of the 3 weeks cycle instead of the 4 weeks cycle would not in any way prejudice or inhibit us with regard to the days upon which we sat or the hours during which we sat. I think that, for the purposes of clarity of debate, there is great advantage and logic in keeping the question of days and hours of sitting for inclusion in a. subsequent motion so that it can be decided as a separate matter.
– I want to be very brief in making a few observations which I think will be pertinent and will help honourable senators in making decisions about the proposals we are discussing. At the outset I indicate that I am in complete agreement with the idea of a 3 weeks cycle. I think it is a sensible proposal. In coming to the question as to what we are to do during the 2 weeks sitting of the Senate, I am mindful of the fact that in comparatively recent times this chamber - and it stands quite apart from the other chamber in this respect - has undertaken a tremendous amount of committee work; very much more than the other place has undertaken. This is the way I see the system operating in the future.
I am not too sure of the connotation, but Senator Poyser has referred to the question of privileges. The very fact that one is taking part in the deliberations of the Commonwealth Parliament is, I suggest, in itself a privilege, and one does not lose any privileges merely by sitting in one form or another. The problem, as I see it, is that so many demands are being made upon the time of honourable senators. At the moment the Senate is not the sort of efficient chamber that it ought to be. The resources of the 60 honourable senators in this chamber are not being used in a way that would lead to the best parliamentary performance. 1 have found, from my own experience in committees, that the work of this chamber can be very much enhanced and greatly advanced by the sort of committee work that is being undertaken at the present time. I should imagine that in this circumstance there would not be a need for the sitting of the Senate or the Committee of the whole beyond the range of sittings which we are presently undertaking. But I see a great need to accommodate, within the total spread of hours in a week, the committees which should be sitting during this period.
– With the Senate not sitting?
– Yes. It might even require cutting down the sitting hours of the Senate itself. I think that this was implied, if not suggested straight out, in earlier observations by an honourable senator. I believe it could be well argued that the type of work that is being done in committees will lead to an expedition of the business of the Senate itself. In other words, we would reach decisions on the very important issues with which we were dealing in the committee areas and the recommendations or the results of our deliberations in the committee areas would in turn find their way into this chamber and would lead to a quicker dispatch of the business of the Senate in the particular areas which had been the responsibility of the committees. I suggest that the work of committees of review - for instance the Estimates Committees and the other committees that have been proposed in quite recent days - could lead to a diminution of the number of hours that have been taken in the past to deal with the Estimates - they have been dealt with in a rather messy, sloppy way - and with some of the other matters which are of concern to us. 1 do not see any great problem regarding compatibility between the sittings of the Senate and the sittings of committees. In fact, as I perhaps conveyed in my earlier comments, I see a very great deal of merit in what has been happening in the committee areas. 1 am one who would prefer to sit on a committee and get right down to the very heart of the issue which we are considering. If 7 or 8 honourable senators were appointed to each committee, we could have 7 committees sitting at the one time. At the moment committees are not permitted by the Standing Orders to sit during the sittings of the Senate. Therefore, there is a slowing up rather than a speeding up in the business of the Senate.
I just make these points which I think ought to be taken into account if we are to move completely into this committee area. It is a very novel proposal. We have not yet ascertained the full extent of the work that can be undertaken by committees. 1 do not think that we have by any means probed the complete depth of the worthwhile contribution that committees can make to the affairs of the Senate. As time goes on I think we will find that this area of the Senate’s activities will be broadened and that great benefits will flow from it, particularly if we are able to match committee needs with the physical resources of this Parliament - that is, in terms of committee rooms, staff and so on. I cannot see any possible loss of privilege merely because we sit not as a Senate but as committees. lt is a great privilege to sit in any area of the deliberations of this chamber and there is no diminution in the privileges or opportunities available to honourable senators when they are sitting on committees. I should imagine that from time to time reports will come into this chamber as a consequence of the work of the committees and the Senate will have a better basis of understanding and knowledge of particular areas because they have been fully probed and exploited by the committees. I make those observations to assist honourable senators to come to some kind of determination as to what ought to happen.
– I hope the Senate will agree to the motion as put. 1 do not believe that the matter has been slipped under the door hurriedly to try to force us to follow what the House of Representatives wants. This idea has been canvassed very freely for the last 15 years, to my knowledge. Perhaps the powers that be in the various parties who have communications with their colleagues in the House of Representatives heard that the House was to discuss this matter and that it was to be discussed by the Senate and perhaps they could have tipped us the wink before the decision was made. To me, it makes no difference. I want to point out to the Senate why I think we would be well advised to accept this motion. If we defeat the motion and maintain our present cycle of sittings - that is, 3 weeks on and 1 week off - and if the House of Representatives adopts the new procedures, I believe we will find that one or both Houses of Parliament will be sitting for at least 3 days in every week of the sessional period. That will mean that in each cycle the Senate will have a week when it is sitting on its own and later in the cycle will come the week when the House of Representatives will be sitting on its own.
As Chairman of a joint select committee of the Parliament, I believe that that will make the calling of sittings of joint select committees very difficult; whereas if both Houses were sitting in uniformity so far as the weeks of sitting go, these joint select committees could programme their meetings and get on with their work. The motion leaves it to us to decide later what days in each of the 2 weeks we will sit, if we adopt the new cycle. My only request in that respect is that we do not leave that too much in a state of airy-fairy indecision because chairmen of committees have to programme the work of their committees; they have to alert their members and witnesses have to bc on call. It is this indecision, which is demonstrated by our not meeting tonight or on Fridays when it was proposed that we might, that is killing the effective organisation of the work of committees. I believe that it is for the good of the Parliament - and that means its members - that wc adopt the same cycle as the House of Representatives. It would be very hard on the staff if one House of the Parliament was to be in session for every week of the sessional period. 1 do not know what the listeners to the broadcasts of the proceedings would think. If we adopt the same cycle as the House of Representatives at least the listeners will get a week off in which to enjoy the programmes that would be broadcast normally if the proceedings of Parliament were not being broadcast.
– I want to reconcile some of the views of my colleague Senator Poyser with those of the Minister for Works (Senator Wright). I agree that the final combination of dates should be selected in deference to our colleagues from the distant States. That is important. Senator McManus, following a remark made by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Murphy), seized upon the final words of the motion:
I want to link those words with the experience that I suppose nearly every honourable senator has had when he has assumed a position on one of the various standing committees; his home-based secretary has had to do a lot more work. It is very easy to talk about the dignity of honourable senators, but I think we have to realise that the back bench senators particularly do not have a massive staff of research officers. Most of their secretaries delve into a lot of fields for them. I do not think there is one honourable senator here today who has not some subject to which he gives a lot of time. The result is that he is able to make a positive contribution to a committee. That has been the hallmark of the success of the committees.
I emphasise the extra work that is performed by the secretaries of back bench senators. I can do no better than quote a remarkable speech made in another place by the honourable member for Newcastle (Mr Charles Jones). He made the point that a secretary of a back bencher is not on any particular overtime rate. I am not envious of the staffs of the Ministers; I never have been. I admire the loyal staffs that Ministers have. I take Senator Wright up on this aspect. I know his energy. His staff would be here and he would achieve a lot. However, if some of us stayed here over a weekend, we would have a backlog of work in our offices. Our secretaries are in Sydney. They are not here. What is the alternative? Do we impose upon the staff of our leaders or on the staff of the Whip? They have their work to do. I direct those comments to the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson). It is quite obvious that with the Estimates committees and with the standing committees, if we meet from Tuesday to Friday one week and from Monday to Thursday the following week, the Mondays and Fridays of the alternate weeks will be occupied with committee work. This would be quite satisfactory.
That brings me to this point: In this fortnightly cycle, obviously some interstate members will stay here in Canberra but others will go back to Melbourne or Sydney. What will be the situation of an honourable senator who wishes to interview a particular segment of the trade union movement or an immigration group? He will want to see them and prepare submissions and material. What happens when he comes back here to attend a vital Estimates committee meeting. I make that appeal to Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson. I say in advance that it is not impossible for the Federal Parliamentary Officers to roster a duty girl for typing on Saturdays. I know Senator McClelland agrees with me. Our secretaries have a lot of work to do now. I would be in a more receptive mood in regard to these proposals if their work load were eased. That is only one facet of the proposed new cycle. Senator McClelland and myself - and I think this goes for back bench Liberal senators - took umbrage and approached the Department of the Interior. We had one of these multipurpose weekends when we were representing our leaders at various functions and then we had to return to our offices to do Party work. We wanted certain parking facilities. The point I make is that no two people approach a matter in exactly the same way. I am interested to see that our secretaries do not have to work harder than they do now.
– There is no suggestion that we will sit on Saturdays.
– No, it is not intended that we sit on Saturdays. The Minister has missed my point. If we are here for 5 days in one week and 5 days in the next week, our secretaries will have to work harder. Our secretaries are not like the staffs of Ministers’, they do not get penalty rates for working at weekends. That is the point I make. We talk about the gap between the developed and underdeveloped countries. That is what is happening here between the back benchers and the Ministers. I have repeated my point. The Government tried to put it over us with regard to facilities for parking cars. Senator McClelland will agree. The only reason we were given that privilege was because I deliberately parked in Martin Place, was issued with a summons and sent it to the Minister for the Interior. I soon got action. If the Government wants this cycle, it should, not pass the buck. There should not be this inequality between privileges for Ministers and privileges for ourselves. I am not envious, but I want efficiency. It is all very well to talk about attending meetings of committees. I think I have made the point loud and clear. I repeat it. This gap is widening. As a trade unionist, I will not give my secretary any additional work - as was stated by the honourable member for Newcastle - by giving her weekend work. The Ministers will have the privilege of their staffs doing donkey work for them. I want the same privilege.
Senator WEBSTER (Victoria) 13.141 - I would like to say a few words about external aid, but at the moment I think I should confine my remarks to the motion that the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson) has proposed. The principle expounded by the Leader of the Government interests me; I am greatly attracted to it. I think that statement would reflect the views of most honourable senators on this side of the chamber.
– I did not move the motion as the Leader of the Government in the Senate. It is my proposal. I did not put it as the Leader of the Government.
– The proposal that Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson has put forward greatly attracts me. I believe I am expressing the views of my fellow Country Party senators when I say that the proposition attracts them also. The basic proposal is for the Senate to sit for 2 weeks and have 1 week supposedly for work in the electorate. As Senator Sir Magnus Cormack mentioned, this to an extent will bring the Senate into line with the House of Representatives. Over the period 1 have been here the Senate has sat 3 days a week for 3 weeks and then had a week up. I have found that that arrangement has fitted in pretty well with my programme. Perhaps I have become used to it. Under that arrangement I am able to enjoy some private life as well as carry out some electoral work and attend adequately to my Senate work.
To me the proposition that bas been put forward by Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson gives no great thought to what is to occur in the future. Perhaps the wording of the motion indicates that at some future time we will determine what days we will sit. Honourable senators may decide that we should sit approximately the same total of hours we have been sitting in the past. I do not know whether we need to cut our hours of sitting by half and perhaps set aside the balance of the time for the very important Senate committee work in which many senators are involved. But it would seem to me that a businesslike decision would be to sit somewhere near the same total of hours as before. The proposition that the new arrangement will not come into operation until October indicates to me that we will have very little experience of it before the Senate rises for the Senate election. T imagine that by then we will have had experience of only one 3 weeks cycle or possibly two, under the new arrangements.
– We will be sitting 4 days a week in October.
– That is a point with which I shall deal. I feel that the Leader of the Government in the Senate would be required to tell at least his Party, as he has done on similar matters on other occasions and certainly during the last sessional period, that it is imperative that we break away from a 3 days a week sitting and sit on Friday. I agree with Senator Sir Magnus Cormack that prior to the forthcoming election it will be necessary to sit on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday- and Friday of one week and then sit on the Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday of the following week.
– Is Senator Webster talking about the actual sittings of the Senate?
– Yes. I believe that what Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson has proposed is a reflection of what the House of Representatives is doing. There is very good reason for falling into line with the House of Representatives. We must consider the Hansard staff and other ancillary staff associated with the running of the Senate. Let me refer to some honourable senators who have been involved in work other than sitting in this Senate on sitting days. I refer to the activities of Senator Keeffe and Senator Sir Magnus Cormack. I know that these 2 senators have spent a great deal of time during the supposed recess of the Parliament doing extra work put on to them by resolutions of the Senate.
– They are not Robinson Crusoes either.
– I am pleased to hear Senator Marriott say that. I did not hear any honourable senator, including our Leader and the Leader of the Opposition, make any sensible businesslike suggestion as to sitting hours and as to what time slots should be available to those committees of the Parliament that have already been set up.
– What was wrong with my suggestion?
– If I explain what was wrong with the Leader of the Opposition’s suggestion I think he will readily see the point I am making. I know that in another place the members are facing an amendment to their hours of sitting. Already the Public Accounts Committee, which is a joint statutory committee which I hope will never be eliminated from these Houses of Parliament, finds that it will not be able to get a time slot in which to sit unless it sits on Monday, which would mean that senators who live a great distance from Canberra, such as Senator Keeffe, would have to start to move from their homes either on Saturday or on Sunday. There has been a suggestion that the House of Representatives should commence on the Tuesday afternoon and make Tuesday morning available for committee work. I am not a member of the Public Works Committee but I have some idea of the type of work it does. I would be interested to know when that Committee intends to sit when the Parliament is sitting for 4 days a week.
Senator Poyser said that the Senate has developed the committee system even further. It is not only the Regulations and Ordinances Committee, which does a magnificent job for the House, but the Senate select committees that are involved. Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson may have in mind that we sit for 3 days a week as we do now, that is on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, and that Monday and Friday be set aside for the sittings of Senate select committees or perhaps the Estimates Committees, or even the standing committees which we are anxious to see get started. Last night we discovered Senator Murphy’s evaluation of the work that should be done by the standing committees. This one senator sought to set down a programme for the Health and Welfare Committee which would take it 5 or 6 years to get through. Senator Murphy will not be sitting on the Committee, but back bench senators will find that they will have to serve on these standing committees.
– Senator Webster knows that these proposals came from my Party and that some of them have been on the Notice Paper for several years. He should not suggest that this was a personal proposal of mine.
– The Leader of the Opposition says that it is a proposal of his Party but I see it as a political matter and an immediate challenge to our standing committees. His proposition was thrown into this House in an attempt to get these standing committees into action and to get honourable senators involved in them. Perhaps Senator Murphy would care to indicate how many months or how many years the references which he proposed to be made to the Standing Committee on Health and Welfare would keep that Committee occupied. The only thing I mention is that I doubt whether much thought has been given to the proposition of sitting for 2 weeks and having 1 week off and what will be the consequent developments in the running of the Senate. I foresee the last week of each 3 weeks cycle being taken up by the various other activities of the Senate. I predict that when this 3 weeks cycle is adopted, as I imagine it will be, we will be required to sit 4 days a week to deal with Government business. 1 agree fully with the comments that were made by Senator Sir Magnus Cormack. It would be better to see a programme laid down as to what we will be involved in before we commit ourselves to these new arrangements. As I mention, the general proposition greatly attracts me. I would be most appreciative of the opportunity to sit in Canberra for 2 weeks and then have a week in my own electorate, Victoria. On this basis 1 believe that the other Country Party senators have given some acceptance to that particular line of thought.
– I take the opportunity, as a free vote will be available on this question, to express some opinions and to indicate how I intend to vote. Let me outline the origin of this proposal. Last session Senator Murphy introduced a proposal that we should operate on a 2 weeks basis, that we should work for 2 weeks in a 4 weeks cycle. This was based on the belief that the House of Representatives would continue to work a 4 weeks cycle and that it would be convenient for us to operate along similar lines. The plan was to sit on Friday afternoon and Friday evening of the first week of the 2 sitting weeks, and then sit also from the Monday morning in the second week. In this way it was suggested that we would sit more hours in 2 weeks than we had been sitting in 3, It was also stated that it was logical, in order to cut down on travelling, to operate on the basis of 2 sitting weeks in a 4 weeks cycle. The proposal involved our sitting for just as many hours in this chamber while having twice as long at home, and we would have had to undertake 2 journeys instead of 3 in every 4 weeks.
The Standing Orders Committee of the House of Representatives considered this question in relation to that House and submitted a report embodying a proposal which seems to be entirely different from the one that was earlier submitted to the Senate. The proposal for the House of Representatives is now for a sitting of 2 weeks followed by a recess of 1 week. It is proposed that the House will rise at about 4.30 or 5 p.m. on the Friday of the first week and meet again at 2 o’clock on Monday of the second week. It is said that this will involve somewhat longer hours than the House is sitting at present. But lt appears from the intention to rise at about 4.30 p.m. on Friday and not to meet until 2 p.m. on Monday that the members of the House of Representatives intend to return borne over that week-end. That was not the intention of the proposal that was originally submitted to this Senate. We were told that we would remain here over the week-end, that we would work intensively for 2 weeks and then have 2 weeks in our various States.
I quite agreed with the proposal which involved having no less time in this Senate for the purpose of debate while at the same time having a longer period in our respective States. But let us look at the proposal that is now before us, which is for 2 weeks of sitting in a 3 weeks cycle. First let me take a period of 12 consecutive weeks, which is something like our normal sitting time in a session. We find that the new proposal will give us only 1 additional week in our respective States in that 12 weeks period. One might question whether the new proposal will really reduce travelling time. Senator Maunsell has shown how the proposal would work in actual sitting days over a 16 weeks period. At present we sit for 36 days in 16 weeks, whereas the new proposal would mean our sitting for only 33 days in that period.
Senator Poyser made a very important contribution to this debate. I agree that in changing sitting days and hours we must be very careful not to interfere with the rights and privileges of senators. This is not the first occasion on which suggestions have been made for the restriction of speaking times, restriction of questions, or restrictions in other directions aimed at making it easier to get in and out of this place. We must remember that this is a public forum. This is a place where senators who have grievances may debate them and seek to obtain answers to their questions. We should do nothing as a Parliament to reduce the opportunity of senators to use this as a public forum. I have been very much in support of the committee system. I have accepted the standing committees as bodies that would be regular in their operation, so that on any occasion on which we thought a Bill could be better dealt with by a committee we could refer it to a standing committee, and that committee could query persons other than Ministers on how particular parts of the legislation would operate. But now we have had put to us a proposal for standing committees to investigate estimates, and I am very doubtful whether 1 should now support a committee system. If any such system interferes with my opportunities as a senator to rise and question publicly a Minister on expenditure for which he is responsible then I could not support such a system.
There is another important question to be considered. Before we agree to any alteration of the sitting hours we must know the ultimate repercussions that such an alteration will have. This is a fear that Senator Sir Magnus Cormack entertains. The House of Representatives referred the matter to its Standing Orders Committee which brought down a report containing a full suggested programme which the House could adopt in part or in globo. Before we agree to the 3 weeks cycle we must be clear on what may ultimately arise from it. I have already mentioned that over a period of 16 weeks we will be sitting only 33 days instead of 36 days as at present. Does this mean that there is some desire to curtail the rights and privileges of senators?
I do not agree with those who say that we must give first consideration to the staff. The staff are employed for the purpose of assisting members. Members are not appointed for the purpose of thinking of the convenience of the staff.
– Are you saying the staff should not be considered? That is a wonderful trade union principle.
– Grind them into the dust.
– What 1 am saying is that the staff are appointed for the assistance of members. They are appointed to meet the requirements of members. If the hours of work of members are such that the duties the staff are called upon to work are unreasonable or outside a standard code that might be established by arbitration, then it is the Government’s responsibility to meet, either by extra payment to the staff or the appointment of additional staff, the requirements of members. lt is not for members to meet the requirements of the staff. The main ques tion for us to decide is what is best for the nation in our attendances in this Parliament and that is what I am asking honourable senators to consider today.
We cannot shut our eyes to the fact that the House of Representatives has decided on certain hours and certain days of sitting, and perhaps we may have to fall somewhat into line with that other place. But the fact is that the House of Representatives made its decision with a full understanding of the whole proposal - sitting days, sitting hours, speaking times and so on; a complete regulation of their activities in the House. We are trying to decide all these matters piecemeal. I agree that whatever decision we make on sitting hours the Senate must retain the right at all times to say when it will sit. I do not think it would be feasible to agree on any alteration of principle without a complete plan and proposal setting out how the system would work. 1 strongly recommend to those who may have the power in this House that the whole question be taken up with the Standing Orders Committee. A complete report could be brought down and honourable senators should have the right of a free vote on the various questions. We would have the whole programme of the activities of the Senate before us. We could decide on all activities and not one aspect only.
– Mr Deputy President, I preface my remarks by thanking you for calling someone from a distant State who may be greatly affected by what this Senate proposes at the present moment. I do not want to enter into the argument as to whether this motion moved by Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson should be in 1 or 2 parts, ft makes no difference to this Senate whether we resolve to sit 4 days in 1 week and 4 days in another week or to leave the days of sitting open. At any time the Senate will decide when it will sit irrespective of Senator Murphy’s amendment that we sit on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday of one week and Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday of the next week. The Senate will decide whether it will sit on those days.
– I have not proposed that. I have left that question open.
– As I see it the question is open now because it is specified in the motion that the Senate will decide on the days of sitting. I feel tempted to move the adjournment of this matter which has been brought before the Senate because I think it is ill-considered. When the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson) stood up he said he would make time available in the coming week to discuss other matters associated with the sittings of the Senate, such as the hours of sitting and other ancillary matters. Before one can give proper consideration to the problems mentioned by Senator Cavanagh and Senator Poyser I believe one must know the whole programme. It has been brought here in a piecemeal way. We are asked to commit ourselves to a cycle of 3 weeks instead of a cycle of 4 weeks without knowing what hours we are going to sit and the time limit on speeches. We do not know whether any privileges will be cut down. I think this is only making a hotchpotch of the system. I speak with a little experience because for the past few years I have had only 1 weekly break from this Parliament and I have had only about 2 Fridays away from this Parliament when I have not been working on a committee. Even during the short recess which has just occurred I had to come to Canberra for 2 weeks to sit on a committee. So the whole question of how long one works and what work committees will do is bound up in the one problem. At this stage I think it would be unwise for the Senate to decide what the activities of the Senate will be in the future. I know it is within the hands of this Senate at any time to change things but I think most of us are conservative by nature and we resist change. It is evident amongst some honourable senators who have spoken that there is a resistance to change.
I support the 3 weeks cycle but I want to know more about the hours of sitting, the times of sitting, what is going to happen with committees and whether we are going to sit 3 days in each week and have the Fridays and Mondays for committee work. The committee of which I am a member proposes to sit over the weekends to try to get rid of the work facing it. The Senate has a proposal before it for 5 Estimates committees and 7 standing committees. By the commencement of the first session of the Parliament in 1971 a report must be presented to the Senate. At the present time 2 reports are coming up. I do not think it would make a great deal of difference if the Leader of the Government in the Senate were to withdraw this motion at this time and come forward with a detailed programme for honourable senators to look at. They would then know exactly what they were confronted with, what privileges they were going to gain, what privileges they were going to lose and what demands were going to be made upon their time. At the present time if honourable senators from Western Australia want to get any work done they have to work their staff mostly during a weekend. If the Senate sits on Thursday nights it is midday Friday before one gets home and one has to leave one’s home at 11 o’clock on Monday morning to come back here. Honourable senators are in a very awkward position in trying to get any home work done. This is not so with honourable senators from the States of Victoria and New South Wales. They have things made a little hit easier. I have said it before and I will say it again: This Parliament is built around New South Wales and Victoria with little consideration for the outlying States. I do not even feel like voting upon this proposition without having before me a full programme showing what the responsibilities and obligations of honourable senators will be. If the vote is taken I shall support the motion moved by the Leader of the Government in the Senate.
– I support what has been proposed by Senator Murphy. I think the discussion which has taken place since the motion was moved by Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson proves the point he made. He did not advocate any reduction in the length of speaking times for honourable senators. This point has been raised by a number of honourable senators and they are entitled to fear, I suggest, that there could be some reduction in the activities of the Senate itself. I agree with honourable senators that this should not take place. I think it ought to be clear in everybody’s mind that Senator Murphy did not propose this. He said it by interjection. I certainly would not support his amendment if he had proposed this. I think everybody who has spoken has subscribed to the idea of a 3 weeks cycle, but the inclusion by the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson) in the motion of the expression that the Senate should fix its own times - 1 do not suggest it was done [or this purpose - has raised the query in the minds of honourable senators that the proposal may be to shorten the time of Senate sittings. In fact, the length of sittings would be shortened by a small amount if we were to adopt the cycle that is proposed and retain our present sitting hours. As Senator Condon Byrne has pointed out we would, in fact, be devoting a shorter time to the sittings of the Senate than we are under present arrangements.
– That was Senator Maunsell’s submission.
– 1 have checked it, and the proposition is correct. Over a period of 16 weeks we are now sitting for 36 days and with the same sitting times in the 3 weeks cycle we would be sitting for 33 days. Obviously 1 would not be in accord with maintaining the same number of hours in the 3-week cycle. Nobody has said he is against the 3-week cycle because the advantages are so evident to everybody. If one has 2 weeks of work in the Parliament and a week in the electorate and this is co-ordinated with the sittings of the House of Representatives, there is no question that it is a lot better than the arrangement we have now. lt is clear everybody accepts that. The proposition ought to be dealt with separately because I, too, like other honourable senators, have some reservations about determining the hours of sitting of the Senate under the cycle and about the place of certain standing and other committees in the system if we widely adopt the system of committees which has been proposed by the Opposition and the Government. It concerns me that we may be reaching the position where there will be fewer sitting hours of the Senate and more meetings of the committees. The argument has been advanced that the work of the committees is just as important as the work of the Senate. I think honourable senators who are afraid about the limitation of the Senate sitting time have good reason for their concern. I agree with what has been proposed by the Leader of the Opposition and I suggest that we deal with the matter separately because it is a very complicated matter.
– If we took out the last 4 words, do you think that might meet everybody’s wishes?
– Yes. If ‘as the occasion arises’ were taken out and the Senate determined the resolution, when the matter of a sitting came up for consideration it could be dealt with simply by the Senate fixing the dmes. The words ‘as the occasion arises’ suggest to some honourable senators that there might be some dickering with the hours. It seems to me to be evident that honourable senators support the principle of the 3 weeks cycle, but some honourable senators have expressed the fear that there may be fewer sitting hours for the Senate. I also have that fear. Nevertheless 1 think that is a matter to be resolved separately because there are other complicated issues related to it, including the one mentioned by Senator Murphy about not sitting on some nights.
– Obviously certain things are emerging with great clarity in the course of this discussion. Some of the matters which have arisen are complex. There is an area of speculation and an area of pragmatism. We accept as a pragmatic situation that the flow of legislation is not from this place to the House of Representatives but from the House of Representatives to this chamber, in the main. Much as we might like to speak of the independence of the Senate, and it is an independent body in a constitutional sense, the actual work flow comes from the other place. As a matter of fact the House of Representatives has determined a new time schedule and, whether we like it or not, we are now in the position where we must have cognisance of that and accommodate ourselves to it so far as is consistent with the independence of the Senate. That, I believe, is why the Senate is of the opinion that we should accommodate ourselves to a cycle of 3 weeks. There remains only the question of whether we should specify more particularly than that. Senator Murphy’s original proposition was for a specification of the actual sitting days.
– No, I did not put that forward.
– lt has been put forward that there should be a specification. Perhaps the proposition was not advanced by Senator Murphy; I have not been in the chamber for the whole of the discussion. Let us look again at the existing position.
The Senate is in a position of complete fluidity so far as its sitting arrangements are concerned; We have all sorts of new arrangements. We have a plethora of committees and new time schedules which are fairly acceptable to the Senate have been proposed. I think that the worst thing that we could do would be to determine at this stage a new schedule of sitting days. I think the proper thing for us to do is to accept the cycle of 3 weeks and to pursue the existing time schedule of 3 days for each of the 2 weeks until the Senate other’ wise determines.
– Is it not better to get the 3 weeks cycle aspect decided now?
– I agree. The original suggestion was exactly that, that we should accept the 3 weeks cycle and that the actual sitting days then be decided upon by the Senate as the occasion arises. Senator Murphy has suggested that the words *as the occasion arises’ might be deleted so that we can achieve a concurrence on the principle. I do not disagree with what Senator Murphy proposes, but what will be the effect of the removal of those words? Does it mean that in a month’s time or in a fortnight’s time the Senate will lay down finally for all time the sitting days, or does it mean that from day to day the Senate will determine when it will sit in the next week and in the week following that?
– If you took out the words ‘as the occasion arises’ it would simply mean that when we began the cycle we would put down what we call our sessional orders, which would establish the days on which we were going to sit. If I had any influence on it we would not be laying down the sitting times for the remaining days of the week but would be laying down times as we have done by sessional order since time immemorial. An alteration of those times would require an alteration of the sessional order.
– If I understand what the Leader of the Government has said, it would inject a degree of rigidity if the words ‘as the occasion arises’ were deleted.
– I am trying to avoid a situation where we are all in agreement but yet are voting against each other.
– What I propose is the deletion of those 4 words.
– I think we could take out the 4 words without prejudicing the situation.
– In the absence of those words, at what point of time and by what method would the Senate determine the hours?
– In the way that we do it now. When we came back in October I would bring in sessional orders for the remainder of the session.
– In other words, it would not be done every week but would be done at the beginning of the session for the whole of the session, until the Senate elected to change the sessional orders. As I understand the position, if these words were deleted, the principle of the cycle would be adopted and the Senate at the beginning of a session would lay down by sessional order the sitting days within that cycle.
– That is right.
– That programme would exist and persist during the session unless the Senate otherwise determined. Is that the position?
– When we came to fix the sessional order we would decide whether it was to be 3, 4, 5 or 7 days - whatever it might be.
– If the sessional order laid that down, what would happen if the Senate wanted to depart from that?
– We can still do it. The sessional order provides for a programme to be followed, unless otherwise ordered.
– That is, unless otherwise ordered by resolution, which is really the same thing as ‘as the occasion arises’.
– I think I could satisfy everybody if I could speak for a moment.
– I rise to order. We have before us a resolution moved by the Leader of the Government and an amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition, in addition to which there are half a dozen other amendments. I refer to standing order 139 which states that every amendment must be relevant to the question to which it is proposed to be made. I suggest that we comply with that standing order instead of having about 18 people moving amendments while an honourable senator is speaking.
– I think it will work itself out.
– The position is that we have a resolution and we have a proposal by Senator Murphy, with Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson’s concurrence, to delete certain words from it. I was trying to get clarification of what would be the implications of such a deletion. Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson feels that if he is given the opportunity to speak again he can clarify the position. Therefore, I would be prepared to resume my seat and give leave to Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson to explain the implications of this deletion.
– In view of the intimation by Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson that he would not object, I ask for leave to withdraw my amendment.
– Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
Amendment - by leave - withdrawn.
– I want to pass a few remarks on this matter. 1 say at the outset that I think it is a matter of regret that all this confusion has crept in. I was under the impression that the resolution before the Senate was that the Senate agrees in principle that the sittings of the Senate should be on the basis of 2 weeks of sitting followed by 1 week’s adjournment, with the actual sitting days to be decided upon by the Senate, as the occasion arises. I was under the impression also that the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Murphy) had moved for the deletion of the words ‘with the actual sitting days to be decided upon by the Senate, as the occasion arises.’ I understand that subsequently his amendment was amended by agreement across the chamber so that his proposal was that the last 4 words only would be deleted.
– I do not think that is the position.
– I shall state my views and say exactly where I stand on this. I shall support the original resolution down to the words ‘by 1 week’s adjournment’, but 1 do not support the remainder of the motion. I am sick and tired of the flexibility of sitting hours that we have in this chamber. Last Thursday there were about 70 different ideas of when the Senate would rise. In my case, as in the case of senators from Western Australia and other distant areas, if I want to make any sort of commitment I am in no position to do so because we do not know until the last night, or even the last hour, when we will leave Canberra. I want to see - I believe that this is ultimately what it will boil down to - a situation in which we can dispose of this confusion, in which we can sit down and work out the times of sitting. The people of Australia who send us to this place expect us to come here and work. In many instances we do not come here and work because we are in a state of utter confusion. 1 would like to see us sit from Monday to Thursday of one week and from Tuesday to Friday of the following week, so that we would have 4 full sitting days each week. I do not want to see any of the privileges withdrawn. 1 do not want to see us in a situation in which question time in this chamber is reduced. I do not want to see the privilege of discussing General Business and the equivalent of Grievance Day taken away from us. Nor do I want to see the right to speak on the motion for the adjournment taken away. 1 believe that concurrently with setting the sitting hours we should make other arrangements so that, as far as possible, we know when these 4-day sittings will be, if we decide on them, and we will have a period in our own States during which we can carry out commitments that we enter into in advance. At the moment, very rarely when the Senate rises arc we able to say with complete certainty that we will resume on a certain day. The present Budget session of the Parliament commenced a week late. What caused that 1 would not know. But many of us had made commitments earlier in the year on the basis that the Budget session would commence a week earlier than it actually did. So, we then had to rehash our commitments and those sorts of things.
There is a tendency for some people to say that the committee system will not work in this chamber. The use of the committee system is one of the best things that have happened in the Australian Parliament, lt is up to every one of us to help it to get off the ground. The Senate select committees that have operated in the last 2 or 3 years have done a good job, in the main. But, again in the main, they have been hamstrung and handicapped by the fact that there is insufficient staff. The Clerks of the Senate are completely overworked. The Library is understaffed. In other words, we are living in the jet age in 1970 and we are trying to run the Parliament on a horse and buggy system. We have not been able to catch up with the developments of this century. The obligation is on us to do something about this situation. The obligation is on us as members of the Opposition and on honourable senators opposite as members of the Government parties to see that the Parliament works in the best interests of everybody in this country. We must be prepared to take a good look at ourselves. We must not keep on dividing on party lines because we do not like the colour of each other’s hair. I am talking now not on a policy matter but on a matter that concerns the proper operation of this chamber and the tasks that should properly be before it as a responsible section of the Parliament of this country.
I refer now to a matter that has been raised by Senator Webster and Senator Mulvihill, namely, the problem that arises when one goes back to one’s office at the end of the week’s sitting. When I leave here on Friday and go to my home town, I have only Saturday and Sunday on which I can work in my office. It is unfair for the secretary of any member of the Parliament to be asked to spend her weekend working on jobs that could be done much more expeditiously and much better in other circumstances. This is another matter that we should be considering. So I hope that after we have decided the basic question of the days on which we will sit there will be enough people in this Parliament who have a national outlook and who will be prepared to look at the staff situation.
I know that the point has been made that there is not enough accommodation here. Why is there not enough accommodation? Why has not the accommodation grown with the increase in population? Why has it not grown with the increase in the duties and tasks set before us as parliamentarians? This comes right back to here.
The reason is that we have not been able to look forward and we are frightened that somebody outside will criticise us on the basis that the expenditure on the Parliament is too high. No member of the public will criticise any parliamentarian while he is doing his job for his party and for the Parliament. The only time we are criticised is when we are not doing our job- not when we are doing it.
Nobody will give a tinker’s cuss if a member of Parliament, provided he has the necessary work in front of him, has a staff of 3 or 4 people. The people will not worry one iota about it. But they do worry when their letters are not dealt with because of insufficient staff. The letters could refer to an urgent social services case, an urgent immigration case, any other domestic matter or perhaps a matter of national importance. I have 4 or 5 radio broadcasts that I have to make - purely as a parliamentarian. They have nothing to do with election campaigns. But I have not the time or the staff to be able to make them. So, for God’s sake let us have a look at this aspect of the matter, too. Let us look at the job of the parliamentarian on a national basis.
These are the sorts of things about which we should be worried. These things would be of far greater advantage to the member of Parliament than any increase in parliamentary salary or any increase in electorate allowance. He wants to do his job and live like a normal human being, with the opportunity to finish work at 5 or 6 o’clock in the evening and, if he is in Canberra, to have a decent meal and come back to the evening session of the Parliament or, if he is in his electorate, to go home and enjoy the company of his family. That is also the right of every staff member. If there is insufficient staff, either at the parliamentary level or at the members level, the staff has to be increased.
If overtime has to be worked, it should not be excessive. Clerks here have to stay until 2 or 3 o’clock in the morning and report for work at 9 o’clock the same morning. This sort of thing should never occur under any circumstances. A reasonable amount of overtime is all right. In certain circumstances a fair amount of overtime is all right, provided that the proper award rates are paid. But a member’s secretary does not receive any overtime payment at all because her salary carries a socalled loading that is supposed to cover all of her work outside of normal office hours. How ridiculous can you get?
Because of the amount of work that goes through my office. 1 have even been challenged by the Minister concerned on the basis that my telephone bill is too big. All I say is that it will continue to be big while using the telephone is the only way I can overcome problems. If I have to make lengthy trunk line calls, I propose to continue to make them. If my secretary has no time to write adequate letters I will use urgent telegrams, because I believe that the people who put me into this Parliament are more important than I am and more important than the Government is. They will receive service as long as I can physically and humanly give it to them. When we are fixing sitting hours - I have stated my views on that matter clearly - for God’s sake let us look at all these other things, too. Do not let this continue to be a horse and buggy Parliament in the jet age of the 1970s.
– 1 hope that I will not offend against the spirit of the debate by talking about the motion before the Chair. 1 want to be brief. I know that they are terribly dangerous words to use here because they generally mean a 50-minute speech. What are we considering? As I understand it, it has been agreed across the table between Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson and Senator Murphy in their private capacities to delete the last 4 words of the motion. There seems to me to be some fear that the words after ‘adjournment’, namely, ‘with the actual sitting days to be decided upon by the Senate’, have some sinister connotation.
– The words to be deleted are ‘as the occasion arises’.
– Yes. 1 understand that by general agreement the words ‘as the occasion arises’ are to be deleted. As I understand the position, the way the actual days are decided upon by the Senate is that at the commencement of each session the Leader of the Government puts down a motion for what I think are known as sessional orders. He moves that the Senate meet on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday at stated times. If we approved of the motion only down to the word ‘adjournment’ - I do approve of this motion - it would mean that the present sessional orders - namely, that we sit on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday of each week at certain times - would apply to the 3-week cycle.
But I think that what Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson is attempting to do here is to say that if we agree to the 3-week cycle we will look at the sessional orders. That can be done in any event; but the second part of the motion is an indication that the sessional orders can be looked at. As I understand the position, a sessional order is not sacrosanct. What can happen is what occasionally happens and what will happen today. The sessional order states that we will sit until 6 o’clock tonight, although we all know that the sitting is suspended at 5.4S p.m. if we sit that late, and then come back at 8 p.m. and sit until 10.30 p.m. But we know that, by agreement, at about 4.30 p.m. Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson will move that the Senate adjourn until 3 p.m. next Tuesday.
We know also that when the question is put by the President in accordance with the sessional order, at 10.30 p.m. or II p.m., occasionally it is negatived and the Senate continues the debate. As a matter of practice, if we were to proceed to 10.30 tonight there would be nothing to prevent any senator moving that the Senate adjourn in accordance with the sessional order and resume at 9.30 tomorrow morning, lt is clear that the sessional orders are not completely and absolutely binding because at any stage the Senate may amend them to suit its purposes. In my view - and I could be wrong - the sessional orders simply spell out the proposed sitting days and times for the balance of the session and they may be amended according to the will of the Senate as we proceed.
For that reason I believe that the words in Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson’s motion should remain and the actual sitting days would then be decided by the Senate. All I understand those words to mean is that the Sessional Orders which we have at present will be reviewed. They will remain as they are or they will be amended. For the reasons I have stated I support the motion moved by Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson provided that the words ‘as the occasion arises’ are deleted.
-I do not intend to detain the Senate for very long. However, I think I should say that the motion is delightfully vague and I am not keen on vague motions or decisions. I like to know where we stand. If the motion simply stated that the Senate agrees in principle that the sittings should be on the basis of 2 weeks of sitting followed by 1 week’s adjournment, I would know where we stood. But the motion also contains these words: ‘with the actual sitting days to be decided upon by the Senate, as the occasion arises.’
– I have not yet formally asked for leave to amend my motion.
– He will accede to your request, within reason, so long as it is covered by the forms of the Senate. If the position is as stated by Senator Withers I see nothing wrong with it. I do not think any honourable senator wants to dodge any work, even the young senators. I say this with the greatest respect: If the work is to be done here, we will do it. I recognise how difficult things become at the end of a session. I am not sticking up for the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson) any more than I would stick up for anyone else in that position in the future. He will find it tremendously hard to spread the business more evenly, because there are only 5 Ministers in the Senate and 21 Ministers in the other place. If the motion is to be understood as Senator Withers explained it, and I believe it is, I see nothing wrong with it.
Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSON (New South Wales - Minister for Supply) [4.8] - I would like now formally to amend my motion so that its meaning will be in accordance with Senator Kennelly’s understanding. I reassure him that my understanding of the position is as Senator Withers has described it. I ask for leave to amend my motion. I understand that Senator Murphy has abandoned his proposed amendment and therefore we have only one motion before us.
– That is so.
– Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
Leave out ‘ , as the occasion arises’.
The simple fact is that in any event the Senate has to fix the hours of sitting, and that is done through the sessional orders.
It is as simple as that. If no other honourable senator wishes to speak, I will close the debate and we will put the motion to the vote.
– Two honourable senators are required to call for a division. It seems that on this occasion we do not have 2 honourable senators who require a division. As we have made provision to record the vote of a dissenter, I ask that my vote be recorded.
– Very well.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
[4.10] - As we would have no chance of concluding by 4.30 our discussion on the next motion I wish to move, I do not think we should commence that discussion this afternoon. I move:
That the Senate do now adjourn.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 4.11 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 27 August 1970, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1970/19700827_senate_27_s45/>.