27th Parliament · 2nd Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Magnus Cormack) took the chair at 10 a.m., and read prayers.
Religious Freedom in Australia
– I present the following petition from 6 Citizens of the Commonwealth:
To the Honourable President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully sheweth:
That,to allow true religious freedom, Governments will make no law respecting religion, neither to prohibit the free exercise thereof nor to compel the individual citizen to support the religion of others.
That nearly all non-State schools are church schools which to a greater or lesser degree promote a specific creed.
That, about 80 per cent of church schools are Roman Catholic schools, which Roman Catholic spokesmen explicitly state to be extensions of their church.
That, the use of Commonwealth funds to aid church schools compels every taxpayer to finance the religion of others, whether he wishes to. or not.
Your petitioners most humbly pray that the Senate in Parliament assembled will restore to the Australian people true religious freedom, which can exist only when Church and Slate are legally separated both in form and substance.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
Similar petitions were presented by Senators Wriedt and Murphy.
– I give notice that on the next clay of sitting I shall move:
That there be referred to the Standing Committee on Industry and Trade the following matter - The report that the Australian Gas Light Company is proposing to conclude a contract with a Japanese corporation for the manufacture and supply of steel pipes for the proposed natural gas pipeline from Moomba natural gas field in South Australia to Sydney and whether this would deny Australian steel producers and suppliers the opportunity to fabricate and supply the required steel or any part ofit.
– I ask the Minister for Air whether Australia has entered into an as yet unannounced agreement with the Netherlands to finance a prototype development of the Northrop Corporation’s P530 Cobra aircraft. If so, what sum of money has the Government committed to finance this project?
– I saw the item in this morning’s newspaper, and I saw one earlier in the week, about a collaborative programme with the French firm making the Mirage F-l aircraft. As far as I am concerned there is no truth in either of those reports. It is true that the Royal Australian Air Force has an air staff requirement for replacement of the Mirage aircraft. A number of proposals have been submitted by manufacturers for that replacement but at the present time no decision has been made. In fact, one or two manufacturers are still to submit further proposals. All I say to the honourable senator is that a decision will not be made on the Mirage replacement for some time.
(Senator Young having addressed a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry)
– Order! I must respond to the argument of the Leader of the Opposition but this does not prevent the Acting Leader of the Government in the Senate asking for leave of the Senate to make a statement later on a matter of national interest if he wishes to do so. I remind honourable senators that I have made at least a dozen declarations from the Chair in regard to question time. Every honourable senator understands the standing order which relates to the asking of questions. The procedure is clearly stated in the Standing Orders and it is in the book Australian Senate Practice’. I repeated only yesterday that questions must be asked of a Minister only on a matter in regard to which the Minister has supervision and responsibility in accordance with the commission he holds as one of Her Majesty’s Ministers of State. If we are to turn question time into a debating area its whole value will be lost. This is not to say in any way that Senator Young cannot ask a question of the nature he has asked but it must not be in the form and with the phraseology he has used.
– I ask the Minister for Civil Aviation whether a payment of $47,000 owing to the Department of Civil Aviation for airport costs was made by Jetair Australia Ltd in February 1971. Were proceedings instituted by the Deputy Crown Solicitor to have Jetair declared bankrupt if the payment was not made to the Department of Civil Aviation?
– I can remember the necessity to take some fairly strong action in this matter but I cannot remember the precise details. I shall obtain the precise details for the honourable senator. I shall try to get them today. I may not be able to but I shall endeavour to do so. I shall send out a message now. If I cannot obtain the information today I shall have it when the Senate resumes after next week.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Transport. I refer to the slow progress in the planning associated with the Adelaide - Port Pirie standardised rail link. Is it a fact that the main hold up in this project is due to the indecision of the State Government with regard to the routing of metropolitan lines to service the main industrial areas? In the interest of providing employment in South Australia, can the Minister give me any reason why work could not proceed immediately on the main trunk line from Adelaide to Port Pirie, the planning of which I understand has been completed?
– There have been quite a number of questions on this subject. My understanding of the situation is that construction cannot proceed until there is agreement between the Commonwealth and State governments and that planning of the project is still going on. I understand also that after the change of government there was further consultation. This may well be part of the cause of delay. 1 do not want to blame anybody but I think that all honourable senators will accept that both governments have to agree before work can proceed.
– I address a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs. When does the Government intend introducing complementary legislation that will enable Australia to become a signatory to the convention on the conservation of Antarctic seals? What other countries are involved in the convention? Will Australia provide staff to monitor the Antarctic seal population?
– I wish to inform the Senate that approval of the GovernorGeneral in Council has been given to the signing of the convention, that full powers have been sent to London and that the convention will be signed in the next few days. Before proceeding to ratification legislation will be necessary and consideration is being given to the requirements of that legislation at the present time. With regard to membership, South Africa is the only country to have signed and ratified the convention. It has been signed, subject to ratification, by the Argentine, Belgium, New Zealand, Norway, the United States of America, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and the United Kingdom. With regard to the protection of seals in which the honourable senator is interested, the monitoring of the seal population is not required by the convention, but the parties are required to inform the Secretary of the Commission for Antarctic Research of the number and type of seals killed by nationals of the parties signatory to the convention.
– Is the Minister for Civil Aviation able to say whether his Department has considered asking the airlines to establish one-class aircraft flights which would carry more passengers and thereby lead possibly to a lowering of fares on those flights, particularly to Tasmania which is so dependent on air travel?
– There have been some discussions about this. I know that Trans-Australian Airlines particularly has been giving some thought to the proposition that it might be able to keep costs down by reducing what might be called the luxury content of the service. In effect this would mean no meals during flights, more people on the aircraft and things of that character. This is a matter for the airlines. If they initiate some proposal we would examine it in the light of efficiency, public interest, convenience and safety.
– Will the AttorneyGeneral inform the Senate whether it is a fact that the former Commonwealth SolicitorGeneral, Sir Kenneth Bailey, condemned as a most irregular procedure the purchase of 6 DC3 aircraft by the Department of Foreign Affairs from Jetair Australia Ltd? Did Sir Kenneth advise that the Foreign Affairs Department had no authority to make the offer to Jetair that it would purchase the aircraft concerned? Why was the purchase carried through after such comment from such an authority as Sir Kenneth Bailey?
– I do not know whether this question should properly be addressed to the Attorney-General. I understand that Senator Wright is in charge of these matters and that papers have already been tabled.
– What was said by the former Commonwealth SolicitorGeneral is revealed by an examination of the papers which have been tabled in the Senate, although at the time that Sir Kenneth Bailey made the comments he was not the Solicitor-General of the Commonwealth. That fact should be borne in mind. It seems to me to be inappropriate for me to add to what the records themselves reveal. I believe that the conclusions which have been drawn by Senator O’Byrne and for which he seeks confirmation from me are answered adequately not only by the record itself but also by the very comprehensive and fair assessment of the situation that was made by my colleague Senator Wright in the speech that he made yesterday when tabling the documents. I think it is to Senator Wright that this question should be directed, as you suggested, Mr President, if the purpose of the question is to seek information.
- I rise to supplement that answer. Senator O’Byrne has chosen to refer to a memorandum by Mr Shann of the Department of Foreign Affairs to the Secretary of that Department, purporting to record Mr Shann’s understanding of a conversation with Sir Kenneth Bailey. Senator O’Byrne docs not refer to the written statement made by Sir Kenneth Bailey 10 days later, in which he said:
I would not think any element now remains either of illegality or of administrative irregularity . . .
As I understand the position, no legal effect is now attributable to the Department’s letter to the Company of 6th January last. … I think it may best be regarded as an intimation to the Company that the Department would recommend to the Department of Supply the purchase of the aircraft at the price staled.
What the inference is in the memorandum of the conversation of 12th February can only be had from the document. But I repeat that the written advice of Sir Kenneth Bailey on 22nd February was:
I would not think any element now remains either of illegality or of administrative irregularity.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry. With the big sale of Australian wheat to Mainland China, as reported last night, can the Minister confirm that this sale was negotiated by members of the Australian Wheat Board without any outside interference? Can he also confirm that al) wheat sales made by the Australian Wheat Board over the years have been made, likewise, without any outside interference?
– I can give the honourable senator that assurance. All sales to China over the period since the late 1950s have been negotiated by the Australian Wheat Board. In fact, our colleague in another place, the honourable member for Moore, was one of the members of the Wheat Board who were sent to China by the Board to negotiate the initial sales. I just want to say that in this sessional period a number of questions on the matter of wheat sales to China have been directed to me as Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry.
– All of a political nature.
– I do not accept that interjection. I recall one directed to me by Senator Drury on 30th August. I gave him a very full answer indicating that, in my view, the Chinese were very shrewd businessmen and they would come on to the market only at a time when they believed that the world wheat price and the world wheat situation were to their advantage. At the time. I indicated that they were buying in the northern hemisphere because, although they were paying a higher price for it, they were getting wheat of much higher protein content. At the same time they were receiving a freight differential. I anticipated that they would come on to the Australian market as soon as the situation suited them. I pointed out at that time that the prospects of agriculture in China had not been good in recent years.
China has been buying a high quality wheat from Canada. She also sought further purchases from France. France, which was not able to cope with those purchases, passed them on to America, which filled the orders. Now the Chinese, because of a poor season, have sought Australianwheat. Australian f.a.q. wheat makes the best noodles of any wheat in the world.It is for that reason that I believe China has come to Australia. I should point out that the last sales were made in 1969 for delivery of the 1969-70 crop. On numerous occasions since then Wheat Board representatives have been to China trying to negotiate sales. Some months ago they returned to China and negotiated a sale, but an announcement of it was not made until the Chinese had fixed up everything in the way of shipping freights and dates of delivery.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Civil Aviation. I preface it by saying that in a letter dated 27th September the Minister advised me that the South Australian Government had in fact made requests to the Commonwealth in July 1956 and August 1963 to enact legislation to allow Trans-Australia Airlines to operate intrastate air services in South Australia and that those requests had been refused. I ask: Would the Minis ter give favourable consideration to any request from the South Australian Government to allow TAA to operate intrastate in South Australia if such a request were made before the proposed new airline agreement is enacted?
– The honourable senator may be quite sure that I shall give very sympathetic consideration to any such request that comes along.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Shipping and Transport. I preface it by saying that on 5th September the Commonwealth Government offered to make a $3.5m grant to the New South Wales Government to construct a new graving dock in Newcastle I ask: Has this grant been accepted? If not, will the Commonwealth Government offer it to the Western Australian Government to construct a dry dock at the Cockburn Sound naval base? Does the Minister know that I have asked on a previous occasion for such a dock to be incorporated in the Cockburn Sound naval base? Does the Minister know that Western Australia has a need for dry docking facilities as there are no such facilities on the west coast of Australia? If the grant has been accepted by the New South Wales Government, will the Commonwealth Government give consideration to making a similar grant to Western Australia?
– Order! The honourable senator has asked a long and complicated question on a subject which does not come within the immediate supervision of the Minister. If he wishes to answer it he may do so, otherwise it will go on notice. I leave it to the Minister to decide.
- Mr President, I was just about to indicate that the question was, as you have pointed out, a detailed one and that it seemed to me that I would have to ask for it to go on notice in order to enable me to obtain an answer to it from the Minister for Shipping and Transport. But I was going to observe in passing that I am very conscious of the development potential of the west coast of Australia and its defence importance. I believe that what the honourable senator has said has quite a bit of merit to it.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Acting Minister for Health. It relates to the theft of drugs from pharmacies, hospitals and doctors’ surgeries. The DirectorGeneral of Health released statistics this month which show a rise in drug robberies and stated that this was causing concern to the Department of Health. I understand that doctors have been asked to refrain from keeping large amounts of drugs on their premises. I ask: Are any requirements placed upon doctors and retail pharmacies with regard to the holding of stocks to minimise the possibilities of thefts of large quantities of narcotics and drugs of dependence?
-I sought some general information on the question of the theft of drugs because, firstly, there have been some Press statements recently and, secondly, the Director-General of Health recently took up this matter with the Secretary of the Australian Medical Association. I am informed that on 25th August the Director-General advised the Association of the concern expressed by the National Standing Control Committee on Drugs of Dependence following that Committee’s consideration of statistics on drugs stolen in the year 1971. The figures placed before that Committee showed that within Australia in 1971, 888 offences were reported involving the theft of narcotic and other dependence producing drugs; 289 of those offences involved thefts from the cars and surgeries of medical practitioners. That figure, incidentally, is more than 3 times the number of similar offences reported in 1 970.
The emphasis of the Director-General’s request was to the medical practitioners to use care in maintaining their supplies of drugs and to ensure that they had no more on hand than was necessary for their reasonable expectation of the use which would be required. In effect, the DirectorGeneral asked them to keep only minimum amounts and to destroy all that was unwanted.I am not aware that any restriction is placed upon the quantity ofdrugs which might be kept by medical practitioners. Having regard to the differing character and requirements of medical practices it would be most difficult to impose such limits. But on that aspect I shall seek further information from the Acting Minister for Health and let the honourable senator know.
– I ask a question of the Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation. Can the Minister inform the Senate whether the wife of a totally and permanently incapacitated pensioner, in the case where the only income of the couple is their pensions and they have no other assets, will be deprived of the benefits of the pensioner medical service because of the increase granted in the TPI pension?
– It is rather hard at question time to givea general answer in respect of a case which may involve some problems of which neither the honourable senator nor I is aware. If the honourable senator would care to give me the name of the person involved in the case to which he has referred, I will direct the question to the Minister and obtain a detailed answer to it.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry. Has the attention of the Minister been drawn to an item in this morning’s Press announcing the sale by the Australian Wheat Board of wheat worth $60m to Communist China? Does this sale follow the recent sale of wheat worth $28m by the United States of America to Communist China? Is it a fact that both Australian and the United States refused diplomatic recognition of Red China? Do these 2 sales confirm the statement made by the Deputy Prime Minister, Mr Anthony, that wheat trade with China is independent of diplomatic recognition and rebut the statements of certain political tourists to the contrary?
– It is true that the sales to the Chinese referred to by the honourable senator have been made in recent weeks. It is true also, as I stated in answer to a question from Senator Drury on the same topic, that these sales to Communist China are not dependent on recognition of that country. At the time when I answered that question I pointed out that Australia had continued over a long period to make sales of alumina and sugar to China despite the fact that wheat sales to that country were not being made at that time. Sales are not dependent on political recognition of China, as has been borne out.
– I preface my question to the Minister representing the Prime Minister by reminding him, as 1 am sure he will recall, that I asked a question previously seeking information as to whether the National President of the Australian Conservation Foundation had refused to make a public statement condemning possible pollution resulting from the recent series of French nuclear tests in the Pacific. That question was not acknowledged. I am aware that the Australian Conservation Foundation made a general statement opposing the French nuclear tests. I now ask: Can the Minister inform the Parliament whether the National President of the Australian Conservation Foundation, who is His Royal Highness, the Duke of Edinburgh, did refuse to make a public statement condemning the tests?
– I ask the Minister to bear in mind the Standing Orders in relation to areas surrounding the question.
– I do not see how I can keep track of all statements made by important persons throughout the world and therefore 1 think the question is impossible to answer. I said I would seek certain information; I sought it and if the honourable senator is not satisfied, he had better make representations himself.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs. It relates to a question which I recently directed to the Minister on the subject of the imposition of an education tax ransom on Jewish academics and professionals seeking to leave the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics to go to Israel. I ask: Firstly, has the Federal Government any information to make available on this matter? Secondly, will the Minister ascertain what steps are being taken both in the United Nations and by individual nations to bring an end to this obnoxious, racist and oppressive action by the USSR?
– The information available is to the effect that a requirement is made of people wishing to leave Soviet Russia to pay what is claimed there to be recompense for costs of education but which the honourable senator describes, and 1 think with justification, as a charge for permission to leave the country. My recollection is that large sums are involved, according to academic degrees, and that these have some relation to the length of study required to attain the degrees. According to my recollection, speaking without the documents, the charge is from $5,000 to $20,000 for each person. As to whether or not this subject is being raised at the United Nations I will have to refer to the Department.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs. I refer to the Jetair transaction and the departure from established procedures in entering into that transaction. Can the Minister tell the Senate whether in any other part of the foreign aid programme there has been a similar or comparable departure from established procedures in the acquisition of the goods concerned in the aid programme?
– The honourable senator has referred to what was stated yesterday as a departure from procedures. It will be remembered that in not requiring the transaction to go to public tender, the officers of the Department of Foreign Affairs joined with officers of the Department of Supply in making the inspection of the Jetair fleet which was advertised both in the ‘Australian’ and the ‘Sydney Morning Herald’ as being for sale. It was a specific invitation to the public to purchase. Valuations were made of the fleet and a price agreed upon in accordance with the experience of the officers of the Department of Supply. Assuming that the transaction was being supported by both departments, officers of the Department of
Foreign Affairs wrote a letter which can be considered to be an offer and which, on the other hand, can be considered to be simply a statement of intent to enter into the contract. Accepting it as a letter of offer, it was a breach of Treasury regulation 52 which requires goods being purchased, of a value of more than $1,000, to be procured, except in certain circumstances, by public tender. I think that was described quite correctly as a technical breach. All usual inquiries were made to ensure that the price was regular.
As to whether any similar procedure, which Senator Murphy describes as a departure from the regulations, has occurred in any other transaction conducted by the Department of Foreign Affairs in the foreign aid programme, I am unable to say, and I refrain from saying without making inquiries. This has not happened to my knowledge, but that is subject to an inquiry. The programme has been operating for many years and many transactions would have been conducted. I would not think it warrants going through all these files to find out whether a technical departure from regulations has occurred, but if the honourable senator presses the question, I will respond to it.
– Is the Minister for Civil Aviation aware of a request made to him by the Shire of Warracknabeal in Victoria that he take an active interest in promoting the manufacture of the Nomad aircraft for the purpose of the Commonwealth making this aircraft available on moderate or lease terms to a third level airline operator for use to rural centres? Does the suggestion appeal to the Minister as having merit in giving impetus to Australia’s aircraft manufacturing industry and assisting to re-establish air services to country areas where air services conducted with a different configuration of aircraft have been withdrawn?
– The question of the manufacture of the Nomad aircraft in Australia is fundamentally a matter which comes under the jurisdiction of the Department of Supply. The Department of Civil Aviation took an interest in this project and supported the manufacture of this aircraft when it was first proposed because we held the same view as the honourable senator has expressed that it could be a suitable aircraft for a third level airline service to centres where larger aircraft have been withdrawn and where the centres themselves do not have an air service. We know of the idea advanced by the Shire of Warracknabeal and we. for our part, will be doing what we can to help.
– Senator Brown, in giving you the the call I think it appropriate to say that I am sure 1 share with all honourable senators the pleasure of seeing you return here to your place after a long and painful illness.
– Thank you, Mr President, for your remarks. I appreciated very much the numerous letters, telegrams and ‘get well’ cards I received from members on both sides of the House. 1 also appreciated the interest which you, Mr President, showed in my state of health. My question is directed to the AttorneyGeneral. Before asking my question I say at the outset that I acknowledge and respect the numerous rulings which you, Mr President, have given during question time. Although I am confident that the format of my question is not inconsistent with the requirements of the appropriate standing order, I beg your indulgence because it is essential for me to preface my question with what you may consider to be a rather lengthy preamble. 1 remind the AttorneyGeneral of a question I asked on 27th April 1972 in the following terms:
I ask the Attorney-General whether he has formulated any opinion on the application by Mr Paul Fox under section 29A of the National Service Act 1951, as amended, which was referred to his Department by the Minister for Labour and National Service? If he has not I ask him whether he is aware that it is over 7 weeks since the original application was sent to the Director of Labour and National Service in Melbourne? When did the Minister’s Department receive the referred matter for advice? Will the Minister expedite the advice sought by his colleague in another place?
I will quote part of the Minister’s answer. He said:
I am unable to give the precise dates la reponse to the honourable senator’s question. It is a fact that advice was sought from my Department and that that advice was given to he Department of Labour and National Service some time ago.
I asked a supplementary question on the same day which appears on page 1367 of Hansard. My question read:
I ask the Attorney-General whether he will be good enough to supply to me by letter answers to the specific details sought in the question I asked previously.
Will he also inform me in that communication the date on which the advice sought by his colleague the Minister for Labour and National Service in another place was furnished to the Minister?
The answer by the Attorney-General is a definite ‘yes*. On a further occasion, approximately one month later, on 3 1st May 1972, at page 231 1 of the Hansard record, 1 raised the same matter. I asked a question in these terms:
My question is directed to the Attorney-General. On 27th April I asked him to inform me by letter (a) when the Department of Labour and National Service requested advice f.om his Department in relation to the conscientious objection application by Paul Fox and (b) when the Attorney-General’s Department furnished the advice sought by the Department of Labour and National Service requested advice from his request. 1 have not received any letter to date. 1 now ask the Minister whether he will let me have the information at the earliest opportunity and, further whether he will cite the section or sections of the Act which required his Department’s attention.
Briefly, the Attorney-General said:
I am sorry that the honourable senator has not received a reply from me. I will have a look into the matter and see what stage it has reached within my Department.
Today, unless something has been lost in the Postal Department, I have still received no reply. As it is now 5 months since he undertook to provide me in letter form with information I have sought, I ask the Attorney:General why he has failed to honour that undertaking. Further, will he now guarantee to furnish me with the information I have asked for in the course of the next week?
– I am sorry that the honourable senator has not been given the information. I must say that I was unaware of the fact that he had not received the reply. But I think that my lack of awareness is due to the fact that, as I understood his inquiries at that time, he was interested to have the application which had been made by Mr Fox to be declared a conscientious objector under the National Service Act resolved as speedily as possible. Mr Fox was in gaol, having gone there after he had refused to give an undertaking to do his national service, not having given at the time he was asked to give such an undertaking any suggestion that he was a conscientious objector. It was only after he was in gaol that this question arose as to whether he was a conscientious objector. I know that the honourable senator is aware that this posed legal problems, lt was a situation which had never arisen before. The honourable senator asked a number of questions on behalf of Mr Fox in an endeavour to ascertain when the matter would be resolved. The matter has been resolved. It was resolved in May and Mr Fox was declared to be a conscientious objector. He is now out of gaol and he is under no obligation with regard to the National Service Act.
Rightly or wrongly, in my own mind I assumed that when that matter was resolved and Mr Fox was declared a conscientious objector and was out of gaol that was the end of the matter. This morning the honourable senator has raised the question. Admittedly, I am not aware whether he sought by correspondence or request to my office over the past -i or 4 months to obtain information on these matters which I believed had terminated when Mr Fox was released from gaol. But I will check to see whether there has been any such request. As I have said, if there has been a request that has not been responded to, I regret that this is the case. But now the honourable senator has asked for information in regard to dates and he says that he wishes to pursue the matter further. 1 will endeavour to have that information collated and supplied to him. I say in conclusion that I would have assumed that the purpose of the inquiries and questions being asked 4 or 5 months ago had been achieved when Mr Fox had his application determined and was regarded as a conscientious objector and so released from gaol. But if the details of what happened at that time are wanted, the honourable senator is entitled to »hem. I shall endeavour to obtain them for him.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Min ster for Primary Industry. After the successful sale of wheat to China, what amount of wheat will the Australian Wheat Board have left to sell to other markets? Is there a need to fear that because of quota restrictions on production and adverse seasons Australia will not have sufficient wheat in store to allow sales of any consequence over the next 12 months? Since the Australian Wheat Board clinched the deal with China have any other potential sales of wheat been declined?
– It is anticipated that at the end of the present wheat selling season there will be a carryover of about 46 million bushels. The season ends on 30th November. The honourable senator’s guess is as good as mine as to what the incoming crop will be. It has been forecast that New South Wales will have a crop of only about 60 million bushels, or less. The wheat sold to China, to which the honourable senator referred, will come from the 1972-73 pool or harvest. I do not know what the total will be and I do not know what sales have been declined.I shall seek some information and if it is relevant to the question asked by the honourable senator I shall give it to him.
– I direct my question to the Attorney-General and I refer to the transfer of ownership of oil and gas exploration permits under the Petroleum (Submerged Lands) Act. Is it possible for the true ownership and control of an oil exploration permit area over the submerged lands surrounding Australia to be transferred without the Designated Authority being consulted?
– There are many, many aspects to that question. Firstly, the honourable senator asks what is essentially a legal question. He would know that without looking at the matter closely I should not give a legal opinion in response to a question without notice and that it would be imprudent for me to do so. Secondly, the administration of the Petroleum (Submerged Lands) Act is the responsibility of the Minister for National Development. Possibly if the question were directed to Senator Cotton he would be able to give more information about this area of responsibility than 1 am able to give. Thirdly, I think that the Senate commis sioned a report from its Select Committee on Off-shore Petroleum Resources and I have some recollection that aspects of this problem were comprehended within the report which that Committee presented. I would commend the honourable senator to a study of that particular report. Beyond saying that, I do not think I can give any further answer to the question.
– I suggest that the honourable senator direct his question to Chou En-lai rather than to me.
– I direct my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs. It concerns the papers tabled yesterday relating to Jetair Australia Ltd. At the time that delivery was taken of the DC3 aircraft one of them could not get off the ground because of an engine failure. Was that engine repaired at the estimated cost of $5,000, as suggested in the papers, or was it replaced with a newly purchased engine from the Royal Australian Air Force?
– The reference by the honourable senator to $5,000 as an estimate of repairs does not strike a memory chord in my mind. In respect of one of the DC3 aircraft, it is true that on testing for take-off it showed signs of misbehaviour. It was subjected to test as to magneto and other components. On a second test it again gave an unsatisfactory result. A recommendation was then made that the engine be changed. The cost, at first, was estimated - I speak from memory - at $2,396. The result was an amount close to S3,000. That cost was accommodated within the estimate which was made for the cost of refurbishing and refitting the aircraft for flight to the aid country, which was the purpose of the transaction.
– I ask the Minister for Civil Aviation whether it is a fact that the major airline operators are finding it uneconomic to service certain intrastate routes in South Australia. Is he aware that in particular the service to Leigh Creek has been drastically reduced in recent months? In relation to Leigh Creek is the Minister aware that a third level airline would be able to provide a daily service? Will he give serious consideration to recommending that this line be taken over so that the residents will be given a much more satisfactory freight and passenger service?
– I think it is a fair observation that in some of the internal flying in South Australia the load factors are not such as to make the operations all that profitable. In fact, some may be highly marginal. Where a service has to be dropped because the available aircraft and the major operator are too big for the service, we always seek to encourage a third level operator to enter the field. I cannot direct that mandatorily but the honourable senator may be sure that we do what we can to help. We are watching the Leigh Creek situation closely in that regard.
– I direct a ques tion to the Acting Leader of the Government in the Senate. In view of recurring complaints about inconsistent British Home Office rulings in relation to Australian.? entering Britain, will the Minister seek to expedite the British Government’s response to Sir Alexander Downer’s complaints?
– The honourable senator’s question arises out of an answer I gave to a question he asked me the other day. He now wants me to go a step further. I shall certainly make inquiries and see what I can do.
– With wheat sales to China in mind, can the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs inform the Senate whether Australia’s foreign policy has in any way inhibited the success of our international trading?
– It will be recalled that 2 or 3 days ago Senator Hannan addressed a question to me which referred to sales of wheat by the United States to Communist China. He asked for a comment on whether Mainland China governed its commercial international transactions by foreign policy. I refrained from making comment. But now we come into the Australian scene where we have maintained consistently the policy that we will seek progressive normalisation of bilateral relations with the People’s Republic of China, moving at all times with prudent and careful assessment of Australia’s national interests, including the need to bear in mind the interests and concerns of our friends and neighbours, particularly with regard to South East Asian countries, and of course our relations with Taiwan.
I think it becomes abundantly clear and a most important fact to remember in the maintenance of Australia’s foreign policy in this respect that we seek a normalisation of foreign relations with Mainland China but not at the expense of our own real interests or those of neighbouring countries. It is apparent that commercial considerations will govern trade, rather than the foreign policy of mainland China. It is important for me, standing here as Minister representing the Government, to say this because an attempt was made by the Leader of the Australian Labor Party last year to woo the head of mainland China and to seek an adoption by him of Australian Labor Party policy as a means of influencing the Australian electorate. It is most dangerous in this country, when Australia’s elected government has a clear, purposeful policy, if that policy can be undermined by the Opposition, not only at home but also abroad.
-I address a question to the Acting Leader of the Government in the Senate. If, as Sir Kenneth Bailey stated, the method of contracting by the Department of Foreign Affairs with
Jetair Australia Ltd was as irregular a procedure as it is possible to conceive, why is it that there has been no mention of it in the Auditor-General’s report?
– I have not the detailed information. I think that this question should be referred to Senator Wright or put on notice.
– I wish to supplement the answer. It was shown clearly yesterday that with that matter on the file inquiries were made by the AuditorGeneral’s office of the Department of Foreign Affairs and that the Secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs wrote to the Auditor-Genera] a considered careful letter in July 1971 setting out:
It has since been pointed out to us by Supply that we should also have had full consultations with the Contracts Branch of Supply and not assumed as we did that the Aircraft Division would keep the Contracts Branch of the same Department fully informed.
The Secretary explained that although there had been a technical breach of the regulation the transaction was fully inquired into. Wide inquiries were made as to the availability of the other aircraft and wide inquiries as to the price and all commercial considerations. Is it to be expected, in view of that response, that the AuditorGeneral has time to waste in further consideration of such minutiae?
– My question is addressed to the Attorney-General. Having in mind further acts of sabotage such as the blowing up of an electricity tower near Gladstone causing so much disruption to large areas of Queensland, I ask: What powers has the Commonwealth Government to deal with those acts of sabotage? Will the Commonwealth Government use what powers it has to deal harshly with such persons? Will the Attorney-General have discussions with the State AttorneysGeneral in an endeavour to have uniformity of penalties in Australia for acts of sabotage to stamp out this type of scurrilous activity by these degenerates in the community?
– The events to which the honourable senator refers are a further indication of violent activity. He uses the expression ‘sabotage, which I would not regard as an inappropriate expression to use with reference to a wanton destruction of *property which not only provides necessary supplies to maintain lifelines in this community but the destruction of which, I imagine, has its effect upon persons who have to depend for their employment on such supplies. Regrettably, this is not the only occasion on which this sort of wanton and senseless destruction of property has occurred. The reason for it is difficult to fathom. In Victoria over a number of years we have seen similar wanton destruction of schools by arsonists. The motivation of the people who engage in that activity again is difficult to fathom. All of it reflects the tendency for people to take the law into their own hands, to ignore the law and to engage in crimes and offences that create a problem for the community in coping with them.
Having said that, I repeat what I have said earlier: Where there is an offence which, on the face of it, is an offence against a State law, even though it might be characterised as sabotage, the investigation must be carried out by the State police. Events that occur in Whyalla are matters of State police investigation. Events that occur in Gladstone are matters of State police investigation. It is only when, as a result of those investigations, there is some element which suggests that a Commonwealth interest is involved that Commonwealth agencies become directly concerned. I appreciate that in the background of all this there is a continuing interest on the part of one or more Australian agencies to protect the security of the nation. If they see any connection between what is happening and the charter under which they operate, then advice is given and appropriate steps can be taken. I believe that there is a need, to which the Prime Minister has adverted, for serious consideration to be given to matters of which this type of violence may well form part. That consideration would be with a view to reassuring the public, to the extent that reassurance can be given, of the adequacy of our existing procedures and also to ascertaining whether our existing procedures and approaches in these matters can be or cannot be improved.
– Has the AttorneyGeneral seen the reference in today’s ‘Australian’ to the fact that Dymphna Cusack, the grand old lady of Australian literature who spent some years following the trail of the Ustasha through Yugoslavia, concluded that ‘if a government won’t acknowledge a terrorist organisation’s presence it must be said to be conniving with it’?
– Order! Senator 0’Byrne, will you please resume your seat while I read out my previous ruling on questions. 1 keep this in my drawer because there are so many offences against the Standing Orders in relation to questions that I have to keep repeating it. 1 remind the Senate that it has been ruled on many occasions that, whilst questions may be asked on newspaper or other reports, quotations are not in order. The purpose of questions is to obtain information. Questions should be brief and in a form that makes it possible for them to be answered. J reaffirm that honourable senators must frame their questions in such a way as not to make quotations. I am basing that on rulings given by many previous Presidents of the Senate.
– Will the AttorneyGeneral assure the Senate that the valuable research material on terrorist activities, which has been referred to by Dymphna Cusack and which she says she has available, will be thoroughly examined by officers of his Department?
– The simple answer to the question is that, if people who claim that they have information, and on the basis of their claims make conclusions which they publicise, make that information available to the authorities for them to assess, undoubtedly the investigations will be made. I know that the Commonwealth police investigate, and have investigated recently, all allegations which have appeared in the newspapers by people who claim - I must emphasise the word claim’ - that they have information about criminal terrorist organisations. I cannot speak for the State police, but I believe that they would generally follow the same procedure. 1 think that there are a couple of comments which ought to be made. One is that a number of the people who write in newspapers find that they are unable to give any information at all because they say that their source is confidential and cannot be revealed. That has been demonstrated in recent times when Commonwealth police have investigated newspaper writers. One wonders, therefore, why people should write in newspapers when they are not prepared to give the source of their information to the police in order to enable the police to investigate the matter.
– Surely there is a simple answer to that.
– There may well be an answer, but I am not prepared to give it at the present time. Senator Georges may well know why people write such stories. In recent times I have experienced 2 very significant occurrences. One was an interview with a number of people who claimed that there are terrorist organisations in Australia. The leader of that group said to me that there was, as I have often said, no evidence of there being such a thing as a Ustasha in Australia, and that there was no evidence that would enable people to be prosecuted. But it may be that such evidence will be found. Therefore investigations must still be carried on. The other significant occurrence was the statement by Dr J. F. Cairns, as reported in last Sunday’s ‘Sun Herald’, that as far as he is aware, there is no movement in Australia which goes under the name of Ustasha. This, of course, is a matter which eventually seeps through. A sifting of all these allegations and claims proves in so many instances that there is no basis for them.
Senator 0’Byrne referred to something which Dymphna Cusack has written. I have not seen it, but I am quite sure that, after this question has been asked today, the attention of the Commonwealth police will be drawn to it and they will make such inquiries as they can make in the light of the information given to them.
– I desire to ask a question of the Attorney-General. It relates to the disclosure in the papers tabled yesterday on Jetair Australia Ltd that the Deputy Crown Solicitor of New South Wales had instituted proceedings which would have led to the winding up of
Jetair. I ask: Were such proceedings withdrawn or discontinued? If so, what were the relevant details that justified the action which was initiated by the Deputy Crown Solicitor?
– I am unable to give information on this matter, but I know that my colleague, Senator Wright, is in a position to give information on it. Therefore I suggest that the question be answered by him.
– Mr President, in responding to Senator Cavanagh’s question, I must perforce rely on my memory of the documents. The honourable senator will find among the documents tabled a memorandum to the effect that there was owing by the vendor company 3 categories of charges - air charges and others - amounting, according to my recollection, to about $43,000 or $37,000 and that $50,000 was set aside out of the purchase money to offset that debt and see that it was paid. That amount was paid.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs. I ask: Is the Minister aware that a statement was issued by the Government in February 1971 which purported to be a full statement on the Jetair Australia Ltd transaction? I show to the Senate a copy of that statement. Why was no reference made in that statement to correspondence between Ministers? Why was the information concerning the irregularities as set out in a report tabled in this chamber yesterday by the Minister not included in the statement delivered in this chamber one year and 9 months ago?
– I am unable instantly to verify the date which the honourable senator attributes to the statement. The date he gives is in accordance with my recollection. That statement was a statement of such aspects of the transaction as seemed to be material at that time. I would have thought that it was quite appropriate and a fair and substantial statement for public information with respect to the transaction. The matter was pursued then with innuendoes suggesting a personal involvement by the Prime Minis ter in this transaction. The papers that have now been tabled show how absurd that suggestion was and now Senator Keeffe and one or two like-minded colleagues are teasing the matter out because they have discovered a technical breach of a Treasury regulation which was based upon the assumption that the division of the Department of Supply responsible for aircraft was keeping the division of that Department responsible for contracts informed of the matter. They see in that expression ‘technical breach’ a means of attracting Press publicity to superficial matters which no reasonable assemblage of men or public officials would think it proper to waste further time in discussing.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for National Development: Is the consent of the South Australian Government necessary for the supply of natural gas from South Australia to New South Wales? If so, what action has Mr Dunstan, the Premier of South Australia, taken to ensure that Australian made pipe will be used, so preserving employment for Australian workers?
– I have seen nothing that would help me to answer that question from my knowledge-
– Could the Minister possibly know that?
– I do not know that. I am trying to indicate to the Senate that at this stage I do not know. But it is a query which seems to me to call for an answer. Representations between the Commonwealth on the one hand and the Premier of a State on the other would be properly matters for the Prime Minister, t will direct the question to the Minister for National Development and seek an answer.
– The first part of my question was: Is the consent of the State necessary for the gas to be supplied from South Australia to Sydney?
– I believe that consent would be necessary and would have to be obtained.
– The State would have to endorse the contract?
– I would believe so.
– Well, Mr Dunstan has done nothing to safeguard the Australian worker.
– Order! What is this - cross-examination by question?
– No, it is elucidation. The PRESIDENT- I call Senator Georges.
– I hope that you do not think that I am a like-minded senator.
– Order! I must direct attention to a most extraordinary phenomenon which I am beginning to discern in the pattern of questioning. When questioning is nearly ended, a stream of other questions seems to pour into the Senate. I will discuss this with the Leaders of the parties. I have in mind that the forms of the Senate are being used in a way which does not permit the Senate to discharge its proper responsibility.
– I hope that I am not being accused of improper behaviour.
– No. Let us say I am not without eyes and ears.
– It is just that I was seeking to assist the Senate by not rising at an earlier stage.
– I call Senator Georges.
– As the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs is so well informed about Jetair Australia Ltd, can he explain the extraordinary haste in seeking the official approval of the then Foreign Minister, Mr McMahon, for the purchase of the 6 Jetair DC3 aircraft? What reasonable explanation is there for the fact that on 31st December 1970 the Secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs recommended to Mr McMahon that the purchase of the Jetair aircraft be accepted and that Mr McMahon gave his handwritten approval within 4 hours - in fact, on New Year’s Day, 1st January 1971? Why did Mr McMahon find it necessary to give his approval in such haste and on such a day?
– I shall labour long, I see, before establishing an understanding of business facts in the minds of this group who pursue the Jetair transaction. The fleet of Jetair was advertised in the public Press, the ‘Sydney Morning Herald’ and the ‘Australian’, on 5th December. On 17th December a joint party of officials from Foreign Affairs and Supply inspected the fleet. They inspected it again on the 18th. They made inquiries and no doubt discussions took place within the Department. Memoranda are in the file in the manuscript writing of the officers concerned. A submission was made by the secretary of the Department, dated 31st December. Is that extraordinary delay? Is it extraordinary haste? A transaction initiated on 5th December by advertisement culminated in a submission by the Department on 31st December. Business attention in a proper way is how I would describe it. And then surprise is expressed that it was the next day - and that it was New Year’s Day - on which the present Prime Minister personally minuted the submission as approved. That ought to be acknowledged by the Opposition, even by the most hostile critics of the Prime Minister, as showing how hard he works at his correspondence, attending to the daily requirements of the Department he is administering even on New Year’s Day.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs. The Minister has explained to the Senate that the whole Jetair business was a technical error or breach of a Treasury regulation. I ask the Minister: Is it not a fact that the documents tabled yesterday in the Senate show that the purchase of those aircraft caused great concern to senior public servants in 4 departments? Did not the Deputy Secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs, Mr Shann, say it was very disturbing to see the details of the orders which were given to him by the Secretary of the Department of Supply? Further, did a senior officer of the Department of Supply, in a minute to Mr Cooley, ask what grounds there were for restricting the purchase to Jetair and what grounds there were for considering $275,000 a reasonable price? Does the Minister believe therefore that this is mere trivia and that the transaction was a technical error under the Treasury regulation?
– I regret that it is too late in question time for me, with appropriate length, patience and detail, to explain this matter to the garbled understanding of Senator O’Byrne. If he will put the question on notice a careful reply will be given in writing which he can study at his leisure.
– Mr President, I am conscious of what you said earlier, but I would like to ask Senator Cotton a question supplementary to that which he answered earlier in response to Senator McManus. That was about the legal requirements for approval by the Premier of South Australia. The Minister said he believed that permission had to be granted by the Premier of South Australia. In view of the suggestions that have been made about the matter, will the Minister, rather than leaving it at that stage, put before the Senate at the earliest opportunity some opinion from the appropriate Commonwealth constitutional or legal authorities, explaining precisely to the Senate whether any approval was given and, if so, what kind of approval and for what purposes?
- Mr President, it has been ruled, I think, by you, and there are historical precedents, that legal opinions must neither be sought nor given. I did not attempt to do that. When Senator McManus asked me a question I was remembering my halcyon days on the Senate Select Committee on Off-Shore Petroleum Resources when we directed a lot of our time to this problem of interstate trade and the consequential legal and constitutional responsibility. I emerged from that exercise with some understanding that there was a very strong sanction and that the States did have to co-operate in full. I understand that the State Designated Authority would be the responsible person here. Senator Murphy, in addition to Senator McManus, raises the query that there is a South Australian interest in the matter. Senator McManus asks - and this was added to by Senator Murphy - what the South Australian Premier is doing about the South Australian interest. I shall certainly seek to find out that information for the honourable senators.
– Mr President, may I put my question to the Minister again? I did not ask him that question. I asked him whether, instead of leaving the Senate in doubt on the legal responsibility of the South Australian Premier, about which he suggested he had a belief, he could settle the matter by producing to the Senate at the earliest opportunity some opinion by the Commonwealth legal authorities, or such authority as he has available to him, to establish the basis for any belief that the approval of the Premier of South Australia is required? I am not asking him for criticism one way or the other, but merely the basis of the belief. What is the proper constitutional and legal position as understood by the Commonwealth?
– I thought it was implicit in my reply to Senator McManus that that is what I would be seeking to do. Senator Murphy may be sure of that, and I do not think he should be upset in any sense. That is what I would be seeking to do. In this area there is some reasonable room for a variety of views. The required reading on this matter for those who have the time would be the chapters of the Senate Select Committee’s report on tha interstate trade reference. It was a remarkable job, and I think that when honourable senators read that they will come out with an understanding that there is some area here calling for definition. I would certainly have regarded myself as having been prepared to take up the matter and I indicated a willingness to do so.
– Order! I remind honourable senators that they have been asking questions for an hour and 20 minutes, and if the Senate is agreeable and in a mood to concede, I suggest that the next question be the last question.
– You will be pleased to know, Mr President, that this is my last question. I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs whether he is aware that early in 1971 I was advised in this chamber, in a written reply to a question on notice, that there was no breach of Treasury Regulation 52. The reply was supplied by a senior Minister. I ask the Minister whether he is also aware that the
Department of Foreign Affairs agreed with the Auditor-General’s Office, by way of a letter dated 9th July 1971, that Regulation 52 had in fact been breached? I now ask the Minister why he has suppressed this information for one year and 4 months?
– Mr President, I ask for a withdrawal of the expression ‘suppressed’.
– Order! I think that it is a very injudicious word, Senator Keeffe, and I am quite convinced that you will agree to withdrew it.
- Mr President, I used the word ‘suppressed’ in the last question directed to the Minister and he did not object. But if he is going to object this time. I will withdraw it.
– Order! As a matter of fact, I was going to object on behalf of the Minister, but the Minister took the matter up.
– I will withdraw the word ‘suppressed’ and say: Why has the Minister withheld this information forI year and 4 months?
– I ask that the question be placed on notice.
– For the information of honourable senators I table a letter to the Administrator of the Commonwealth from the Chairman of the Commonwealth Grants Commission reporting the amounts to be recommended for payments of special grants to the States in 1972-73. The Commonwealth Grants Commission’s further report is expected to be available for tabling in the House when Parliament meets again on 10th October 1972.
Report and Ministerial Statement Senator COTTON (New South WalesMinister for Civil Aviation) - Pursuant to sections 9 and 10 of the Representation Act 1905-64, I hereby give notification of the determination of numbers of members of the House of Representatives to be chosen in the several States and also present the certificates of the Chief Electoral Officer of the numbers of people of the Commonwealth and of the several States.
– by leave - I wish to make a statement on behalf of the Prime Minister (Mr McMahon) and where the first person personal pronoun appears it refers to the Prime Minister.
I desire to inform the House that as required by the Representation Act 1905- 1964, the Chief Electoral Officer has ascertained the numbers of the people of the Commonwealth and the numbers of the people of the several States consequent upon the taking of the census on 30th June 1971. Copies of the Chief Electoral Officer’s certificate specifying the said numbers have been tabled. Pursuant to sections 9 and 10 of the Representation Act, the Chief Electoral Officer has determined the number of members of the House of Representatives to be chosen for the several States. As a result of that determination the representation for Western Australia will be increased by one member as from the first general election held after that State has been redistributed into electoral divisions. Section 25 of the Commonwealth Electoral Act provides as follows:
– (1.) A re-distribution of any State into divisions shall be made in the manner hereinbefore provided whenever directed by the Governor-General by proclamation. (2.) Such proclamation may be made -
It will be noted that Western Australia qualifies for a redistribution under the provisions of section 25 (2.) (a).
The Chief Electoral Officer has advised the Government that there is not now sufficient time to give effect to a redistribution of any State before the forthcoming House of Representatives election. Nevertheless, the Government believes that it has an obligation to set in motion the machinery for a redistribution of Western Australia so as to ensure that that State gains its entitlement of an extra member from the beginning of the 29th Parliament. The Government therefore proposes to recommend to the Governor-General the appointment of distribution commissioners for Western Australia.
Although there has been some shift of population in the other States, there is no requirement at present for a redistribution in any State other than Western Australia and consideration in respect of those States will be deferred for the time being.
– by leave - Mr President, ! regret that we had no opportunity of knowing that this notification or determination was to be presented or that the Prime Minister (Mr McMahon) was to make this statement because it appears to raise considerations of the greatest magnitude. Section 24 of the Constitution stales:
The House of , Representatives shall be composed of members directly chosen by the people of the Commonwealth, and the number of such members shall be, as nearly as practicable, twice the number of senators.
The number of members chosen in the several States shall be in proportion to the respective number* of their people, and shall, until the Parliament otherwise provides, be determined, whenever necessary, in the following manner:
A quota shall be ascertained by dividing the number of the people of the Commonwealth, as shown by the latest statistics of the Commonwealth, by twice the number of the senators;
The number of members to be chosen in each State shall be determined by dividing the number of the people of the State, as shown by the latest statistics of the Commonwealth, by the quota; and if on such division there is a remainder greater than one-half of the quota, one more member shall be chosen in the State.
Then there is a provision for a minimum number of members. There are to be at least 5 member* chosen in each original State. In section 26 there are certain other provisions guaranteeing that there will be certain numbers in respect to certain States. This means that the Constitution contemplates and appears to guarantee that the entitlement of a State to membership in the House of Representatives shall be determined in a certain manner. The Constitution, not any Act of this Parliament, states that the number of members chosen in the several States shall be in proportion to the respective numbers of their people. The quota is to be determined by dividing the number of people as shown by the latest statistics of the Commonwealth by twice the number of senators, and then there is a formula to work out what the appropriate representation shall be.
From the documents which have just been tabled it appears that the entitlement determined is 45 for New South Wales, 34 for Victoria, 18 for Queensland, 12 for South Australia, 10 for Western Australia - I understand that is one more than it now has - and 5 for Tasmania. Does it not seem, therefore, that Western Australia is entitled to have 10 members elected, as a constitutional right, at the forthcoming election? If it has that constitutional right it may well be that the provisions of the Electoral Act, which do not conform with that view, will not prevail against the constitutional right. If the Government has delayed taking action, designedly or otherwise, and this results in a situation where a Slate will not be electing its correct representation, it may well be that that State is entitled to its number of representatives according to the Constitution. I am not being dogmatic but am trying to assist the Senate at this juncture. It may well be that the other provisions of the Constitution relating to what happens in the absence of a division of the State have to apply, those being provisions which may, on certain views, mean that the State as a whole would elect its representatives.
– I do not think you can take it that far.
– The AttorneyGeneral interrupts and says that it cannot be taken that far.
– I do not think you can take it that far. I am talking about your argument.
– I think the Senate and the Parliament is entitled not merely to interjections made here by the AttorneyGeneral. We are at least entitled to the formal opinion of the Solicitor-General of the Commonwealth about the entitlements. I suggest that that opinion ought to be obtained as speedily as possible. Where, under the Constitution, a State is entitled to more representatives than are provided for under the divisions which have taken place - those divisions being applicable at present - we should know what should be done in respect of the election in order that that State may have its full entitlement in the House of Representatives. This matter ought not to be decided upon a viewpoint casually interjected into this debate by the Attorney-General. The formation of the next Parliament is involved and there should be no doubts about this matter. There could well be a close division in the political representation in another Parliament as occurred after the 1961 and 1969 elections. Who knows? Not only the rights of Western Australia but also the rights of all of the people of Australia to a parliament constitutes as provided under the Constitution may be involved. 1 suggest that one thing which emerges out of this as a matter of extreme urgency and importance is that the constitutional position should be put to rest as quickly as possible Certainly consideration ought to be given by this chamber, if not by the other place, to what should be done in the circumstances. I submit that at least the opinion of the Solicitor-General on the proper constitutional course should be obtained and put before the Senate as rapidly as possible in light of the notification which has been placed before the Senate. I ask the Minister for Civil Aviation whether he will indicate that he will do so, otherwise I propose to move a motion in relation to the matter.
– Mr President-
– Order! Senator Mulvihill, I think this is a matter between the Acting Leader of the Government in the Senate and the Leader Opposition. At this juncture I do not think it should be taken out of the hands of the leaders until such time as I have called upon Senator Cotton to respond to Senator Murphy.
– I indicate very briefly that I will put it to the Minister to accede to the honourable senator’s request to find this out as a matter of urgency. I move:
– Mr President, I will be guided by your ruling in relation to procedure. I ask for leave to make a statement to supplement an aspect of what my Leader said because it concerns conversations-
– Order! Senator Mulvihill, you have taken the adjournment on this and now the Minister for Civil Aviation has moved that the Senate take note of the statement. You can move to adjourn the debate.
– I want to elicit further information supplementary to what was raised by Senator Murphy. No doubt the Minister for Civil Aviation can give some information later today or when the Senate resumes after next week.
– I think the information can be obtained without your using the floor of the Senate to obtain it. At this stage 1 think you are out of order.
– Can I ask for leave to make a statement on the subject?
– That is up to the Senate. Is leave granted?
– I have no objection to allowing Senator Mulvihill to speak briefly, but there is a motion before the Senate that it take note of the statement.
– I shall put the motion first and then Senator Mulvihill can make his statement. The question is that the motion be agreed to. All those of that opinion say aye, to the contrary no. I think the ayes have it.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
- Senator Mulvihill, you may now make your statement.
– I rise to urge the Ministers involved in what I call this fragmentary approach to the Commonwealth Electoral Act to take cognisance in any subsequent development of an answer which I received yesterday in reply to question No. 2350. It vaguely referred to the need to amend the Commonwealth Electoral Act to provide absentee voting throughout the Commonwealth. There has been a failure to indicate on the legislative programme when we will be dealing with the Commonwealth Electoral Act amendments. I ask the Ministers involved to take cognisance also of the fact that with the impending United States presidential elections - I read this in ‘Time’ magazine of a fortnight ago - the United States has apparently put its house in order by extending the franchise. I ask the Minister to take the Senate into his confidence as to when we will be dealing with the Commonwealth Electoral Act because I say very sincerely that a tremendous number of people are asking in this year 1972 why they are not able to vote in any part of the Commonwealth on an absentee basis on polling day. That is the point I am trying to establish.
– I will see that the points raised are looked into.
Senator MURPHY (New South WalesLeader of the Opposition) - We may have got a little out of order. The motion to take note of the statement has been moved. I now move:
That I he debate be adjourned.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senator COTTON (New South WalesMinister for Civil Aviation) - I move:
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– On behalf of the Joint Committee of Public Accounts I present the 140th report. I have a statement and seek leave to have it incorporated in Hansard.
– Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The statement read as follows) -
As honourable senators will know, the Committee has, for many years, conducted combined inquiries relating to expenditure from the Advance to the Treasurer and expenditure from the Consolidated Revenue Fund, but has tabled separate reports on both aspects of these inquiries. The one hundred and fortieth report relates specifically to evidence taken by the Committee in connection with expenditure from the Advance to the Treasurer, in 1971-72. The one hundred and fortieth report differs from all previous reports tabled by the Public Accounts Committee, inasmuch as the public inquiry from which it arose, was conducted for the first time by 2 sectional committees, rather than by the Committee itself. In this regard I should mention that, early this year, the Committee took a series of important, related initiatives connected with its future development and design to improve its effectiveness. To fac- ilitate the operation of an improved programme, the Committee decided that it would operate in 2 standing sectional or sub-committees of 5 members each, for the purpose of taking evidence. As honourable senators will be aware, provision is contained in section 9 of the Public Accounts Committee Act for the appointment of sectional committees to inquire into and report to the Committee on matters with which it is concerned. This new arrangement, which has proved to be very successful from the Committee’s view-point, came into operation as planned, on 15th August 1972, when the Committee commenced its annual examination of expenditure from the Advance to the Treasurer and the Consolidated Revenue Fund, for the financial year 1971-72.
As part of this new administrative arrangement, page 2 of the Report shows the date of appointment and membership of the 2 sectional committees and the marginal notes in each chapter show which of the sectional committees took evidence on the matter concerned. In Chapter 1 of the report, the Committee has stated that, in examining expenditure from the Advance to the Treasurer, it has sought to ascertain whether or not expenditure from the Advance has been confined to urgent and unforeseeable requirements for which provision could not have been made in the Original and Additional Estimates. The Committee has also sought to ascertain whether or not the departments concerned in the inquiry have maintained efficient administration in the expenditure of funds under the items selected for public inquiry. As the report shows, there were cases where expenditure from the Advance to the Treasurer was confined to urgent and unforeseeable requirements for which provision could not have been made in the appropriation legislation. In other cases, however, there is evidence of clerical errors, failure to establish adequately based administrative arrangements, and lack of adequate communication between central and regional offices of departments and between branches of the central office of the same department. These defects result in either poor standards of estimating or inadequate expenditure performances. Attention has been drawn to these inadequacies where they have been discovered.
As in several previous inquiries relating to expenditure from the Advance to the Treasurer, the Committee has found further evidence of charges having been made to the Advance without warrant Authority, in contravention of sub-Regulation 1 of Treasury Regulation 90. These charges usually arise from clerical or administrative errors. In recent years, the Committee has had cause to comment adversely on the quality of written submissions and oral evidence tendered by departments. In this regard, the Committee is pleased to note a considerable general improvement in the quality of evidence tendered during the present inquiry. At the same time, however, some evidence tendered by a department was factually imprecise and, but for a correction subsequently tendered by an observer, could have misled the Committee into unjustified criticism of the department. Imprecisions of the nature to which I have referred, highlight the need for departments to exercise great care in the presentation of documenatry and oral evidence. I commend the report to honourable senators.
Ordered that the report be printed.
– I bring up the 41 st report of the Standing Committee on Regulations and Ordinances relating to Statutory Rules 1972 No. 127, amendment to the Military Financial Regulations. I ask honourable senators to give close scrutiny to the Committee’s report because the Committee proposes to move for the disallowance of this regulation. I think it would be well for honourable senators to be versed in the procedure which the Committee adopted in this matter after long deliberation and consideration.
Ordered that the report be printed.
– Is Government business, notice of motion No. 1, formal or not formal?
Motion (by Senator Cotton) agreed to:
That leave be given to introduce a Bill for an Act relating to charges in respect of Commonwealth Air Navigation Facilities and Services.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
Standing orders suspended.
– I move:
The Air Navigation (Charges) Act imposes charges on the operators of aircraft for the use of aerodromes, airway facilities, meteorological services and search and rescue services provided, operated and maintained by the Commonwealth, and the purpose of this Bill is to increase the rates of air navigation charges, to introduce charges for airline training flights, and to make other desirable changes in the provisions of the Act. In 1971-72, the estimated cost of operating and maintaining airport, airway and meteorological facilities and services used by civil aviation operators amounted to some$1 13m. Revenue received by the Department of Civil Aviation in respect of the use of these facilities was approximately $33m, $23m coming from air navigation charged and$10m from airport commercial development, rentals and other miscellaneous sources.In addition, the Department of Customs and Excise collected about $19m in aviation fuel taxes. As is usual at this time each year, the Government has given consideration to the level of air navigation charges, having regard for the revenue and expenditure position which I have just mentioned and the economic circumstances in the air transport industry.
The rates of charges were last increased as from 1st January 1971, but the operators of heavy jet aircraft recently incurred higher charges when concessions applied to these types under the provisions of paragraph 7 (3) of the first schedule to the Act were removed because the airport facilities now available do not justify their continuation. The Government is aware that the civil aviation industry has experienced some problems in recent times, with a slowing down of traffic growth and rising costs making it difficult to maintain profitability. The aircraft operators have all advocated most strongly that no changes be made in the charges which they have to pay for the use of Commonwealth civil aviation airport and airway facilities. The cost of these facilities, however, continues to rise year by year, and the Government has a clear responsibility to see that gradual but reasonable progress is made towards the recovery of those costs from the users of the facilities.
In previous years, increases in air navigation charges approved by the Parliament have generally been at the rate of 10 per cent. Although the charges were not changed last year, the Government has taken into account the factors 1 have mentioned earlier and has concluded that an average increase of only about 5 per cent should be applicable to the rates of charges payable by airline operators with effect from 1st December 1972. It has also decided that the economic state of the domestic general aviation industry does not warrant any increase in the charges payable for light aircraft used in charter, aerial work and private operations, and that some reduction in the charges applicable to ultra-light aircraft would be appropriate. These proposals will be made effective by the new scale of charges included in clause 7 of the Bill. This single scale replaces the 2 existing charging scales applicable to domestic and international aircraft, and it introduces metric weights into the Act. Apart from the first 2 weight brackets, it is a smooth type of scale which avoids the sudden increases in charges that have been a feature of the scales used in the charging system previously.
The amendments incorporated in clauses 5 and 8 are designed to introduce charges for aircrew trainingflights operated by the airlines. The Government recognises the vital part which crew training plays in maintaining Australia’s outstanding safety record in civil aviation, and it was only after very careful consideration that a decision was taken to charge for the use of Commonwealth facilities on training flights. The total annual costs of the special jet training aerodrome at Avalon in Victoria alone amount to about $lm. and the airlines also use other Commonwealth aerodromes and facilities in their crew training activities. The modest charges now proposed will recover some of these costs without imposing an unacceptable burden on the airlines. Two types of charge are proposed- one for training flights which are operated between airports at least one of which is owned by the Commonwealth, and the other for training flights confined to a single Commonwealth airport.
The amendments proposed in clauses 3, 4 and 6 are minor in nature and are intended to improve the relevant provisions in the Act and to avoid a loss of revenue in special and unusual circumstances. Clause 9 adds further routes to the table of flights included in the Act and deletes and amends other routes already in that table. These changes are deemed to be necessary in the light of developments in the provision of facilities and the present operating patterns of the airlines. Clause 10 amends the refund provisions of the Second Schedule to the Act, principally so that double-charging will not occur when airline training flights are operated with aircraft for which charges have been paid under that Schedule. Clause 11 will facilitate the specification of aircraft weights in the Commonwealth Gazette in metric units with effect from 1st December, when the proposed new rates of charges become effective. I commend the Bill.
Debate (on motion by SenatorO’Byrne) adjourned.
– I move:
Estimates Committee A will meet in Senate Committee Room L17 and Estimates Committee E will meet in the Senate Chamber.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Senator Murphy) agreed to:
That Business of the Senate, Notice of Motion No. 1, be postponed until the next day of sitting.
– Pursuant to contingent notices of motion I move:
This order of the day relates to the Commonwealth Electoral Bill 1972, the purpose of which is to provide votes for 18-year- olds. If this motion is carried the debate on the second reading will continue and I hope will be resolved tonight.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– 1 move:
That the time for the Estimates Committees to report to the Senate be extended and that the Committees report on or before 26th October 1972.
Honourable senators will recall that Senator Cavanagh raised this matter recently.
-Why has noindication been given by the Government as to when the election is to be held? This is a matter of some seriousness to the Parliament. Surely this childish approach to the programming of Parliament has gone on long enough and the Parliament is entitled to be told when the election will be held and what the programme is for the Parliament. I am not criticisng the Acting Leader of the Government (Senator Drake-Brockman), but he has now moved that the time for consideration of the Estimates be extended to 26th October so that the Estimates Committees may report before then or, if they wish, they need not report until 26th October. Surely the Parliament should not be subjected to this infantile approach to the affairs of state. We should be told in plain terms what the programme is for the Parliament so that people can order their business, the Committees can order their business properly and a reasonable programme can be made, not only in regard to the conduct of affairs here but also so that the approach to the people of Australia may be made in a sensible and rational way. One would expect that in Australia, as well as in other countries, it would be the only intelligent approach to such an affair of state, instead of this behaviour which I have described as infantile, this cat and mouse behaviour with regard to the election date. I repeat that I am not condemning the Acting Leader of the Government for this. However, I suggest, in view of his motion, that it is time this nonsense was stopped and the Parliament and people were told the projected date of the election so that we may determine a proper programme for the conduct of the Parliament.
– in reply - The submission put forward by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Murphy) is a lot of nonsense. He knows as well as I do that at the beginning of this sessional period the programme for the Parliament provided that we would work through until the end of November.
– There was no programme until the end of November. That is not right.
– It was a 9-weeks programme, anyhow. Senator Murphy’s argument is based on pure supposition that there may be an early election. We are working to a programme. On the previous occasion when I moved a similar motion I proposed that the Committees would report to the Senate on or before 10th October. Senator Cavanagh queried that time and I explained that it was purely a time that we had set down as the time when we thought the Estimates Committees would finish their consideration of the Estimates. This is the practice that has been followed in respect of reports by Estimates Committees in the past. The date which I had proposed, 10th October, is the day on which the Senate will meet after the recess of one week and it is quite obvious to everyone in the Senate that the Estimates Committees cannot report before that time. All I am doing by this motion is extending the time limit by 14 days.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Senator Drake-Brockman) agreed to:
That the Senate at its rising adjourn until Tuesday, 10th October, at 1 1 a.m.
Motion (by Senator Drake-Brockman) - by leave - agreed to:
That Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson’s leave of absence be extended until the end of this week.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Wright) read a first time.
– I move:
I ask for leave to incorporate the second reading speech in Hansard.
– Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document reads as follows) -
The purpose of the States Grants (Schools) Bill is to authorise payments to the States to implement the new measures of direct Commonwealth assistance to both government and non-government schools, which were announced by the Prime Minister (Mr McMahon) on 11th May last. I remind honourable senators that the new measures consist of 2 parts. There is to be a programme of unmatched capital grants, for both government and non-government schools in the States, over the 5 years period commencing July 1973. In addition, from the beginning of 1973, Commonwealth per pupil grants towards the running costs of non-government schools are to be on a new basis. Those schools will be assured of Commonwealth per pupil contributions at a known percentage of the running costs in government schools. It is the Commonwealth’s hope that the States will join it in basing assistance with running costs of non-government schools on the costs in government schools.
These proposals, and the legislation to give effect to them, follow the principles on which the Government has stated quite clearly that it wishes to assist Australian schools. The Commonwealth is a major contributor of funds from which the State governments derive their expenditure for both capital and recurrent purposes in schools. The Government has endeavoured to provide the States with general purpose funds from which they may improve both the quantity and quality of education. In addition, we have developed a range of programmes of direct financial assistance to particular areas in education. At the schools level, we have made unmatched capital grants for science laboratories and secondary school libraries, for teachers colleges, and, since last December, for general facilities in both primary and secondary government schools. We have also made per pupil grants towards the running costs of non-government schools. The Government has entered into these arrangements, in recognition of an obligation for it to assist with particular areas of need, subject to understandings with the States and to the availability of funds and other resources. We have sought to develop programmes which will promote greater equality in the availability of facilities for all schools and all students.
Where the Commonwealth makes direct grants for capital purposes in schools, it does not attempt to interfere with the right of a State government to determine its own priorities. Under this new programme, each State will decide for itself the facilities to which priority is to be given. One State may be particularly concerned about the problems of inner city schools, others about growth in suburban areas, and each will decide the relative priority of needs in primary schools as against secondary schools. Non-government schools will receive capital grants under this programme only where a school has demonstrated that its facilities do not measure up to publicly known standards developed with the assistance of responsible, expert advisers.
Let me now give some information about the provisions in Part II of the Bill for grants for capital expenditure, and about the administrative arrangements which the Government intends to adopt for this new capital programme. The new grants will be available after the completion in June 1973 of the special short term programme under which $20m is being made available for facilities in government schools. Over the 5 years commencing July 1973, a sum of $2 15m will be divided between government and non-government schools in the States, on the basis of school enrolments, giving $167m for government schools and $48m for nongovernment schools. The Commonwealth grants for the government schools are intended to be additional to funds which the States will provide within their works and housing programmes. For the non-government schools, the Commonwealth grants will be virtually the only government grants for capital purposes, apart, of course, from t>ie existing science laboratories and secondary school libraries grants.
The science facilities programme for both government and non-government schools will conclude on 30th June 1975 and, to enable the provision of those facilities to continue, the amount to be available under the new programme, in each of the 5 years, will be increased from the beginning of the third year. In each of the first 2 years, the total sum will be S40m, and this will be increased to $45m for each of the remaining 3 years. The separate programme for libraries, in both government and non-government schools, will continue throughout the 5 years period because of the greater outstanding demands still to be met.
Stale governments will be free to develop their own arrangements for use of these grants for government schools, subject only to the conditions that at least 70 per cent of the total moneys are to be devoted to additional facilities, rather than replacement facilities, and that information will be provided each year which will enable the Minister to inform the Parliament about the particular projects on which the Commonwealth grants have been spent. It is also the Commonwealth’s intention that each State will maintain the present share of loan funds being devoted to school construction, so that the new Commonwealth grants will represent, in fact, a net addition to facilities in government schools.
For the non-government schools, the Commonwealth will appoint a representative expert committee to advise and assist the Minister and his Department in developing criteria and standards under which the new capital grants will be made available to non-government schools in the States. Sir Ivan Dougherty of Sydney is to be the Chairman of the new Commonwealth Committee on Facilities for Non government Schools. In addition to that national advisory committee, there will be a single committee in each State to recommend priorities for the allocation of grants to individual projects which meet the Commonwealth criteria and standards. Representatives of the various nongovernment schools have agreed to form one such committee in each State. This is a most significant development, as it will no longer be necessary to divide the funds, in advance, between Roman Catholic schools and other non-government schools. There will now be one priority list for projects in all of the non-government schools in each State. When the legislation has been passed, we will move quickly to establish administrative procedures, so that we may ensure that grants can toe paid when the money becomes available from July 1973. It is the Government’s intention that building projects in non-government schools, which commence on or after the day following enactment of the legislation, will be eligible for consideration for Commonwealth grants.
Capital grants for the non-government schools, will also be subject to the condition that at least 70 per cent of the money is to be spent on additional facilities, rather than replacement facilities. We wish also to give emphasis to the provision of additional places, either for additional students or to reduce class sizes. The legislation lays down provisions for nongovernment schools to account for the expenditure of Commonwealth capital grants. In addition to ensuring that a grant is spent for the purpose approved by the Minister, a school authority will, after completion of the project, be required to furnish a statement signed by a qualified accountant, certifying that the conditions attached to a grant for buildings and associated facilities have been met. In turn, the Minister will provide the Parliament, annually, with details of individual projects.
I turn now to the provisions in the Bill covering assistance for recurrent expenditure in non-government schools in the States. The Commonwealth and all State governments have accepted a responsibility to make direct grants to non-government schools towards their running costs. However, those schools have lacked a firm and secure base on which to plan their future development. The Commonwealth and the States have taken decisions from time to time about the amount and nature of their contributions towards the running costs of non-government schools, but there has been no arrangement for tying either the Commonwealth or the State assistance to some factor which would permit the schools to look to the future with any certainty.
The Government believes that the only way of ensuring non-government schools of continuing basic support is to tie that support to a proportion of the recurrent costs of educating children in government primary and secondary schools throughout Australia. Any other approach would fail to provide a guarantee to non-government schools. We reject the alternative concept of the application of a means test on nongovernment schools for the purpose of recurrent grants. Our policy in this regard is the policy favoured by the National Council of Independent Schools and the Federal Catholic Schools Committee.
Our attitude in this matter is based on more than a belief that every child has a right to a basic level of support from governments in education. It extends beyond our desire to provide non-government schools with the certainty and guarantee which I have mentioned. By rejecting the means test in the field of recurrent grants to non-government schools, we enable parents and friends and other interested groups and individuals to work for their schools, secure in the knowledge that they will not preclude those schools from government assistance by improving their conditions and facilities beyond the means test level. I should add that it is very difficult for the parent of a child at a nongovernment school to accept the argument that everyone has the right to a complete government-provided education in a government school, but that they lose any right the moment they decide to send their children to a non-government school whether it be for a religious, geographic or any other reason.
Part III of the Bill wm provide the authority for the new method of making per pupil grants to non-government schools in the States from 1973 onwards and, as a consequence, the States Grants (Independent Schools) Bill (No. 2) 1972 is being intro duced to limit the arrangements under the present Act to grants made to the end of 1972. In future, the Commonwealth will make annual per pupil grants on the basis of 20 per cent of an amount assessed as the estimated average cost of educating a child in government schools throughout Australia. There will be separate rates for primary and secondary schools in each calendar year, and these will be determined and announced towards the end of the preceding year. The per pupil rates will be derived from information provided by the States and the Commonwealth about estimated expenditure in government schools in the financial year which ends in the middle of the year in which the grants are to be made. To illustrate, the per pupil grants for 1973 will be at rates of 20 per cent of the estimated cost of educating children in government primary and secondary schools, throughout Australia, during the financial year 1972-73.
The Commonwealth has invited the States to join with it in providing the nongovernment schools with an assured basis for assistance by themselves undertaking to make contributions towards the running costs of those schools equivalent to 20 per cent of the national average cost of educating children in the government schools. It is, of course, for each State to determine its policy in this regard, and, from discussions which have taken place, the Government is hopeful that most, if not all, of the States will adopt a policy of tying assistance to non-government schools to the cost of running government schools.
The Bill lays down procedures under which non-government schools will account for expenditure of Commonwealth per pupil grants. As with the present per pupil assistance, a grant is to be available only for recurrent expenditure related to the school for which it is made. At the appropriate time, the school authority will provide a statement from a qualified accountant certifying that this has been done. It will also be required to provide the Minister with an annual statement of income and expenditure for the school, in a form which shows the major classes of income and expenditure. As with the capital programme, the Minister will provide the Parliament annually with details of the per pupil grants made in respect of individual non-government schools.
Under both the capital programmes for government and non-government schools and the recurrent grants for nongovernment schools, the Minister will be able to exercise a discretion to enable special schools, as, for example, those for handicapped children, where the courses of study do not parallel those in Government primary and secondary schools, to qualify for assistance. When the Prime Minister announced the new policies which are to be brought into operation by this Bill, he said that they would represent a milestone in improving the education of all Australian children. I am sure that the Senate will endorse that view and that in the not too distant future Australian will look back on the enactment of this legislation as an historic event in Australian education. Under this measure, the National Parliament will accept a basic obligation to provide supplementary support for the benefit of all school children, and will do so in a manner which ensures both government and non-government schools of continuing support. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Murphy) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended. Bill (on motion by Senator Wright) read a first time.
– I move:
Thai the Bill be now read a second lime. I ask for leave to incorporate the second reading speech in Hansard.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Laucke) - Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows) - The existing legislation provides for recurrent grants to non-government schools in the States at specified rates for each primary and secondary pupil without limit to the period of operation of the grants. The introduction in 1973 of a different basis for determining these rates, as proposed in the States Grants (Schools) Bill 1972, requires the termination of the present arrangements at the end of 1972. Therefore, the purpose of this Bill is to limit the period of operation of the States Grants (Independent Schools) Act 1969- 1972 to the end of 1.972.
Debate (on motion by Senator Wheeldon) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended. Bill (on motion by Senator Cotton) read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
As this is a Treasury Bill which has been received from the House of Representatives, I ask for leave to incorporate the second reading speech in Hansard.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Laucke) - Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows) -
This Bill seeks the approval of Parliament to borrowings by the Commonwealth not exceeding the equivalent of $US25m ($A21m ) to assist Qantas Airways Ltd in financing the purchase of a sixth Boeing 747 jet aircraft, spare parts and related equipment at an estimated cost of approximately $US29m ($A24m). The aircraft is due to be delivered in March 1974. The Commonwealth has already arranged loans totalling $US139m (Al 16m) to assist Qantas in financing the purchase of its first 5 Boeing 747 aircraft. These loans were approved by the Loan (Qantas Airways Ltd) Act 1968, the Loans (Qantas Airways Ltd) Act 1971 and the Loans (Qantas Airways Ltd) Act (No. 2) 1971. The borrowings arranged under the authority of the last Act were applied to the financing of the fifth aircraft. At the time the Bill for that Act was introduced, the Senate was informed that Qantas had entered into a contract with the Boeing Co. for the purchase of a sixth Boeing 747 aircraft with an option to cancel delivery at any time on or before 1st July 1972. The date of the option was subsequently extended by the Boeing Co. and Qantas is now making arrangements to confirm delivery of the aircraft.
Generally, when we have introduced legislation for borrowings to assist in the purchase of new aircraft by Qantas, the loan agreements have already been signed, but have usually been conditional on appropriate legislative authority being given later. On this occasion, borrowing arrangements for the purchase of the aircraft have not been finalised at this stage as approval for Qantas to proceed with the purchase has only recently been given. These borrowings on behalf of Qantas are specialised financing arrangements related to the particular requirements of the airline for the purchase of aircraft overseas and are in a different category from genera! purpose borrowings by the Commonwealth overseas. A central element in the financing arrangements is the participation in them by the Export-Import Bank of the United States, which specialises in providing credit on terms tailored to assist in financing the purchase of such items of capital equipment as Boeing 747 aircraft. I would mention that it is expected that the overall result of all the Commonwealth’s overseas debt operations, including aircraft borrowings, this financial year will be a substantial net reduction in overseas indebtedness.
As a step towards making arrangements for the financing of the sixth aircraft, the Export-Import bank of the United States has authorised a loan of $US11.3m, which is slightly less than one-half of the proposed total borrowings. The current lending terms of the Bank for aircraft finance are interest at the rate of 6 per cent per annum with repayments over the last 5 years of a 10-year period which commences on the delivery date of the aircraft. The remainder of the proposed borrowings will be sought from other sources at an interest rate comparable to that carried by the Export-Import Bank loan. These terms are acceptable to Qantas. Other arrangements for the loans will be similar to those approved by Parliament for previous loans for Qantas and Trans-Australia Airlines in recent years. In particular the Commonwealth will be the borrower in the first place, and the proceeds will be made available to Qantas on terms and conditions to be determined by the Treasurer pursuant to clause 7 of the Bill. These terms and conditions will be identical with those under which the Commonwealth itself borrows the money. The airline will be required to meet all charges under the loan agreements. Consequently, the Commonwealth will, as usual, assume the function of an intermediary in these arrangements. The detailed terms and conditions of each of the loans to be arranged will be subject to approval by the Loan Council. Borrowings under previous similar legislation now total the equivalent of $A316m. Of this amount, approximately $A166m has been repaid by Qantas. I commend the Bill to honourable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator 0’Byrne adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Greenwood) read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time
Because we are appreciative of the time limitations on us, I also seek leave to incorporate this second reading speech in Hansard. I do not wish to have the tables referred to in the speech incorporated in Hansard. They have been incorporated in the Hansard of the other place. They are very extensive tables. I feel that people who are interested will be able to have access to them.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Laucke) - Is leave granted for the second reading speech to be incorporated in Hansard? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows) -
In presenting this legislation I wish at the same time to give honourable senators a brief account of Commonwealth activity in the field of Aboriginal advancement during the past year, in continuation of the accounts given in previous years. The Bill provides for grants to the States totalling $ 14.5m in 1972-73. Hence it concerns only slightly more than one-quarter of the total provision for direct Commonwealth expenditure on Aboriginal advancement for the year. To illustrate the substantial provisions made by the Commonwealth since the 1967 referendum, 1 have had prepared a table - No. 1 - which I will later table. This paper reveals that the Commonwealth proposes to provide a total of $53.2S5m in 1972-73 compared with S31.3m in 1971- 72, and $8.97m in 1967-68 immediately after the referendum.
Honourable senators will also be interested to know that the Bureau of Census and Statistics on 15th August issued a public authority finance bulletin entitled ‘Commonwealth Outlay on Aboriginal Advancement 1971-72’, showing in national accounting form the growth in Commonwealth expenditure from 1967-68 to 1971- 72. I. expect that similar bulletins will be issued each year and will provide a valuable indication of the growth and variety of the Commonwealth’s provision.
Of the total proposed Commonwealth provision of $53.3m for 1972-73 it is intended that, in addition to the $22. 545m available in the Aboriginal Advancement Trust Account, of which the SI 4.5m for the States forms part, $24. 5m be provided in the votes of the Department of the Interior for expenditure on Aboriginal advancement in the Northern Territory, $305,000 in the votes of the Department of Labour and National Service, S3. 73m and $75,000 in the votes of the Department of Education and Science for secondary and study grants and for the continuation of special projects in the Northern Territory, and $150,000 in the votes of the Department of Health for similar special projects in the Northern Territory. In previous years these amounts for the Departments of Education and Science and Health were included in the Aboriginal Advancement Trust Account, and it would therefore be appropriate to compare last year’s provision in the Trust Account of $ 1 4.83m with total provision this year of $26.5m for the same purposes; but it has been thought more appropriate that provision should be made from now on in the votes of the functional departments.
In addition to the total proposed Commonwealth provision of $53. 3m for 1972- 73 I anticipate that the States will be providing some $12m from their own resources. There will thus be an overall provision of something like $65m for 1972-73. Taking the $14.5m States grants proposed in the present Bill along with this provision by the States themselves of some $12m, the States will have available approximately $26.5m for direct expenditure on Aboriginal advancement in 1972- 73. In addition, however, some of the programmes of the Office of Aboriginal Affairs from the $8.045m available to it, after making the proposed States grants, will benefit Aborigines in the States. Of this amount, $5m will be for the purchase of properties for Aboriginal communities off reserves and $500,000 for grants in association with capital fund loans, as promised by the Prime Minister (Mr McMahon) in his statement of 26th January, and $2.545m for grants-in-aid for a variety of purposes; and both of these programmes will benefit Aborigines in the States. I have had prepared as Table No. 2, which I will make available shortly, a summary statement of grants-in-aid during 1971-72, and, for ease of reference, have included with it the summary of such grants-in-aid from 1968-69 to 1970-71 which formed part of the second reading speech last year, so that honourable senators can obtain a picture of the impact of this programme.
Against that background I come now to the Bill itself. The legislation provided for a 58 per cent increase in the grants to States, the proposed $ 14.5m for 1972-73 comparing with $9.2m for 1971-72 and $3.65m for 1968-69. Over the 5-year period 1968-69 to 1972-73 a total of $39.76m will have been granted by the Commonwealth to the States. At the recent meeting of the Australian Aboriginal Affairs Council in Darwin, State Ministers expressed their general agreement with the way in which the Commonwealth has been administering its Aboriginal advancement policies. At that meeting State Ministers pressed for increased grants for the present financial year. I believe that the 58 per cent increase in grants this year keeps faith with the expressed feelings of the Council. Table No. 3 which I will make available later, demonstrates the increase over the past 5 years by States.
As for previous years, the Government proposes to allocate the funds between the States taking account of their percentage of the total Aboriginal population as revealed by the 1966 census and of their relative needs. On this basis New South Wales will receive $3.72m, Victoria $670,000, Queensland $4.79m, South Australia S1.27m, Western Australia $3.96m and Tasmania $90,000. I am hopeful that the results of the 1971 census will be available for use in next year’s division. Until that time, we base our estimate of the Aboriginal population of Australia in the region of 140,000.
Of the amount of $14.5m I propose that the greater proportion, over $8m, be devoted to housing, but that work commenced in other fields also continue at an expanded level. I envisage allocating the $14.5m as between the various purposes for which the grants are made to the States on the basis of $8, 25m for housing, $1,748,000 for health, $2,377,000 for education, $500,000 for employment and vocational training, $875,000 for special work projects and $750,000 for regional projects. I have set out in Table No. 4, which I will make available later, the Division of each State’s grant as between these 6 purposes, with figures for 1971-72 shown for comparison. Experience over the past years has shown that as the financial year proceeds States are sometimes obliged to seek variations in the allocations between these purposes although within the overall grant to the State. Any such variation will be relatively minor and designed to enable States to adapt their programmes to meet unexpected contingencies which might arise during the year. In order to assist honourable senators to see what these figures mean in reality, a precise statement of the use made by the States of their 1971-72 grants has been prepared as Table No. 5, which again I will make available later, shows. Taken along with similar statements provided in previous years this provides a running account of the Commonwealth’s endeavour, together with the States, since the referendum.
Funds provided for housing through the Aboriginal Advancement Trust Account over the past 4 years have resulted in the construction or purchase of about 1,500 additional houses, and the funds which I propose for 1972-73 will result in the acquisition of some 825 houses. A fully effective programme should both keep up with the growth rate in family formation, which is roughly estimated to be of the order of 1,200 new families a year, and overcome the very substantial backlog. I estimate that for the first time the allocation for 1972-73, taken along with what the States are doing with funds from their own resources, should provide enough houses to keep pace with .the rate of family formation amongst those families wishing to occupy houses provided by governments. Much remains to be done and the Government is very conscious of the needs in this field. Over the past year we have been assisting with the establishment of Aboriginal housing societies in reserves and other remote communities. One State devoted some small element of its grants for housing for this purpose, and in addition the Office made direct grants from its provision for grants-in-aid. An expansion of these arrangements is proposed for 1972-73; and, so far as the Office’s direct grants are concerned, I intend to set aside an amount of approximately $400,000 in the Office’s allocation under the Trust Account for this purpose. The average cost of houses erected through the housing societies is $8,500. The Aboriginal groups are involved in actual construction as well as in design and material decisions and a panel of the Royal Australian Institute of Architects has been established following a seminar earlier this year to help coordinate research and development programmes.
An area of special concern among Aboriginal Australians is the need for dwellings for their aged, and some States have devoted and will continue to devote portions of their grants to the provision of such dwellings. This problem was emphasised in my recent consultation with official State and Territory advisory councillors and will be receiving the attention of my advisers. Some States have used and will continue to use portion of their grants for the provision of hostels. The Office also makes direct grants to voluntary organisations for hostels, and this year I envisage setting aside $650,000 for .the Office to continue in this work, compared with $596,000 in 1971-72. In the light of experience we are moving increasingly towards smaller family-type hostels as being more attractive to Aboriginal students and workers. Experience this year has shown that these smaller hostels are fulfilling a real need especially in the urban areas.
Funds for health work provided through the Trust Account are making possible an improvement of rural health services in areas of Aboriginal population. Hospitals, dental clinics, nursing homes and rural health centres have been established and community health nurses have been placed in many rural and outback areas. Programmes of health education and preventive medicine being developed by professional people should progressively relieve the burden on the curative services provided in hospitals in the major centres. Supplementary food assistance has also been made available for children and expectant mothers on settlement communities throughout the State of Queensland, and New South Wales continues to subsidise, from our grant, voluntary organisations working in the Aboriginal health field. In addition, of course, the Commonwealth Departments of Health and Interior have over the past year expended substantial amounts on health through their own programmes.
Clearly much remains to be done in the health field and the health status of Aborigines remains a cause for concern, particularly in respect of infant mortality and malnutrition. It is not merely a matter of providing more finance but also a matter of continuing research into the root causes of some medical problems, and of involving Aboriginal communities, particularly mothers, in improved nutritional and health practices at the grass roots level. Nevertheless I think we can draw some encouragement from the increasing level of expenditure, and our greatly increased knowledge of problems by comparison with 5 years ago. The transfer of all health responsibility in the Northern Territory to the Department of Health will, I am sure, result in a new approach to these important tasks.
Funds have been provided to the States - and in some cases by direct grants also - to meet a variety of educational needs ranging from the construction of, and the provision of equipment for, preschools, primary and secondary schools, to the establishment of residential hostels in the cities and major towns so that students from rural areas may be able to continue their education .beyond the primary level. In discussions with the .States it was decided that one of the main targets to be aimed at in the educational sphere during this year would be the further development of pre-schools and pre-schooling facilities so that Aboriginal children would be suitably prepared for entrance into the school system. Provision is being made to achieve this aim.
In addition to its assistance to the States, the Commonwealth, through the ‘Department of Education and Science administers the secondary and study grants schemes, inaugurated respectively in the 1969 and 1970 academic years. We can feel some satisfaction at the combined effect of these schemes and the increased .State efforts. Whereas in 1969 there might have been no more than 2,000 Aborigines in secondary schools throughout Australia, by 1972 there are of the order of 8,000, of whom 4,266 were training as at June under the secondary grants scheme. Of course, this falls far short of the ideal. On a population percentage basis there should be some 13,000 Aborigines in secondary schooling. But we can be seen to be making progress, and Aboriginal children will soon be emerging from secondary schooling with educational prerequisites for higher levels of employment. Under the study grants scheme there were 552 grantees in training as at June this year at tertiary and postsecondary levels. Of these, 29 were studying at universities and 9 undertaking other tertiary education - a small number, it is true, but a distinct improvement in the situation at the time of introduction of the scheme when there were only 4 Aboriginal graduates and a further 11 studying at universities.
Funds have been granted to the States primarily for training and the development of employment opportunities. A vocational training complex has recently been established at Port Hedland at a cost in excess of Sim to serve the northern areas of Western Australia where it is hoped to develop the potential of the Aboriginal work force. All such programmes are envisaged as supplementing the Commonwealth’s major Aboriginal employment effort through the Department of Labour and National Service, which we believe to be making valuable progress. I should like to pay a tribute to the success of the Department of Labour and National Service in finding employment opportunities in a wide range of jobs especially in the urban areas.
Employment assistance is also provided under the heading of special work projects. Funds have been granted to local and other authorities to provide employment for Aborigines on socially valuable projects chosen in accordance with criteria specified by my Office and the Department of Labour and National Service. These projects have enabled shire councils in many rural areas to carry out projects of value to their communities while at the same time providing employment and training for Aborigines. I believe this expenditure has fully justified itself and envisage a substantial expansion for 1972-73, particularly in conservation-type projects. In addition to such special work projects financed by the States from their grants the Office makes direct grants for similar projects, and honourable senators may have heard my statement of a few days ago about my approval of a grant of 810,000 to Ernabella Mission for the first conservation project.
Several other projects financed by direct grants by the Office aim at improving employment opportunities. Thus, the research phase in our crocodile and turtle farming projects has made progress, and Dr Bustard has numbers of Torres Strait Islanders and coastal Aborigines engaged in pilot farming projects. Of course, as honourable senators will already be aware, the whole direction of the Capital Fund for Aboriginal Enterprises operated by the Office is to assist suitable Aborigines to become self-employed. The final category of expenditure by the States based on Commonwealth grants is regional projects. Research demonstrates the need for a complex set of inter-related programmes if real progress is to be achieved. These programmes will be a local expression of the balanced strategy outlined by the Government in the Prime Minister’s statement on 26th January.
It will be apparent that, as said in my second reading speech last year, because of the nature of the programmes to which the finances are devoted, a substantial proportion of the funds are being applied to the advancement of the younger generation of Aboriginal Australians. The housing programmes aim primarily to assist families, whose children will benefit thereby: a great deal of health activity is devoted to improving the health situation of Aboriginal infants and children; the bulk of expenditure in education is, of course, for younger Aborigines; while the employment training scheme and other activities of the Department of Labour and National Service seek in particular to assist schoolleavers.
I think it important to bear in mind that the problems facing the Aborigines in major towns and cities and those of the Aborigines living in communities on reserves, on pastoral properties and on the fringes of remote townships differ very greatly. The movement of Aborigines into the major cities has been quite striking over the past decade or 2. While at the time of the 1966 Census over 91 per cent of Aboriginal Australians still lived in rural areas, the Aboriginal population of the capital cities had doubled between the censuses of 1961 and 1966. All the evidence suggests that this rate of drift will have continued or increased since. It is now estimated that at least 30 per cent of Aboriginal Australians are living in urban centres. Consequently, we have placed an increasing emphasis on programmes to assist Aborigines in urban areas.
It is, our task in the urban situations primarily to remove those handicaps which prevent the Aboriginal citizens from playing a full part in the urban community. This will involve assisting them with accommodation, providing the means for them to overcome the health handicaps from which many of them suffer, giving assistance with education and employment, and providing legal assistance. If one looks at our major city, Sydney, one can see examples in all these fields. Either with the State or unilaterally we have provided hostels and houses, supported the Aboriginal health service in South Sydney, provided funds for schooling, pre-schooling and adult education facilities, assisted Aborigines to find and hold employment, and supported the Aboriginal legal service. The Minister for the Environment, Aborigines and the Arts (Mr Howson) has stated that he personally is most impressed by the work being done by the Aboriginal medical service in South Sydney, and believes that the Aborigines and non-Aborigines involved are providing a referral or treatment service to numbers of Aborigines in the Sydney metropolitan area who would not at this stage have the necessary confidence to seek treatment in the first instance from the normal community services. Similar pictures could be painted of more or less comparable developments in other major cities. It is our intention to increase the finance available for such services during 1972-73 both through the grants to the States and through direct grants from the Office. We expect that, as our programmes become more and more effective, the urbanised Aborigines will need our assistance less and less. A test of the effectiveness of our urban programmes will be the extent to which the Department of Labour and National Service and the State authorities are at the end of the process able to assist the Aboriginal citizens into stable employment. There seems little doubt that ample employment is available in the cities: What we seek to do is to remove those handicaps inhibiting Aborigines from taking full advantage of this situation.
As regards the remote Aborigines, most of those involved are now living in static communities. But, if almost all Aborigines have abandoned their semi-nomadic hunting and gathering life, this does not mean that the old tribal structures and beliefs have also disappeared. These persist more or less strongly depending upon the background and history of the community involved. At the same time as their cultural life persists, the economic life of the communities is changing. Their members are finding themselves having to cope with a cash economy, to become accustomed to a radically changed diet and to learn aspects of hygiene not previously relevant in their nomadic exsistence I think we should all try to realise that these Aborigines living in remote situations are experiencing a difficult period of rapid change. We must try to give them what support they need, while at the same time respecting their traditions and culture and helping them to preserve and develop these to the extent that they desire.
I believe that we must approach the matter as flexibly as possible, knowing that we are seeking to deal with a period of great change for the individuals involved. In relation to housing, for instance, we should not foist standard urban houses on to remote Aboriginal communities until their desires and future are better known. We should help them develop appropriate kinds of dwellings, such as the house developed by the Aborigines at Finke. We should seek to encourage and develop new and different types of employment, such as conservation work, crocodile and turtle farming and community enterprises, preferably those related in some way to the land. We are now able to acquire land off reserves for Aboriginal communities throughout Australia, and are in the process of granting aboriginal communities on reserves in the Northern Territory general purpose leases covering substantial areas and a wide variety of purposes so that a community itself may decide upon the precise allocation of the land as between those purposes. In addition, we have embarked on a far-reaching programme to delineate areas which are of sacred or special significance to Aborigines. It has been variously estimated that there are over 15,000 sites in this category. The Government expects to spend $100,000 this year on the programme. Once these areas are delineated the Government will ensure that they are preserved for all time as inalienable.
I hope that we can, through the provision of relevant education, ensure that members of the remote communities become less and less dependent, while at the same time relating that education more directly to the sorts of employment we will be encouraging the Aborigines there to undertake. Unless we can find additional, different and meaningful employment opportunities for Aborigines living in remote communities, we may expect the drift to the cities about which I spoke earlier to accelerate. I now lay on the table the 5 tables to which I referred earlier. I commend the States Grants (Aboriginal Advancement) Bill 1972 to honourable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator Mulvihill) adjourned.
– The Standing Orders Committee has recommended to the Senate that any decision with respect to any Estimates Committee taking in camera evidence should be made only by the Senate itself upon receiving a special report from the particular committee. I move:
That the report be adopted.
I point out that, if evidence were taken in camera, it may have only limited value because the evidence may not be known to the whole Senate, which has the responsibility - not the Estimates Committees - of passing appropriations. It has never been the practice for the Committee of the Whole to consider any part of the Estimates in camera. I think, therefore, that any Estimates Committee desiring to take evidence in private session should make a case to the Senate, which may then consider the particular circumstances and make a judgment.
– I support in principle what has been put by the Acting Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Drake-Brockman). It is extremely important that in respect of the Estimates we do not have evidence taken in camera except in the most special circumstances. After all, the purpose of the Estimates Committees is to examine on behalf of this chamber, in effect, the public accounting of expenditure for the previous financial year and the necessity for and details of the proposed expenditure for the current financial year. It is not consistent with the role of this chamber in examining the Estimates for evidence to be taken in camera, except in extremely special circumstances. Therefore it is only proper that the Senate itself should agree, on a strong case being put to it, whether any evidence should be taken by an Estimates Committee in camera. I support the proposition which has emanated from the Standing Orders Committee and which has been put by the Acting Leader of the Government in the Senate, but I would suggest, in order to bear out what I conceive to be what the Standing Orders Committee had in mind, that there be a slight amendment to the recommendation.
What I understood to be the basis of the recommendation was that no evidence should be taken in camera by an Estimates Committee unless the Senate decided otherwise. That would be the case if we were to adopt the principle that any decision to the effect that an Estimates Committee take evidence in camera should be made only by the Senate itself upon receiving a special report from the particular (Estimates Committee. Actually the recommendation that has come from the Standing Orders Committee is slightly different from that. The Standing Orders Committee has recommended that any decision with respect to any Estimates Committee taking in camera evidence should be made only by the Senate itself.
– Including a refusal.
– Including a refusal or anything at all that would mean that the Committee would be paralysed - that it would not be able to say yes or no on the question. There may be a clear case before a Committee on which it says: ‘We are not going to take evidence in camera’. If we were to adopt the recommendation as it stands that would be open to argument Some may think that the intention is quite clearly that it would not be open to argument. To put the matter beyond doubt, I move:
At the end of the motion add: ‘but that the recommendation of the Standing Orders Committee be amended to read: “The Standing Orders Committee has recommended to the Senate that any decision that any Estimates Committee take in camera evidence should be made only by the Senate itself upon receiving a special report from the particular Committee.
I do not think the Standing Orders Committee would mind if I were to say that this was the expressed intention of the Committee, although some of the members of the Committee thought the slight change I am proposing in the verbage was not necessary. I should point out that I am putting forward this proposition as a member of the Standing Orders Committee. I do not think that there will be any objection by anyone to what I have proposed. I understood the intention of the Committee to be exactly as I have said. Some mem- bers may think that it is not necessary to express the recommendation so precisely as I am suggesting, but I do.
– I accept the amendment.
Amendment agreed to.
Motion, as amended, agreed to.
Sitting suspended from 12.15 to 8 p.m.
General Business Taking Precedence of Government Business at 8 p.m.
Debate resumed from 13 September 1972 (vide page 762), on motion by Senator Murphy:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– We are dealing here with a Bill introduced by Senator Murphy to which he has already given a second reading. This is the adjourned debate. I think it will be appreciated that in this situation I represent the Minister for the Interior (Mr Hunt). Therefore, I think it will be understood that what I will be presenting to my honourable colleagues will be a speech which represents the views of the responsible Minister.
The Bill sets out to amend the Commonwealth Electoral Act by reducing the franchise age to 18 years. It would seem to be a rather curious procedure for such a Bill to be introduced into the Senate within a matter of weeks of the rolls closing for a general election for the House of Representatives. It should be borne in mind that we are involved in an election only for that House. This matter has been looked at over a period of time and is still being considered at both Commonwealth and State levels. There have been quite a lot of arguments that young people of today are maturing earlier and that there is a general trend towards a lower age for adulthood. The responsible Commonwealth Minister and his Department do not dispute the fact that young people today are better informed than their predecessors of a similar age in earlier times. We should all think about that as a matter of which we can be rather proud.
I interpolate here a couple of my own thoughts. It is equally true that the present voting age presents great problems and challenges to everybody. I think that greater problems and challenges are presented to the young people of today than was the case with my generation when we were much more consumed with economic problems and problems concerning employment opportunities. The real question for us was: Could you get a job?’ - not what alternative opportunities existed. I think that young people of today are certainly better informed. Whether they are more capable of accommodating themselves to a mature examination of the great range of problems we face is, of course, another matter. I am quite open-minded about this question, but these are my thoughts from what happened as I went through my own time and the thoughts of my children as they went through their time. I think they certainly were better educated than I was and they were better informed, but I doubt whether in relation to the complexity of the problems of their time, they were any more mature. I think that in our time the operation was much more simple, the aims were less complex and the opportunities were very restricted. I think now it is a very difficult scene. 1 am rather more disposed to the view that maturity, in the total sense, is really occurring later, not earlier. But that is just a personal view; the Minister for the Interior is not responsible for it. It is based on what happened in my own time and in the time of my family. Under our present educational systems everyone has the opportunity for a higher level of education. It is fair again to comment that in some cases today education does not cease at the age of 17 years, as used to be the case. It now goes on until 25, 26 or 27 years of age. My own son, at one stage of his career, was doing a doctoral course. He did not go on with it, fortunately, because it was better that he should not do so, but had he pursued that doctoral course he would have continued his education until he was 26 years of age. There is nothing objectional about that, but this is a different world. Everybody has an opportunity for a higher level of education. This is as it should be and as we want it to be. This is the sort of thing which our fathers and our mothers worked to give us. The opportunities are greater for us than they were for them. Of course, in their turn the opportunities were greater for them than for their fathers and mothers.
The development of modern day communication techniques, such as television and radio, and a much wider scope for reading have certainly contributed to a greater awareness of public affairs by young people, but, from my dealings with them, have created a greater concern, often a greater complexity and in some cases a greater confusion. I notice in the young people with whom I and my family associate much less ability to decide upon their final career until much later in life. Many of them really do not know what their final career will be until their last year at university. So in a sense life is much more difficult for them and their problems are prolonged. This is a developing trend that warrants careful consideration in relation to the whole question of age of responsibility, including the age for involvement in voting.
Again I interpolate only my own thoughts here, because one of the things that is very attractive about the Senate is that there are occasions when we are able to take what I call a bipartisan view of great national problems, and the question of at what level the electoral voting age should be struck is a matter of great national concern and it is worthy of serious and objective consideration in a degree of bipartisanship. 1 do not propose to involve myself in any histrionics politically on this issue. I think Senator Murphy brought this Bill forward in the genuine belief that, as he saw it, it had merit. I think any one of us is entitled to canvas the view that we may not think so, but as a Senate we have a responsibility and it is an increasing responsibility - and I think there is an increasing awareness of this in the Australian people - that this is an institution which increasingly has to consider what I might call the long-term interests of the Australian people.
I refer to matters like defence, economic policy, foreign relations, security issues, and what I call the trends of independence and the trends of national character, national opportunity and national aims and aspirations, and properly we should be talking, I think, along the lines that this is how we should approach this measure. As honourable senators would know, these matters have been discussed at Premiers Conferences and they have come under consideration by the Standing Committee of Attorneys-General. It is history that the Standing Committee took the view that it would be advisable for the Commonwealth and the States to act uniformly in the franchise age field. I would think that none of us would quarrel with the view that we are a federation and that it is most desirable to have uniformity in legislation which affects the common weal and has an impact upon the common welfare of the people. Subsequently, the Standing Committee was reported as having formed the opinion that legislation to effect a uniform reduction in the voting age would present no legal or constitutional problems, but that the question of a reduction in the voting age is ultimately a matter of government policy and not to be decided by committees of A Attorneys-General .
Here again I will interpolate for myself. I am not prepared in any sense to argue this matter on what I might call the legal test or constitutional ground. I have no wish to do that. I am not qualified to do that and that is not my purpose. That is for other people who have a greater knowledge of the law and whose life it has been to study the law. I have had to deal with other facets of life. An interdepartmental committee on the age of legal responsibility was set up in 1970, and it subsequently referred to the franchise age question in the following terms:
In respect of voting age there are no obstacles to action by the Commonwealth to lower the voting age. This can be done as a separate exercise without the complications that would attend lowering the age of majority. If the Commonwealth did decide to lower the voting age in concert with the States the advantage of a joint roll arrangement with 4 States would be enhanced.
I think I might repeat that because, as I said earlier, I do not regard myself as any legal whiz kid, and having read that I regard myself as less of a legal whiz kid. The interdepartmental committee stated:
In respect of voting age there are no obstacles to action by the Commonwealth to lower the voting age. This can be done as a separate exercise without the complications that would attend lowering the age of majority. If the Commonwealth did decide to lower the voting age in concert with the States the advantage of a joint roll arrangement with 4 Slates would be enhanced.
While the age of majority and the age of voting are not necessarily interdependent and the lowering of the franchise age could be proceeded with as a separate matter, it could be inadvisable to do so without looking at all the consequences of reducing the age of majority.
Having waded my way through the legal terminology, I get the point. I think, looking at it as a layman, it is a fair point. If you say that, as exercise number one, it is desirable and sensible and wise to bring the voting age back to 18 years, what other matters relating to that ought to be taken in train? We have all been accustomed to regard 21 years as the age at which you could get married to your favourite girl without asking the permission of your father or mother; or the age at which you were given a cardboard key and a 21st birthday cake. The age of 21 has been a sort of bench mark in life. You were an adult and all the responsibilities that came from that belonged to you. When I was young, that was the age at which you were expected to start paying your mother board if you were not married. I think this is a fair point to be considered: That there are associated matters in connection with this.
Possibly a stage has been reached at which a person of 18 years should have the rights and responsibilities of an adult. It is not irrelevant to consider whether the franchise should be extended to an age group before they are likewise endowed with other responsibilities and privileges of an adult community. It is not taken as a kind of dogmatic view but it is taken as an expression of opinion for consideration by a group of people who are looking at this matter with fairly mature eyes.
While I have said that the age of voting and the general age of majority need not necessarily be dealt with together there are aspects which need close consideration. For example, in New South Wales and Victoria the jury rolls are compiled from the joint electoral rolls. Therefore the following question arises: Should a person of 18 years, if his name is on the electoral roll, then be liable for jury service, irrespective of his status in society? I invite honourable senators to think about that a little further and say to themselves: While he might be liable for jury service at 18 years of age, how valuable will he be on a jury to judge amongst his peers a person who may, as a result of that judgment, be found guilty or not guilty of some crime and, perhaps, confined to prison for life? I think that Senator Murphy, with his legal knowledge, understanding and training, would agree that that is a responsibility to be thought about.
– It is done in South Australia.
– My family came from South Australia but we all left about the year 1901 so I do not think that we can be blamed for anything that has gone bad there. There is what I might call a divergence of view. I do not want to waste the Senate’s time but perhaps I could mention that my father held the view throughout the whole of his life that the best people in th. Commonwealth were South Australians and there was no question about that. He used to insist on this to his family at family meetings, Christmas dinners and every other other occasion. He used to say to us: ‘Why you fellows got mixed up over in New South Wales I will never know’.
The point I am making is that all the associated matters should be considered fully. This does not mean that the Government, as a government, has decided agains: a reduction of the voting age or that it is in opposition to the principle of lowering the franchise age. I think that the Government feels that the matter is up for examination. It wants to know a great deal more and it wants to consider the matter very carefully. The Government has already given a great deal of consideration to the whole question and is continuing to do so. It will have regard to the debate in the Senate on this subject. One can say quite genuinely without wishing to please or displease anybody that increasing regard is being paid to the debates in the Senate by those who make judgments on policy. I think that perhaps the Senate is starting to understand that this is the case. From time to time most complementary remarks are made to me about the standard of debate in the Senate. It does not necessarily achieve that standard on the whole of its debates, but there is a level of acceptance that this is the case, particularly when the Senate is dealing with what I call ‘great considerations of national moment’.
The question of joint electoral rolls which are used for Commonwealth and State purposes in New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania is of very considerable importance. Under a long standing arrangement between the Commonwealth and these 4 States, single joint Commonwealth-State electoral rolls are maintained. This arrangement, with its many public advantages and substantial economies can best be applied under circumstances where uniform franchise age obtains. This is what I call an ‘electoral view’. But, after all, electoral views are very important. Here again, I am speaking on behalf of myself. After all, as a Senate, we are concerned with electoral views. Wc are concerned that the vote should be as pure as possible and as effective as possible and that it should reflect as truly as possible the views of the people. It should not be complicated or lost along the way. The position in respect of each of the 6 States with regard to the lowering of the franchise age is as follows: In New South Wales legislation has been passed lowering the franchise age to 18 years but the act has not yet been proclaimed. So it is in a state of anticipation but not reality. The former Premier of Victoria gave an undertaking in his 1970 policy speech to the effect that the Government would negotiate with the Commonwealth for the lowering of the franchise age to 18 years.
– In New South Wales the position is that it has not been proclaimed but has been passed. The Government said that it was waiting for Commonwealth action, I think.
– I take Senator Murphy’s point. But the notes that I have been given stated that legislation has been passed to lower the franchise age to 18 years but that it has not yet been proclaimed as an act. I suppose that that is the same thing. As I understand the Victorian scene, as I have mentioned, the Victorian Premier said in 1970 that he would negotiate with the Commonwealth for the lowering of the franchise age to 18 years. But he subsequently indicated a change of mind on the subject. So I think that it is fair to say that Victoria appears, to say the least, to be a little uncertain.
– They are more conservative.
– I am not so sure that is so. I lived there for 18 months and I thought that they were a real swinging crowd. But perhaps things have changed in modern times. In Queensland, the Cabinet approved the lowering of the franchise age to 18 years but the Government deferred consideration pending information about the Commonwealth’s intentions. That is a kind of knock for knock situation. Queensland is more or less saying: ‘We stand here but until the Commonwealth tells us where it stands we do not know what we are going to do’. One thing is cancelling out the other. The position is not definite. In South Australia the franchise age was lowered to 18 years on and from 30th June 1972. That is a positive situation in South Australia. In Western Australia the franchise age of 18 years became operative on 5th December 1970. Again, that seems to me to be a positive situation. In Tasmania a Bill which included the lowering of the franchise age was passed by the lower House in the last Parliament. Debate in the Upper House was postponed and on being resumed recently was adjourned in Committee. I cannot predict what might happen in Tasmania not knowing the state of view in the Legislative Council. There is a state of uncertainty whether the Bill will be passed into limbo or passed into reality or remain in a state of uncertainty. So this is the situation: New South Wales is moving positively towards lowering the voting age but has not yet done so; Victoria is uncertain; Queensland is quite uncertain; South Australia and Western Australia are decided and Tasmania is in what I may call a ‘state of high negotiation’.
In his second reading speech the Leader of the Opposition said that .there appears to be a general view in Australia that there ought to be a reduction in the voting age as soon as possible. That may be the view that he encounters as he moves amongst those people to whom he is close. I must say for my part that I move amongst groups of people and do not encounter that view.
That is not to pre-suppose that he is younger than I am. Perhaps at times he might feel older than I and at times 1 might feel older than he. But I do not encounter that view generally in society. I say advisedly that I have encountered a view - it is not my view - expressed seriously that with the problems of society, the complexity of life and the higher age for finality in education, there is a case for increasing the voting age. I have had that view put to me seriously. Senator Murphy also said that political opinion in this country is moving overwhelmingly in favour of a reduction of the voting age. There again that is the view that he has encountered when dealing with this matter. In my experience I have not found that to be the case.
Surely it would be appropriate to take cognisance Of the views of 18, 19 and 20 year old persons who are vitally concerned in this issue. In all these things, with privilege goes responsibility. Sometimes it is not understood and detectable but that is the case. Those persons are vitally concerned in this issue. There has been a good deal of publicity and some agitation for the Commonwealth to lower the franchise age but where is the evidence across the board that the 18 to 20 year olds generally are keen to be enfranchised? I must say that enfranchised’ is a fascinating new word for me. Indeed, what conclusive evidence do we have that the majority of people as a whole favour a reduction of the franchise age to 18 years? This is said to be the case but what evidence do we have that it is the case? According to a newspaper report, in a recent poll of about 300 persons aged from 16 to 20 years, 51 per cent favoured the vote at 18 years and 39 per cent at 21 years, while 10 per cent were undecided. This falls far short of what might be called a conclusive view. If one weighed it up it would be about 60 to 40.
I understand that in South Australia where the 18 to 20 year olds have had the right to enrol for State purposes since 30th June 1972 - this has been very well publicised and everybody understands it over there, I am told - 9,000 of an estimated 55,000 eligible persons have claimed enrolment. That is a pretty low figure. On doing a quick calculation I think it is around 18 per cent. Enrolment is not compulsory for
State purposes in South Australia and I would suggest that the result in that State indicates that there is no clamour for a reduction in the franchise age and little glamour attached to it. In view of that and all the other matters concerned, why would it be wise to rush into adopting a measure at this time which would force enrolment and voting on an age group of which many are presently subjected to educational and other pressures which are lengthening into their lives compared to the time that we enjoyed at that same age?
The political consequences of lowering the franchise age is not of relevance to a proper consideration of this matter. The logical approach would be to proceed with caution and to take into consideration questions which need to be taken into account rather than to impose upon young people a responsibility just prior to a general election. Only recently the High Court of Australia unanimously decided that in terms of section 41 of the Constitution an adult person meant a person of not less than 21 years of age. As honourable senators know, section 41 of the Constitution provides that no adult person who has or acquires a right to vote at elections for the more numerous House of the Parliament of a State shall, while the right continues, be prevented by any law of the Commonwealth from voting at elections for either of the Houses of the Parliament of the Commonwealth. While it has clearly emerged that the franchise age question is legislative rather than judicial, it is necessary nevertheless to study closely the High Court judgment.
Information available to me indicates that some 650,000 additional persons would be eligible to enrol and vote if the franchise age was lowered to 18 years. I noticed that the Leader of the Opposition was reported in Hansard as having mentioned in his second reading speech a figure of 800,000 persons aged from 18 to 21 years. There is a difference of view about the actual number. In any event, lowering of the franchise age would increase considerably the number of potential electors in each electoral division throughout the Commonwealth and I am sure it would be quite obvious to honourable senators that even if this Bill became law very little, if any, time at all would be available for the newly enfranchised persons to secure enrolment for the coming House of Representatives election. Honourable senators would well know, with all their experience, that the rolls close at 6 p.m. on the day of the issue of the writs and only those persons whose claims are received by the electoral registrar up to that time may be enrolled for the purpose of the election. It should be remembered too that the existing electoral claim cards which are on issue at post offices throughout Australia make provision for the applicant to declare that he is not under the age of 21 years, in accordance with the law as it now stands. While I imagine that some temporary expedient could be adopted to meet an emergent situation, it would be more proper to have available for issue at post offices claim cards which conformed with the provisions of the law as soon as the law became effective,
I would like to mention also that section 42 (2) of the Commonwealth Electoral Act provides, in effect, that every person who is entitled to have his name placed on the role for any subdivision and whose name is not on the role upon the expiration of 21 days from the date on which he became so entitled is guilty of an offence unless he proves that his non-enrolment is not in consequence of his failure to send or deliver to the registrar a claim in the prescribed form. It is interesting to note that the transitional provisions included in this Bill propose in effect that persons under 21 years of age would be allowed 3 months grace before coming within the compulsory enrolment provisions of the law. Thus it would seem to be that in practice we would have virtually a voluntary enrolment situation for 18 to 20 year olds for the coming House of Representatives election lt could not be compulsory; it would have to be voluntary. It is important to realise that a change to give 18 year olds a voce at the coming election would, if there was a large influx of claims for enrolment immediately prior to the close of the rolls, impose very great extra pressure upon the electoral administration in expeditiously producing the final rolls made up to the issue of the writs. That has to be considered if one wants to have a transmission of a voter’s intent into a situation of reality in a parliamentary election scene.
The Government has not at any time taken issue on or implied opposition to the principle of a lower franchise age. What it is seeking to do is to look at this question carefully, considerately and with a fairly detached view as to all the effects that this might have not only on the people concerned, their responsibilities, the maturity and the levels of understanding that they have but also the community as a whole. The question is not whether we will in appropriate circumstances support or oppose the principle of votes for 18 year olds but whether we support the passage of a Bill of this nature at the present time. The Government takes the view that neither the time nor the circumstances are appropriate to bring about such a major change Nevertheless, as I have tried to indicate, the Minister for the Interior, the Government, and I in particular in my state of loco parentis, as it were, are quite interested to have the views of the Senate on this matter in the spirit in which I know they will h>: delivered - that while there is a difference of view we will be looking at this in the spirit of what is best for the nation and the Australian people.
– This is a very significant measure to come before the Senate for debate. It relates to a fundamental change in the approach of the whole Australian nation to the participation by large sections of the community in the electoral process and therefore in the processes of government. The activity in support of extending the franchise to younger people of the age of 18 years and over is of rather recent origin. Perhaps it stems from the greater participation of youth in modern affairs and their more intense articulation in their interests and activities, their hopes, desires and aspirations. May it be said on behalf of the Australian Democratic Labor Party that before that increased level of activity was demonstrated we had this principle in our platform. Many years ago, from about 1963 I think, our platform included the point that the franchise should be extended to younger people. That is why on this occasion, as we indicated earlier in this debate, we support the proposition presented in the Bill brought to this chamber by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Murphy) on behalf of the official Opposition, the Australian Labor Party.
However, the Democratic Labor Party proposes an amendment to the motion ‘that the Bill be now read a second time’. 1 move:
At end of motion add - , but the Senate is of the opinion that
While the extension of the franchise to young people of the age of 18 years and under 21 years will provide for a more accurate reflection of the relevant opinion of electors the most accurate and democratic means of ensuring the equitable Parliamentary representation in the House of Representatives of substantial bodies of political opinion in the community is by the electoral system of proportional representation voting for election to that House;
the selection of positions on ballot papers for House of Representatives elections should be by draw instead of by alphabetical order;
where requested by a candidate party identification should appear beside the name of each candidate on the ballot paper;
a candidate who is a Commonwealth Public Servant should not be required to resign at the time of nomination but only if elected;
polling hours should be changed from 8 a.m.-8 p.m. to 8 a.m.-6 p.m.; and
the deposit of a candidate for election to either House should be reduced to $30 or alternatively the voting percentage requirement for the return of a deposit to an unsuccessful candidate should be lowered’.
At the appropriate time I shall indicate how we propose the Senate might deal with this amendment. But now T come back to the main theme of the Bill which is to extend the franchise to young people of or above the age of 18 years. I think the Senate is indebted to the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Cotton), who spoke on behalf of the Government and the appropriate Minister, the Minister for the Interior (Mr Hunt), for his considered and objective approach to this matter. This highlights the fact that this is an area of considerable doubt and some degree of hesitation. There is a great variety and difference of opinion on the desirability of extending the franchise as is proposed in this Bill or, for that matter, extending it to anyone below the age of 21 years even though he may be above the age of 18 years. There may be as many opinions as there are people.
The opinion of the Australian Democratic Labor Party is that the franchise should be extended to young people above the age of 18 years. The reasons which have been canvassed by the Minister for Civil
Aviation in that considered and thoughtful speech are considerations which prompt us - as no doubt they prompt the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate (Senator Murphy) and the Opposition in part - to the position which they and we adopt, that is, the earlier maturation of young people in modern society, physically, psychologically and intellectually. That is the outcome of our way of life. It is the outcome of advanced systems of education, new techniques in the transmission of learning and new responsibilities which have been imposed on young people because of their much earlier participation as operatives in the work force and in school vocations. They very early go to work and assume responsibility. They earn money for themselves. Very often they make domestic establishments away from the family. There may be disputes on whether that is desirable but it does happen. They handle their own budgets and plan their own careers. Therefore there is a greater and earlier maturation. In addition, there is a greater and more incipient acceptance of social, domestic and personal responsibility. If that is so, then it is realistic that such young people if they exhibit these qualities and accept these responsibilities should be given the greater responsibility - perhaps the greater duty - of participating in the government of their country by the use of the electoral process, by the exercise of the franchise in the election of governments and, therefore, in the control of the national destiny. That is one of the considerations canvassed by the Minister. He was not being dogmatic on the matter but was saying that this was a valid consideration which all those who approached this matter objectively and thoughtfully would take into account.
I cannot accept the proposition that because there is uncertainty in the States that should in any way affect the decision of the Commonwealth Government. Obviously there are areas of State doubt. The States which have that doubt will look to the Commonwealth Government to give the lead and to take a stand on this. I would say that if that were done very quickly it would be followed by the States which so far have not considered it fit and proper to extend the franchise. Senator Cotton instanced, for example, the difficulty which might be presented in relation to the jury roll in New South Wales. Of course, nothing like that would be an insuperable barrier. The composition of the jury roll is within State jurisdiction. If New South Wales in its wisdom were to decide that a prospective juryman under its present law were to be taken from the federal roll, and if the federal roll prescribed enrolment at 18, it would be very easy for State legislation to exclude those in a particular section - even if they were on the federal roll - from being available for jury service. Nothing like that would be a difficulty, much less an insuperable obstacle.
I think that in these things the nation will look ultimately to the Federal Government which has resources at its command. Because of the effect it will have in making uniform what should be uniform, I think the Commonwealth has a responsibility to take the lead. I agree that the political consequences of any variation in the electoral age should not be a factor which determines our actions. As a matter of fact, gallup polls very often contradict impressions. Various opinions are held on whether the new youthful electors will vote conservatively or radically. Many polls show that they would vote conservatively and many show that they would vote radically. There is no definitive opinion on this and there cannot be until they are actually tested at an election.
– Perhaps the honourable senator might have a little time to develop this proposition: What sort of poll is regarded as a reliable sample?
– I agree. I think that is a very opportune and pertinent question. Actually when I speak of polls to my knowledge - I am not very familiar with them - I do not think any type of professional poll has been conducted in this field. Most of the polls have been taken by newspapers and naturally would be unscientific. They would be a canvass of young people on what they think about this.
– -What does the honourable senator think about university samples? Does he think they are incomplete?
– While a university may have statisticians at its command, it may not be experienced in the art of interrogation so an answer will be received which may not reflect the disposition of the elector. That is an innocent matter, but nevertheless it takes a high degree of professional skill to be able to ascertain objectively the opinion of the person who asked without that opinion being influenced by the conscious or subconscious transmission of the view and attitude of the interrogator. Therefore I think we must say that as yet there has been no definitive assessment of what is likely to be the electoral response of young people if they are given the franchise. On the question of whether it is timely, I suppose that no time is timely. But if the young people are developing as I suggested earlier in my address; if they are participating more and more in the affairs of life; if they are assuming responsibilities earlier than they did; if they are managing their own affairs; if there has already been an extension in other areas of life - for example, the extension of the testamentary capacity and in other fields of law which confer rights on minors, those under 21 - then I would think there is a body of opinion and experience building up which would appear to justify the next step which is the extension of the franchise to such young people.
I wonder what the response of the young people would be? I do not mean their political response in whether they would vote this way or that. But what would be the level of interest of young people? This concerns me. I know that there will be a section of young people who will be intensely interested in politics. I suppose that most honourable senators in this chamber, as young people, were interested in politics. That is why ultimately we found our way here. There will be a corresponding group in the community today. There will be a group which is wedded to other campaigns in which the extension of the franchise to youth is only one matter. Whatever their ultimate motive may be, this will be taken as one weapon to be used. Perhaps their attitude is not so defensible, not so desirable and not so much to be encouraged. Then I think there will be a great group which will not be politically interested. They are young people who are intent on their studies, making their careers, planning their young lives, trying to earn income and studying at night. Perhaps they do not have the time to give to politics the attention which a proper and intelligent exercise of the franchise would demand. 1 admire the young people. I criticise them for some things but I admire the modern young people for their sense of realism. 1 think they in great numbers would be the first to realise that perhaps they are not completely equipped and informed to make the definitive judgment which they themselves would acknowledge the intelligent exercise of the franchise would demand if it is to be properly and fruitfully exercised. I think a great body of young people, therefore, would have this response.
A great number of them possibly rely still on the opinions and guidance of their parents. I do not mean that in any sense that they lack a spirit of independence or have an inability to make up their minds. However, 1 think we must recognise that perhaps they have not been able to give their attention to the study of the personalities, policies and principles of political parties and, still being young people who look with respect and regard to the opinions of their elders, particularly parents whom they admire, will rely in a great degree, initially, anyhow, upon the views and opinions of their parents. But this, as I say. is a shadowland of speculation and nobody can quite say just how the young people would vote or how they would respond to such electoral opportunity as a Bill such as this would hand out to them.
But none of those is a reason, in my opinion, to prevent or preclude us from going ahead with legislation such as this. I think ultimately the response of the young people possibly would be valuable, it probably would be considered and 1 think that possibly it would have a somewhat dramatic effect on the attitude of parliamentary candidates at elections. Therefore, the Democratic Labor Party, without canvassing in any greater detail those things which prompt us to support the proposed legislation, indicates that it will support it and commend it to the Senate. However, as 1 indicated in the amendment which I read and which has been circulated, the Democratic Labor Party is concerned about certain trends in this community. These trends perhaps could be corrected in some measure by a proper, logical and democratic approach to the electoral system.
We find some significant developments in the Australian community and perhaps in other modern communities. One significant thing is that there are groups within our community - I do not mean groups of violence or groups who have completely way-out ideas which are supported by zealots dedicated to extraordinary causes - who are intelligent and serious but excited and who no longer find their political accommodation in any of the existing political accommodation in any of the. existing political parties, whether it is the Libera! Party, the Country Party, the Australian Labor Party or the Democratic Labor Party. Therefore we are finding all sorts of manifestations. Two manifestations which we are finding are the emergence of some smaller parties and the entry of independents into the political life of Australia and into this chamber. In addition to thai we find groups which are prepared to take government into the streets because they at least claim that they have no adequate political voice. Assuming that that is an honest statement of their attitude, we can see that if there are significant groups in the community which have not the opportunity for adequate, relevant and appropriate political representation, they are going to find government outside Parliament. That could be a tremendous challenge to the whole of our parliamentary democratic system.
The only answer to that is to have an electoral system which as accurately as possible within the confines of practicability and practical operation shall reflect the diversity of opinion which is now growing up in our modern sophisticated community. There was a time in this community when the issues were very clear. They were stark and they were limited in number. There were, substantially, the haves and the havenots. But since then there has been a complete transformation of the whole of our social order. Today the simple problems of survival or of poverty are not the only problems. Today on everybody’s breakfast table will be the problems of Egypt, Israel Vietnam, Bangladesh and the European Economic Community. World problems are now brought to our breakfast tables every morning. With the development of a more sophisticated, better educated and intelligent community people are taking attitudes on questions which once were not a matter of concern or interest to the Australian community. We will find major groups developing, allied on ideological grounds, economic grounds or some other kind of grounds in respect of various causes throughout the world. There could be possibly a multiplicity of such groups but we could not possibly give them all political representation.
But there are big groups of people who feel that they cannot find parliamentary articulation for what they regard as very important questions. The only way to give them the opportunity of parliamentary expression, the only way in which this diversity of opinion can find expression in the halls of Parliament, is by an electoral system that will reflect in a large measure what I would call this diversity of view and this diversity of attitude. Perhaps first in the field to do that was our own Party, the Democratic Labor Party, which does represent, and increasingly so, an expanding segment of the national population and the national point of view.
– Why do you say increasingly so’?
– That is not what Gough Whitlam said.
– I know that there are various views. We have risen to 5 senators from 1, 2 or 3. It would appear that in the processes of history this Party is going to expand and our numbers increase. This is an inference that can quite legitimately be drawn from our rather short political history. That is one instance. Only recently we have found the Australia Party, in areas where it has put up a candidate at an election, obtaining a rather significant fraction of the vote. That cannot be purely coincidental; there must be some reason for that. Obviously the reason is that there are people who are disenchanted with the Government parties in the coalition and with the Australian Labor Party and who do not find acceptance in our Party, so they have created their own political party.
I admit that there would be total instability in government were we to give representation politically to every small fragment in the community - we could not do it - but there are groups which, on a proper system. if they are of particular significance and are sufficiently numerous, could have adequate political representation. I think that would bring a variety of richness to parliamentary life and a stability to the Australian community which now may well be lost in this challenge to parliamentary authority by those outside Parliament who find that the vehicle of their expression is demonstration in the streets and a violation and defiance of law and order. This is one practical way, we feel, in which this type of thing might well be overcome.
Take the position of our own Party. The Democratic Labor Party is represented in all States. We are a national party. We present candidates in every electorate, virtually, in the House of Representatives and we always present a full team of candidates for Senate elections. As a result of that our representation in the National Parliament is the 5 senators who sit in this chamber and have done so for the last 2 years. Before that there were 3 senators and earlier than that there was one. But when we analyse the situation and look at the aggregate vote that this Party receives we find a very dangerous situation when a party which commands such a big proportion of the national vote is not able to obtain a seat in the people’s house, the House of Representatives. If that process goes on, not in relation to our Party but generally, the Parliament inevitably is going to become less and less representative. In that event the people will vote for a party, although it may not represent their views and although it may not be the party they want, because it is the best they can have. That will be the outcome of the political electoral system.
If honourable senators will bear with me I shall read a few figures to demonstrate how the present electoral system is operating most adversely, most undemocratically and most harshly against the minority party, which happens to be our Party. At the Senate general election on 22nd November 1958 the Democratic Labor Party received 387,792 votes. That would be a vote equivalent possibly to the population of Perth, or perhaps more than the population of Perth. I do not know what the population of Perth is. As a result of that tremendous vote the DLP returned one member to the Senate, although it had polled 8.41 per cent of the aggregate vote at that Senate election. In 1961 the DLP received 472,578 votes, which was 9.82 per cent of the total vote, but it was not able to have one candidate elected to the Senate.
– Was that the total national vote?
– Yes. I want to emphasise that I do not intend my remarks to be critical of the Country Party; 1 am just attempting to show how the Democratic Labor Party’s vote is distributed and the Country Party’s vote is concentrated. In that Senate election the Liberal-Country Party received 2 million votes or 44 per cent of the vote and its candidates were successful in winning 15 scats. In 1961 the Liberal-Country League-
– It sounds as though the figures are a bit tangled there.
– The figures 1 have in front of me are for the Senate general election in 1961. They indicate that the Australian Labor Party put up 18 candidates and obtained 14 seats with 12.15 million votes or 44.71 per cent of the vote. The way in which the voting pattern is classified after that in the documents I have in front of me is: Communist Party, Country Democratic League, Democratic Labor Party and Liberal-Country League. I do not know from what publication these figures were taken.
– The honourable senator is looking at the situation for South Australia.
– That could not be correct because there would not have been 2 million votes for the Labor Party in South Australia. Obviously these are generic term. Let us have a look at what happened in the Senate election in 1964. The Democratic Labor Party received 433,51 1 votes and 2 of its candidates were elected. The Liberal-Country Party received 2.3 million votes and 14 of its candidates were elected. In other words, the LiberalCountry Party received 45 per cent of the vote and obtained almost 50 per cent of the seats. The Democratic Labor Party received 8 per cent of the vote and obtained only one-fifteenth of the seats. In the Senate election of 1967 the DLP received 540,000 votes or 9.77 per cent of the vote and obtained 2 seats. The Australian Labor Party obtained 13 seats, although it received only 45 per cent of the vote. That is the history of the Senate elections. I need not continue in that vein.
Perhaps the figures more illustrative of the proposition I am putting are those for House of Representatives elections. At the House of Representatives general election on 30th November 1963 the Democratic Labor Party received 407,416 votes or 7.4 per cent of the total and obtained no seats at all. In other words, the 407.000 adult Australians who wanted the DLP were not able to secure one representative in the lower House of the national Parliament. At the same election - I repeat that I am not being critical of it - the Country Party received 489,000 votes or about 82,000 votes more than the Democratic Labor Party and obtained 20 seats.
– But the Country Party stood for only half the seats that the DLP stood for.
– I think that is a fair comment. That could be right. But in the country electorates there would be some Liberal Party votes which would counterpoise that argument to some degree. In the House of Representatives election of 1966 the Country Party received 561,000 votes and obtained 21 seats; the Democratic Labor Party received 417,411 votes but obtained no seats.
– In that year I received one million votes myself.
– That is so. In the last House of Representatives election, which was held in 1969, the DLP received 367,977 votes and obtained no seats at all, whereas the Country Party had the usual record in relation to its vote. I am not being critical of the Country Party, the Liberal Party or the Australian Labor Party. What I am pointing out is that there must be something basically wrong with an electoral system that permits half a million adult Australians to go without political representation in the people’s House. That cannot be considered in any sense to be a democratic electoral system.
– It is because a Country Party Minister is usually in charge of the electoral portfolio.
– The present electoral system has been in existence for a long time under many types of governments - Liberal-Country Party, Nationalist Party and Australian Labor Party governments, and it still persists. But its historical record does not make it any more valid or give it any more justification. If in a modern community groups similar to the Democratic Labor Party are developing and are continuing to be denied reasonable political representation in the people’s House then we can expect tremendous frustrations and agitations outside of the Parliament, with all the challenges to the stability of the Parliament that inevitably will accompany that position.
The Democratic Labor Party acknowledges the proposition put forward by Senator Murphy in his Bill. What is the principle of that Bill? It is that there is a large segment of the community - the young people between 18 and 21 years of age - which is politically mature enough to participate in the electoral process, in the process of government, and which has no direct representation because it has no opportunity to vote. The Democratic Labor Party feels it is appropriate to move this amendment to the motion that the Bill be now read a second time because it believes that the amendment involves the same principle as the Bill, only in a different form. That there are on occasions over half a million adults who do not have the political representation in the Parliament that their vote indicates they want is, I think, a very serious position. I know that the acceptance of this amendment is of importance to my Party, but the system of voting we project is not unique. As a matter of fact, an examination of the situation in Australia will reveal that the proportional representation system prevails in many parts of the country. I notice that Senator Marriott is present in the chamber. One State in which it prevails is Tasmania.
– To our disenchantment.
– I do not know about that. I do not know whether the honourable senator was disenchanted with the Government of his political complexion when it was in office for some years. The Australian Labor Party is now in govern ment in that State. It is a system that obviously has great merit. We have the same system for elections to this chamber. It has been responsible for the entry of 5 senators who represent half a million adults. After all, if one takes into consideration not only the adults in a family but also their children, one could say that the Democratic Labor Party represents between one million and one and a quarter million people. The electoral system in the Senate has also been responsible for bringing to this chamber Senator Turnbull as an Independent, Senator Townley as an Independent and Senator Negus as an Independent. Obviously there are people in Australia who want candidates of independent views, not associated with political parties, in the Parliament. But only an electoral system such as the one we have for this chamber has been able to produce that result, although the same result has been achieved on rare occasions in some of the States legislatures. For example, it has been achieved in Queensland and in different circumstances in other places.
Everybody speaks of the new look of the Australian Senate; of how much more effective it is; of how much more active it is; and of how its work today is making a great contribution to the parliamentary process and to the process of government. This is not just because the DLP happens to be the centre group. There could be any other group - call it the X Party. The Senate has been able to function in its new guise because there is an uncommitted party group which has been able to persuade the Government to accept things which I think a government of any complexion in complete numerical control of this chamber probably would not accept. I repeat that I am not saying this simply because the Democratic Labor Party happens to be that group. The same thing would have happened if there had been any other uncommitted group in the same situation. In saying that I am not denigrating the contribution that honourable senators from the major political parties have made to the functioning of the Senate under its new guise. Of course, if the party in Opposition were in complete numerical control the Senate would not be workable in that sense and might have to be dissolved. That the viability of the Senate has been made possible in its new form only by the presence of an uncommitted intermediate group is in itself a major justification for the promotion of the electoral process of proportional representation. That is why the Democratic Labor Party has decided to urge upon the Senate that this principle which is outlined in the form of my amendment, be accepted quite divorced from parly politics, quite divorced from old traditions and quite divorced from the conservatism of the old system, but as one which is appropriate to the modern community in which we live, one which will reflect the diversification of our modern community and its increasing sophistication and one which will make a much more fruitful contribution to the parliamentary and political process.
We can expect, perhaps more rapidly than we imagine, that there will be an expansion of the membership of the Australian Parliament. I think that the work load of our Parliament is such that there may be a need for some further expansion in the number of members of Parliament. I do not know. But if that happens and if there is to be an expansion, I think that it would be appropriate that it be under any system of proportional representation.
– Excuse my interruption, but would you be making a case for the enlargement of the Senate or do you say that it should stay the way it is? You may care to elaborate a little on that point.
– Our Party took the stand at the time of the referendum on the proposal to break the nexus between the House of Representatives and the Senate that we opposed the abandoning of the ratio between membership of the Senate and the House of Representatives.
– Successfully too.
– Yes. I was not a member of the Parliament at that time. But 1 always felt that there was one dangerous element in breaking that nexus. It is this: Because of the tremendous powers under the Constitution of the Senate, and because it has the total power of veto of the lower House - it has been said that the Senate is the most powerful second chamber in the world - an increase in the membership of the House of Representatives without an increase in the membership of the Senate would result in an increasing concentration of power, particularly the power of veto, in a House whose numbers were diminishing relative to those of the people’s House. For that reason, apart from the undesirability at the stage of the referendum of increasing the number of parliamentarians, the breaking of the nexus may have been extremely unwise.
– Before you leave that point, if proportional voting is introduced for the House of Representatives, would Australia vote as one electorate or 6 electorates?
– Later when the Bill is in the Committee stage, if the amendment that I have moved is carried, certain amendments will be proposed by my Party in respect of the matter raised by the honourable senator. It will be noticed that the question of proportional representation has not been spelt out or specified in detail because it would be highly complex. To attempt to do so by an amendment moved in these circumstances might be unwise and possibly would be totally unsuccessful. What the system would be, I would not know. But I would imagine off hand that every State would be one electorate with divisions within it, possibly with some mutation of the Hare-Clark system in Tasmania or some qualification of a system such as that. My remarks are purely speculative and personal. They have not been thought through in any depth.
I have spoken at considerable length. But I merely wish to state what is the position. Honourable senators will have before them the amendment which we have projected. The amendment adds to the motion for the second reading of the Bill. I turn to paragraphs (2), (3), (4), (5) and (6) of the amendment. Probably it is not necessary for me to expand on those to any degree.
– There is some suggestion there-
– I will comment on them. Paragraph (2) of the amendment reads: the selection of positions on ballot papers for House of Representatives elections should be by draw instead of by alphabetical order.
– Do that, and the percentage of votes polled by your Party will be cut by half.
– That might be so. But at least it is to our credit that we have not allowed our own Party considerations to affect our judgment of what is wise and proper in the circumstances. I appreciate the implied compliment that the honourable senator has paid me. Obviously, the selection of positions by alphabetical order is the last resort-
– Your percentage will be cut by half. You have never admitted that before. Now you-
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENTOrder!
– The selection of positions on the ballot paper by alphabetical order is probably the last resort of the lazy and the unimaginative. As Senate ballot paper positions are drawn by ballot, I do not see any reason why positions for candidates on the House of Representatives ballot paper also should not be drawn by ballot.
– Do you know whether this is done in any other elections?
-I am not aware of it. But 1 would say that again that is not a consideration which should inhibit us if we wish to be pioneers in this field as 1 said in relation to proportional representation or in relation to granting the right to vote to 18-year-olds. We should not be inhibited to pioneer any change because of the fact that we would be the first.
Paragraph (3) of my amendment reads: where requested by a candidate Party identification should appear beside the name of each candidate on the ballot paper.
Those who have been scrutineers at elections and those who hand out ‘how to vote’ cards or ‘vote thus’ cards, as they are called in Victoria, know that people come along to a polling place and say that they want to vote for Party A, Party B or Party C. They are given a ‘how to vote’ card for the party of their choice. The distribution of these cards in itself places a tremendous burden on Party organisations. Very often candidates must go on hands and knees to get friends and acquaintances to help them because their Party organisations often do not measure up-
– We do not have that trouble.
– I have seen plenty of polling booths unmanned by Party repre sentatives. They have been unmanned by members of the Australian Labor Party and all parties. But people today-
– We do not have that trouble.
– That is not-
– Mr Acting Deputy President, it is becoming very difficult for me to address the Senate.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Wood) - Order! I ask that honourable senators maintain order in the course of the speech being delivered by Senator Byrne, otherwise I will be forced to name any honourable senator who offends.
– I ask Senator Byrne to repeat his last few remarks as I did not hear a word that he said.
– There was an interjection to the effect that the Australian Labor Party has no difficulty in finding polling booth workers. I said I have seen polling booths which have been unmanned by workers from all parties, sometimes the Australian Labor Party and other parties. This is a burden on all political parties. People come along now and again and say that they want to vote for a particular candidate but so often they want to vote for a particular party. All electoral propaganda has been for political parties. The names of those parties have been projected on television, radio and in the newspapers. Voters are handed ballot papers which do not show political party designations. A number of people are quite confused and do not know which candidate represents which party. I think that what we propose here is the rational thing to do. Honourable senators will recall that I had the opportunity last year of being in Vietnam when the elections were held there. The voting system there is different fromours. The Vietnamese have what is called a ‘slate’, which is really a ballot paper already marked. A whole group of these slates is available and the voter selects the one which depicts the way in which he wishes to vote and puts it in his envelope.
– A sort of symbol system.
– Some slates have symbols, some have semantic descriptions and some have photographs for people who cannot read or write. But that is not exactly the point. The point is that the party designation appears by symbol or otherwise and people could vote for a party. We do not find it necessary to resort to that method. But there is a good reason why the name of the party should be designated and should be displayed on the ballot paper.
– Can you help me? This undoubtedly has been a matter which has been considered by all parties. Let us say that at an election I was to call myself a representative of the ‘Democratic Party’-
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT - Order! An opportunity is available to each honourable senator to debate this question if he or she so desires.
– The honourable senator might call himself the representative of the ‘Democratic Party’. But provision exists in the Commonwealth Electoral Act to protect recognised political parties according to their designation or party name from those who by some subterfuge might try to present themselves as being of that recognised party. That would be a matter only of making the necessary provision to overcome that situation. Paragraph (4) of our amendment reads: a candidate who is a Commonwealth Public Servant should not be required to resign at the time of nomination but only if elected.
We propose that if this Bill reaches the Committee stage - we hope that it will - not tonight but later on-
– I would hope that it would tonight. After all, it is a Bill offering to give the vote to 18-year olds.
– Yes. When the Committee stage is reached, we will move paragraphs (2), (3), (5) and (6) as specific operative amendments to relevant sections of the principal Act. I would refrain from presenting paragraph (4) because this is a most difficult question which involves the interpretation of the Commonwealth Electoral Act and the Constitution, and the application of both. We feel that Commonwealth public servants should be given the opportunity which is spelt out in paragraph (4), but the matter is extremely complicated. The Commonwealth Electoral Act and the Constitution must be read together. It would not be possible without a good deal of advice, consultation and careful drafting to spell out that proposal in an amendment of short form. This may not be an appropriate time for such a proposal. All I say on behalf of our Party is that this is a proposition in which we believe and one that we will project, support and execute at the proper time.
– If you do not mind, may I take you back to the slate system in Vietnam? Has there been any evidence to show that that method has led to a reduction in the number of informal votes?
– I have not examined the Vietnam figures. All I know is that as I saw the electoral process operating at that time, and as I said in this chamber on my return, I thought that the process was impeccable in its observance of the democratic forms. There was every opportunity for a free vote, for a secret vote, for a dissentient vote and for a personal vote, with proper identification so that there could be no impersonation. There was proper scrutiny and proper accounting of votes and ballot papers, and I could find no fault during an attempted objective assessment when going around polling booths both in Saigon and in one of the new provinces to which we were lifted by helicopter. We went in without accompaniment to polling booths which were blacked out with curtains and things of that nature and I could see no fault in the system. For the informal vote a discard tin was provided, for those who did not want to use any of the slates. If a person did not want to vote he put his paper in the tin, or he could mutilate his paper before he put it in the manila envelope. That would be an informal vote. It was quasi-opaque manila envelope; one could not see what was on it but one could see there was something in if by holding it to the light. That would have been an informal vote and there was opportuntiy to register it.
Paragraph 5 prescribes that voting hours should be changed from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. You. Mr Acting President, being a resident of northern Queensland will know that in Queensland the 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. voting hour is an imposition on the comfort, convenience and availability of the people of Queensland.
– What about people of religious groups who do not vote until after sunset?
– I suppose a provision could be made for them to vote on the previous day, or something like that.
– Or to vote by post.
– Yes, to vote by post. Many techniques are available for overcoming particular difficulties whether they be of conscience or physical or of absenteeism.
– You are disregarding the farmers.
– We have farmers in Queensland and there are farmers in New South Wales and they all have greater distances to travel than do farmers in Victoria. But we have found the 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. provision is all right and convenient and that anybody who wants to vote is reasonably able to vote, with the benefit of modern transportation. I know what it is like to work at a booth from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.; at 6 p.m. the sun has gone down and for the last 2 hours one is working in the dark - literally in the dark and carrying a hurricane lantern or an electric torch. Tt depends on the time of year at which the poll is conducted. We think consideration could well be given to this and we have moved accordingly.
Our Party finds a particular disability in the level of deposit required. As honourable senators know, we attempt to present candidates in all seats and very seldom does a candidate stand much chance of winning in a particular electorate. There is a very heavy demand on our funds and candidates’ funds to provide the necessary deposit and if our candidate’s vote is below the minimum requirement, the deposit is not refunded. If the electoral process is designed to provide the maximum electoral opportunity to people then I think that this must be a provision made in reality and not merely in theory. I think that our experience alone should demonstrate that there is a very good case for lowering the deposit fee to a level which would deter those who have no serious intent and no serious interest in participating in elections and which would deter those who would nominate from improper motives and who, if the deposit is too low, will take advantage of the situation.
– It is a good ground for taxation deductions.
– That is a good practical suggestion. The deposit paid could well be a taxation rebate proposition.
– I mean to have the electoral expenses allowed as deductions from taxation.
– After all, money expended by a sitting member of Parliament is deductible from the point of view of taxation. However, this is not the case for an incoming candidate who is not already a sitting member. We have therefore moved this blanket amendment to the motion for the second reading of the Bill in the form in which it is presented. We would propose in the committee stage of the Bill to move paragraphs (2), (3), (5) and (6) as specific amendments to the relevant sections of the principal Act. This amendment will in duc course be circulated so that honourable senators can see exactly what we have in mind. We do appeal to honourable senators on the motion for the second reading to acknowledge the wisdom, prudence and the equity of giving consideration to an alternative electoral system for the House of Representatives so that in the truest and most accurate sense possible that chamber can reflect the Australian community and can be a parliamentary house of the people in fact as well as in theory. Therefore I do appeal to honourable senators to support the amendment we move to the motion for the second reading of the Bill propounded by Senator Murphy. We support the motion and we present this addendum which we trust will receive the support of honourable senators.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- Does any honourable senator second the amendment?
– I second the amendment.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- Before I call the next speaker I draw attention to standing order 195 which provides that second reading amendments shall be strictly related to the Bill. I have a doubt whether paragraphs (2) to (6) of the amendment are strictly relevant to the Bill. I invite argument on this point of order.
– Having watched this carefully and having asked my adviser to look at it and to go out and take a further reference, I believe that (1) stands by itself and that (2), (3), (4), (5) and (6) equally stand by themselves in separation. I understand that (4) has been withdrawn and I wonder whether this is in effect a true amendment. However, from the Government’s point of view, we would like to hear argument.
– Speaking to the point of order, may I say that if one looks at the matter in substance, there is a Bill before this chamber which is a Bill for an Act to amend the Commonwealth Electoral Act to provide for enrolment and voting at the age of 18 years. However important that Bill may be it is one of the simplest that could be introduced: To strike out the word twenty-one’ and put in the word ‘eighteen’. All considerations in the amendment moved by Senator Byrne, however important they may be and however much they ought to be discussed by this chamber, seem to me, with respect, to be totally irrelevant to the simple proposition whether the voting age and the enrolment age should be reduced from 21 to 18. Those considerations which the honourable senator is advancing in his amendment would be applicable irrespective of whether the age was 21 or 18. They have nothing to do with that proposition. I regret very much that a diversion has been introduced which could have the effect of taking the Senate into all sorts of fields. However regrettable that may be it seems to me that it is not only likely to prevent the Bill from coming to a vote, if these are pursued up and down the whole of their alleyways, and I would hope that is not the intention-
– I assure you that it is not.
– The Minister did not introduce the amendment, but that shows clearly how irrelevant it is to the question. I have indicated that a further amendment could be moved which might meet the problem raised by you, Mr Deputy President. That amendment is to the effect that there would be added into the amendment moved by Senator Byrne: ‘After the words “but the Senate is of the opinion that”. insert the words “at an early date, the Senate should take into consideration and debate the following questions, namely . . .”’. This would mean that paragraphs (1) to (6) of Senator Byrne’s amendment could come on for consideration at some other time. We are not dismissing them out of hand, they would come on for debate. I invite Senator Byrne to indicate whether he is prepared to accept that as a proposition. That would mean that the questions have been raised here and we say they are of sufficient importance to be discussed, and they would not lead to this debate being diverted into side issues, and the question of relevancy therefore need not be pursued. We are not expressing an opinion one way or the other. We are saying, in effect, that they are of sufficient importance to be debated at an early date. I indicate that if this course is followed we need not pursue this question; but if Senator Byrne will not accede to that amendment, Mr President, I ask that you rule his amendment out of order as being irrelevant.
– The amendment propounded by the Democratic Labor Party is in 2 parts. There is placitum (1) with a prelude and then there are placitums (2) to (6). This is a Bill to amend the Commonwealth Electoral Act to provide for enrolment and voting at the age of 18 years. The intent of the Bill is to give political representation to a group of people in the community who, because of age disability, under the present law do not enjoy it. The purpose of the first placitum of our amendment is to give parliamentary representation to a group of people in the community who, because of the present electoral law, cannot achieve it. In other words, the first placitum of our amendment is completely consonant with the concept and purpose of the Bill, although it goes to another area.
– Why don’t you introduce a Bill to do that?
– This is what we have done. We are grateful to the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Murphy) for introducing this Bill. I do not see why, if he has faith in the system, he should object to this appendage. It does not affect the fate of his Bill. It is only an expression of opinion by the Senate. If he agrees with it, I see no reason why he should not support it.
– You know that it will have the effect of delaying the Bill so that we will not get to a vote within a reasonable time.
– I am saying that the purpose, intent and content of the first placitum of our amendment are completely consonant with the purpose or concept of the Bill, which is to extend the franchise to a group of people so that they can have parliamentary representation which they cannot achieve under the present electoral law. That is the purpose of the Bill and it is precisely the purpose of our amendment. I submit therefore that it is completely consonant with the Bill and its title. 1 come to the second part of our amendment. Here I will agree that there may well be matters that are not relevant to the Bill. T think 1 would be straining if I attempted to say otherwise. But I draw the attention of honourable senators to standing order 332 which reads:
An Instruction can be given to a Committee of the Whole on a Bill to amend an existing Act, to consider amendments which are not relevant to the subject-matt? r of the Bill, but are relevant to the subject-matter of me Act it is proposed to amend, provided that such motion shall be carried by at least 23 affirmative votes.
Mr President, if you should hold that placitums (2) to (6) are not relevant to the Bill, we will not proceed with those as part of an amendment to the motion for the second reading of the Bill, but at the appropriate time after that motion is carried we shall call in aid standing order 332 and ask the Senate to give the necessary instruction to the Committee of the Whole to consider these amendments, which you will then have held are not relevant and therefore cannot be presented in the normal fashion and as part of an amendment to the motion for the second reading.
– Why introduce irrelevant matters into this simple Bill?
– We are entitled to do this. 1 do not see why Senator Murphy should be so solicitous of the people in one segment of the community in order to make sure that they achieve parliamentary representation, and not welcome what we are doing; that is, welcome the removal of the deprivation of half a million people of parliamentary representation. I cannot understand that.
– You can introduce another Bill, if you want to.
– We can do lots of things. But I would have thought that, if Senator Murphy agreed that half a million electors and probably more than one million people in Australia are entitled to political representation of their own choice, he would have welcomed the use of the opportunity he has presented to us to put this addendum on to his proposition, with which our proposition totally coincides. In those circumstances I am disappointed at the response of the Leader of the Opposition and of the Opposition itself. I would have thought that, in a broad acceptance of the necessity to achieve adequate political representation for al! significant segments of the community, he would have welcomed the proposition on which we are giving the Senate the chance to vote tonight.
Subject to your ruling, Mr President, which is now the matter for discussion, I submit that the first placitum of our amendment is relevant to the concept and content of the Bill as it is projected, or to what it purports and aims to do; and, although the rest of our amendment - pia.citums (2) and (6) - is not relevant in that sense, it will be presented to the Senate, in pursuance of standing order 332, at the appropriate time in the form of an invitation to the Senate to give an instruction to the Committee of the Whole that, although it is not relevant to the Bill, because it is relevant to the Principal Act it may be considered in Committee of the Whole. In those circumstances, Mr President, I submit that, in your judgment, you should allow the first placitum of our amendment to go to a vote, as being relevant to the Bill, and we will then discard the rest of the amendment for the purposes of the motion for the second reading of the Bill and present it in Committee in the terms I have suggested.
– In my absence Senator Wood, as the Acting Deputy President, invited argument on this matter, it is a very abstruse matter of Senate procedure, which in fact has invited argument I intend to pursue the invitation to argument on the floor of the Senate.
– May I intrude for no more than a moment in order to seek an explanation from Senator Byrne? At a certain stage in the discussion of his amendment he referred to placitums (1) to (6). Then he referred to the separation of them. I think there is a very clear separation not only between placitum (1) and placitums (2) to (6), but also among them all individually. At one point Senator Byrne indicated that he would withdraw placitum (4). But towards the end of his remarks I took him to say that he intended to put placitum (1) by itself and in due course to deal with placitums (2) to (6). Is placitum (4) still involved?
– I am indebted to Senator Cotton. Let me explain it this way: If you should hold, Mr President, that placitum (4), being one of placitums (2) to (6), is relevant and therefore can go forward to the Senate, I would leave it in; but, if I have to resort to the alternative procedure of presenting the placitums other than placitum (1) in Committee, obviously placitum (4) is not drafted in a form which would be appropriate to move as an amendment. Therefore, I would have to abandon it at this stage without abandoning the principle.
– I submit to you, Mr President, that Senator Byrne’s amendment to the motion for the second reading - I think those words are important - is in order. I believe that the question whether the matters to which he has adverted in his amendment would be in order at the Committee stage should be left and argued at that stage. I believe that there would be a good argument as to why they would be valid even at that stage. The long title of the Bill is fairly wide. It is not a Bill to amend the Commonwealth Electoral Act with respect to sections 39, 39A, 49 and 115. The word ‘voting’ is used. What is meant by *voting’? We know what ‘enrolment’ means. The title uses the word ‘voting’. What sort of voting? Is that to be limited to the present method of voting? I do not think that is a reasonable interpretation of the long title of the Bill. I believe that this is an argument which should be left until the Committee stage.
What is the amendment before the Chair at the moment? It is an amendment to the motion for the second reading. The motion before the Chair is: ‘That the Bill be now read a second time’. To that Senator Byrne has moved: At end of motion add - “but the Senate is of the opinion that . . .” ‘Amendments of this nature have been moved to Bill after Bill in this place both by the official Opposition and by the Democratic Labor Party, canvassing the whole range of the contents of the Bill concerned. Never has such an amendment been ruled out of order. Of course, that is not to say that perhaps such amendments should not have been ruled out of order. But this has been the common practice within the Senate.
If this amendment is carried, what does it mean? The amendment contains what is generally termed amongst honourable senators a pious resolution having no effect on the fate of the Bill itself. It is merely an expression of opinion about the Bill. I think a similar amendment was moved the other night by the Australian Democratic Labor Party in which it put forward all sorts of suggestions about the Social Services Act. It suggested that an independent tribunal should do this, that and the other. I cannot recall to mind a series of these amendments, but it is not uncommon for the Senate to express an opinion at the second reading stage of a Bill.
For the life of me I cannot understand why Senator Murphy is adopting his present attitude. If you should rule, Sir, that the amendment to the second reading is not in order, 1 imagine that you would gladden the hearts of the ministerial bench because it would mean that this sort of amendment would be out of order if moved by anybody to any Bill in the future. Of course, this would confine debate to the Bill before the chamber. Whilst 1 know that Senator Gair is a great believer in relevancy and is opposed to tedious repetition, I do not think that even he would like a debate so confined by the inability to move amendments to the second reading of a Bill. I do not believe that the Senate, which is a House which has never rushed legislation, which has always wanted the opportunity to consider matters, would want to go along with such a proposition.
If an honourable senator, at the second reading stage, has wanted to widen debate from the narrow confines of the long title of a Bill, this has been the vehicle supplied to an honourable senator to enable him to do so. This device has been used time and time again. It is a device which, f/hen I was Government Whip, used somewhat to annoy me when I know that the Government was trying to get legislation through. It was annoying and frustrating. At times you could feel quite cross that such a thing should happen. But I do not believe - I think Senator Cavanagh would agree with me - that this is a House where senators’ rights to speak on matters should not be interfered with without looking at them very carefully. I believe that as we have used this method for expressing an opinion about a Bill at the second reading stage, you, Sir, should rule that this amendment is in order.
– I strongly agree with Senator Withers that as this is a Bill on voting, the proposition which is put forward by the Australian Democratic Labor Party, or those parts of it which relate to the question of voting, are definitely in order. Whilst I realise that Senator Murphy is putting forward the policy of his Party, he cannot expect that having put it forward he can exclude other people who may wish to advance the policies of their parties from putting those policies before the Senate when, as in this case, they refer to that which is mentioned in the Bill. This is a Bill in regard to voting. Therefore, I believe that in accordance with the time honoured view of the Senate and within the Standing Orders, there should be the utmost freedom of discussion of important issues. I believe that the amendment which Senator Byrne has moved is in order, and I support him.
– Briefly, I suggest that not only paragraphs (2) to (6) of the amendment are out of order, but also paragraph (4) is out of order and I will give my reasons for saying that shortly. I agree with Senator Withers that the development of the practice of moving an amendment which states that the ‘Senate is of the opinion’ has frustrated me as it has frustrated him, and I have not been very happy about this practice. But it has developed, and that is that. I disagree with Senator Withers when he says that he has not seen similar amendments ruled out of order. Before he came to embellish this place I can remember talking to the Clerks and arguing with them for a long time about this matter, and they used to flatten me like a tack by saying: ‘Just read the title of your Bill’.
The title of this Bill says that this is a Bill to amend the Commonwealth Electoral Act to provide for enrolment and voting at the age of 18 years. That is quite specific. If the title had stated that it was a Bill to amend the Commonwealth Electoral Act - and it could have stated that; the title could have been left at that - then we could have done what Senator Byrne seeks to do. I suggest that what Senator Byrne seeks to do should have been done in a much more specific manner. If the Bill had referred to the Act - and it could have done - that would have allowed Senator Byrne to do what he seeks to do. I suggest that the title of the Bill clearly rules Senator Byrne’s amendment out of order.
Let me say in passing that I would love to have the chance to debate the points which Senator Byrne raises. I think they are interesting. Prima facie, I agree with some of his points. But I think that this Bill is the wrong vehicle to use to achieve what Senator Byrne seeks to do. Mr President, I draw your attention to paragraph (1) of the amendment. The consensus seems to be that it is in order. I suggest that it is out of order, and I refer to the latter part of the paragraph, which adds to what Senator Murphy has said. It states: . . the most accurate and democratic means of ensuring the equitable Parliamentary representation in the House of Representatives of substantial bodies of political opinion in the community is by the electoral system of proportional representation voting for election to that House.
The fact is that under our present voting system it is proportional representation voting when you are electing only one person. You double the number of candidates that you want and you divide that into the number of votes and add one, which gives 50 per cent plus one. What is meant in this paragraph of the amendment is some system of multiple electorates - either a whole State being a multiple electorate or some sections of a State being a multiple electorate. But the amendment does not say that. All it says is that we are of the opinion that we ought to do in the House of Representatives elections what we are doing today. I think that this is a very clumsy vehicle to use to achieve that purpose. 1 have a lot of sympathy with the suggestions that have been made but, as I say, I think this is the wrong vehicle. I think that clearly under the title of the Bill alone not only are paragraphs (2) to (6) out of order, but also paragraph (1) and I further suggest that paragraph (1) does not alter anything.
– Honourable senators will appreciate that I have not been unaware of what has been happening in the Senate chamber, and this drew me back into the chamber where perhaps 1. should have been earlier. I have given this matter consideration in terms of the argument that I have heard, and I rule under standing order 195, which states: ‘No other Amendment may be moved to such Question except in the form of a Resolution strictly relevant to the Bill’, that the only part of Senator Byrne’s amendment that is acceptable to me, as the Presiding Officer, as being relevant is paragraph (1), and I rule out of order paragraphs (2), (3), (4), (5) and (6).
– In rising to speak to the Bill I am struck by the feeling that we must admit that at times the Australian Democratic Labor Party reminds me of the selling point of a little pill some years ago - it is small but active. The members of the Democratic Labor Party have had some considerable knowledge of the policy of the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate, Senator Murphy, who wants the vote to go to 18 year olds. Senator Murphy and the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Cotton), who put forward the Government’s view on this Bill, were allowed to make their speeches on the measure, and then the leader for the Democratic Labor Party in this debate, the Party’s esteemed Whip, Senator Byrne, introduced what someone called a blanket amendment, the blanket, I think, being the idea of swamping the purpose of the main Bill, drawing debate away from the main Bill and prolonging the debate - something like in a cricket match: Bring on your fast bowlers as the light is beginning to fade. Mr President, you have ruled - naturally I agree with your ruling implicitly - that only one paragraph of the proposed amendment can be allowed. This will prevent a wastage of some of the time that might have been expended in a debate on paragraphs 2 to 6 of the formerly suggested amendment.
– They will come up later on.
– They may come up later on but now we will have some notice and be able to do our homework. If and when they come up later on we will be in a better position to speak to them. I am not going to be led away from the main purpose of the Bill for very long. In regard to the first matter, the Senate has been notified that a request has been made for each proposition to be put and voted upon separately. I rally to the support of Senator Willesee, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. The way this amendment is framed does not, to my mind, suggest an alteration of the Electoral Act for a House of Representatives election. I have always understood that members in that House were elected by proportional representation.
– It is preferential.
– Preferential or proportional-
– They are different altogether.
– I have never been able to have the clear difference explained to me. Senator Byrne did say that when the amendment to the Bill is introduced at the Committee stage he would have it so worded that we would understand the system of voting which he proposes.
– I did not say that.
– Yes, you did. The honourable senator said that he would explain the system.
– I did not.
– I do not want to argue. My recollection is that the honourable senator saw me in the Senate chamber and said: ‘Senator Marriott would know of the Tasmanian system’. I said something to this effect: ‘To our disenchantment, we have it.’ If the time comes when Senator Byrne has the opportunity to move an amendment to the Electoral Act in specific terms to introduce the system of grouped electorates to which he referred, if not in those words in similar words, I will be strongly opposing this. I would think that every political party in Tasmania would oppose the Hare-Clarke system which is known as the ‘Mad March Hare-Clarke system*. It is known by all sorts of names. But there is only one reason why it is not being altered, has not been altered and I doubt will ever be altered. It is the very old political maxim: Do not change an act that gets you elected to Parliament. You can rave about compulsory voting and say that it is wrong or undemocratic. But if you are in government you will never change from compulsory voting. In the case of the British Parliament no government will ever change from free voting to compulsory voting.
As it has been signified that we will be voting on this proposition, I want to make it perfectly clear that I will be voting against it, as I am now trying to speak against opposition from another corner of the Senate. I do not believe that the Parliament of this country would be improved in this way. I believe that it would be handicapped if a system of grouped electorates were to be introduced into the House of Representatives. The honourable senator also canvassed the idea that it might lead - he was not too sure - to the expansion of the House of Representatives. Then, the question was raised about the Senate and his Party’s part in the referendum which defeated the breaking of the nexus when be was not in the Parliament. Senator Byrne gave me the impression that he felt it could be dangerous if we were to increase the numbers in the House of Representatives and have a small, powerful Senate in comparison. Therefore, he gave me the idea that he would have to look at enlarging the Senate also. I think that I have made perfectly clear the fact that I will be opposing the amendment moved by the Australian Democratic Labor Party.
I will now refer to the Bill introduced by Senator Murphy. Its idea is clear cut. It is to amend the Electoral Act for the sole purpose of allowing 18 year olds to vote. I am in favour and have publicly declared myself in favour of giving 18 year olds the vote in Australia at the right time in all State and Federal elections. I hope it will be moderately early.
– Do you think that the proportional system has improved-
– I will not be drawn back by the honourable senator to refer to the discussion on the proportional system of representation. I have dealt with that and I am now dealing with the main purpose of the Bill which Senator Murphy had the courtesy to let us know about some weeks ago. In this case we are not speaking off the cuff on some hurriedly drawn ideas. The facts are today, as they have been ever since man started to make laws, that after about their 14th year youths throughout the western world at any rate seem to face some new relief or take unto themselves more power and responsibility. In some States they are permitted to leave school at 14 years. Whether that is relief or power is a matter for each individual to decide. In Tasmania we believe in a well educated State. That is why so many of our people go to the other Australian States and abroad to fill very important positions and why we have a school leaving age of 16 years. Then there are times when youths are licensed to drive a vehicle and ride a motor bike. Varying age limits are set down for this in the various States. With regard to taxation and child endowment a youth and his parents are encouraged to keep on with education to a greater age than hitherto has been the case. This Government encourages them to go on with their education, following upon our Tasmanian example. So allowances are provided up to the age of 21 years. As the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Cotton) said when replying to this Bill on behalf of the Government 21 has been the magical age when we get the key to the door and the right to marry if we so desire without our parents consent. It is an important aspect that in some States and I think under Commonealth law, 21 years is the age at which a person can enter into contracts. A person can buy and sell. That is an important power and responsibility to give to youth as it is an important power and responsibility to give to youth of today the vote in regard to their national and State elections. To my way of thinking, if they are not fit to do the one they are not fit to have the right to do the other. In other words, if the youth of today is classified as being too immature to withstand the wiles of salesmen - and many people older than 21 fall for them - they have no right and are not mature enough to cast a vote in parliamentary elections.
– Do you put forward the contrary proposition, that if they have the right to enter into contracts they should have the right to vote?
– It is very helpful to get suggestions along the lines of your own thoughts just before you utter them. If the honourable senator reads Hansard tomorrow I think he will realise that what I have been saying is the lead up. I am being very methodical tonight. If a youth is fit to vote he should be considered fit to enter into legal contracts, to buy and sell, and to enter into hire purchase agreements. At 18 years of age, the 2 main political parties represented here and, I am certain, the Democratic Labor Party have subscribed to the view that the male youth of Australia is old enough to go to war. 1 have subscribed to that view. I saw untrained 18-year olds arriving in New Guinea in 1942 and 1943. They were sent to us to go to war.
– They were given the vote at the same time, were they not?
– I do not think so. They were allowed to vote, were they? It seems as if I am going over to Senator Murphy’s side. 1 was a little older than 18 years during the last war. If we have allowed our servicemen to vote at the age of 18 years, I believe we should give every youth of 18 years the right to vote because we should classify every youth in Australia as being willing, if called upon, to take some part in the defence of his or her country. If we give a vote to those youths that we make serve or allow to serve, we should give a vote to those who can serve if something terrible happens and we want to serve in some way. I am one of those people who know quite well that many men and women served their country just as valiantly by staying at home, with much sorrow, as those who went to foreign climes.
– We also serve who sit and wait.
– Some people are not able to control themselves and wait before making silly remarks. I want to speak about the matter of people over 18 years who, I agree, are fit and mature enough to vote and who we classify as being fit to go to war and to enter into legal contracts. If they are so classified, can we stop this arrant humbug that we have heard in recent months and years since the Vietnam conflict began - this nonsense, this hypocrisy that we hear from people who refer to these poor kids that are being forced into uniform, these children who have to go on to a parade ground and who have to endure a sergeant major going crook at them when the only hard words they have ever heard before have come from their mothers. 1 refer to this nonsense that we hear, that men in uniform at 18 years of age are children or kids.
Let us all remember when talking about this business of age that an old person is someone older than the person who is talking or thinking. In other words, to me an old man is someone in the range of 70 to 80 years. Sometimes when I see some of my friends around this place I realise that they think that I am growing old. Using the same reasoning, it is my belief that youth is not only in the eye of the beholder. A young person is someone younger than oneself by 10 years or more. Therefore, these 40-year olds in this chamber who are smiling are young in my estimation. But that gives no-one the right to say, no matter how old or middle aged they may be, that kids of 18 years of age are in uniform and that children are leaving their parents in order to go into camp. I agree that in the age in which we live they are still undertaking education and the like but I am only speaking about Australia - that is all the Bill is about - and who is fit to vote.
– What about Papua New Guinea? This year people aged 18 were allowed to vote.
– I am talking about Australians. Whether the Papuans and New Guineans aged 18 are capable of casting a vote is not within my knowledge. However, I do not know why there has not been a statement of Government policy on this matter. It is my belief that if we are to give 18-year olds a vote we also have to give them the right to enter into legal contracts, to buy and sell legally, and to have other powers a.id responsibilities.
– You said that a quarter of an hour ago.
– Half a moment. I will come back to you.
– We reached that point a quarter of an hour ago. When are you going to answer my question?
– What was it?
– If they do have the right to enter into contracts, do you think they should have the right to vote?
– I believe that the rights now vested in our people at the age of 21 years should be given to our youth in one piece of legislation, or by the necessary pieces of legislation coming before the Parliament at the one time and receiving royal assent at the one time. Our youth should be given all these powers. I would support such legislation.
– Has that not been done in practically all the States? They have been given the right to buy and sell and to enter into contracts.
– That has not been done. I will vote for this measure when that situation exists throughout Australia. The Attorneys-General can meet and make up their minds. In my opinion the Senate cannot wisely pass this Bill at this stage when it knows, even if Senator Murphy did not listen to the late news tonight, that the date of the election is to be announced some time next week or the week after next. Therefore we know that the election will be held in November or December. This Bill could not come into operation in time to be effective for the coming House of Representatives election. I conclude my speech by saying that when all powers now given at the age of 21 years are given at 18 years I will support the right of 18 to 20 year olds to vote.
– I support this Bill because I believe that sooner or later the Parliament will be placed in the position where it will have to legislate for 18-year-olds to be given the right to vote. The recent decision of the
High Court of Australia put this responsibility onto the Parliament. The High Court found that the Constitution did not allow it to make the decision and it placed the decision fairly and squarely on the shoulders of the Parliament. I want to refer to the first paragraph of the amendment moved by Senator Byrne on behalf of the Australian Democratic Labor Party. He said:
While the extension of the franchise to young people of the age of 18 years and under 21 years will provide for a more accurate reflection of the relevant opinion of electors . . .
I think that sums up the whole debate. The Democratic Labor Party spokesman admitted that this Bill will provide for ‘a more accurate reflection of the relevant opinion of electors’. That is our policy. We have taken the initiative. Some Government senators, including Senator Marriott who has just made a valuable contribution, appear to support the principle involved in this legislation. Not only would I like to see a vote for the 18-year-olds, I would like to see also a vote tonight on this measure I feel that a lot has already been said in support of the Bill and nothing substantive has been said against it. I would like to see the Bill proceed to a vote as soon as possible.
Senator BYRNE (Queensland)- Mr Acting Deputy President, I wish to make a personal explanation.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Wilkinson) - Does the honourable senator claim to have been misrepresented?
– Yes, I have been misrepresented by Senator Marriott. There are a couple of matters. Perhaps one was not significant but there is one to which I particularly refer. Senator Marriott said that I said that I proposed to move during the Committee stage of the Bill - if it came to that - the head of amendment which provided for proportional representation. I said the contrary. I said that in view of the complexity of the matter it would not be possible to spell that out without a great deal of thought, consideration and technical advice in terms which would make an amendment suitable to the Bill to be presented. I have here a suggested form of such an amendment. It is 10 pages in length. That is the type of thing which I have in mind. I said the contrary to what Senator Marriott alleged that I said in the course of his speech.
– I think I am entitled to make a very brief comment in relation to the amendment. I have already responded to what the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Murphy) has put forward. As this is an amendment I think that in fairness I should give the view of the Minister for the Interior (Mr Hunt) whom I represent. I do not have the initiative in this matter. I understand that the Australian Democratic Labor Party amendment has been truncated by having portions 2 to 6 ruled out of order. Therefore what we are talking to is the amendment as expressed in portion 1. f believe that is the position. I have been given the following case to make to my colleagues: Representation in the House of Representatives is based upon representation of people in specific divisions. In other words, a member of the House of Representatives represents a defined electorate which has been drawn up under conditions laid down in the Commonwealth Electoral Act. These include community of interest within the division, including economic, social and regional interests; means of communication and travel within the division with special reference to disabilities arising out of remoteness or distance, and the density or sparsity of population and the area of the division.
A system of proportional representation implies multi-member constituencies, for example, taking the whole State as in the case of the Senate, or setting up regional type electorates within each State with a number of members elected for each electorate. I do not have very much knowledge of this but it looks like the Tasmanian system: I am not sure. This would be a total departure from the existing concept of the House of Representatives and the Minister is not prepared to accept such a proposition. Senator 0’Byrne has indicated that he would like to see a vote this evening. I add the comment that I think there are still 4 Government senators who have an interest in this matter which they wish to express.
– I rise to enter this debate because I assume I am one of the 5 Government senators referred to on page 759 of Hansard by Senator Murphy when he first introduced this Bill. Honourable senators opposite who have been speaking to this matter have been rather praising themselves with each trying to say that he has been in support of this proposition longer than the other. I suppose I have been in support of this proposition for longer than anybody because 1 am one of the few people in Parliament who had a vote at 18. That was in 1943. So when everybody talks about being in favour of this since 1968 or 1962 or some other date, I say that 1 was in favour of it long before people here ever thought about ii. I bad the privilege of voting at the age of 18 in the 1.943 election. At that time I thought I was old enough to exercise a judgment. The government of the day - not one of m)’ political persuasion - thought that I was old enough to have my head shot at so I suppose it was reasonable that 1 should have the right to mark a piece of paper. The Liberal Party in my State of Western Australia has been in support of this matter for a number of years, lt was a Liberal-Country Party government in Western Australia which was the first State government to give a vote to those in that age group.
This has always had the support of my Party organisation. This was reaffirmed at our State conference last July. But I hasten to add that that is not binding on me. 1 cannot be directed by my State conference any more than I can be directed by my parliamentary party colleagues and. least of all, by the leader of my parliamentary party or his colleagues who sit with him on the ministerial bench.
– That is why the honourable senator is always voting so independently, is it?
– Senator James McClelland., if I had crossed the floor only once - I have done at least that on a very important clause of a Bill which the Government introduced in this place - that will he far more times than you will ever have the courage to vote against a caucus decision of your Party.
– The honourable senator said that his Party did not have caucus decisions.
– That is right.
– Then how can he be put in that position?
– That is a fairly shallow argument.
– Senator James McClelland has voted with me against the majority of our colleagues on various matters.
– In an open vote?
– Yes, in here.
– Come now, Senator Murphy, in an open vote?
– That is what the honourable senator is talking about. Thai is the only way he has ever voted, in an open vote.
– I always do have an open vote and I will exercise it as and when 1 please and not to please anybody else. I suppose that one of the real tests of a democracy is whether a person sent here by his electorate is allowed to vote as he thinks best for his electorate or whether he should vote as he is told to vote by somebody who has not been elected. I think that is important. It is important to me. I still believe that it is important to the Australian electorate. But I come back to the Bill, and I suppose there is some merit in talking about the Bill although that is a fairly strange procedure in the Senate these days. Most of Senator Murphy’s arguments in favour of this proposition revolved around a couple of matters, not that I disagree with all that he said. At one stage he said:
There appears to be a general view in Australia that there ought to be a reduction in the voting age as soon as possible.
I think that view is acceded to. I do not know what one means by ‘a general view’. I have found as many people opposed to that proposition as 1 have found in favour of it. Where I do take issue with most of the speakers who have participated tonight is on the basis that 18, 19 and 20-year-olds at the moment are better than any other 18, 19 and 20-year-olds we have ever seen. Frankly, 1 am bored to tears with that argument. Why do we accept the proposition that that modern bracket - even if we like to call it the post-war generation - is better than its fathers or forefathers? I have yet to see any evidence of it. I trust that nobody will give me the argument that they are the best educated generation ever. They have been at school longer, I grant that, and at enormous expense to the taxpayer to whom, generally, they are pretty ungrateful-
– Do you not think that they have short cuts to knowledge?
– Staying at school does not impart wisdom or knowledge. They have been at school longer, but I doubt that they are any wiser and I doubt that they are any better educated. So do not give me the argument that on that basis they should have the vote. The other night Senator Hannan gave us an interesting dissertation on repatriation, starting with the Emperor Hadrian. If one looks right through the course of history one finds that there have been many people, even within this age group and younger, who assumed enormous responsibility in their own day and age. The honourable senator talked about the Romans. I could talk about the Macedonians - not the Croatians, because that is dangerous. Was not Alexander the Great the man who, at the age of 24 years, sat down and cried because there were no more worlds to conquer? He did very well between the ages of 18 and 21, not merely in his capacity as a tactitian or fighting soldier, or what have you-
– He had a great teacher though, did he not?
– Is the honourable senator thinking of Brucephalus which was a great horse? I do not know who the great teacher was. In addition to running an army Alexander the Great was running an empire. In those days the loyalties within one’s army were kept basically as a result of the power of personality of the commanding general, plus the opportunity for loot, rape and a few other things. I do not know in which order they came. He was able to achieve this as a young man. I remember as a schoolboy learning that the Black Prince at the Battle of Cressy, at the age of 16 years, was given by his father a wing of the battle to command and acquitted himself very well. When we talk about 18-year olds, they always have had responsibility. The next in line has always been able to come to the throne at the age of 18 in the United Kingdom, male or female. So it was recognised long before the power of the legislature resided within the parliament that a person was able to come to power and exercise enormous responsibilities and duties at the age of 18.
– There are fewer and fewer opportunities for ascending to thrones.
– It depends on how one interprets ‘throne’, but there may be fewer and fewer opportunities.
– Youth really has to look elsewhere, does it not?
– The throne is but a symbol of ascension to power. I do not know that it is necessarily vital to sit upon either a wooden chair at Westminster Abbey or a peacock throne in Persia to exercise despotic power. I recall that there have been other people who had responsibility while they were young. Pitt the Younger was Prime Minister at 24 and I know that he had the vote at the age of 21 years. He was not doing badly for a youth. It is very difficult these days to produce a member of this Parliament at the age of 24, let alone a Minister and least of all a Prime Minister. We seem to be getting older and older.
– Do you think we might be better off with a Prime Minister aged 21?
– We might be. Certainly we would be better off with a Leader of the Opposition of that age because he might be more in tune with the times and more sensitive to community responsibilities. But my Party always has been sensitive. My Party is the only one which endorses women and puts them into this place so that women may have a voice in the Parliament.
– We had one during the war years.
– I quite recall that Senator Dame Dorothy Tangney was a very distinguished member of this Parliament until her own party cut her throat by putting her in third position on the Party ticket some 4 or 5 years ago. That is what the Labor Party thought of female representation. We have generally elevated our women candidates to first or second position on the ticket to make sure that they could come into the Parliament. Even within our Federal organisation we. have encouraged youth by making certain that within the Federal Party structure of the Liberal Party, the Young Liberal Movement shall have permanent voting representation, something which I understand the. Young Labor Movement has not. So when we talk about the responsibilities of youth we should talk about it right across the board. I now come to the point towards which one should have been building up the tension: Will I or will I not support the Bill?
– To be or not to be?
– That is right, to vote or not to vote.
– Never mind the Bill. What about the amendment?
– I thank the honourable senator for remindng me. I shall come to the amendment. I am not canvassing the ruling of the Chair, but I think it is a great pity that paragraphs (2), (3), (4) and (5) of the amendment should have been discarded because personally I would have voted for (2), (4) and (5) whereas I would not support (1), (3) and (6), if that is any consolation to my friends in the corner. As to the part of the amendment that remains I am constantly fascinated, mixing with members of Parliament as 1 do, that there is some confusion as to what the various systems of voting are. I must take issue with my friend and colleague Senator Marriott who said that governments that win do not change voting systems. That might be the experience in Tasmania, but it is not the exerience in other parts of Australia. The Labor Party has said, and it makes no secret of it, that if ever it gets the opportunity - even if it gets it in one place it will not get it here - it will adopt a first past the post system, not because it is more democratic but because it will best suit that Party’s ends. Nobody today would argue that if we have a compulsory enrolment and compulsory voting we must have also first past the post voting. This is one of the phoney arguments that are kicked about throughout the discussion on first past the post voting. Perhaps it is reasonable to have first past the post voting in the United Kingdom and in the United States because in both countries there is voluntary enrolment and voluntary voting, but to suggest engrafting a first past the post system onto the Australian electorate which has compulsory voting and compulsory enrolment is in my view a phoney suggestion. If anyone propounds the argument that we should use the first past the post system which is used within the United Kingdom, and the United States, surely we must adopt the other 2 propositions also. We have had preferential voting in Australia since about 1923 or 1924.
– It has been adopted in many countries and called the Australian system.
– That is right. It may not be the most perfect system - very few systems are perfect - but it is nearer to perfection than the first past the post method. I know that the House of Representatives does not necessarily reflect the vote of the electorate in the primary vote, but I think that within the Australian electoral system, once the preferences have been distributed, the House of Representatives tends to reflect the electorate. This cannot be said for Parliaments which indulge in the first past the post system.
– What is wrong with the Parliament at Westminster? Do you suggest that it is gerrymandered?
– No, I do not say that it is gerrymandered. However, I do not think it reflects the opinion of the electorate. 1 well recall, when people talk about the great victory of the Attlee Labor Government in 1945 that, from memory, it won about 60 per cent of the seats on about 45 per cent of the vote. People tend to forget that the Attlee Government never achieved a majority vote. The Conservative Party attracted a fairly large vote and most of the remaining seats, and the Liberal Party, which received a big swag of votes in the middle, won about 6 seats. Nobody can tell me that the House of Commons between 1945 and 1950 represented the primary vote of the 1945 election. I do not think the United Kingdom system ever does reflect the primary vote. Nevertheless,
I accept that because that is the way they want it. They are entitled to have it. They like voluntary enrolment and they like voluntary voting. I have never heard the Labor Party espouse either of those latter propositions. In fact, as I recall it, the Labor Party has always pushed for compulsory enrolment and compulsory voting because that is the only way in which it can flog its supporters to the polls. It was the argument it propounded for years in my own State of Western Australia with respect to the Legislative Council. The Labor Party objected to the property franchise, voluntary enrolment and voluntary voting. I remind honourable senators opposite that it was a Liberal-Country Party Government which first gave the adult franchise compulsory enrolment and compulsory enrolment to an Upper House. We have the peculiar situation these days where upper House members are elected on exactly the same franchise, by exactly the same people and on exactly the same day, yet the Labor Party says that an upper House should not be entitled to frustrate the will of the lower House. Of course, people do odd things in elections.
– Is there not a disparity in the electoral districts of Western Australia?
– I will tell the honourable senator about some of the peculiarities that go on in voting. One particular upper House province in Western Australia consisted of 3 House of Assembly electorates. The Labor Party candidates won by handsome majorities in the 3 Assembly electorates. On the same day, under the same franchise, the Liberal candidate won by a handsome majority in the upper House province. I do not know how one can explain it, but that is what happens. Is the Liberal Party member of the upper House not just as entitled to say that he reflects the opinion of the electorate as much as do the three Labor Party members of the lower House? That is an example of the confusion the Labor Party indulges in over electoral systems.
The nations which have attempted to introduce proportional representation system in elections for their lower Houses have often struck some difficulty. I suppose the classical situation was in France in the 1920s and 1930s when, due to a tremendous number of parties and a proportional type of voting within the lower House, the average government lasted either 6 weeks or 6 months, I forget which it was. There was enormous instability. I think we saw an example of this same instability after the War. Similar instability has been racking Italy in many directions. This leads not only to inefficiencies of government but also to something worse. I think it will be found that in most of those countries where the parties in the lower House are unstable the bureaucracy of necessity must assume more and more the responsibility of power. So, in those countries eventually the parliamentary system falls into disrepute and the bureaucracy takes over. It is even possible to get onto such a disreputable state with a multi-party system on a peculiar franchise that conditions are ripe for a military takeover. These are some of the dangers of such a system. Although I do not necessarily say that they could arise in Australia. The Westminster system requires that the Government in the lower House should have a majority. It should not depend upon the support of individuals grouping and regrouping and moving around the chamber.
Under the Westminster system there must be a strong government and there must be a strong opposition. I suppose that if there has been any defect in the Australian system over the last 23 years and the government is not as good as it ought to be, it is because the Government has had such a crummy Opposition - and it still has of course. The better the Opposition, the better the government. Of course that is what this Opposition has never been able to realise. Every time its members complain about the poor performance of the Government they ought to look at their own performances. I repeat that poor Oppositions make for poor governments.
– Are you telling us that we have got a poor Government?
– I said if the government has not been as good as people would have wanted it to be-
– You said that we have a poor Government, did you not? Are you admitting it?
– I said that poor Oppositions tend to make for poor governments.
– And you said that we are a poor Opposition.
– So you are a poor Government.
– We would be a better Government if you were a better Opposition.
– You are a poor Government on your own admission.
– No. That is the corniest old trick in the world. The honourable senator ought to be able to do better than that. I thought he had been in practice a lot longer.
– It is just as well that the Democratic Labor Party is good.
– I grant the honourable senator that. It has been one of the better things that have happened in this chamber. If there is an argument for the retention of an upper chamber - for the retention of the Senate - I believe that proportional representation should be the system of voting applied because the upper House is not the House of government. It is not this chamber which should make or break governments.
– Tell us how the honourable senator is wasting time.
– Senator Cavanagh should be the last person to talk about wasting time. He kept me out of bed till midnight last night by going on and on and on in this chamber. Yet now, when for the first time this session I have been desirous of making a 30 minute speech on a Bill in which I am interested, he complains that I am wasting time. I trust that I will never hear Senator Cavanagh stand in this chamber again and talk about the rights of senators to discuss a Bill or to discuss some matter that is before the chamber.
– You are destroying those rights.
– Senator Cavanagh ought to be ashamed of himself. He has lectured us ad nauseum about the Government seeking to take away the rights of honourable senators by trying to cut down speaking times; yet, as I have pointed out, on the first occasion I have attempted to speak on a Bill since we resumed on 15th August he would deny me the right to speak for 30 minutes. I am ashamed of Senator Cavanagh. I thought he and I were the last of the parliamentarians left in this chamber. I thought Senator Cavanagh and 1 were the only ones left who were still guarding the senatorial system.
– We are going to speak on the motion for the adjournment of the Senate, if it is of any interest to the honourable senator; so keep going.
– If Senator Georges likes to take up some of my time, why should I not take the opportunity away from him? I come back to what I said before. I believe that there is a real argument for 18-year-olds having the vote. I believe that the age of majority ought to be reduced to 18. The former LiberalCountry Party Government in Western Australia was the first to initiate many of the steps in this direction. It allowed those of the age of 18 to sign building society mortgages. From memory, it allowed them to enter into certain contracts in relation to land. It gave youths of 17 the right to hold a licence to drive a lethal weapon in the form of a motor car. I think all States are gradually but determinedly moving towards a reduction in the age of majority to 18. It is a pity that the voting age is not linked to the marriage age. If the Commonwealth is to reduce the voting age to 18 it should also bring the marriage age down at the same time. I do not see why there should be a distinction. I welcome the work the Attorneys-General have been doing in gradually lowering the age of legal responsibility to 18.
I wonder how genuine this Bill is at this stage. Why was it not introduced at the beginning of the year? There has been a wealth of experience in Western Australia showing that 18-year-olds are capable of enrolling and voting.
– This legislation was introduced several years ago.
– It was introduced and thrown out, but it has been left to lie around. As far as I am concerned the whole of the Labor Party’s approach to the question of votes for 18-year-olds has been phoney. The challenge to the High Court of Australia was left almost to be used as a quasi-electoral issue. I suppose it must have been terribly disappointing to the Labor Party that the High Court sat so early and ruled so decisively. We had at that time the statement that a Bill would be introduced on the day we came back. We came back on 1 5th August. I think we got the Bill on 13th September. Senator Murphy is at liberty to bring these matters in whenever he so desires, but to expect support from this side of the chamber for what is obviously a phoney election stunt is far too much for anybody to swallow. It is no use the Opposition coming into this chamber saying that 2 of my Western Australia colleagues will be supporting this measure. I do not know who those honourable senators are. It is none of my business who they are. Merely because honourable senators on this side of the chamber state in public what their attitude is the Opposition seizes upon this as a lovely issue on which to embarrass the Government.
– Order! It being 10.30 p.m., in conformity with the sessional order relating to the adjournment of the Senate, I formally put the question:
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– I indicate to the Senate that it is the intention that on 10th October next, following the normal periods of questions without notice and other formal business, to move for the suspension of the sitting of the Senate to enable Estimates Committees B and D to meet from 2.15 p.m. until 10 p.m. that night.
– I bring up the 19th report of the Publications Committee. I ask for leave to move a motion for the adoption of the report.
– Order! I will consider the matter. Please resume your seat.
– The adjournment motion that has been proposed, if carried, would interrupt the debate that was before the Senate when that motion was proposed. We desire that the debate on the second reading of the Commonwealth Electoral Bill 1972 be brought to a conclusion. For that reason, the Opposition proposes to oppose the motion for the adjournment. There has been some criticism of the way in which the matter was brought forward. I indicated that the Bill would be brought forward for debate at the earliest opportunity. It was. The manner in which it has been brought forward has been with the concurrence of the Government. I presented the Bill and was given the opportunity to make a second reading speech with the concurrence of the Government. The arrangement that it would come on for debate tonight was with the concurrence of the Government. In view of the latter remarks by Senator Withers, but in any event because of the importance of bringing this matter to a determination, the Opposition proposes to oppose the adjournment motion in order that the debate may proceed to a vote and that the Senate may proceed to the disposition of this matter.
The Opposition does not get much opportunity to bring forward Bills in the way that the Senate is run. True the opportunity may be there to introduce Bills but very rarely is the opportunity available to bring them to a conclusion. We think that we are entitled to a vote on this matter. There is a feeling that there are endeavours in certain quarters to prevent the matter coming to a vote. Therefore, we will oppose the motion for the adjournment in order that a decision might be reached on the legislation.
– Order! Senator Davidson, I have considered the matter raised earlier by you. You asked for leave of the Senate to move a certain motion. We will see whether the Senate grants leave for you to do so. I cannot accord it to you.
– I have already asked for leave to move a motion for the adoption of the 19th report from the Publications Committee.
– ls leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
Motion (by Senator Davidson) - by leave - agreed to: That the report be adopted.
– I wish to advert to the remarks made by Senator Murphy. I understand that he wishes to get a vote tonight-
– I was not criticising you.
– I did not take it that you were. I observe for myself that I entered this debate with very little enthusiasm. I have enough to do without picking up these operations. As the debate proceeded and as I went through it, I became increasingly immersed and it will be noted that, other than for an urgent summons, I remained here for most of the evening. I have found the debate interesting. I have found it increasingly rewarding and also I have found it important-
– And also you have supported the filibustering.
– That is not correct, Senator Cvanagh. You do not need to say it. You are one of the people who understands what you are saying as it applies to you, but do not refer to me in that sense. When I observe that I have taken a genuine interest in this matter I have taken it. I assure the Senate that that is the honest view that I have. I have discussed the matter with some of my colleagues. We have found it interesting. We do have some more speakers on the Bill. We are not being discourteous. I believe that the matter could usefully be further elaborated. That is why we cannot agree to support the Opposition in opposing the motion.
That the Senate do now adjourn.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator Sir Magnus Cormack)
Majority . . . . 3
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 10.39 p.m. till Tuesday, 10 October, at 11 a.m.
The following answers to questions upon notice were circulated:
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice:
Senator DRAKE-BROCKMAN - The Prime Minister has been advised by the relevant Department that the answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
As far as the proposed States’ 20 per cent share is concerned, State governments are still considering their position including the impact on their budgets of raising their support for independent schools to the 20 per cent level. Most States have indicated that they are prepared to move eventually to bring their overall assistance to independent schools to a level equal to 20 per cent of government school running costs for the number of pupils concerned. I would expect each State to indicate its intentions about grants to independent schools for 1973 before the end of the 1972 school year.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Environment, Aborigines and the Arts, upon notice:
Senator GREENWOOD- The Minister for the Environment, Aborigines and the Arts has provided the following reply to the honourable senator’s question:
Information was obtained from the New South Wales Department of Child Welfare and Social Welfare. (1), (2) and (3) The tenancy of the cottage occupied by Mr Maher is controlled by the New South Wales Minister for Child Welfare and Social Welfare, with the Housing Commission of New South Wales acting as agent. For some time prior to June, Mr Maher’s rent was considerably in arrears, and following numerous efforts by officers of Child and Social Welfare and of the Housing Commission to secure a better response from the tenant, action was taken under the Landlord and Tenant Act for recovery of the premises.
When the matter came before the Court, the Magistrate granted a Warrant of Possession and it was proposed to execute this on 1st June 1972 at 11.00 a.m. Shortly before that time, Mr Maher made a substantial payment in reduction of the arrears and promised to maintain regular payments. Since that date, no further action has been required as regular payments have been maintained.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Environment, Aborigines and the Arts, upon notice:
Senator GREENWOOD- The Minister for the Environment, Aborigines and the Arts has provided the following reply to the honourable senator’s question:
Information has been provided by the Queensland Department of Aboriginal and Island Affairs.
Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders Affairs Act 1965-67’, will give added powers to an Aboriginal or Islander Council, particularly where access to reserve areas is concerned. They will also give legal status to elected Aboriginal or Islander Advisory groups.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Environment, Aborigines and the Arts, upon notice:
Senator GREENWOOD- The Minister for the Environment, Aborigines and the Arts has provided the following reply to the honourable senator’s question:
asked the Acting Minister for Health, upon notice:
Senator GREENWOOD- The Acting Minister for Health has provided (he following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
asked the Acting Minister for Health, upon notice:
Senator GREENWOOD- The Acting Minister for Health has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
It is also customary for pensioners andtheir dependants to receive medical services withoutcharge during any period of treatment in public hospitals, and specialists’ services are usually available to them without charge through public hospitals.
It should therefore be unnecessary for an eligible pensioner to obtain medical benefits insurance unless, as a matter of personal choice, he elects to seek treatment from one of the few general practitioners who do not participate in the Pensioner Medical Service, or from a private specialist.
The existing arrangements ensure that a high standard of medical care is available to eligible pensioners and their dependants free of charge.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice:
Will the tree-pull scheme cause the destruction of the apple and pear industry in Tasmania?
Senator DRAKE-BROCKMAN- The Minister for Primary Industry has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
No. The scheme which has been referred to as the tree-pull scheme is part of the Government’s programme for the reconstruction of rural industries and supplements other Government assistance such as the Apple and Pear Stabilisation Scheme. Essentially it will provide to growers in financial difficulty assistance for the removal of trees where production levels are higher than the quantity that can be marketed profitably. Present market circumstances and cost increases are have a weakening effect on the industry. The purpose of the scheme is to provide assistance to growers to alleviate their financial difficulties so that the long term viability of the industry can be restored.
– On 23rd August 1972, Senator Guilfoyle asked me if there is any information available to honourable senators on the views of the National Labour Advisory Council Committee on Women’s Employment or whether it was an advisory committee which reports only to the Minister. I undertook to refer the question to the Minister for Labour and National Service.
The Minister for Labour and National Service has now supplied me with the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The National Labour Advisory Council Committee on Women’s Employment was set up in May 1970 to advise the Government, through the Council, on matters related to the employment of women. As with the Council itself, the Committee is consultative and advisory in character.
The charters of the Council and of the Committee provide that only agreed statements on their work may be made by, or with the authority of, the Council. In view of the interest being displayed in the work of the Committee, arrangements have been made for a statement to be issued after each meeting which briefly sets out the matters considered. While it is not possible at this stage to add to what has been conveyed in the News Releases issued following recent meetings of the Committee, I will ensure that such reports from the Committee which may be released for publication are made available to the honourable senator.
-BROCKMAN- Yesterday, Senator Young asked me a question about No. 34 Squadron. As I advised the honourable senator yesterday, No. 34 Squadron’s main responsibility is related to the carriage of VIPs and the training necessary to maintain the required degree of operational efficiency. Over the past 12 months the Squadron has averaged 356 hours flying a month. Of this 244 hours was related to the VIP task and the balance of 112 hours involved conversion and continuation training and necessary maintenance testing associated with the efficient operation of the aircraft. Regarding the average hours reached by a pilot in No. 34 Squadron my inquiries indicate that each pilot averages about 50 hours a month.
-BROCKMAN- Yesterday Senator Keeffe asked me a question without notice on what he referred to as the discrepancy in pension payments to be paid under the Repatriation Act (No. 2) 1972 to widows of service ranks higher than those of captain in the Navy, colonel in the Army and group captain in the Air Force. He referred to the first schedule inserted in the principal Act by the amending legislation as providing for fortnightly payments which are 10c more than the uniform rate and asked if I could advise whether the discrepancy was caused by a printer’s error or whether the variation to the uniform pension will continue until such time as the Act is again amended.
I pointed out to Senator Keeffe that 1 had endeavoured to answer his question during the debate in the Senate on Tuesday but I would look into the matter again and obtain a detailed answer for him. The answer is as I had outlined on Tuesday night, however for Senator Keeffe’s information, I shall set it out in a little more detail. The Principal Act, namely the Repatriation Act 1920-1972, prior to amendment by the Repatriation Act (No. 2) 1972, prescribed different levels of war widows’ pensions, depending upon the ranks which their husbands held on service. These levels varied from $36.50 a fortnight for widows of ex-servicemen who had held ranks below those of lieutenantcommander, major or squadron leader up to $40.10 a fortnight for widows of exservicemen who had held ranks higher than captain in the Navy, colonel or group captain.
As I mentioned in my second reading speech on the amending legislation, the different pension levels for rank have been abolished in respect of ex-servicemen themselves and, consistent with that policy, and with a view to eventually abolishing all distinctions of this nature, all pensions payable to war widows at rates below S40 a fortnight have been increased to that level. The previous highest pension of S40.10 remains unchanged, as I mentioned on Tuesday, and this last existing distinction in respect of war widows pensions will be abolished next time there is an increase.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 28 September 1972, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1972/19720928_senate_27_s54/>.