28th Parliament · 1st Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Magnus Cormack) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– I present11 identically worded petitions from a total of 2,265 citizens of New South Wales in the following terms:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of certain citizens of New South Wales respectfully sheweth:
That Australian citizens place great value on the sanctity of human life and the physical, mental and social welfare of mothers and children.
That we are deeply concerned to preserve throughout Australia the law’s protection of human life from the moment of conception.
That proposals to change the law to allow abortion on demand and the termination of pregnancy for non-medical reasons are unacceptable to the people of Australia.
Your Petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Honourable House will not extend the laws governing abortion and will uphold the right to life of the unborn child.
And your petitioners as in duty bound, will ever pray.
Petitions received and the petition read.
– by leave - I inform the Senate that the Leader of the Government in the Senate, Attorney-General and Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Murphy) left Australia on Sunday, 13 th May, to present Australia’s case against French nuclear testing in the Pacific to the International Court of Justice at The Hague. He is expected to return to Australia on 28th May. During his absence the Minister for the Capital Territory and Minister for the Northern Territory (Mr Enderby) will be Acting Attorney-General. The Minister for Minerals and Energy (Mr Connor) will be Acting Minister for Customs and Excise. I shall act as Leader of the Government in the Senate and also represent the 2 Acting Ministers in addition to those Ministers normally represented by Senator Murphy in this chamber.
– I give notice that on the next day of sitting I shall move:
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the moving of a motion forthwith for (a) the rescission of the vote of the Senate on Thursday, 10th May 1973, negativing the question for the appointment of a select committee on civil rights of migrant Australians and such motion of rescission being carried by a simple majority of the senators voting; and (b) the order of the day for the consideration of the proposed select committee being restored to the notice paper and the question for the appointment of the select committee, as finally put by the President on 10th May, being again put immediately to the Senate by the President and voted upon without further debate.
– I give notice that on the next day of sitting 1 will move:
That, unless otherwise ordered, the days and times of meeting of the Senate for the remainder of the present period of sittings be as follows:
Tuesdays-11 a.m. to1 p.m., 2.15 p.m. to 6 p.m., 8 p.m. to 10.30 p.m.;
Wednesdays - 11.30 a.m. to1 p.m., 2.15 p.m. to 6 p.m., 8 p.m. to 11 pm.;
Thursdays- 10.30 a.m. to 1 p.m., 2.15 p.m. to 6 p.m., 8 p.m. to 10.30 p.m.; and, from and including 25th May, Fridays - 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., 2.15 p.m. to 4 p.m.
That, unless otherwise ordered on Fridays, the sessional order relating to the adjournment of the Senate have effect at 4 p.m.
I might just add for the information of the Senate that it is my intention - certainly I will be talking to the Leaders of the other parties on this - that the Estimates Committees will sit on the Thursday afternoons and Fridays. Because of the amount of legislation which will be introduced into the Senate it is very obvious that the meetings of the Estimates Committees will present a problem and, it seems that the only way to overcome this problem is to have the Estimates Committees sit on the Thursday afternoons and the Fridays.
-I give notice that 10 sitting days after this day I shall move:
That section 13, the new section 162C contained in section 45, and section 66 of the Companies Ordinance 1973, as contained in Australian Capital Territory Ordinance No. 9 of 1973, and made under the Seat of Government (Administration) Act 1910-1972 be disallowed.
I ask for leave to make a very brief statement in connection with the notice of motion I have just given.
– Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– The Regulations and Ordinances Committee is currently investigating important questions raised by these amendments of the Australian Capital Territory Companies Ordinance. Unfortunately today is the last sitting day for giving a notice of motion in relation to the Ordinance, and I have given such notice to allow the Committee more time to pursue its inquiries. I should add that this situation is not due to any lack of diligence on the part of the Committee or the Attorney-General’s Department but is due to the complexity of the matters raised by the Ordinance.
– My question is addressed to the Acting Leader of the Government in the Senate both in his capacity as Acting Leader of the Government and in his capacity as the Minister representing the Prime Minister. Arising out of the situation last Thursday evening when pairs were cancelled during a division, is the Acting Leader of the Goverment in a position to advise the Senate whether he is authorised by the Prime Minister to tender the apology of the Government to the Senate? Secondly, is he further in a position to advise whether for and on behalf of the Prime Minister he can give an unequivocal undertaking that if pairs are restored they will be adhered to?
– No, I am not authorised by the Prime Minister to make any such apology. Indeed, I think it would be inappropriate if I were. The honourable senator’s question refers to something which has happened in the Senate, and I believe it is for the Senate, which is master of its own business, to resolve any difficulties which arise in the Senate. The suggestion which I have made - I make it again now - is that we do not look at this matter in isolation but realise some of the things which gave rise to the unusual situation which arose in the Senate last Thursday night. The position is that Senator Murphy, who is leader of the Government in the Senate and also Leader of the House, is away, as I have just announced, and I think it would be much more appropriate if this whole matter were discussed upon his return. We have in the. Senate a situation which is quite unprecedented. For the first time we have a situation in which 4 groups of people form the Opposition, so that the Government Whip is faced in turn with a situation in which he has no precedents to follow. My suggestion is that on Senator Murphy’s return those responsible for the running of the Senate - particularly the Government which has the responsibility of getting legislation put into effect, because that is the mandate which we received; it is our responsibility to do that - ought to arrange a discussion on this whole question of pairs and indeed other aspects of the running of this House.
I do not know that it would not be appropriate - and I just make this as a suggestion at this stage - that a committee of private members of Parliament be set up to examine this whole question of pairs. Maybe there are precedents in the Mother of Parliaments or in the Parliaments of the States or countries such as Canada or the United States. I merely suggest that it may be worth examination. But surely one thing is paramount: Parliament must be made to work and the Government must govern. However unpalatable the decision of 2 December might be to some, that is the wish of the Australian people. Let it be quite clear that the Government must govern and the initiatives of legislation must be left in the Government’s hands. We face an unprecedented situation. What happened the other night was regrettable and what caused it was regrettable. I do not want to go over the debate which ensued on the adjournment *he other night.
– What caused it?
– To answer that would be to go into the whole gamut of those events. I have no wish to hold up the working of the Senate and no wish to rehash the debate of the other night. What I have said is that this question ought to be delayed until the return of the Leader of the Government in this place who is also the Leader of the House, because that is the way we have been running cur business here. Until that is done, I am prepared to authorise my Whip to grant pairs on a day-to-day basis whereby honourable senators can see what legislation is before them and can from day to day decide- whether those Bills and those motions are suitable for the granting of pairs. I would make one exception for Senator Dame Nancy Buttfield who is overseas and who went overseas with our authority; she can have a permanent pair until her business in the United States of America is completed and she returns here.
Mr President, I believe that the suggestion I have made is the best for the running of this Parliament. I believe it is the only way to make this Senate function as it ought to function. Some of the situations which have arisen and which culminated in what happened on Thursday night cannot continue. Anybody with half an eye can see what the legislative program is by looking at the business in the other place, the Bills already here and the Bills waiting to be introduced in another place. The frustration of government cannot go on and I suggest to you, Mr President, that the most sensible way to eliminate it is, firstly, to delay the whole question of pairs and let us carry on on a day-to-day basis of granting pairs, as I am perfectly willing to do; and secondly, examine that situation in the coolness of the moment on Senator Murphy’s return.
– My question is directed to the Minister assisting the Minister for Foreign Affairs. Is it a fact that the Yugoslav Government has now replied to the protest made by the Prime Minister on 13th April about the execution of 3 Australian citizens? Is it also a fact that the reply refuses to give any information about the circumstances of those executions, the evidence upon which the Australians were tried or the nature of their trials and appeals? Is it also a fact that no explanation has been offered as to why successive Australian governments were misled?
– On 12th May the Yugoslav Ambassador handed a note to the Government in reply to the Australian note passed to the Yugoslav Government on 14th April. The Yugoslav note did not provide all the information which we were seeking. However, it reiterated a willingness to provide details of the trials of the 3 Australians who were executed following their participation in an illegal incursion into Bosnia, as well as further information about this incursion. Our ambassador in Belgrade is pursuing this matter with the Yugoslav authorities. He is also discussing with them the cases of other Australians about whom we have had represen tations or reports that they have been detained. Although the Yugoslav Government insists that, under the terms of the Hague Convention, Article 4, it is not obliged to give the Australian Government access to dual nationals arrested and detained in Yugoslavia, we believe nevertheless that we had a right to this access on humanitarian grounds.
– Did the Minister for Primary Industry state, when replying to Senator Keeffe on 6th March, that no machinery had been established to implement the suggestion of banning export licences for beef and mutton? Did not the Australian Meat Board, in its report of 26th April last, advise against the curtailing of meat exports? Why then has the Minister rejected an application to export live cattle to Iran? Is it because of representations by union officials with regard to lack of job opportunities for carcass process workers in abattoirs? Will not any action to curb the export of meat tend to destroy confidence in Australian livestock and meat industries?
– I did not refer to licensing when I answered a question on this subject from Senator Keeffe some weeks ago. I said that the machinery to implement price control did not exist. This is not related in any way to the. matter which Senator Drake-Brockman now raises and which he raised last week. I reject emphatically any suggestion that any unions have been exercising any pressure on me in regard to refusing to permit the export of livestock to Iran. I gave the reason last week: There are established Australian export trades to certain countries, which we are prepared to continue. In the light of the present circumstances of meat supply in Australia, the Government is not prepared and I am not prepared to allow a newcomer to enter the trade simply to capitalise on the present meat prices around the world. This decision is, I believe, a sensible one and one which I would have thought the honourable senator would have supported. But I assure him that there was no approach to me, or to anyone I know, by any union on the basis that it might be disadvantaged by the export of that livestock which would not be slaughtered in Australia.
– My question refers to one of the most important committees of this Parliament, the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs. I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affaris: Why is it that although Parliament met in mid-February the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs has not yet been constituted and no one has been appointed to the extremely important post of chairman of the Committee? Does this indicate the attitude of the Minister for Foreign Affairs towards this very important Committee?
– I will answer the last part of the question first. The indications are quite the opposite. The present Minister for Foreign Affairs has enlarged the powers of the new Committee substantially in comparison with those which were laid down by the previous Government. This Committee has a long history. For many years after it was first formed, members of the Australian Labor Party would not serve on it because its terms of reference were not wide enough. Over the years the Australian Labor Party was able to have those powers enlarged, but not to its satisfaction. Honourable senators will remember that at the beginning of this Parliament the Government enlarged the terms of reference of the Committee and gave it much more autonomy and power than it had ever had before. I do not know the reason why the Committee has not been set up. I certainly will find out and let the honourable senator know.
– Will the Minister for the Media investigate an agreement that exists between the Brisbane ‘Courier-Mail’ and the Queensland Minister for Health, Mr Tooth, regarding the non-publishing of any story concerning a health matter without the Minister’s prior approval or the guarantee to the Minister of a right of reply? Will the Minister investigate how many other Queensland Government Ministers have similar agreements with the ‘Courier-Mail’? How does the ‘Courier-Mail’ justify this infringement of democratic rights to information with Jefferson’s statement, which incidentally appears above the entrance to the ‘Courier-Mail’ building? Jefferson’s statement was:
Our liberty depends on the freedom of the Press, and that cannot be limited without being lost.
– I am unaware of any agreement which the honourable senator suggested has been entered into between the Brisbane ‘Courier-Mail’ and the Queensland Minister for Health regarding the non-publication of any health story prior to its referral to the Queensland Minister for Health. I am told that the constitutional position is that because newspapers which circulate in a State are registered under an Act of Parliament of that State the Commonwealth has no jurisdiction at all over newspapers or newspaper articles which might appear from time to time. I provide the following information for the honourable senator’s benefit. A code of ethics is enforced on members of the Australian Journalists Association. I doubt very much whether any journalist would be a willing party to the breaking of what is regarded by that profession as a very strict code which binds all its members. The newspaper to which the honourable senator referred has substantial interests in a Queensland television station and also a broadcasting station, and I would not think for one moment that any news editor of a television or radio station which was operating under the Broadcasting and Television Act would condone an arrangement of the type suggested by my colleague. Insofar as me question might relate to the terms of that Act, I will refer the subject matter of the honourable senator’s question to the Chairman of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board, and if anything crops up in that regard I will advise the honourable senator.
– I ask a question of the Minister representing the Acting AttorneyGeneral. Did the ‘Illawarra Mercury’ newspaper of 27th March correctly report the Attorney-General when it claimed that at an Australian Labor Party victory dinner on 2nd March Senator Murphy told his audience that people should write to him if they wanted Australian Security Intelligence Organisation dossiers? Did Senator Murphy also say that people were entitled to this information since it was about them? If this report is correct, how many people have written to Senator Murphy seeking ASIO dossiers and how many such dossiers have been distributed to members of the public?
– I have no idea as to whether Senator Murphy made those statements. I would seriously doubt it. I will refer the question to him when he returns.
Minister representing the Minister for Health, I am unaware of the details mentioned by the honourable senator in his question. I will refer the matter to my colleague in another place and obtain an early reply. I can say to the honourable senator that last week Dr Everingham made a statement that one of the principal reasons for the shortage of the influenza vaccine was the sudden rush for the product on the part of people in the community.
– I direct a question to the Minister assisting the Minister for Defence. In view of the planned vandalism of the New South Wales Transport Commission in proposing to surrender certain Hawkesbury River bushland frontages to developers, can the Minister for Defence consider invoking the defence powers in order to take over the land in dispute and retain it in a virtual state of conservation limbo until the New South Wales Premier halts this desecration of an outstanding tourist area?
– I will ask the Minister for Defence to give consideration to Senator Mulvihills question.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Prime Minister. In view of the announcement by the Government of the People’s Republic of China that its research and development program for nuclear testings, is not yet complete, has the Australian Government sought to ascertain the possible dates and locations of the next series of Chinese nuclear tests? If so, what are the relevant details?
– I do not know whether we have sought that information. I will find out and let Senator Carrick know.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation aware of the discovery at Wee Waa, New South Wales, of a dangerous level of poisoning with organic phosphate insecticides among pilots and other crop-spraying workers? Is he also aware that, due to the high risk of sickness and poisoning, this matter is considered so seriously by Lloyds of London that agricultural pilots seeking loss of flying licence cover are restricted to only accident cover? In view of this fact, will the Minister discuss with the Department of Civil Aviation what steps can be taken to ensure effective supervision and control of the handling of toxic materials in the agricultural aviation industry?
– A number of departmental, inquiries presently are examining the question of pollution and the effects of insecticides and certain chemicals on the environment, plant life and human life. I believe that the Department of Primary Industry and the Department of the Environment and Conservation are having a discussion on this question. I am not aware of what the Department of Civil Aviation has done in this regard, or what effect these insecticides are having on crop-spraying pilots. But, in accordance with the honourable senator’s suggestion, I wiil take up the matter with the Minister in order to try to get the Department of Civil Aviation to report on it.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Primary Industry. As it is now some months since the Minister announced that there would be a referendum of wool growers to determine the question of the merino ram embargo, will he inform the Senate what steps have been taken to conduct the referendum and who will be eligible to vote?
– I spelt out in some detail at the time the program that was envisaged for the conducting of the referendum. So far as I know, the position is that all the wool broking houses on which we will need to rely to obtain the necessary information have been contacted. I am not sure of the number of replies which have been received. I will get the up to date information for the honourable senator, if he feels that he needs it. So far as I know, the current program is that the referendum will not be conducted until June, or even possibly July, but I will get the up to date information and supply it to the honourable senator.
– I have some information for Senator McManus. The position regarding the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs is that the decision to set up this Committee was not finalised in the Parliament until 3rd May. Now that it has been drawn to his attention, I am sure that Senator McManus will recall, as I do, that Senator Withers moved a procedural motion which provided that the Chairman of the Committee should be elected by the Committee. Originally it was proposed that the Chairman should be nominated by the Prime Minister, but the view was taken that as this was a parliamentary committee, the Chairman should be elected by the Committee. We sent that request down to the House of Representatives. The amendment was agreed to by the House of Representatives and we accepted that amendment on 3rd May. Now that that has been done, we have to write to the President naming the members of the Committee, and there was some doubt as to whether I, as Acting Leader of the Government in the Senate, could do that. I am informed that I can, and I hope that it will be done almost immediately; if not today, then certainly by tomorrow.
– My question is addressed to the Minister assisting the Minister for Foreign Affairs. In view of the sudden and salutary changes in the policy of the Government towards some of our near Asian neighbours, will the Government make a clear statement of its present attitude towards the 3 nearest countries, namely Indonesia, Singa pore and Malaysia? In view of the Government’s present obvious intention of disengagement from our near South East Asian neighbours, does it realise how it is nullifying the magnificent work done in South East Asia by the officers of the Foreign Affairs and Trade departments? As the policy of disengagement is sure to affect adversely trade with South East Asia, what plans does the Government have to compensate for the likely loss?
– The question is based on the false premise that we intend to disengage from our near neighbours, particularly Indonesia. We have been hearing criticism that we are getting too close to Indonesia, which is our second biggest aid project. The friendship between the Indonesian and Australian people is well known. I cannot make any further reply to the question because it is based on a false premise. There, is no policy of disengagement from our near neighbours.
– I direct my question to the Acting Leader of the Government. In reply to a question last week about the refusal of the Government to grant a visa to Mr Li of Taiwan, the Minister stated that the refusal was based on an agreement between Australia and the People’s Republic of China. Will the Minister table the agreement for the information of Parliament?
– I think I answered before that negotiations between governments are not matters about which it is appropriate to table documents. It is very-
– Open government!
– No, it is responsible government. I notice that Senator Greenwood is laughing again. I do not think that any responsible citizen in Australia would expect a government to make available for public gaze transcripts relating to negotiations with another country.
– I direct my question to the Minister assisting the Minister for Foreign Affairs. Has the Department of Foreign Affairs drawn the attention of the Government to the edition of 23rd April of the German left wing magazine ‘Der Spiegel’, at pages 104 to 106? I have a copy here for the Minister if ‘ the Department has not done so. Does the Minister know that this article deals with the execution of 3 Australians in Yugoslavia? Will the Government urgently Investigate the opinion of Mrs Keskic, wife of one of the 3 executed Australians who is now living in Strasburg, who is reported by ‘Der Spiegel’ as having said that her husband in fact was not executed on 17th March as alleged but possibly was still alive? Although this theory is completely contrary to other evidence which I have and which the Government has, which suggests that 10th April was the actual execution date, because of the remote possibility of saving the lives of innocent men will the Government take immediate action to check the facts of the execution, the Yugoslav Government already having given 3 different dates of execution or death?
– Senator Hannan recently quoted from another journal, which was published in the United States of America and I advised him that if he thought that it was a responsible journal and that its statements had any concrete basis it was his duty to place the matter before the Government or the Department of Foreign Affairs.
– I did.
– I thank you if you have. I suggest he follow the same course now. The Department has not shown me a copy of the magazine and therefore I do not know what appears on pages 104 to 106.
– Has the attention of the Minister representing the Minister for Labour been drawn to broadcast statements today referring to serious labour shortages in rural areas? Has the Minister received any reports about the shortage of labour? If so, can he indicate any steps which the Government proposes to take to alleviate the problem? Does the Government propose to continue the unemployment relief program in the affected areas?
– The Minister for Labour, when answering a question in another place today, referred to these matters and also to the current unemployment provisions applying to the metropolitan areas. He stated that he was to make a survey of the, position. I will contact him and see what further information I can obtain for Senator Davidson.
– Is the Acting Leader of the Government in the Senate aware of the numerous questions which were directed to Senator Murphy, the Leader of the. Government in the Senate and Attorney-General, and which requested information as to which of those Australian citizens named by him as terrorists had been charged and convicted of any crime in Australia? Is he aware that Senator Murphy promised a reply to my questions on this matter and also promised that there would be a definite reply before he went overseas? If the Government is concerned about the civil rights of the citizens of Australia - I take it that it is - can an answer be obtained to my question No. 227, which was placed on the notice paper on 12th April, so that the good names of those citizens can be cleared?
– I will ask the Attorney-General’s Department to see what it can do to expedite a reply to Senator Webster’s question No. 227 on the notice paper.
– I call Senator Kane.
– I will defer to Senator McManus.
- Senator Kane, you will not yield to Senator McManus. If you do not want to ask a question, I will call Senator Laucke.
– In directing a question to the Minister for Primary Industry, I refer to the Government’s pre-election promise to provide long term, low interest loans to primary producers. Have any final determinations yet been made on this matter? If not, when is it expected that decisions will be made and when will they be announced?
– The undertaking given by the Prime Minister in his election campaign speech was to provide finance to primary producers at the lowest possible rates. Continuing discussions on this matter are being conducted within the Government. I think it is fair to say that when we talk of the lowest practicable rates we must consider this in the context of interest rates generally in the economy. There may be very special circumstances in which those rates should fall below the normal rates which apply; but, in the general context of finance, I think that any section of industry, whether it be primary industry or secondary industry, ought to be prepared to accept the fact that interest rates are as they are. It is the Government’s intention to do as the Prime Minister said, namely, to provide long term loans at the lowest possible interest rate consistent with the average rates that apply in the economy at any particular time. I hope that a firm statement can be made on this matter shortly. But at the present time it is still under discussion.
– I call Senator Rae. I am giving all honourable senators an opportunity to ask one question. Then, if there is time and if the Acting Leader of the Government does not intrude, I will give honourable senators an opportunity to ask second questions.
– I direct a question to the’ Minister representing the Minister for Defence. Is it a fact that the Minister for Defence, Mr Barnard, during his recent visit to Indonesia committed Australia to an expansion of the current defence co-operation agreement with Indonesia? If so, for what period is that agreement extended? Is it correct that the value of the Australian aid is $20m? Did the Minister or any other Minister consider and compare the alternative of further extending the existing forms of civil and development aid to that country? Is military aid to neighbouring countries now a firm part of the Labor Government’s policy?
– Probably the honourable senator knows that these matters were canvassed before. What military aid should be given was a matter of discussion between Mr Barnard, the Minister for Defence, and the Indonesian Government. It was not new. It was not exclusive of civil aid. In fact, it formed the basis of prior consultation. Yes, the amount is roughly $20m. The decision by the Indonesian and Australian Governments on what constitutes aid and what is necessary has not yet been made. The Minister for Defence simply told the Indonesian Government that that would be the amount that the Australian Government could provide for that particular purpose. Although it is a separate matter, that aid is not exclusive of civil aid which is handled by other Ministers who have other responsibilities and which is the subject of continuing discussion between the 2 Governments. May I say also that the Indonesian Government expressed considerable gratitude for the co-operation -of the Australian Government in respect of this area of aid.
– My question is directed to Senator Willesee in his capacity as Minister assisting the Minister for Foreign Affairs and relates to one of the reasons for the absence overseas of the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Has the Australian Government made any protest to the Chinese Government about that country’s nuclear atmospheric testing? If so, was the protest a verbal or written protest?
– With your permission, Mr President, I will quote from a reply that I intended to give today to a question on notice by Senator Webster. Yes, we did make a protest shortly after we set up an embassy in China. As to the second part of the honourable senator’s question, that is, whether the protest was made verbally or in writing - I understand that this matter was raised in the media - the protest took the form of a letter from the Foreign Minister to the Chinese Foreign Minister, Mr Chi Peng-fei. The letter was handed to the Chinese Assistant Foreign Minister, Mr Chang Wen-Chin, by the Australian Charge d’Affaires in Peking. It is not intended at this stage to make the text of the communication public.
– My question is addressed to either the Acting Leader of the Government in the Senate or the Minister representing the Minister for Social Security, whoever is appropriate. Is it a fact that Mr Justice Woodhouse of the Supreme Court of New Zealand is at present in Australia at the invitation of the Government to conduct an inquiry for the purpose of reporting upon the relative practicability of establishing workers compensation, road accident compensation and other injury compensation? Have the proceedings pf this inquiry been made known to the various State governments and is there any attempt to interest them in co-ordinating any proposals they have, especially in respect of workers compensation and road accident compensation, for submission to Mr Justice Woodhouse?
– In reply to the question directed to me by Senator Wright, acting in my capacity as Minister representing the Minister for Social Security, I understand that His Honour Mr Justice Woodhouse of the New Zealand Supreme Court is in Australia at the invitation of the Australian Government for the purpose of assisting the holding of an inquiry with a view to reporting to the Government upon workers compensation, road accident compensation, third party compensation and other injury compensation. I could not say whether there has been any attempt on the part of the Minister for Social Security to prevail upon His Honour Mr Justice Woodhouse to coordinate proposals that might come from the States from time to time on these matters, but I will refer the honourable senator’s question and suggestion to my colleague for his consideration.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and refers to a decision of the Australian Council of Trade Unions executive yesterday to refer the ballot provisions of the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill to the ACTU’s arbitration committee which will not meet until 22nd May. Does the Government intend to press for the passage of this Bill in the light of the ACTU’s decision and the fact that the ACTU may well call on the Government to amend the provisions of the Bill or does the Government propose to defer the passage of the Bill until the ACTU’s decision is known?
– The honourable senator will see from the notice paper that the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill will be introduced today. There is no intention on the part of the Government to delay passage of the Bill. I should mention here that the issue which was raised by the Australian Council of Trade Unions and some unions with the Minister for Labour related to proposed new section 133 (1A) concerning various elections by members of a union. It is likely, although I cannot announce it at this stage, that during debate on the relevant provision, which is clause 50, a proposition will be moved to allow its enforcement after 3 years.
– My question relates to the plea which was made by the Acting Leader of the Government in the Senate that discussion of certain important matters be held over until the return of Senator Murphy who is representing Australia at the International Court of Justice. This morning I heard a broadcast by the Australian Broadcasting Commission in which Senator Murphy was asked whether it was a fact that no date, had been set for the hearing, that the date was inconclusive and that there could be some delay. Senator Murphy was asked what he proposed to do in the meantime and he replied that he would inspect the tulips and sight-see in Holland which was a very beautiful country. My question is: Does the Acting Leader of the Government consider it appropriate that the business of the Senate should be held up while Senator Murphy tiptoes through the tulips?
– I have been given the wrong role. I think I could do that much more effectively than Senator Murphy. He should be in Australia and I should be in Holland. I am sure I could look at those tulips very effectively. While I appreciate the humour even in times like these, I say to Senator McManus that I think that it is overstating the position to contend that Senator Murphy’s absence will hold up the business of the Senate. A situation has arisen in the Senate. My suggestion was that the best way to handle it was to wait until Senator Murphy returned. Let me assure Senator McManus and everybody else that nothing from this side of the chamber will stop us from putting legislation through. That is what we are here for.
– Does the Minister for Primary Industry recall stating on 27th March last that he believed that the Australian Wool Corporation should not hurry its report on the feasibility of an acquisition scheme for the Australian wool clip and that he did not expect the report to be available for some months? ls the Minister aware that the Minister for Northern Development last week told the House of Representatives that if the Corporation did not accelerate the objectives of the proposal the Government would have seriously to consider amending the legislation to require the Corporation to present its report within a certain time? Was the Minister for Northern Development stating a change of Government policy in regard to the presentation of the report by the Corporation? If so, does this mean that the Minister’s view has been overridden or was the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industry in another place expressing his own view?
– It is true that I made that statement last March. I still stand by it. There was no direction to the Australian Wool Corporation to speed up that report. As I said then and I repeat now, when that report comes before this Parliament I want it to be fully documented and well thought through. I am not aware of the answer which the Minister for Northern Development gave, presumably while I was away.
– No, last Thursday.
– Last week, was it? I am not quite sure what was in Dr Patterson’s mind when he said that. All I can say is that there has been no change in my attitude. Nevertheless, if there appears to be some difference of opinion between Dr Patterson and myself I shall take up the matter with him.
– My question is directed to the Minister assisting the Minister for Foreign Affairs. I refer to my earlier question as to whether any explanation was offered by the Yugoslav Government as to why successive Australian Governments were misled by the Yugoslav Government about the execution of 3 Australian citizens. Is it a fact that no explanation was given? What action has the Government taken? If it has taken no action, what action does it propose to take? If it does not propose to take action, what reaction does this Government consider this gross breach of international relationships warrants, particularly in the light of the hospitality extended to the Prime Minister of that country quite recently?
– I do not know that I can add very much to the answers I have given to questions asked already. I think the position is fairly clear. We have an unsatisfactory situation between the Yugoslav Government and our Government. In a very traumatic situation we are trying to have our views heard. As I have told honourable senators, the Yugoslav Government is still standing on the Hague Convention claiming that Yugoslavs who become naturalised in other countries remain natural nationals - those are not quite the words in the Convention - and that the Yugoslav Government retains jurisdiction over them. As I said, we are still trying to insist that, if only on humanitarian grounds, we should have access to our people who go to Yugoslavia.
– I direct my question to the Minister assisting the Minister for Foreign Affairs. Has the Minister seen the suggestion made by the Prime Minister of Singapore, Mr Lee Kuan Yew, that there should be created a joint naval force by Singapore, Malaysia, New Zealand and Australia, in view of the expanding naval presence of the Soviet Union in the South-East Pacific and Indian Oceans? Can the Minister indicate whether the Government will take any initiative to further the implementation of the proposal?
– I have not seen the suggestion of Mr Lee Kuan Yew. I will inform myself of it and let the honourable senator have an answer.
– I ask the Minister assisting the Minister for Foreign Affairs: Is it a fact that the Yugoslav Government still will not guarantee to notify the Australian Government if any people holding dual Australian- Yugoslav passports are detained in Yugoslavia? What steps, if any, are being taken by the Australian Government to protect Australian citizens overseas and to have Australian citizenship recognised by such governments as that in Yugoslavia?
– That information was contained in the original answer I gave. The Yugoslav Government is insisting that it has prior rights - in fact, the only rights - under the. Hague Convention. We are still pursuing the matter in spite of that. The
Yugoslav Government rests on the Hague Convention, and we are still insisting that if accusations are made against people with dual nationality, in whom we believe we have some interest, we be informed so that we can extend to them our diplomatic privileges. I have said several times in this place that we want that arrangement in every country. Whether a person is being detained on a minor charge or a major charge, if he is an Australian citizen we expect to be informed of it so that we can extend the protection of Australia to that person.
– I direct my question to the Minister assisting the Minister for Foreign Affairs. Has the People’s Republic of China accepted the jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice? If so, should the statement referred to by Senator Carrick that China intends proceeding with a nuclear testing program prove to be correct, will the Australian Government take this matter to the International Court of Justice with the object of preventing these tests?
– No, the Chinese Government does not recognise the jurisdiction of the International Court of Justice.
– This is certainly an Irish stew. Several things are tied up in one question. I think Japanese influence by way of investment will become significant. I have no crystal ball, but I think it will. As a nation Papua New Guinea will need large injections of overseas investments, and the Japanese have plenty of them. They have large investments in our own country, throughout South East Asia, in Europe and America and in other parts of the world. I do not think there is any doubt that that will come about.. The fact of their taking an interest - I have not seen it but I accept that a report has been made - would not surprise me because it would be in line with the general attitude of their investment in Papua New Guinea. We certainly would take steps to resolve the airline problem. Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson used a couple of unfortunate expressions such as ‘regrettable squabble’ and ‘forcing them into independence before they are ready’. It creates news for the media when somebody in Papua New Guinea says: ‘We are not ready, we are being forced into it’ and so on. The man to whom we have to listen is the Chief Minister, Mr Michael Somare, and as I understand it he is not unhappy with the situation. He is getting ready as fast as possible to take over the government of his country, and the things this Government is doing in trying to assist him to be ready in the various activities of government are, I think, quite creditable.
– My question is directed to the Minister assisting the Minister for Foreign Affairs and refers to an answer by the Minister today to a question asked by Senator Greenwood on the Yugoslavian execution of 3 Australian nationals. In his answer the Minister referred to the ‘illegal incursion into Bosnia’. I ask: Does this mean that the Government accepts without question that the 3 persons took part in an illegal incursion? In view of the false information already supplied by the Yugoslav Government on the circumstances of their deaths, will the Government preserve an open mind as to their guilt or innocence until the full facts are known?
– I do not think that it is a matter of whether we accept this without question at all. The previous Government and we did accept what the Yugoslav Government had told us, that they were killed in the Bosnian raid. Later that information was proved to be wrong, when the Yugoslav Government informed us that they had been executed, and honourable senators know what has happened since then. It is not a question of having a closed or an open mind. We are pursuing this to our utmost. We are trying to get all the information that we can. On this vexed question of dual nationality we are even going to ask a parliamentary committee in this place to see whether it can be of any assistance to this Government and future governments. The more information we can get on it, the more likely we are to be able to clean it up; and the better the understanding we can reach with the Yugoslav Government the better it will be for all Australians.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Defence. I ask again the latter part of a question I asked previously and I seek an answer. Is military aid to neighbouring countries now a firm part of the Labor Government’s policy?
– I cannot answer in the general sense. The honourable senator asked a question about defence aid for Indonesia and I answered that it was a matter, as I pointed out, which resulted from continuing discussions between the previous Government and the present Government and which has been, I think, satisfactorily settledon the terms of co-operation between the 2 countries. If the honourable senator desires particular information in respect of the other related areas. I will obtain the information for him. I think that is the most satisfactory course to adopt.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Treasurer. Is it a fact that the Prime Minister has appointed to his already large personal staff an additional economist in the person of Professor F. H. Gruen? Can the Minister advise the Senate whether the purpose of this extra appointment is to continue to create within the Prime Minister’s staff what I call a White House presidential style situation in which a group of people will exist who will counter the traditional advice given by the Treasury on economic and monetary matters?
– No,I cannot give Senator Cotton any information concerning people who are members of the Prime Minister’s staff or what their roles will be.
– For the information of honourable senators, I present the report on secondary education for Canberra. This is the report of the Working Committee on College Proposals for the Australian Capital Territory.
– Pursuant to section 58 (1) (c) of the Stevedoring Industry Act 1956-1971, I present the annual report of the Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority for the year ended 30th June 1972, together with financial statements and the Auditor-General’s report on those statements.
– For the information of honourable senators, I present the text for the following international treaty: Convention 131 concerning minimum wage fixing adopted by the International Labour Conference at its Fifty-Fourth Session. The relevant laws and practices are in conformity with the Convention. Subject to the approval of the Federal Executive Council, the Government intends to lodge instruments of ratification in respect of the Convention with the Director-General of the International Labour Office as soon as possible.
– For the information of honourable senators I lay on the table a revised balance sheet for the Commonwealth Railways for the year ended 30th June 1972 in substitution for the balance sheet included in the annual report of the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner for 1971-72 which was tabled in the Senate on 13th March 1973.
– For the information of honourable senators I present a report on an assessment of Tasmania’s interstate transport problems. The report was prepared by the Bureau of Transport Economics.
Report of Standing Committee on Social Environment
-I present the interim report of the Senate Standing Committee on Social Environment on the 6 petitions presented to the Senate on 21st March 1972, relating to the PostmasterGeneral’s Department.
Ordered that the report be printed.
– I seek leave to make a brief statement.
– Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– The Committee, having been empowered to report on the subject matter of these petitions, directs attention to the appointment of an Australian Post Office Commission of Inquiry by the present Government on 30th January 1973. The terms of reference of this Commission of inquiry are:
In the public interest, what changes, if any, should be made in the organisation, administration and operations of postal and telecommunications services (including overseas services) provided in Australia, including, inter alia, changes in relation to:
The range of services to the public and their adequacy to meet present and future needs, including services as affected by proposals approved but not yet implemented; the financing of recurrent and capital costs; management/staff relations, including the jurisdiction of the Public Service Board; responsibilities of the Overseas Telecommunications Commission and the division of functions between that Commission and the PostmasterGeneral’s Department; urban and regional development; procurement of supplies with the aim of developing Australian industries; the performance of work by contract; and other matters to which the attention of the Commission is particularly directed by the Postmaster-General in the course of the inquiry.
As a consequence of this development, because the subject matter referred in each instance appears to be largely contiguous, the Committee believes that the proper course in relation to its own reference is to await the outcome of the other inquiry. Accordingly, we report to the Senate at this stage that we are postponing consideration of this reference until the report and the recommendations of the Australian Post Office Commission of Inquiry are available for examination. The Committee will determine at that stage whether the reference necessitates further action on its part.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Bishop) read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
This Bill is the first stage of a radical transformation of industrial relations in Australia. Later stages of this transformation will involve an examination of all aspects of industrial relations in Australia by a special committee of inquiry to ensure that policies and procedures for handling labour relations will be suitable for our needs over the next decade or so. This will take us far beyond a mere examination of the law on conciliation and arbitration.
– Are we not to get copies of the speech?
– Copies have been circulated. They were placed in honourable senators’ mail boxes this morning.
- Senator Wright will be given a second copy.
– This examination will be divided into 2 parts. The first will deal with the quality of work in Australia and the second - a much larger and longer inquiry - will make an in-depth study of the institutional framework of labour relations.
The Committee will report on the need for constitutional reform including the delineation of Federal and State jurisdiction in labour relations and the limitations of Commonwealth power. It will examine the functioning of the conciliation and arbitration system including the workings of the Act, the desirability of experimenting with new forms of agreements like productivity agreements, whether there is any role for voluntary mediation of conciliation committees, and what ground rules could be evolved for collective bargaining in Australia. It will examine the needs of trade union and employer organisations in Australia, the need for amalgamations, for trade union education and for closer consultation between unions, employers and government.
It will examine plant level relationships, including the need for worker participation, the role of shop stewards and shop committees, and the concept of works’ councils. It will examine wages and working conditions for employees in. Australia, including wage concepts, the changing relationship between the poorly paid and the highly paid, the role of the national wage cases and other cases setting national standards on matters such as hours, leave, equal pay, etc. In all these studies the Government’s aim will be to create conditions for the achievement of social justice and industrial harmony. As honourable senators know, the Australian Parliament has only limited authority to make laws to regulate labour relations. The Australian Constitution limits this Parliament’s jurisdiction to interstate industrial disputes. In the courts, by resort to fiction and technicality, a fairly wide ambit has been given to this phrase. There is a limit, however, beyond which plain words cannot be stretched even by the ingenuity of lawyers.
Labor believes that ultimately there will have to be an expansion of Commonwealth power in the field of industrial relations because, to quote from our Party’s platform, to allow the Commonwealth power to deal with industrial matters to remain in its pre sent form is like expecting to control modern motor traffic with laws taken from the horse and buggy days’. It is the task of the national Parliament to create labour relations which meet and match the needs of the community and which will anticipate and overcome obstacles to justice and common sense in industrial relations.
However, the question of increased Commonwealth power is one we must postpone for later consideration. Our immediate aim is to give effect to those aspects of industrial policy which can be dealt with within the rather limited area of power granted by the Constitution. Therefore, this Bill will pass into law a number of proposals contained in the policy speech of the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) originating in the Australian Labour Party’s Federal platform. In addition, this Bill will correct a number of defects arising from the set of amendments made by the former Government.
In 1904 the founders of compulsory arbitration in Australia embarked on a novel, and what must have then appeared to be, a rather bold social experiment. Many of the problems which have arisen in the past 70 years could not have been foreseen at the time of Federation. The next generation of Australians will look back on the experience of compulsory arbitration to this date as a necessary prelude to a more systematic solution of the problems of industrial relations and employment. On the whole, compulsory arbitration has served a useful purpose. The central position of power occupied by the tribunals, however, could never have been attained or maintained without popular approval and especially without the support of the trade union movement.
In recent years, however, many employers as well as the great mass of union members have become impatient with the penal aspects of the federal system. As unions and employers become better organised, as their research facilities grow, as they become more aware of the advantages of negotiation and the disadvantages of remaining passive clients of an arbitration commission, so will the acceptability of the Commission’s penal powers diminish and the area of its influence as an arbitral body contract. Important industries are now becoming the scene of negotiated agreements. For some years now we have been witnessing a fundamental change in the work of the Commission. Increasingly the
Commission relies upon procedures of negotiation and conciliation; less and less does it invoke its authority to arbitrate.
This Government will not abolish conciliation and arbitration; it will reconstruct it and strengthen it to eliminate features repugnant to harmony and good relations in industry and thus set it on a course not requiring constant correction by legislation as we have seen since 1949. The system has been jerry-built over the years. Indeed, the Act has been affected by no fewer than 29 separate amending Acts in the last 23 years of LiberalCountry Party government. Some of these were machinery matters, such as judicial salaries, But some were major amendments such as the provision for strike penalties, the separation of judicial functions from the arbitral functions and the separation of conciliation processes from those of arbitration.
A Clear Mandate
As I said earlier, the Government has a clear mandate for the changes it intends to make. The Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam), in his policy speech, said that the strength of multi-national corporations in the Australian economy requires strong unions as well as strong government. Labor, he said, would facilitate the amalgamation of trade unions. We would reduce, he said, government interference in industrial relations, put conciliation back into arbitration, and abolish the penal clauses. The Prime Minister was speaking on the authority of the decisions of the 29th Commonwealth Conference of the Australian Labor Party held in Launceston in 1971. The program adopted at that Conference has been given the widest publicity. The Party’s policy statement has been circulated throughout the nation. Our policies were stated and explained in the 18 months preceding the elections, in the Parliament and at seminars and conferences throughout the Commonwealth. Our intentions were fully discussed in the election campaign. We can, therefore, fairly claim to have a clear mandate for what is proposed in this Bill.
The Bill provides for a number of major changes. They are: The removal of existing barriers to trade union amalgamation; the removal of the Commission’s authority to ban strikes and the removal of all penal sanctions upon strikers; procedures to ensure that certain types of agreement are acceptable to members of organisations affected by them; provision for democratic control of unions and the fullest participation by union members in the affairs of their organisations; provision to enable action to be taken for the recovery of wages at law within a period of 6 years instead of the 12 months’ limitation that now applies; the protection of organisations and their members from civil actions for tort in connection with industrial disputes; provision to overcome some of the problems created by the Moore v. Doyle case; the removal of the various defects which have been shown to exist in the 1972 legislation; and elimination of the power to award costs in proceedings before the courts, the Registrar or the Commission.
This Government rests upon the goodwill of the mass of ordinary working people, their wives and their families. It is determined to keep in proper check those gigantic forces of capital, privilege and power that penetrate the lives of the community at every point. Both the Government and the people need the organised strength of the working people gathered together in strong, effective and responsible trade unions. We plan, therefore, to encourage the amalgamation of trade unions. The trend to amalgamation has accelerated in the last few years. Honourable senators will be interested to recall figures supplied by the Commonwealth Statistician through the then Minister for Labour and National Service regarding the size of trade unions in Australia at the end of December 1970. He reported that there were 305 separate trade unions in Australia. Of the 305 unions, 152 had less than 1,000 members; another 96 had between 1,000 and 5,000 members; 34 between 5,000 and 20,000; 19 between 20,000 and 50,000 and only 14 with a membership of over 50,000.
Grave defects attend this dispersal of working people throughout such a large number of separate organisations. There is unnecessary duplication of work. Salaries paid to officials of great energy, dedication and talent are low and unattractive, and discourage men of quality from making the sacrifices that a career as a trade union official often involves. The population base from which the leaders are drawn is often small. Demarcation disputes concerned with protecting the revenue and membership of a union threatened with loss of coverage by encroachments of other unions are a common occurrence in this country. The mobility of trade union officials from office to office is sometimes restricted by rules which require officials to be drawn from among longstanding ticket holders only.
The cost of libraries and research staff - essential for good quality industrial leadership - is frequently beyond the resources of small unions. Even the cost of assembling the members and officials in conference is too much for some unions frequently to bear. Discussion and policy making in tune with the needs of the members suffer when the members and their leaders cannot frequently consult each other. Employers and the organisations that represent them do not suffer these handicaps. They draw upon the whole work force in industry, the Public Service and the universities for people to represent and uphold their industrial interests. They enjoy the rapid gathering and dissemination of information relevant to their cause. Research staff, libraries and independent economic and legal advice are freely acquired whenever needed.
A strengthening of the resources of the working people in amalgamated trade Unions which are possessed of strong, well-trained and well-equipped leaders will redress the present imbalance. Negotiation and conciliation will become more effective in resolving disputes as union leaders become better informed and better trained. We are, therefore, wholly in favour of amalgamation of unions of the working people. At the same time, we insist on democracy in the government of these larger groupings. The Government endorses what was said by the former Minister for Labour and National Service, the Honourable Phillip Lynch, in March 1972. Speaking of amalgamation, he said:
It is fair to say that provided the membership of Industrial organisations does not lose effective control as a result of amalgamations, there are many advantages which can accrue from amalgamation. For instance, there are some 300 unions in Australia. Most of them are very small, lt could facilitate the functioning of the arbitration system and relations generally between employers and unions if this number of unions decreases. I know of situations in which employers have sat across the table with no fewer than IS unions in relation to one issue. Government departments have had this experience.
He went on to say:
The question of whether there should be changes in the legislation to specify more clearly the procedures under which organisations can amalgamate in the future is one to which the Government is giving detailed consideration. We believe quite firmly that there should be proper membership control of the organisations consistent with their efficient management and operation.
The Government agrees with the ideas then expressed by Mr Lynch. However, the legislation subsequently introduced by him did not facilitate the amalgamation of trade unions. Indeed, it placed almost impossible procedural barriers in the way of amalgamations. It provided, for instance, for elaborate and complicated ballots more suited to defeat than to express the will of the membership. They were, in fact, intended to prevent amalgamations from taking place.
The usefulness of the present provisions can be tested by the simple question - do they help or do they hinder the unification of the trade unions into more powerful institutions to represent and uphold the interests of the employees? For an amalgamation proposal now to be adopted by a union, it will be necessary merely for a majority of those voting to approve of the proposal. It will not now be necessary for 50 per cent of the enrolled membership to vote in an amalgamation ballot.
The defects of the existing system can be clearly demonstrated. For example, in an amalgamation ballot in which 51 per cent of the membership voted, and 51 per cent of those voting were in favour, the proposal would be carried even though only 26.01 per cent of the total membership voted in favour. Contrast this with a ballot in which 49 per cent voted and 90 per cent of the voters favoured amalgamation. Under the Liberal Government’s legislation this proposal would be defeated even though 44 per cent of the total membership voted in favour. Clearly the proper approach is to give every member the opportunity to vote and require him to accept the verdict of those voting.
The Bill provides that the unions themselves will have the power to conduct amalgamation ballots. Amalgamation ballots will be conducted by the Commonwealth when requested by the unions concerned. The cost of such ballots will be borne by the Commonwealth. These ballots will not be open to challenge, although the court will have power to investigate ballots conducted by the union itself. The existing provisions which exempt a large organisation from the requirement to hold a ballot when amalgamating with a small organisation have been simplified.
Actions for Tort
The Bill amends section 5 of the Act to provide protection to officials, or members of unions against discriminatory action within the employer’s establishment where the official or member has merely upheld the industrial interests of the employees, so long as the action he takes is within the limits of the authority given to him by the organisation. The Bill also provides protection for trade unions and their officials against actions for conspiracy or inducement of breach of contract founded on the events of an industrial dispute. I want to emphasise, however, that this protection will not extend to acts which cause death or physical injury to a person, physical damage to property or involves defamation, or to threats of such acts.
The provisions protecting union officials from tortious actions stem basically from the Government’s belief that the right to strike is a fundamental right which every employee must have. Actions for tort founded on industrial disputes represent a direct negation of the right to strike. A strike by its very nature carries with it the threat that the employer will suffer some material loss. If an employer is to be permitted to recover at law any loss that he suffers from his employees then the right to strike becomes meaningless. Workers go on strike whatever the law may have to say about it. That is the clear experience throughout the whole history of the arbitration system in Australia and our experience is similar to what happens in other countries such as the United States, England and the other European nations.
Over recent years, we have seen a new development. A number of cases have been brought to recover damages and for injunctions in respect of industrial disputes. The prime consideration for reform of this branch of the law lies in the fact that the law of tort can do little, if anything at all, to promote good industrial relations, but it can certainly do a lot of harm. Strike leaders should not be penalised because of inherent defects in our system for resolving industrial disputes. There is a renewed fear among trade unionists that employers with the aid of the civil courts, will re-introduce a weapon which will turn the history of this country back just as the working people are coming out into the light.
In England, in 1800, trade unions were illegal. Since that time trade unions in England, and later in Australia, have had to conduct a running battle with the courts and the legislature to emerge from that illegality into the same conditions of freedom enjoyed by the profit making corporations invented by businessmen. Trade unions have consistently sought legal recognition of the fact that by the special nature of their social tasks they are not predators and enemies of society but rather that they are an essential instrument for the protection of the weak and the maintenance of some fair proportion in the distribution of wealth between capital and labour. The trade unions have always argued that the role of the law should be to assist and not to hinder them in this work.
The struggle of the trade unions to overcome these legal handicaps culminated in 1875 in the Conspiracy and Protection of Property Act which provided that in contemplation of furtherance of a trade dispute, no combination to do, or procure, any act should itself be a criminal conspiracy unless the act itself would be punishable as a crime. Simple conspiracy was henceforth banished from trade disputes as a ground of criminal liability. In 1901, a union in the United Kingdom placed a picket on the premises of an employer where a strike was taking place. The employer sought an injunction to restrain the men from preventing labour from entering his premises but the union argued that since it did not exist in law, it could not be enjoined or sued for damages. The argument failed, the injunction was granted, and the union ultimately fell liable for a very large sum of damages. That was the infamous Taff Vale case. The great trade union agitation which followed the Taff Vale decision finally forced the House of Commons in 1906 to pass legislation to set aside that piece of judge-made law. The immunity from actions for tort that was granted to British unions by the House of Commons in 1906 is now extended by this Bill to officials and members of Australian trade unions.
There is nothing novel in what is proposed in this Bill; it is based upon the principles of the British Trade Disputes Act of 1906 which granted unions and union officials in that country exemption from tortious actions committed in furtherance of industrial disputes.
What we are proposing is not unique even in Australia. A provision of the nature has existed in Queensland for many decades. Indeed, my opposite number in the Queensland Government, told the recent conference of Commonwealth and State Labour Ministers that the Queensland law had caused no problems in that State. In point of fact, it is only within the last three or four years that we have witnessed attempts in the other States to put life into the remains of an outmoded law that has been resting in the cemetery of English law for 67 years.
The Government is firmly committed to the abolition of the penal clauses - the criminal sanctions against the working man who withdraws his labour. Our policy is clear. The Prime Minister’s mandate is precise. As promised in the Prime Minister’s policy speech, the Bill provides for the removal from the Act of all provisions under which a penalty might be imposed upon a trade union or member, because a union is involved in or threatens a strike, ban or limitation on work. The inclusion of ‘bans’ clauses in awards and certified agreements is prohibited. If unions wish to submit to the inclusion in an agreement of a bans clause they may do so, but that agreement cannot be certified by the Commission. Furthermore, it will be no longer possible for any penalty to be imposed in respect of any ‘bans’ clause which may already exist in an award or certified agreement.
Much was said by the Opposition, when in government, to the effect that the existence of sanctions was essential to the functioning of our conciliation and arbitration system. The fallacy of that claim is demonstrated by the fact that the previous Government saw the wisdom of not collecting the fines amounting to $20,700 which had been imposed upon unions under the penal provisions which existed prior to 1970. These fines remain unpaid. It was that Government which, whilst claiming that penalties for award enforcement were absolutely essential, prosecuted for only 5 award breaches in its last 2 years - 5 out of the 24,000 breaches uncovered by its arbitration inspectors. Even under the last Government, the penal provisions against strikes were a dead letter. This Government takes the formal step of removing them from the Act.
There are 2 sensible ways of encouraging the settlement of disputes without stoppages. The first is to encourage the parties to settle their differences by direct negotiation and to give their agreed conclusions the benefits of certification as agreements under the Act. The second is to offer parties the services of professional conciliators employed under the Act to assist them to reach agreement for the making of a consent award. Where agreement proves to be impossible, the Act provides for arbitration of the matters remaining in dispute. In the past, conciliators were given a final power to act as arbitrators if the need arose. But in the 1972 Act the conciliation functions were separated completely from the arbitration functions and the 2 functions in any one dispute must now be discharged by different persons.
Grave problems have arisen in the operation of these provisions. The best talent for the one function or the other has not always been wearing the right hat. Parties have sometimes expressed a preference for arbitration to be carried out by the person who attempted to conciliate the differences between the parties. The work load between commissioners has varied substantially. There has been an increase in internal paper work, and in some cases delay in achieving final settlements. We will continue the experiment of the present panel system for the time being, with some separation of conciliation from arbitration in an amended form. The Bill provides that all presidential members and commissioners shall have the power to exercise both conciliation and arbitration functions with the proviso that a member of the Commission who has exercised the function of conciliation may not arbitrate in a particular matter if any party to the proceedings objects.
The Bill alters the objects of the Act in such a way as to place greater stress on the provision of ways and means for parties in dispute to reach amicable agreement without outside interference. It is the Government’s intention to do everything possible to provide that the terms and conditions of employment of workers be regulated by freely negotiated voluntary agreements and that these agreements be certified and given the full force of an award under the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. It is the view, not only of the Government, but also the trade union movement, and I believe, the majority of employer organisations that this procedure is preferable la having conditions arbitrarily imposed on employers and employees. The Bill provides thai the Commission shall not refuse to certify an agreement made in settlement of an industrial dispute unless the certification of it would cause a major detriment to the public interest. Provision is made also to enable a single member of the Commission to certify agreements which contain matters which have hitherto been reserved to the Full Bench for certification, that is matters such as changes in the standard hours of work, annual leave, etc. A single member of the Commission, however, will still have the right to refer such an agreement to the President of the Commission if he believes that the issues raised are likely to cause a major detriment to the public interest. In these cases the President will determine whether the issue should be considered by a Full Bench. Appeals against agreements and consent awards will be prohibited.
On the other hand, the Government is concerned to see that where agreements are entered into, they do, in fact, represent the wishes of those members of the organisation, be they trade unions or employer organisations, who are affected by the agreement. In future, no agreement will be certified unless the member of the Commission is satisfied that the principal terms of the agreement have been approved by the committee of management of each of the organisations and that those terms are acceptable to a majority of the members affected by the agreement. Where the member of the Commission is not so satisfied, he has the right to direct the Industrial Registrar to conduct a ballot to ascertain the views of those members of that organisation who are affected by the agreement. In future, no certified agreement may be made for more than 3 years. In future, an agreement will not be continued in existence after its expiration merely by virtue of the existing provisions of the Act. However, it will be possible to reopen an agreement by leave of the Commission or by agreement of the parties during its period of operation. Moreover, it will be possible, and desirable, for parties to a certified agreement to be free to begin negotiations for a new agreement before their current agreement expires.
Participatory democracy will be an essential ingredient for the proper functioning of the amalgamated unions. As unions become larger, and their governing bodies become more remote from the membership, it will be important to safeguard against the development of bureaucratic relations between the leadership and the rank and file. This Government will encourage the elimination of tendencies that prejudice democratic control of trade unions by assisting rank and file members to bring their grievances over alleged defects in rules and in abuse of rules, to the Commonwealth Industrial Court for examination and, where called for, correction.
The platform of the Australian Labor Party calls upon the Government to ensure a system of democratic control of all unions, allowing fullest participation by members in their affairs. The Bill makes changes in the conditions of registration of organisations towards achieving that end. A person who exercises management functions, or functions relating to the making, alteration or enforcement of rules, or who occupies a position with duties substantially the same as those of an elected office, becomes the holder of an ‘office’ for the purpose of the Act and, subject to certain qualifications, will have to be elected by the rank and file. The Bill provides that no officer elected by the rank and f: may be dismissed during his period of office unless he is guilty of misappropriation of union funds, a grave breach of rules or gross misbehaviour or gross neglect of duty. It will no longer be enough that his services are no longer required by the ruling faction in a committee of management.
Financial members are to be given an absolute right to vote in any election for office bearers and in plebescites touching rules or policy. No person who is a candidate in an election for an office shall be permitted to determine whether any other candidate for election is eligible to stand for office. The right to determine eligibility of candidates will be vested in a returning officer being a person who is not an employee of the organisation or holding any other office in the organisation. In the past, nominations have been scrutinised and rejected by the very persons who were under challenge in a pending election. I do not have to enlarge on the sense of injustice suffered by the individual candidate and the distortion of fair control of a trade union which can arise in a case of the type now provided against. Section 144 is amended to provide that a person who is employed in an industry shall be entitled to membership of an organisation providing he complies with the conditions of eligibility in the registered rules of that organisation.
Statute of Limitations
When a businessman enters into a contract with a trading enterprise for the purchase of goods or for the building of a factory, and his contractor fails to carry out his obligations under contract, the law usually allows him 6 years, sometimes longer, to bring a claim for damages in respect of his losses to the court. Similarly, if a debtor fails to pay money owing by him and defaults upon his lawful obligation, our businessman is given 6 years in which to sue for recovery of what is justly due to him. In the view of this Government, a worker is entitled to the same consideration as a businessman as to the time in which he can sue a defaulting employer to recover wages which he has been underpaid, annual leave which he has not been granted, or long service leave benefits which the employer evaded when his obligation was due. Fair-minded employers will not seek to deny to workers the rights they themselves enjoy. This Bill therefore extends from 1 year to 6 years the time in which an action may be taken to recover amounts underpaid as a result of obligations under an award or certified agreement. This will apply to actions taken under the provisions of section 119, or by employers themselves under section 123.
The Government proposes to abolish the power to make orders for costs against parties in proceedings arising under the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. This is part of our policy of bringing the courts to the people, of overcoming the deterrent which often prevents a person from seeking to right a wrong because of the burden of costs he might incur where his argument has failed to carry the day. There have been cases where costs awarded against individuals in the Court have led to the bankruptcy of working men and to the seizure of their property because they have employed the court to settle their differences with an opponent. We do not wish to see men tempted to resort to direct force to defeat a rival in a union conflict. Our industrial conflicts over the years have been happily free of violence or the threat of violence. The possibility of having costs awarded against an applicant discourages the use of courts as a means of settling differences.
There is, of. course, some statutory provisions which are available to assist rank and file unionists who wish to bring cases to the Industrial Court. The Act now provides for financial assistance to be granted in some cases by the Attorney-General but this only applies to actions taken under certain sections of the Act. Furthermore, it does not cover assistance where such a union member is required to defend in the High Court a decision given in his favour by the Industrial Court. The Attorney-General, of course, has the power to make ex gratia payments in respect of costs after the event, and many such payments have been made where unsuccessful litigants of poor means have been threatened with sequestration of their worldly possessions. Relief of this kind is unsatisfactory because it is discretionary and is generally long delayed. The Bill provides that no costs shall be awarded against any party in any proceeding before the Commission, the Industrial Court, the Court of a State or a Territory, or the Registrar, which is a matter arising under the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. A similar provision in the Bill prohibits the granting of costs in the High Court in appeals coming before it from judgments, orders or sentences made by the Industrial Court or another Court under this Act or in proceedings in respect of an award.
Moore v. Doyle
Over recent months there have been a number of disputes between 2 groups of transport workers in New South Wales concerning the legal status of transport workers belonging to the respective State and Federal Transport Workers Unions. The Federal union is an organisation registered under the Commonwealth Act, and the State union is a separate union registered under New South Wales law. A dispute between members of these 2 bodies was heard and determined by the Commonwealth Industrial Court in 1969, and is reported under the name of Moore v. Doyle. The state of affairs revealed by that decision has caused the greatest concern to all persons involved in labour relations. Judgment in that case was given in February 1969, but in the 4 long years that have elapsed since then, and in spite of the clear invitation of the Court for action to resolve the anomally, the Gorton and McMahon Governments virtually ignored the problems raised by that case. In the limited time available, it is not possible to explain the full complexities of the decision. Some highly abstract ideas must be mastered before one can comprehend the problem and find the solution. No single legislative body, State or Federal, is capable of dealing with all the legal questions involved or of propounding a solution that will hold in every industrial jurisdiction, under present constitutional arrangements. The head note to Moore v. Doyle reads:
For some 40 years after the adoption of a scheme designed to achieve the amalgamation of a New South Wales State Trade and Industrial union with a federal organisation registered under the Conciliation and Arbitration Act, the State trade union continued to conduct its affairs in accordance with its own rules and State industrial law and pursued with vigour benefits available to a State trade union under State law. During such a period, members of the State trade union became members of the New South Wales branch of the Federal organisation. The State trade union, inter aiia, assumed the name of and rendered accounts and accepted obligations as the New South Wales branch of the federal organisation. The scheme of amalgamation was assumed by its authors and actors to have achieved the continued existence of the State trade union and, at the same time, its establishment as a branch of the federal organisation. lt was held, in the circumstances of the case, that the State trade union had not ceased to exist, and that it was not a branch of the Federal organisation. The result of this decision was that the Commonwealth Industrial Court was unable to issue orders against an officer of the State union for his compliance with federally registered rules. It follows, therefore, that the Commonwealth Arbitration Commission has no power to make an award, or certify an agreement, binding on the State union. It is the legal situation revealed by this decision which is at the root of the dispute between the 2 groups concerned to represent transport workers in New South Wales, and which threatened the delivery of petrol in that State in February of this year. It is an irritation to most unions; an intractable problem for some. In the course of its 1969 judgment the Court said:
Cases referred to earlier in this judgment are further illustrations of the web of problems and technicalities which have developed in the system of trade union organisation in Australia . . . The system as required to exist by State and Federal legislation and as it has evolved under that legislation in practice is technical, productive of artificialism, and in urgent need of the attention of the law reformer … A system of trade union organisation is urgently needed which would enable the one body to represent its relevant members in both the Federal and State arbitration systems and it should be possible for Federal and State authorities to examine the question whether organisations and trade unions can be provided with such a system . . . we have decided to refer our judgment in this matter and these remarks to the Attorney-General for the Commonwealth in the hope that it may be possible, after consultation between the Commonwealth and State Attorneys-General, the trade unions both federal and state, and other interested government authorities to arrange for the important organisational matters to which we have referred.
In a later case, namely, the case of Steuart v. Oliver, it was held, in respect of the Australian Workers Union, that a substantial number of persons were legitimate members of a body known as the Australian Workers Union of Queensland, a State union, but were not entitled to be members of the Australian Workers Union created by the Commonwealth Act. The coverage of industry was different in the 2 sets of registered rules. It was held in that case that there were 2 separate unions. The 2 unions were funded and administered for all practical purposes as if they were one. Membership of the one did not entitle a person to vote in the elections of the other, although that had always been the practice for nearly 60 years.
It is against this background of technicality and confusion that the Australian Labor Party platform declares that the Constitution must be amended to allow the system for the resolution of industrial conflict to be modernised by enabling the Australian Parliament to establish sensible means for the resolution of questions relating to terms and conditions of employment. The State Parliaments have this power. The Government believes that the National Parliament must have a similar power. In the interim, however, we must work through the existing Constitution. The complete solution to Moore v. Doyle in these circumstances requires complementary Federal and State legislation. Preliminary discussions have taken place between the Minister for Labour and the State Ministers for Labour on this problem and shortly the Minister will be initiating further discussions with the State Ministers. The State Ministers appreciate the problems involved in the matter and will, I believe, give their full cooperation in assisting the Government to take whatever steps are necessary to put an end to the present chaotic state of- affairs.
However, in this Bill, we are initiating a further important step to overcome some of the difficulties caused by the Moore v. Doyle decision. Section 132 of the Act, which prescribes the conditions which must be complied with by a registered organisation, is amended to provide that an organisation registered under the Commonwealth Act will, in future, be able to include in its membership persons who are not employees in the industry covered by the organisation so long as they follow an occupation in or in connection with that industry, or are qualified to be employed in or in connection with that industry. This will enable the Transport Workers Union of Australia to include as members owner-drivers in New South Wales and other States. This is by no means the complete answer to the difficulties that have caused the current dispute among transport workers and it does not even touch difficulties affecting other unions. This amendment does not completely solve the Moore v. Doyle problem, but it does remove one of the issues causing difficulties. It will still be necessary for the Commonwealth Parliament to legislate further on this issue, but this cannot be done until further conferences can be arranged with the 6 State Ministers for Labour-
A great deal of industrial unrest revolves around difficulties and misunderstandings as to what is meant by the terms of various awards and agreements. In the past, where a deadlock occurred as to the meaning of a term of an award or agreement, the only way to determine the matter was for the Arbitration Inspectorate to take a prosecution against an employer. Whilst there has been provision in the Act for a union or an employer to seek an interpretation of an award or agreement, delayed hearings and heavy costs have discouraged parties from making use of this provision. In the past, it has often been necessary to initiate a prosecution merely for the purpose of obtaining an interpretation of an award or agreement. This is a cumbersome and unnecessary process and the Bill amends section 110 so as to permit the Secretary of the Department of Labour or an inspector to apply to the Court for an interpretation. In this way the costs of the proceedings will be borne by the Commonwealth. This is in line with the view of the Government that it should assist in clarifying awards made by its own tribunals. This will mean a substantial increase in the work of the Industrial Court. At present, section 98 of the Act limits the number of judges of the Court to a Chief Judge and not more than 7 other judges.
Since its inception, there has been an increasing use of the Court for purposes other than its functions under the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. Apart from the fact that judges of the Court act as judges of the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory, judges have been called on to carry out special assignments. For example, Mr Justice Kerr, before he left the Bench to become Chief Justice of New South Wales, carried out a major inquiry into pay and conditions in the armed services. Mr Justice Woodward has succeeded to the task of Mr Justice Kerr in this field. He also is concerned with other activities on behalf of the Government in relation to Aborigines. Mr Justice Nimmo is now acting as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Fiji and Mr Justice Eggleston is engaged on duties connected with the administration of the Trade Practices Act. From time to time, the number of judges on the Court has been increased to meet the increasing work load. On virtually every occasion in the past, it has been necessary to further amend the legislation to enable additional judges to be appointed.
Justice delayed is justice denied. The Government believes that constant legislation of this nature is unnecessary and that it is far more satisfactory to remove the limitation on the number of judges who may be appointed to the Court so as to provide that the Court shall consist of a Chief Judge and such number of other judges as are appointed from time to time. This simple amendment will enable the appointment of new judges whenever the work load warrants it. It will ensure that action can be taken quickly to ensure that cases coming within the jurisdiction of the Court are heard and disposed of promptly.
The President of the Arbitration Commission, Sir Richard Kirby, has made a strong plea that future presidential members who are qualified for judicial appointment should be given the same designation as a judge of the Industrial Court in addition to the same rank, status and precedence of a judge which they now enjoy. The President’s view is supported by the Acting President, Mr Justice Moore. The Government has accepted their views and the Bill provides that new presidential members who are eligible for judicial appointment will be granted the title ‘Justice*.
The Bill contains a number of other miscellaneous provisions. Among them is a provision to correct a deficiency in the 1972 Act which prevented single members of the Commission from making awards on matters covered by section 31 of the Act, for example, national wage, standard hours, etc., where the award was simply to give effect to principles previously enunciated by a Full Bench. Provision has also been made in the Bill to give an extended right to union officials to enter at any time during working hours at establishments covered by Federal awards.
In this way full time officials will be better able to enforce the observance of safety regulations, clear up misinterpretations of awards, smooth out demarcation differences, interview non-unionists, detect symptoms of potential unrest, and smooth out abrasive managerial policies. It is difficult to understand why so many companies do so much to impede the on-site activities of full time officials and then blame the union when its shop stewards find themselves with an unavoidable dispute on their hands.
The Bill also repeals the provision inserted in 1972 which provided, for the first time, for inquiries into officially conducted ballots. The Government believes that the safeguards in relation to officially conducted ballots are such that there is no need to provide for inquiries into them. It also provides that all officially conducted ballots will be free of cost to unions. This will benefit those unions which have had in their rules/provisions that all elections shall be officially conducted and thus have not been eligible to have their costs met by the Government as is the case where the management committee or rank and file request an officially conducted ballot. Another clause of the Bill removes the 1972 provision requiring organisations to regularly notify the Registrar of the whereabouts and state of their bank accounts. This provision was ancillary to the penal sanctions against strikes. With these penalties removed from the Act, there is no justification for retaining such an onerous provision.
Mr Deputy President, in outline, those are the provisions of this Bill. I have explained that we will remove those provisions which discourage amalgamation of unions; that we will protect organisations and their members from civil actions for tort in connection with industrial disputes; that we will remove completely from the Act the power to prohibit strikes or enforce penal sanctions against strikes and that we will build the framework for more democratic control of unions. There is no need to be a prophet to predict that the Opposition will claim that this Bill favours employees. When it was in government, the present Opposition while claiming always to represent all interests, in point of fact quite blatantly ignored, or damaged, the interests of employees. The McMahon Government’s last set of amendments to this Act was preceded by a ritualistic and phoney series of meetings between employers and trade unions which were memorable only because the minutes of those meetings show that the then Minister accepted virtually all of the employers* requests and rejected virtually all of the unions’ requests. That was the former Government’s idea of national government.
This Bill goes part way to redressing the balance. In doing so, it will secure for our conciliation and arbitration system very much better foundations than those laid by any previous Government. The conciliation and arbitration system is struggling to find a new role in a changing environment. We will help it to find that role by removing its most objectionable features and developing those conciliatory features most useful in today’s environment. Ultimately, we will save the framework of Australia’s conciliation and arbitration system by accommodating to change. The former Government’s attempts at repression would have destroyed the system of conciliation and arbitration. Mr Deputy President, I commend the Bill to honourable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator Greenwood) adjourned.
Motion (by Senator Bishop) proposed:
That the adjourned debate be made an order of the day for the next day of sitting.
– I will speak very shortly to the motion for the resumption of the debate for the purpose of getting from the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Bishop) some indication as to when he proposes that this Bill will come on for debate. I should imagine that it will be either next week or the week after that. But he will appreciate that there will be a fairly long debate in this chamber at both the second reading stage and the Committee stage, and I think that it would facilitate the arrangements of honourable senators if we knew what the Government’s intention was as to when - and by ‘when’ I simply mean which week, next week or the week after that - it is intended that the Bill be brought on for debate.
– in reply - I understood that Senator Willesee had advised Senator Withers that it was desirable that the Commonwealth Electoral Bill (No. 2) 1973 should be disposed of and that the 2 industrial Bills - that is the Compensation (Commonwealth Employees) Bill 1973 and the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill 1973 - would follow, if possible, in that order.
– But not this week, I assume.
– No, I would not think so. I would think that if the Commonwealth Electoral Bill is disposed of it might be possible this week to reach the Committee stage in the debate on the Compensation (Commonwealth Employees) Bill.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from 10th April (vide page 956), on motion by Senator Murphy:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– Mr Deputy President, at long last the Government has brought on for debate the Commonwealth Electoral Bill (No. 2) 1973. It will be recalled that this Bill was introduced into the Senate on 10th April - well over a month ago. The Opposition has been accused of frustrating the Government’s legislative program. This I deny. It ought to be made quite clear that at no stage has the Opposition attempted to stop the Government from bringing this Bill on for debate. This Bill has been on the notice paper, which the Government arranges each evening for the next day’s proceedings, since 10th April, and this is the first day on which the Government has brought it on for debate. Therefore I repeat that we deny that we are frustrating the Government’s legislative program. Our intentions have always been clear. If we have no basic policy disagreement with a Bill, it will gain the support of the Liberal Party. But if we are opposed to a Bill, we will state quite clearly why we oppose it. At the outset I should like to state quite categorically that the Liberal Party will vote against the second reading of this Bill. If the second reading of the Bill is carried, we will vote against every clause of the Bill at the Committee stage. If the Bill is not defeated at that point we will vote against it at the third reading stage. If we succeed in defeating this Bill and the Government wants to bring it forward again in 3 months’ time, we will vote against the Bill again. In recent days a number of Ministers have been grandstanding and huffing and puffing about the possibility of a double dissolution. I would like to make it quite clear, as I have done before, that as far as I and my colleagues sitting behind me are concerned, this does not frighten us. My parliamentary Leader, the Rt Hon. B. M. Snedden, has made it very plain that he is not afraid of a double dissolution and in fact he is on record as saying that he would welcome it; so let us hear no more threats, no more grand words, and see no more poses by the Government. The opportunities, if the Government thinks it worth while and necessary, undoubtedly will be there for a double dissolution over a wide range of legislation. We do not shirk from what we are doing and we believe that what we are doing is essential for the well being of the Australian people.
We have heard from the Government that it regards the Commonwealth Electoral Bill (No. 2) as important but it has said that it regards the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill as important and it now says mat it regards its Health Bill as important. I would like to make it very clear in unequivocal terms that the Liberal Party Opposition also regards those Bills as very important and we will study each such important measure very carefully before adopting a stance on the proposal. But as for this Bill, the Commonwealth Electoral Bill (No. 2), it is nothing but an electoral swindle, instigated by a Party which, in the past, forced us to legislate in order to stop the rigging of union elections. We certainly do not intend to allow it to rig the elections of this nation and so change the Electoral Act that it will bear but little resemblance to the Act passed some 70 years ago.
The Electoral Act in its present form has served this nation well in ensuring that we have had fair and impartial elections. The Minister in charge of introducing amendments to the Electoral Act, the Minister for Services and Property (Mr Daly), stated that this Bill is only one of a number of measures that will le introduced following a comprehensive review of the Electoral Act. The Commonwealth Electoral Bill (No. 1) has been introduced and has been passed. Honourable senators will recall that that Bill related to the provision that 18-year-olds be able to vote and it was supported by the Liberal Opposition. But in addition to the Bill already passed and the Bill now before the Senate it has been publicly stated that legislation providing for additional representation for the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory will be introduced into the Parliament. When we know not, Mr Deputy President, but that is the intention stated by members of the Government.
We on the Opposition side regret that the Government finds it necessary to bring forward amendments to the Act in this piecemeal way. The dribs and drabs approach is neither appropriate nor acceptable in such an important matter. I believe that this Parliament is entitled to receive all the parts of the jig-saw puzzle. We should be able to see what the finished product is to be before being asked to approve the bits and pieces. What the Parliament should receive is all the legislation that emanates from Mr Daly’s so called comprehensive review. We would like to see the total package. No-one buys a car part by part. In fact it is a poor reflection on this Government that it expects the Senate and the Australian people to accept amendments which will alter aspects of the Electoral Act that have stood up for 70 years. Yet the Government intends to amend it piece by piece. The best that can be said of this is: What sort of shoddy deal can the nation expect from such an arrangement? We are entitled to a clear statement of the Government’s intentions but unfortunately this is lacking. Goodness knows up what garden path the Government and the Minister in charge of this matter are leading us. We can guess, and we will not just stand by and let it happen.
Now I would like to turn to specific aspects raised in the second reading speech on this Bill. In relation to reducing the 20 per cent variation to 10 per cent, the proposed legislation will give the commissioners a very difficult task, especially as they will still have to take into account population changes. Because of the rapid population change that is taking place in a number of our electorates we believe that it is absolutely necessary that provisions be made for a 20 per cent varia tion from the quota. This will provide the commissioners with a little extra flexibility in drawing boundaries and will enable them to cater adequately for rapid electoral growths where necessary. I would point out that the 20 per cent is not mandatory; it is only a provision. The 20 per cent margin does not have to be employed when drawing up every boundary. The advantage of a 20 per cent margin can be seen by looking at the electorate of Grayndler which is held by the voluble Minister for Services and Property who is the father of this Bill. In 1968 Mr Daly’s electorate was 14 per cent above the quota but by the time of the 1972 election it was 8 per cent below the quota. That happened in the space of only 4 years. Surely that in itself is an argument for retaining a margin which will allow flexibility, where necessary, in drawing up boundaries.
Another example quoted by Mr Daly is the seat of Griffith. In 1968, at the time of redistribution, the electorate was 16 per cent above the quota and at the 1972 election it was 1 per cent below the quota. Both of the seats that 1 mentioned are within metropolitan areas. We should also consider the seat of Sydney, not quoted by Mr Daly, which is held by the Speaker of the House of Representatives. It went from 13.56 per cent over the quota in 1968 to 9.56 under the quota in 1972 - a period of 4 years. All those electorates have had rapid changes of population and the 20 per cent provisions provided much greater flexibility for allowing for the movements that have taken place and will continue to take place in the future even under a Labor Government, unless people become so terrified of what this Government is doing that they will not be prepared to leave their homes because of the consequences which may befall them.
Of course Mr Daly has made great play on the slogan ‘one vote, one value*. This is a principle to which we can all subscribe. However it is not possible to have this principle incorporated perfectly or absolutely into any voting system- What would be equal when a redistribution was carried out would not be equal the day after. Some people would come onto the roll of an electorate; others would go off. There would not be equality and the provision of a 10 per cent variation instead of 20 per cent is not going to make votes any more equal. I have shown already that even with a 20 per cent variation, the movement of electors is such that some can quicklybecome under represented or over represented. The 20 per cent variation from quota has been part of our Electoral Act for 70 years. There is no requirement for it to be altered and altering it is not going to give one vote, one value’. It is up to the commissioners to apply the provisions if necessary in accordance with section 19 of the Act. It is not mandatory.
In many of the speeches made in the other place, as well as in the second reading speech made when this Bill was presented, references were made to the ruling of the Supreme Court of the United States and its stand on representation. Mr Daly stated that the Supreme Court had declared any form of malapportionment within a State unconstitutional. In citing this, Mr Daly is behind the times, like the great majority of the members of his Party. He is still trying to apply old remedies to new problems. He has not caught up with the fact that the United States Supreme Court ruled in February this year, in a case involving the State of Virginia, that it was not necessary in drawing boundaries for all electorates to bc equal. It stated that there were other factors that should be considered. But Mr Daly decided to ignore this ruling because it did not suit his purpose. Hie omission of relevant information is becoming a feature of this Government in its attempts to mislead the Australian people.
The real crux of the matter is that the Australian Labor Party is not interested in the principle of one man, one vote, one value. This is only a smokescreen hiding the Labor Party’s true intentions. This Bill is an exercise in deception. The Labor Party is not interested at all in having one vote one value. This Bill is just the first step on the way to redistributing the electorate on a population basis - that is, equal numbers of people, not voters, in electorates. On this basis we could end up with equal populations in electorates but with 40,000 voters in one electorate and 60,000 voters in another. Is this one man, one vote, one value?
– Do you not like that? That is what you have now.
– Is that what the ALP is looking for?
– That is what we. are trying to correct.
– I am sorry that, as in the case of so many other things, Senator James McClelland really does not understand what he is talking about. I think that this nation should be aware of the fact that the Labor Party is not concerned with electoral justice. It has received electoral justice for the past 23 years when it has ended up in Opposition, which is where it belongs. What it wants to do is to give this nation electoral injustice. All the Labor Party wants to do is to extend its period of time in government. This will be possible only if it gerrymanders the electorate frequently. The voters of this nation will not keep it in government, as the figures of the latest gall up poll show. Therefore, it must use electoral manipulation, subterfuge and deceit to attain its aims. Only once in the period that the Liberal-Country Party Government was in power did the ALP receive more than 50 per cent of the primary vote and not attain office. This was in 1954, and it was the Labor Party’s own fault. That election was fought on boundaries drawn up under a Labor government. That is a fact not sufficiently recalled.
– Do you believe that governments should cook boundaries, if you think that it was our fault?
– I repeat what I said: Only once in the period that the LiberalCountry Party Government was in power did the Australian Labor Party receive more than 50 per cent of the primary vote and not attain office.
– I understand what you said, but you do not understand it.
– That was in 1954.
– You said that it was our own fault.
– It was the Labor Party’s own fault because that election was fought on boundaries drawn up by a government of the same political complexion as that which the honourable senator supports. What honourable senators opposite are trying to say is that we cooked the boundaries time and time again. But, in all other cases, the moment a party received roughly 50 per cent of the vote, as the Labor Party did last December, it attained office. That is the simple fact of the matter. Of course, the case to which I have just referred - I think it resulted from the 1947 or 1948 redistribution - is a typical example of how the Labor Party distributes the electorate. What it did was to concentrate on ensuring that when the boundaries were drawn sitting members had safe seats. This meant that the ALP built up a lot of useless majorities in the seats that it won. But it was not our fault. In fact, we helped the Labor Party over its problem in the next redistribution which was carried out under a Liberal-Country Party government.
– The Government did not do the redistributing.
– The Minister who interjected evidently does not realise that the boundaries, as distributed, eventually are approved by the Parliament. As evidence of the fairness of boundaries drawn up under the previous Government, we have only to observe that the ALP received 49.6 per cent of the first preference vote last December and was able to win government. Is not that an example of a fair distribution? This was the story under the previous Government. If a party received 50 per cent of the vote, it won government. If it did not receive 50 per cent of the vote, it stayed in Opposition. However, this system is not good enough for the present Government. It wishes to be in government in perpetuity, irrespective of how unpopular, unwanted, unloved and unwished for it is.
As this debate develops throughout this afternoon, this evening and no doubt the balance of the week, I have no doubt about what will occur. It is obvious from the interjections that many honourable senators opposite will trot out examples of what has happened under other governments in certain States. I suggest to all honourable senators that they confine the debate on this Bill to what happens under the Commonwealth Electoral Act. If we started to talk about the gerrymanders that have taken place under all governments, composed of all parties, of all political colours, in almost all States, we could be here until Christmas, but that would not advance the argument any further. I think it is true to say that since Federation the charge could never have been levelled at any government that it conducted a deliberate gerrymander by setting out to fiddle with the Act.
– Ha, ha!
– Senator McLaren laughs. But the simple fact is that if one looks at the statistics of the primary votes of this country over a period of some 30 years one will find that the party or the group of parties that received the greatest primary vote took office. In my belief, a gerrymander takes place when a party receives the majority of the vote but gets the minority of the seats disproportionately.
– Have a look at the results of elections held in South Australia over the last 32 years.
– I am terribly sorry. I was trying to make the point that if we are to have a sensible, reasoned discussion on this Bill we ought to confine the debate to the Commonwealth Electoral Act and redistributions conducted under it. If, however, we are to go into the highways and byways of gerrymanders, perhaps conducted in all States by governments composed of all political parties, most of this debate will be irrelevant. If Senator McLaren and those other honourable senators who speak up as he does wish the debate to be run on that level, we on this side of the Senate do not.
We believe that what the Government is attempting to do in this Bill is monstrous. It starts off with the simple proposition of one vote, one value. Dress it up however one likes - call it malapportionment or anything else - what the Government is attempting to do is to upset a system that has served this nation well for 70 years.
– To make the electorates more nearly equal. Why is that a gerrymander?
– It is a pity that Senator James McClelland speaks without knowledge, as he does so often.
– Will you tell us instead of abusing?
– The simple fact of the matter is - if the honourable senator would learn to listen he might learn-
– I am listening and I have not learnt anything as yet.
– There he goes again - yap, yap, yap. What the Opposition says is that, electoral boundaries having been distributed, it is important that as far as possible those electorates remain basically the same. Senator James McClelland would not have been listening, I suppose, when I said earlier that in the metropolitan electorates there is an enormous distortion after 4 years. What hat* pened in Mr Daly’s electorate? It was 14 per cent above quota.
– That is a case for more frequent redistributions.
– More frequent than 4 years?
– If necessary.
– I think it necessary that I should answer that interjection. Senator James McClelland speaking, I take it, on behalf of the Australian Labor Party and the Government says that there should be more frequent redistributions than every 4 years.
– If necessary.
– He is shifting his ground.
– I said ‘if necessary’ right from the start.
– All those irrelevant arguments will get us nowhere. The other thing which is evident is that this Bill is but another illustration that the present Labor Government is interested in people in 2 places only - in the cities of Sydney and Melbourne - ‘because what it is also taking out of this Bill is the provision for people who live in sparsely populated areas. I think it is a fair accusation of this Government that it is interested only in people who live in the big cities. It is not terribly interested in the people who live in the outback - the people who make, mine, dig up or grow the wealth of this country. It is not interested in them at all.
– We are but we do not represent sheep; we represent people.
– 1 thought that the Australian Labor Party sent sheep here to represent it. The omission of that provision for people in sparsely populated areas is one of the other crimes which this Bill has committed and just points out that what the Labor Party wants to do is say that as 80 per cent of electors are in the metropolitan areas, the rest of the people in this country can go heed. This country was neither built nor grooved, nor will it grow, without due regard being paid to those who put up with the burdens of living in non-metropolitan areas. For that reason, and it is not the sole reason, they are entitled to have the same quality of representation in an electorate scattered over some 900.000 square miles, as is the electorate of Kalgoorlie in my State, as the metro politan dweller who is in an electorate of 4,000 or 5,000 square miles. It is the quality of representation as much as quantity of representation which is important in this place. For those and the other reasons I have outlined we in the Liberal Party will oppose this Bill and hope to defeat it at the second reading stage. It is a bad Bill. It is ill conceived and at the first opportunity it should be put to a decent death.
– The Government has no apologies to make for this legislation. Having listened intently to what the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Withers) said, I would sum up the situation this way. The present coalition of the Liberal Party and the Australian Country Party could not agree in 1962 on a redistribution and the situation had become something like a massive boil by 1968-69 when something had to be done. The plain fact of the matter is that the criteria which the Opposition set and which this Bill proposes to exclude, were completely prostituted at the 1969 redistribution. I know that Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson and others who know the western suburbs of Sydney were concerned about the situation and one of the things they cried out about then, and it was also in the back of Senator Withers’ mind when speaking of the community of interest, was the way the system was distorted. One of the key marginal seats in New South Wales at that time was Evans. The Opposition talks about community of interest, but the remarkable thing is that at that time it sliced off a major section of the municipality of Drummoyne and placed it in Lowe because it wanted to protect the member involved. This sort of gerrymander, and there is no other name one can give it, has gone on continually with electoral juggling. Consider the electorate of Robertson and follow its voting trends from 1951 through to the 1960s. A remarkable piece of surgery was performed on the perimeter of that electorate and on no occasion did the then Government consider community of interest. In outer surburban Sydney and even in minor rural areas these alterations were made skilfully to protect sitting members.
When Senator Murphy introduced this legislation he pointed out that exact equality in the number of electors in each division could not be achieved. Of course, it cannot. What the Government is attempting to do is introduce a little reasonableness by reducing the permissible tolerance in electoral quotas from 20 per cent to 10 per cent. What does this mean in practical politics? In the last election we had a situation in the 2 electorates of Chifley and Gwydir where Chifley had approximately 65,000 people and Gwydir had approximately 46,000 people recording votes. If we take that difference of 20,000 and apply it throughout other divisions of the Commonwealth it is undeniable that the surplus of votes can be skilfully juggled to maintain the number of what are now Opposition strongholds. I refer honourable senators to a very effective, publication entitled ‘Current Affairs Bulletin’, volume 43 No. 10 of 7th April 1969 which deals with the Australian electoral system. The previous government tried to create corridors in electorates. We have usually accepted rivers as natural boundaries.
Harking back to metropolitan Sydney, if the previous Government wanted the electorate of the former Prime Minister, Mr McMahon, to straddle the Parramatta River, in order to maintain some community of interest all it had to do to maintain this mythical quota was let the electorate straddle the Parramatta River and cover areas of the Benelong electorate, including Gladesville which had some semblance of a swinging vote. Instead it went into the Denistone district. This was obviously to develop a wedge. I throw these illustrations into the ring so that we can get away from the saintly qualities that the previous Government claimed to have. All the Government is asking is that there be a tolerance of 10 per cent. I do not care about Senator Withers’ statements regarding the Government’s perpetuation in office. The plain fact of the matter is that with a 10 per cent tolerance governments have to deliver the goods. Even if <ve were not the Government but were in opposition, one of the things that would disturb us would be the exodus of people to certain big areas of employment. The last time there was a redistribution the country division of Lawson was submerged. I venture to suggest that, even if we did not happen to be in government, at the next redistribution the Country Party would lose another seat. It is not a question of sneering on our part; it is an acceptance by us of the need for voting parity. A 10 per cent tolerance is all that is needed. A 20 per cent tolerance is unheard of.
Senator Withers spoke about a recent decision in the State of Virginia. I think, speaking certainly as a layman, that a layman could understand the implications in the ruling in the Baker v. Carr case in Tennessee. There have been other cases. There was the Wesberry case in the United States Supreme Court. Magazines as conservative as ‘Time’ and ‘Newsweek’ can accept these changes in electorates without thinking that the revolution is on. On 7th December 1972 the ‘Toronto Globe’ talked about changes in Quebec. On 27th December it carried the headline: Southern Ontario to get five more federal seats, North will give up two’. That was a statement of fact and whether it was Trudeau in office or a Conservative counterpart like Stanfield, it did not mean that the red flag would go up at Parliament House in Ottawa. It was evident from going among the young voters at the last election that people were sick and tired of the little dodges that were used previously to justify the changes to electoral boundaries that were being talked about. I thought that my colleague Senator James McClelland in a very effective interjection put these new arrangements in a nutshell. If we have recurring redistribution with a settled 10 per cent tolerance we will not have these bank-ups and squalid deals which have been made repeatedly. At the moment it may be that we have a loose alliance between the Australian Country Party and the Liberal Party against a common foe. But on other occasions when the Country Party thinks that it can do an astute deal it does so. Why be so dishonest about that? If the Country Party is able to make a deal with the Labor Party or some other party to the detriment of the Liberal Party in relation to the trading of preferences in Victoria, it will do so. I know there is a seat in Western Australia where the Labor Party preferences alternate between the Country Party and the Liberal Party. Honourable senators opposite do not hold up their hands in horror and say: ‘We do not want Labor Party preferences’. They attempt to make all sorts of deals about this.
As a former Party official I know that there have been occasions in the past when sitting Liberal Party members, with all their talk about hatred of socialism, have thrown out feelers to sitting Labor Party men in the Eastern Suburbs of Sydney. They have said: Look, that subdivision is no good to you,’ and that sort of thing. We have all these squalid deals. I assure the Senate that this Government is bringing ethics into redistribution. There will be no more of those squalid situations which have occurred in the past. We are going to forge an electoral system so that Australians who go overseas will not have to hang their heads in shame, as they have been doing for years. Perhaps I could best decribe the situation in Country Party parlance. When the Country Party finds that the river is in flood it tries to provide some protection, by building its home higher up on the hill. The whole principle of rural electoral bias was to offset any swing against the nonlabor Commonwealth Government. This is a complete negation of democracy.
Senator Withers complained that we are dealing with only one facet of the electoral system. I ask honourable senators to imagine what a chamber of confusion this would be if we were dealing with other matters. I am looking at Senator McManus and no doubt on a later occasion we will hear talk about the ethics of the Australian Democratic Labor Party in having candidates whose names start with A and that kind of thing. The honourable senator will put a case to justify this. But the Labor Party is not interested in these squalid deals. We are above that sort of thing. I am trying to point out the confusion there would be if we were debating with the DLP the advantage of running candidates whose names began with ‘A or whether we should vote for half the Senate plus one senator. Senator Withers would be one of the first to squeal about that. I have heard honourable senators Opposite complain that the amendments which we have put up are too sweeping. I am talking in terms of last year and previous years. They have said: ‘Let’s be specific’ That is just what we are doing today. We are dealing with this matter step by step. We are also injecting into the electoral system the wider franchise of 18-year-olds, no matter what Senator Greenwood and other former Government members may say. The honourable member for Kooyong (Mr Peacock) and possibly the former Minister for Customs and Excise, Mr Chipp, have some broadness of vision but when I look beyond those 2 honourable members, everyone else opposite says: ‘It is not time.’ The theme of honourable senators opposite always has been that it is not time for electoral reform. I can remember Senator Little on occasions conceding to me that changes had to be made. I have never heard many honourable senators of the official Opposition concede that there was any need for change. Then, Senator Withers had the effrontery to mention ‘Metooism’. He said: ‘We support the 18-year-old franchise’.
– Like hell they did.
– Exactly. I agree with Senator McLaren who, in his usual apt fashion, interjects and makes the point for me. He can see through the hypocrisy of honourable senators opposite and so can I. Senator Withers talked about picking up the challenge. I know that if one reads all the worthwhile articles on redistribution one finds that there is no question in the world but that this was long overdue. There was no other way. Of course, this is only the first instalment. A case can be argued that the names of the parties should be designated on the ballot paper. So many innovations can be conceded. But at least I assure the Senate that once we embark on a policy it will not be like the policy of stealth which was undertaken in 1962 when the present Opposition chickened out. Honourable senators opposite talk about meeting people halfway. I remember the Cabinet submissions of 1962 when the then Government talked big. But when the Country Party would not be in the arrangement the Liberal Party, buried it for another 6 years. I repeat that the whole matter has been more or less summarised by Senator James McClelland. We want frequent redistributions otherwise the situation could be absurd. For instance, in an area where a mining venture ends, or something like that honourable senators opposite would maintain a privileged position.
After all, if there is a constant changing of boundaries the members are kept fit and on their toes. They have to be aware of changing circumstances. When the electorate of Lawson was abolished it amazed me to meet people in that area who talked about the thin end of the wedge of socialism. It was the party to which honourable senators opposite belong which abolished the electorate. Under present circumstances there will be a new electorate in Western Australia. These things were going to come about and it amazes me to hear prophets of doom state what is going to happen. It is true that the Labor Party won a lot of seats in urban Victoria and New South Wales. But will anybody deny that the nonGovernment parties suffered a terrible blow when the honourable member for Riverina (Mr Grassby) proved with his dynamic approach that he could survive or when Mr Whan won Eden-Monaro, although everybody had been told before the election that Eden-Monaro was like a ripe apple to be picked from the tree? With a candidate like Mr Whan members of the Opposition were thrown on their backsides. It was as simple as that. That was the situation, Senator McLaren, my colleague who knows rural matters better than I do, said to me: ‘They are in a for a hell of a shock’. Mr Deputy President. I hope that you will excuse the expression. They were. We proved that we could win rural seats as well as we could win seats in the outer areas of the cities.
The Labor Party is not in a position to determine where all industries should go. People change. We can look at the history of New South Wales and go back to the days of W. A. Holman and other people of that era. We can look at electorates like Mudgee in which there were gold fields. Of course they change. The concept of the Opposition is that if industries change there will be an inbuilt restrictive franchise. Honourable senators opposite cannot answer the situation. If we are honest with ourselves and look at the policies which have been forged by young Liberal associations and young Labor associations - to be frank about it there is a lot in their policies - we will admit that some things will happen automatically and others will not. But what has worried honourable senators opposite is that every time they thought they should worry about what the young socialists were saying they found that there were cuckoos in the nest as far as the young Liberals were concerned. So the Liberal Party did not use that theme any more. That is the reason why, with the Labor Party, it is a case of put up or shut up.
Today when the Acting Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Willesee) indicated the order of business we were determined to make this an issue in the future of the Government. We felt that there were no apologies to be made. When we look at the situation in Canada at various times we find that mining ventures have ended and many things have changed. Yet today honourable senators opposite have the effrontery to say that this Bill represents some kind of plot. When they continue with this line of talk I point out to them that most of us have been involved as scrutineers with our brothers from the House of Representatives. We know Commonwealth electoral officers. There is no question but that they are men of honour. But I tell the Senate that no Labor Premier has ever done what the Premier of New South Wales did on the occasion of the previous redistribution. He claimed that certain officers were unavailable to serve in certain capacities. I shall not discuss the Queensland situation. I shall leave that to honourable senators from Queensland who are more conversant with it. But it is a shocking situation when an inference is drawn against the Commonwealth Electoral Officer, the SurveyorGeneral or whoever is appointed that if we lay down guidelines and reduce the tolerance from 20 per cent to 10 per cent, it is as though something has occurred which will be catastrophic. I do not know whether it was in World War I or World War II- Senator Wheeldon will appreciate this - that it was said that the lights were going out and would not come on again for a few years.
This illustrates the muddled thinking of honourable senators opposite. We are dealing first with a clear-cut proposal. We could have come in here with a multitude of electoral reforms and, believe me, a number of them are needed. There is even one in relation to which Senator Gair has agreed with the Labor Party that it has merit.
There is no question that the Opposition is divided on this issue because there are some liberals - with a small T - who agree that the quota arrangements must be changed. That is the whole basis of the legislation presently under debate. As the months go by we will be dealing in depth with other pieces of legislation on electoral matters, but the objects of this legislation are crystal clear. We simply say that the allowance above or below the quota of voters for an electorate should be reduced from 20 per cent to 10 per cent. The Leader of my Party, Senator Murphy, pointed out that equality of political rights is inherent in a true democratic State and that those rights must be indisputably safeguarded. That is all we are doing - nothing more and nothing less.
There has been much talk about our mandate. Goodness knows that in the election campaign the then Leader of the Opposition, Mr Whitlam, Senator Murphy, members and senators generally were openly critical of the electoral boundaries. If our criticism was such, as is the implication, that people in rural areas feared us, why was it that we retained the seat of Eden Monaro? Why was it that we regained the semi-rural electorate of Macarthur? Why is it that Riverina remains a bastion of the Labor Party?
– We won Hume too.
– Exactly. That is a classic illustration of my point because I know that the representative in that area went around talking about what would happen in the event of a Labor victory and, of course, all the people in the area sensed that we would win. We have now introduced this legislation and we stand by it. I can assure honourable senators opposite of one thing about the 18-year-old voters, and that is that at times they may be just as critical of us as they were of the previous Government. They certainly do not like hypocrites, but we can go to any university campus and tell the students that we are reducing the electoral tolerance from 20 per cent to 10 per cent. We will not get hoots; we will get cheers. In view of the fact that Senator Withers so kindly reduced his speech instead of indulging, as I thought he was going to, in a filibuster, I will jettison my remaining notes to give this Bill a speedy passage.
Sitting suspended from 5.43 to 8 p.m.
– Mr President, the Commonwealth Electoral Bill (No. 2) 1973 proposes changes in the electoral laws which will have serious and drastic effects. The criteria which have existed since federation and which have been accepted by all governments in the interests of truly representative government are to be changed. There is no justification for the proposed change. The margin of variation in enrolments between electorates is to be reduced from 20 per cent to 10 per cent. Certain factors relating to disabilities of rural representation which the distribution commissioners are required to have in mind are to be struck out of the Electoral Act and the degree of imbalance in enrolments requiring redistribution is to be narrowed.
As the law stands there is no requirement for a general redistribution. The Government is entitled and indeed obliged to hold a redistribution in Western Australia but it is not obliged to hold a redistribution in any other
State. This is not good enough for the Labor Party. It has other ideas. It wants a general redistribution on a basis that would reduce the rural voice in this Parliament and maximise the power of the Labor vote in the cities. We shall be subjected in this debate to a welter of words about the so called principle of one vote one value. All sorts of nonsense will be talked about it but let me say now that there can never be a mathematical equality of voting numbers nor can there be equality of representation with one vote one value. The best that the Government can do is to lay down criteria which will help the distribution commissioners to take into account factors which cause inequalities of representation. In his second reading speech the Attorney-General (Senator Murphy) said:
The Australian Labor Party’s platform providing that in electorates ‘the number of people should be as nearly as practicable the same’ is not a new development.
If the Government holds to this principle, why is it not moving to do something about Tasmania? Why does the Government tolerate such a gross violation of the principle of one vote one value in that State that with a total population of 390,000 at 30th June 1971 it elects 10 senators, the same number as New South Wales elects with a population of 4.6 million? Tasmania elects 5 members of the House of Representatives while New South Wales elects 45. Tasmania has a quota of 43,902 electors per division while New South Wales has an average of 57,386 per division. I suggest to the Senate that the Labor Party machinery itself makes a mockery of that Party’s call for one vote one value. Its own Federal Executive - the all-powerful - is made up of 2 members from each State and one each from the Territories so that it has the same number representing the big partymember States as it has representing the small States.
One of the great objectives of the government, we are told, is the elimination from the Australian community of division and inequality. Sir, the proposals now before us will do nothing to achieve these objectives so far as political representation is concerned.
In this Bill, we are asked to approve changes in the Act which will further reduce the opportunity for country people to enjoy equality of representation in a real sense, and which will further increase the inequality of representation which already exists between city and country electorates. There are several points which should be established. The first is that except in Western Australia there is no need for a redistribution of boundaries under the present electoral law. The redistribution in Western Australia should in fact be the subject of Government interest rather than this Bill. But the objective of the Government is to change the present law so that a general redistribution will be justified.
The second point is that under the law as proposed redistribution of boundaries will become much more frequent - frequent to the point of absurdity. Senator James McClelland interjected that there should be at least one every 4 years, and Senator Mulvihill said in his contribution before the suspension of the sitting: ‘The more frequent the better’. If we were to carry this argument to its logical conclusion there would be a redistribution within the life of every parliament.
– That would be good for democracy.
– I have my views on that one. 1 believe this will lead to confusion, instability of electorates and a very serious lack of continuity of representation Senator Mulvihill said that the Labor Party wanted frequent redistributions.
– Commensurate with population changes.
– Think about it, Senator. It is interesting to note that in Britain an Act was passed to reduce the frequency of redistributions by increasing the period between redistributions to between 10 and 15 years. This was done because a routine redistribution of seats in 1954-55 which increased the House of Commons to 630 members had caused so much annoyance and difficulty.
The Country Party believes that the political voice of the rural people and the rural industries must be heard no matter through which party that voice is heard. The Country Party believes that people in industry where contribution to the national well-being is vital should not be deprived by their geographic isolation of the right to adequate and equal representation in this Parliament. The Country Party believes that it is wrong that political power should be concentrated in a few great cities swamping rural expression. The Country Party believes that people and industries whose contribution to the natural well-being is vital should not be deprived by their geographic isolation of the right to adequate and equal representation in this Parliament. The Country Party believes that it is wrong that political power should be concentrated in a few great cities, swamping rural expression. The Country Party believes that it is right that the political voice of the country areas should be protected from measures aimed deliberately at hastening its diminution. Members of the Country Party believe that good government for all the people comes from a reasonably balanced Parliament organised so that it can pay regard to the well-being of all the nation’s interests.
Almost everywhere that one cares to look in the English-speaking world one finds a recognition of the fact that the remote areas, the areas of sparse population, need not necessarily be made into gigantic electorates, or that there need not necessarily be absolute equality between the numbers of electors in all large areas and those in the compact areas. In Britain, the relevant Acts of 1944 and 1958 certainly state that electorates are to be as near as possible in size to the electoral quota. But they also state that this -rule can be modified where special geographical or other considerations, such as local ties, make it desirable. They then go further by making statutory provision for the deliberate overrepresentation of Scotland and Wales and the under-representation of Northern Ireland. In the last election in Britain, the Western Isles had an electoral enrolment of only 22.040 and the largest electoral district, Antrim South, had an enrolment of 113,645. This means that in that instance more than 5 times as many electors were required, in the largest electorate, to send one man to the House of Commons as were required to elect a representative of the smallest electorate. There were many other similar discrepancies.
The situation is similar in Canada. The latest available figures show that the member for the district of York-Scarborough represented 139,000 voters, while the member for Malpeque represented only 22,331 voters. In other words, more than 6 times as many voters were required in YorkScarborough as in Mapeque to send one man to Parliament. In the United States, on the Federal Congress and Senate levels, there are discrepancies between electorates to the extent where, in the Senate, one member represents more than 7 million voters while another represents only 80,000 voters. In the United States congress of 1968, one member for a Texas District represented 951,527 voters while another member for a district in Michigan represented only 177,431 voters.
In the last paragraph of the Minister’s second reading speech, he said: ‘Electoral laws should provide equality and not privilege’. Members of the Country Party agree with that statement. Equality of representation between city and country electors should always be an obligation on responsible democratic government. In a vast, sparsely populated country such as Australia it is the only fair means of ensuring equal voice for the needs of all voters. The principle of one vote one value is admirable, but in practice it can mean only under-representation for rural areas and centralisation of political control. If this Bill is passed the result is obvious. Country electorates will progressively fall behind the quota, boundaries will be widened and there will be fewer rural electorates and, consequently, fewer representatives to speak for country people in the nation’s Parliament. Those who argue that weight of population should automatically entitle capital cities to greater representation deliberately and very conveniently overlook the fact that at the present rate of population growth in the cities - a growth rate that is being actively encouraged by the Labor Party despite its talk about decentralisation - country people eventually would have a mere handful of Federal members, each representing impossibly large electorates.
The Labor Government, of course, is concerned not with balance of representation, although it claims to be, but with securing its recently won power. The present Bill is only a forerunner of the electoral changes this Government wants to bring down. Both the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) and the Minister for Services and Property (Mr Daly), ‘ who introduced this Bill in the other place, have been advocating the optional preferential system of voting under which people could vote for a single candidate or a number of candidates in order of preference. This is clearly a back door way to first past the post voting and it could be achieved without the approval of the electors. In addition to its broad national interests, the Country Party stands unashamedly for the protection and betterment of rural society, not just for the interests Mr Daly describes as cows, trees and bay- stacks - so much for his appreciation of country people - but also for the people who live and work in the country towns and cities. The needs and opinions of these people can be expressed in Parliament only through the voices of their chosen representatives, and this collective voice is only as strong as the numerical strength of their representatives in Canberra. For that reason, the Country Party strongly opposes this Bill and will vote against its passage at all stages of its consideration.
– Mr President, no doubt in the course of this debate we will hear many proposals and counter-proposals. Claims will come from the Opposition that the Government, in introducing this Bill, has acted unfairly and incorrectly. Before this debate is completed, no doubt some honourable senators will make personal charges against other honourable senators. But I believe that there is one underlying fact with respect to this legislation that we all must support. That is that our electoral system and the distribution of electoral boundaries must be fair and that the integrity of the distribution commissioners who will carry out the proposed redistribution must be beyond reproach.
It is true that this Bill seeks to make certain alterations to the existing situation. Firstly, it seeks to bring about an already long overdue redistribution in Western Australia. All honourable senators well, know that long before the election date a redistribution in Western Australia was necessary. Under the provisions of the Commonwealth Electoral Act a redistribution should have been carried out, but the previous Government - it has been proved to be a good judge - refrained from carrying out the redistribution because it sensed the political climate correctly. It knew that if a redistribution were carried out it would lose a seat and its majority would be reduced. As a result of the election there has been a change of government. We on the Government side are hoping that the Bill will get a speedy passage so that the necessary redistribution in Western Australia can be carried out. Senator Drake-Brockman said that a redistribution in other States is not necessary. The Government is following a long established practice of -carrying out a redistribution in all States after the holding of a census. The redistribution will remove the malapportionment between electoral divisions which members of the House of Representatives represent..
The Bill will reduce the permissible variation in the specified quota from one-fifth to one-tenth - in other words, it will reduce the variation from 20 per cent to 10 per cent. The Bill also seeks to make some necessary amendments to section 1 9 (2) which contains provisions which were included in the Act in 1.965 by the coalition parties as guidelines to the Distribution Commissioners for the drawing up of district boundaries. The Bill seeks to repeal those provisions which were regarded as obnoxious provisions and ones which were weighed heavily in favour of the Country Party. The provisions to which I refer are: The disabilities arising out of remoteness or distance, the density or sparsity of population of the division and the area of division. We propose to remove those provisions from the Act. We also seek to vary section 25 to provide that a redistribution may be permitted where one quarter of the divisions in a State differs from the quota by onetenth. At the moment the permissible variation is one-fifth. We are seeking to alter that to one-tenth. In a nutshell, they are the sections which are sought to be amended.
Listening to Senator Drake-Brockman I felt that the Bill would bring about the greatest upheaval and the greatest gerrymander in the political history of this country and that it would draw up boundaries which would keep the Australian Labor Party in office for 50 or 60 years. He said that the number of senators from Tasmania, with its small population, is the same as the number of senators from New South Wales and Victoria with their greater population. I could see the smirk on Senator Wright’s face when Senator DrakeBrockman said that, but the number of Senators from each state is not governed by electoral boundaries. That is governed by the Constitution. I do not know the exact section, but that is laid down by the founders of the Commonwealth. That is provided for in the constitution. I do not know why Senator Drake-Brockman should erroneously introduce that matter into a debate on electoral matters. We on this side of the chamber appreciate that equality in the number of electors in a division is impracticable and cannot be achieved. We know that there has to be an allowance for variation in movement in divisions. There has to be an allowable variation for trend in populations. But it is Important that at all times we should seek to bring this about. While we may not have equality of voting and complete equality of electors in a division, we should at all times safeguard the equality of political rights. That is a very important matter, lt is towards this end that the Government has introduced the Bill which seeks to make these necessary amendments.
The principle underlying the Bill is the philosophy of one vote one value. We will be endeavouring, as far as practicable, to maintain that the value of the vote of one citizen shall be the equivalent of the value of the vote of another. The existing law allows the Distribution Commissioners or the boundary commissioners to put a quota on each electorate and to allow it to vary by 20 per cent either way. One does not need to be a mathematical wizard or a student to know that under the present set-up one division can have 50 per cent more voters than another. If we take 50,000 electors as the norm, if there is a variation of 20 per cent, which the present Electoral Act permits, there may be 40,000 electors in that division. That is a variation of one-fifth. Another division could have 60,000 electors. There is a difference of 20,000 electors. That proves that one division can have 50 per cent more voters than another.
I deal now with Senator Drake-Brockman’s statement that this is the first time in the political history of this country that the amendments which are sought have been introduced in a Bill. If he had said that in 1965 when certain amendments to section 19 were sought by the Coalition Government, that would have been the first time in the history of Federation that that section has been amended or tinkered with because it was in 1965 that the then coalition Liberal-Country Party Government, which was dominated in electoral matters by the Country Party, introduced amendments to section 19 which were a distinct weighting in favour of the Country Party. In fact, section 19 was amended. I will deal with it in a moment. That was the first interference to section 19 since 1902. Although there had been 7 redistributions in the history of the country, there had not been attempt by a government of any political persuasion to interfere with section 19 which sets out the guidelines on which the boundary commissioners should base the quotas in various divisions. But the Country Party Government in 1965 introduced these glaring instances: The area of a division was to be taken into consideration. The density and sparsity of population were to be taken into consideration, as were the disabilities arising out of the remoteness or distance of a division. For the first time in the history of this country those provisions were inserted in the Act.
This amendment had been regarded by all political students as one of the most drastic and questionable pieces of legislation in regard to electoral reform. The tragedy about it is that it did not come about as a result of deliberations of the boundary commissioners. lt was preconceived in the Party room of the Country Party. Let us have no doubt about that. The real intention of the amendments to the Act in 1965 was made crystal clear at a Country Party dinner that was held at Murwillumbah, which is not very far from where I live, on 14th June 1965. It was addressed by the then Minister for the Interior and Deputy Leader of the Country Party, the right honourable member for Richmond (Mr Anthony), in which Murwillumbah nestles. Mr Anthony was very forthcoming at this dinner. He has been reliably reported in the Murwillumbah ‘Daily News’ of 15th June 1965. He made perfectly clear the intention of the Country Party in respect of the new redistribution. Not even Mr Anthony or anyone closely associated with him can challenge the accuracy of that newspaper report, because the paper was the family newspaper. It was owned by his family. It is not at present because when the newspaper companies in the northern rivers and Gold Coast regions introduced offset printing they banded together to form Northern Star Ltd, of which the family is a major shareholder. The accuracy of the report cannot be challenged because at the time to which I am referring the newspaper was the family newspaper. It might be interesting to see the text of his address. He felt that he could spread himself, that he could be forthcoming because he was among friends and that he was a long way from the seat of government. One could really tell the true intentions behind the thinking of the then Minister for the Interior and Minister responsible for drawing up the redistribution of boundaries.
In his address on the evening of 14th June 1965 Mr Anthony gave an assurance to the gathering. I can see the faces of the members of the gathering now. Mr Aubrey Budd, the patriach of the family, the champion of the Country Party in the area and a respected citizen, would be sitting up at the front and Mr Anthony would be dancing to the tune that Mr Budd wanted him to dance to. He received loud applause for what he said. He said: ‘I will make sure that fewer people will be required to elect representatives in country areas than in city areas’. He said that the Australian electoral system was the finest in the world but that it lacked territorial representation. He said that representation was based on population, not area, with the result that power in Parliament was confined to the heavily populated areas. Then he said that the task of electoral reform was probably one of his worst jobs as Minister for the Interior and one on which his political future hinged.
Does such a frank statement from a Minister - reliably reported in his own newspaper - need any further comment? I do not need to remind the Senate that territorial representation is the direct reverse of one vote one value. In regard to the complaint about the composition of power, one can only assume that Mr Anthony implied, in addressing his Country Party colleagues at Murwillumbah, that he was not happy, that there were too many Liberals in the Government and that there were too many Liberals in the Parliament because they represented the more heavily populated areas.
I felt that 1 had to refer to what happened at Murwillumbah to answer what Senator Drake-Brockman had said. He told this chamber that never before had such an Electoral Bill been introduced, or one that required so many amendments. That is the true story. I do not ask honourable senators to take my word for it; it was reliably reported in the Murwillumbah ‘Daily News’ of 15th June 1965, and it has never been repudiated by Mr Anthony. As I have said, it was the Liberal-Country Party coalition Government which proceeded with the gerrymander in 1965, despite the fact that the Parliament - I think in 1956 - had set up the Joint Committee on Constitutional Review with the express purpose of investigating electoral reform in this country. That Committee sat for 3 years and was composed of distinguished parliamentarians. At the end of 3 years, on 26th November 1959, the Committee tabled its report in the Parliament of Australia.
In short, the 2 pertinent conclusions which the Committee reached were that wherever possible the philosophy of one vote one value had to be followed and that the permissible variation from the established quota of electors should be one-tenth or 10 per cent, not 20 per cent. So the amendments contained in this Bill are not the brain-child only of the Australian Labor Party; they are the brainchild of the Joint Committee on Constitutional Review which tabled its unanimous report on these 2 questions on 26th November 1959.
Let us pause for a moment to consider who were the members of that Committee. They were Senator Neil O’Sullivan, Senator McKenna, Senator Kennelly, our own distinguished Senator Reginald Wright and Messrs Drummond, Downer, Joske, Whitlam, Ward, Pollard and Calwell. As 1 have said, they recommended that wherever possible the principle of one vote one value should apply and that the permissible variation in the quota should be one-tenth, which is what this socalled drastic piece of legislation which we have before us provides. As I have said, that was the unamimous recommendation of the Committee, which included Senator Wright. Also, 2 distinguished Country Party members of Parliament were members of this Committee with whose recommendations Senator Drake-Brockman does not agree.
Let us see to what polictical parties the members of the Committee belonged. It comprised 4 members of the Liberal Party, 2 members of the Country Party and 6 members of the Australian Labor Party. The 4 Liberal members on the Committee were lawyers; Senator Wright was one of them. The 2 Country Party members were not lawyers, but they were distinguished members of the Parliament. Of the remaining 6 Labor Party members, 2 were lawyers and the other 4 had given distinguished service and made worthwhile contributions to the Parliament because previously they had held Ministerial rank. The members of the Committee, which was an all-party committee, were signatories to the unanimous report on the 2 questions to which I have referred.
The report was not hastily prepared. It was brought down after 3 years’ consideration. So that honourable senators need not only take my word for this, and in order that it is recorded in Hansard for future research, I refer to page 47 of the report of the Committee, which was presented by command on 26th November 1959 over the signatures of these illustrious men. I am sure that Senator Wright will not repudiate his signature tonight. I refer to paragraphs 328, 329 and 330 of the report. Paragraph 328 states:
The Committee concluded that the absence of constitutional guarantees in the Commonwealth Constitution had not prevented the rule of law from characterising the Australian way of life. The Committee believes that as long as governments are democratically elected and there is full parliamentary responsibility to the electors, the protection of personal rights will, in practice, be secure in Australia. The Committee has not chosen, therefore, to recommend the writing into the Constitution of a charter of individual liberties.
This is what I want to underline:
Instead, the Committee considers it appropriate, at this stage of Federal history and having regard to recent and contemporary world events, to recommend a constitutional amendment to protect the position of the elector and the democratic processes essential to the proper functioning of the Federal Parliament.
Paragraph 329 reads:
Thus, the Committee concluded that it should recommend the inclusion in the Constitution of provisions ensuring the regular review of the electoral divisions of each State and also accord near uniformity to the value accorded to the votes of the electors for each of the States.
Paragraph 330 states:
One form of gerrymandering is the creation of electoral divisions in which there are substantial disparities in the number of enrolled voters so securing for a political party greater representation than it should have. In all its forms, the device is thoroughly subversive of the democratic process. In making possible minority governments, the majority can be deprived of the government of its choice and the way is opened for arbitrary action impairing the freedom of the individual even though that action stands condemned by the majority of people who comprise the electors of the Commonwealth.
What could be plainer than that? Every member of the Committee agreed with those aspects of the report, and I emphasise that Senator Wright agreed with them and made a worthwhile contribution to the Committee’s deliberations. I hope that the Senate does not forget that during the course of this debate. I have told honourable senators the names of the members of Parliament who comprised the Committee and I have also said that the Committee did not operate on a party political basis. There were 4 members of the Liberal Party, 2 members of the Country Party and 6 members of the Australian Labor Party.
– What makes you think that Senator Wright will not change his attitude on this?
– I think that Senator Wright will stand by his signature. Recently he said to me that if ever he is challenged he will stand up in his place and answer any challenge to his integrity or any suggestion that he has not acted in accordance with previous decisions he has made. I know that he will do the right thing when the vote is taken. He will not repudiate his signature; he will stand solidly behind the opinion he expressed so forcibly in this report in 1959. I deal with that matter at some length because I think it is important to show the Senate that Senator Wright was a party to that report. The parliamentary representatives of the Country Party also were signatories to that report about which there was a unanimous decision. So it surprises me as a new senator in this chamber to hear of the double standards on which honourable members opposite are operating. I have told the names of the people concerned, I have told of their recommendations and I have told the Senate that those deliberations extended over a 3- year period.
Let us examine where my own Party stands on this matter. The views of the Australian Labor Party on electoral reform have been publicised to everybody across the length and breadth of this country. They are available for everybody to see. We have never wavered in our view of what is required in the way of electoral reform. Our philosophy is well known. It has been affirmed and reaffirmed at conference after conference and has been printed in our platform for everybody to see. I have no doubt that whilst it may be claimed that probably we have no direct mandate to bring about drastic changes in electoral matters the people fully understand and appreciate the sort of electoral reform we will bring about and the reason for it. I believe that we have an indirect mandate to do this. Just as I wanted the record to be right about the Joint Committee on Constitutional Review, I would like for the benefit of future research to read into the Hansard report the Labor Party’s platform on electoral reform. The objective of our platform is clearly stated and is as follows:
That is the viewpoint of the Australian Labor Party. I have told the Senate about the report of the Joint Committee on Constitutional Review and I have told it about the Australian Labor Party point of view. If that is not proof positive for members of the Opposition, if they want further proof and if they want further evidence that the amendments that we are seeking are just and are long overdue, I refer them-
– I rise to take a point of order. Is it in order for there to be no Minister in charge of the Senate at the moment?
– A Minister is present.
– Where is he?
– Is not Senator Wriedt a Minister?
– Mr President, I apologise. I can only say that it is usual for the Minister in charge of the House to be in a position which indicates that he is in charge.
– This is a reform I hope to introduce by seeing that Ministers sit at the table when they are in charge of the Senate. I shall see that Senator Cavanagh comes to the table when he returns.
– I have referred to the decision of the Joint Committee on Constitutional Review and I have told the Senate of the Australian Labor Party philosophy on these matters. If honourable senators sitting on the Opposition benches need further convincing I would like to quote to them a decision of the High Court of Ireland. It might appeal to Senator McManus. Mr Justice Budd, in the case of O’Donovan v. the Attorney-General in February 1961, said:
A democratic State is one where government by the people prevails. In modern usage of the words I believe it to be correct to say a ‘democratic State’ denotes one in which all citizens have equal political rights. That equality is not maintained if the vote of a person in one part of the country has a greater effect in securing parliamentary representation than the vote of a person in another part of the country.
That is theopinion of a learned judge of the High Court of Ireland. If honourable senators opposite want further opinions I will give one by the United States Supreme Court which was brought down in March 1963. The majority opinion in the case of Gray v. Sanders stated:
The idea that every voter is equal to every other voter in his State when he casts his ballot in favour of one of several competing candidates underlies many of our decisions. But once the class of voters is chosen and their qualifications specified, we see no constitutional way, in which equality of voting may be evaded. The conception of political equality, from the Declaration of Independence to Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, to the fifteenth, seventeenth and nineteenth amendments, can mean only one thing - one person one vote.
Again in the United States Supreme Court, in delivering the opinion of the Court in the case of Reynolds v. Sims in June 1964, the Chief Justice said:
Wesberry clearly established that the fundamental principle of representative government in this country ls one of equal representation for equal numbers of people, without regard to race, sex, economic status or place of residence within a State. Legislators represent people, nol trees or acres.
I have referred to the Joint Committee on Constitutional Review, the philosophy of the Australian Labor Party, the expert and learned legal opinion of the High Court of Ireland and that of the Supreme Court of the United States of America.
– And to Senator Wright.
– And to Senator Wright, of course, a distinguished member of the Joint Committee on Constitutional Review. Now I want to come closer to home and refer to my own State of Queensland about which 1 have a very enlightening set of statistics. I refer the Senate to an examination of the results of the last Queensland general election held in 1972. At that election the Australian Labor Party polled 430.476 votes, which represents 48 per cent of the total votes polled, and it gained 33 seats. The Liberal Party polled 210,608 votes, or 22.2 per cent of the vote, and gained 21 seats. The Country Party polled 181,288 votes, representing 20 per cent of the votes, and gained 26 seats. Combining the anti-Labor vote -ve find thai those 2 parties received a combined percentage of 42.2 per cent of the vote and gained 47 seats. The Australian Labor Party received 48 per cent of the votes and gained 33 seats, lt took over 13,000 votes to elect a member of the Australian Labor Party but only 6,500 votes to elect a member of the Country Party. I do not think there is any need for me to go any further. Those figures are crystal clear and they need no explanation.
I believe that this Bill goes a long way towards achieving the principles that I have outlined. Summarising the matter, in this Bill we of the Australian Labor Party are seeking to bring about a long overdue redistribution in the great State of Western Australia. The Bill seeks also to reduce the margin of variation in a division from 20 per cent to 10 per cent. But the most important thing that the Bill seeks is to do away with the glaring references introduced into the legislature in 1965 for the first time since federation. I hope that the Senate will exercise; fair play and common sense and will reject those references on this occasion. The other thing that it provides is that a redistribution may be directed when in one-fourth of the divisions of a state the number of electors differs from the quota by one-tenth.
In a nutshell those are the things that this Electoral Bill seeks to amend. We want none, of this poppycock, piffle and nif alu tin legality referred to by previous speakers in this debate in an endeavour to raise emotions and frighten the electorate. These are simple measures. The Bill seeks a long overdue redistribution in Western Australia. It seeks to restore the Electoral Act to what it was prior to 1965. It had remained that way from 1902 to 1965 during which period there were 6 redistributions. In a nutshell those are the things that this Bill seeks to do and I believe that it goes a long way towards achieving the principles we seek. I speak of the principles that have been recommended to the Parliament by the Joint Committee on Constitutional Review. Also, they have been recommended to the Parliament indirectly by decisions of the High Court of Ireland and the, Supreme Court of the United States of America to which I made reference. What this Government is asking the Senate to do tonight is exactly the same as was recommended by the Joint Committee on Constitutional Review in 1959. In conclusion, I remind honourable senators of how often we have heard from Opposition senators - Senator Carrick’s voice is still ringing in my ears - the immortal words of Abraham Lincoln, who said:
Government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.
A vote against this Bill certainly is a big step towards the destruction of that principle. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
– I have been deeply moved by the expressions that I have heard from honourable senators opposite in favour of electoral justice. I have been in politics for 45 years. I have always understood, and it has been made very clear to me, that when a question of electoral reform arises the attitude of all parties has been not ‘Is it electoral justice?’ but ‘Who will win?’ I am not impressed one bit by al] the hypocrisy about this Bill being electoral justice. It is being supported by one side of the
Senate and opposed by the other side because each side is motivated by who it thinks will win under it.
This question of electoral reform was an issue at the last Federal election. The Australian Democratic Labor Party, in its advertisements, said that the object of the Australian Labor Party was to bring about i: sys-tern under which it would be entrenched in office for years to come. There is nothing wrong in that. Any political party tries to bring about a system under which it will be kept in office. But what 1 objected to was the attitude of the Australian Press which, mealymouthed sycophancy, did not attempt to contest the issue of whether the ALP “would try to fiddle with the electoral system to keep it in office. All the Australian Press said was that it would be unthinkable that an organisation with such notable principles as those of the Australian Labor Party would do that kind of thing.
Of course, the fact of the matter is that the ALP is like any other political party in that if it can fix things to stay in office it will do so.The DLP made clear to the public during the Federal election campaign what would happen. On behalf of the Party, Senator Gair made a statement that the object of the ALP would be to perpetuate itself in office and to transfer overwhelming power to the major cities at the expense of rural -and less populated areas, ls there any member of the Labor Party who will deny that that is the object of the Party? The silence is deafening.
Senator Gair pointed out that the DLP knew that the ALP would seek the passage of legislation to give the vote to 18-year-olds not because it had any particular feeling for youth but because it believed that that would help it to obtain at least 2 to 3 per cent improvement in voting at future elections. He then pointed out that the ALP would propose a reduction of the loading in favour of rural electorates from 20 per cent to 10 per cent for the purpose of increasing the benefit of the vote from the big cities. He pointed out that the ALP would redraw the boundaries of the parliamentary seats and make no secret of the fact that it would seek to do that to its own benefit. Finally, Senator Gair pointed out that the ALP had promised to alter the preferential system of voting to an optional preferential system of voting, which is close to its cherished aim of. the first past the post system of voting, and that that would help to wipe out the Australian Country Party and the
Australian Democratic Labor Party. Will any member of the Australian Labor Party deny that proposition or that that is what that Party, in its dreams, wants to happen? Bluntly, that is the situation.
The ALP, in what it has put forward, is not motivated by any ideas of electoral justice or fair play. All its members say is: ‘All these things will keep us in government. They are all in our favour. We are 100 per cent for them’. I do not say that in doing that the ALP is doing anything different from what other political parties have done when they have been in office. In this country there is no such thing as devotion to electoral justice. There is nobody with any desire to achieve electoral justice. All that the parliamentarians want to do today is to bring in a system under which they will win. I notice that when I say that the uproar which would be expected if I were saying something wrong is not to be heard. There is deafening silence from the members of the ALP, who say to themselves: ‘We have to admit that ne is right’.
This Bill sets out to alter the percentage basis of difference between electorates from 20 per cent to 10 per cent. Nobody is worried about whether the difference may be 10 per cent or 20 per cent. The honourable member for Grayndler in another place, the Honourable Fred Daly, would freely admit, in those moments when he is honest, that he can achieve all the gerrymandering that he wants under the present system and that the 20 per cent or 10 per cent difference is so much guff. It is so much guff because, whether or not this Bill is passed, if the honourable member directs his talents to fixing the electorates he will be able to fix them without any trouble under the existing legislation. So, the talk about the difference of 20 per cent or 10 per cent is so much tommy rot and nonsense. He and I have been in the game long enough that we do not have to bull to each other. We know that the position is that all the talk about this Bill is so much nonsense. He knows that he can get what he wants under the existing legislation if he likes to pull the strings the right way.
Roughly, what happened was this: Last year the Australian Labor Party held a conference in Launceston. I know all about these conferences because I was a delegate to them on a number on occasions. On one occasion I was delegate when Mr Daly was there as an observer. Out of deference to his feelings,I will not mention what he was doing there. I will say only this: At that conference in Launceston a sub-committee was appointed for the purpose of determining an electoral system which would fix the existing electoral system so as to keep the ALP in office for years to come. I have friends in the ALP from the old days. I have chatted with them and they have said: ‘The committee has met and has made a decision. The decision is that optional preferential voting will be introduced at the first available moment’.I was foolish enough, wise enough or rash enough to mention this before the last Federal election. I said of this Press talk to the effect that it was unthinkable that the Australian Labor Party would try to fiddle the electoral system that it was so much nonsense, that the ALP had already agreed to fiddle the electoral system. The fact was that before the election, although Mr Whitlam kept it dark and everybody was sworn to secrecy, I was not sworn to secrecy and was told by people in the know that the Committee had decided to recommend optional preferential voting because it was nearly as good as first past the post but did not sound so bad to the public.
– I am sorry I told you now.
– Senator Cavanagh did not have to tell me. Senator Cavanagh is probably so straight forward that he would not mind telling me, but I know any number of fellows in the Labor Party who say to me: I am still a friend of yours.I think you were right but I was not game to go over with you. If you want to know anything that happens just ask me andI will tell you’. So they told me. They said that the Committee had met and had fixed it and that it would be optional preferential. Everybody was sworn to secrecy not to let the Democratic Labor Party know. Unfortunately the Democratic Labor Party knew beforethe election that it was all fixed and that at the first available moment the new Government would bring in optional preferential voting. This Bill is just window dressing. What Government supporters have in mind is to bring in optional preferential voting at the first available moment and, as they say, they will be in government then for 40 years. I know that some honourable senators are crying out, but one does not notice the honourable member for Grayndler objecting He andI have been in the game so long that, as I said before, we do not bull to each other.
Before the election I made a big Press statement that was featured in all the Australian Press. I said then that if the Australian Labor Party was elected to government it would fiddle the electoral system and would do it by bringing in optional preferential voting. The reaction was remarkable. I made the statement one morning and that afternoon Mr Whitlam made the statement that, of course, he would not do that kind of thing. He made a promise. He said: ‘I would never do that sort of thing’. The fact is, as everybody knows - I have been to the Australian Labor Party Federal Conference and know - whatever Mr Whitlam says is a personal promise. It is only a promise from him. But if Labor has the numbers in the Senate, the Federal Conference could say: ‘All right, you made a promise, but unfortunately you are only an individual’. If the Conference tells its members that they have the numbers to bring in the optional preferential system to keep the Party in office, the members will do as they are told. Mr Whitlam made a personal promise, but if the Conference tells him to break the promise he will do as he is told, the same as every honourable senator on that side of the House will do as he is told because, under the present system, when the Federal Conference coughs everybody in the Australian Labor Party sneezes. That is the situation today.
AsI was saying when I was interrupted by the applause from the Australian Labor Party, there is talk that there might be a gerrymander under this Bill. I would say, having been 45 years in politics, that it is a remarkable coincidence how often the reports which are brought in by electoral commissions coincide with the views of the government in power. It is a remarkable coincidence. Of course, there may be reasons for it. We heard tonight of the famous redistribution in 1949 which was masterminded - I will not mention the names of the people concerned - by Pat and Arthur. I would not mention their names, but in that particular redistribution we on the Victorian Australian Labor Party Executive were told that it would keep Labor in office for 40 years. However, there was only one thing wrong. All the prima donnas who had won by a majority of 20,000 votes in a House of 75 seats said that they had to win by 20,000 votes in a House of 120 seats. In my State of Victoria immense Labor majorities were locked up in electorates like Scullin where they did no good for the Labor Party. The result of the electoral redistribution in 1949 which was masterminded to ensure that Labor was in office for 40 years has been that the Australian Labor Party has never been able to get even half the seats. The fact is that if the Labor Party, in any redistribution it wishes to make, leaves it to the Commonwealth Electoral Office, which is designed to be impartial, it would probably get a reasonably sensible redistribution. But if it allows the politicians to interfere as they have in redistributions over the years, the Labor Party will get something similar to what happened in 1949 when its scheme blew up in its face.
I was on the Australian Labor Party Executive in 1949 when there was an argument over whether the Australian Labor Party could tell the officers concerned who were strictly impartial and could not be interfered with. The argument on the Executive was whether to tell these officers to transfer 6,000 votes over the river from Richmond to Fawkner so that Bill Bourke would win. I remember one of the masterminds saying: Look, we have already fixed it. You cannot make it too rough’. I remember one Minister in the Chifley Government then saying: ‘Of course, you can. I have already seen to it that my seat is safe’. He lost his seat at the next election. He tried 3 times but could never win his seat back after that. 1 can only say with the kindliest of spirits to the Labor Party: Do not let the prima donnas say what the redistribution is to be. Do not interfere with it because it will blow up in your face as it did in 1949. We are told that we have to vote for this Bill because it represents one vote one value, as though there were some mysterious value in the one vote one value system.
The other day I was reading a statement by a South Australian, politician - this will appeal to the Minister for Works (Senator Cavanagh) in which he pointed out that in the recent election in that State the Labor Party received SI per cent of the votes and won 57 per cent of the seats. It was not one vote one value there. It could not have been. No matter how one tries to line the seats up one will never get one vote one value. The doctrine of one vote one value interests me. Let honourable senators opposite, all those leading personalities of the trade union movement, tell me where there is a one vote one value voting system adopted in respect of a trades hall council. Mr Deputy President, you will notice that the silence is deafening. Let them tell me of one Australian Council of Trade Unions conference where there is one vote one value. Again the silence is deafening. On the Federal Executive of the Australian Labor Party there are 2 delegates from each State, but there is not one vote one value. They do not believe in it. At the Federal Conference of the Australian Labor Party there are 6 delegates from each State but there is not one vote one value. When I was defeated in 1961 I received 200,000 votes. In Tasmania 10 senators received 180,000 votes.
– That is in the Constitution.
– Our friend says it is in the Constitution, but does not the Government believe in justice? Does it not believe in one vote one value? It does not. When it comes to the point our friends here believe in one vote one value but in their own Party there is hardly one organisation which stands on one vote one value. In this Senate 10 honourable senators represent 180,000 Tasmanians. In 1961 I received 200,000 votes and I did not win a seat. When I referred to this fact Senator O’ Byrne said: ‘That is quite right. I thoroughly agree with it.’ Senator O’Byrne nods his head, so he does not believe in one vote one value. He believes in the system under which 10 honourable senators can each receive 18,000 votes but a man who stands for Parliament and receives 200,000 votes does not obtain a seat. Senator O’Byrne says that he agrees with that and the Australian Labor Party fully supports it. Why all the guff about one vote one value when the Labor Party has a different system for ils Federal Conference? Do honourable senators know why the split in the Labor Party occurred? Let me tell them. When the vote was taken the States-
– Mr Deputy President, I cannot hear.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Cant) - Order! The Senate will come to order.
– Thank you, Mr Deputy President. I sincerely say that you have been very fair and I am glad to see you adopt that stand. As we know, when the split occurred in the Labor Party Victoria, New South Wales and one delegate from Queensland represented three-quarters of the Labor membership in this country. Because Mr Kim Beazley was out of the country it was arranged for Mr Webb to take his place. Even when Mr Beazley came back, unconstitutionally and illegally the vote was given to Webb although Beazley was in the country and entitled to vote. Those delegates were able to take the action which caused the split in the Labor Party. On that occasion the split was caused by the votes of one-quarter of the Labor membership of this country which determined on the split in opposition to the votes of three-quarters of the Labor membership. When people talk to me about one vote one value I always remember the statement of the late Sir Arthur Fadden who said: Where you people have got them is this: You know where the bodies are buried.’
Reference was made to the fact that the DLP to obtain votes was supposed to select people whose names began with the first letters of the alphabet. I point out that the first institution which triggered off this kind of thing was the decision of the Australian Labor Party to pick 4 Senate candidates named Amour, Armstrong, Ashley and Arnold. Let us look at the matter this way: I can remember when the late Percy Clarey died. He was a great Labor man. When the Labor Party had to pick a candidate they took one whose name started with ‘B’. He was a good candidate in his own right. I looked at the list of candidates for the Federal election on 2nd December. The Australian Labor Party had more candidates in the top bracket of the alphabet who received the donkey vote than did the Democratic Labor Party. This indicates that the Labor Party talks about other people but it is prepared to do the same job when it suits it. 1 come to the question of electoral justice. What is the system which would really give us electoral justice in this country? I have always said-
– Do not tell us about proportional voting.
- Senator McAuliffe said: ‘Do not tell us about proportional representation’. He does not want electoral justice. He is honest. He wants a system under which he will win. Is that right? The honourable senator will not answer. In relation to this matter of electoral justice, I am strongly on the side of 2 Ministers in the present Labor Government. I agree with them entirely. I think that they are on the right tram and I honour them because they realise that what is being put in this Bill is not electoral justice and they want electoral justice. First of all I shall read from a speech by the Minister for Labour (Mr Clyde Cameron). Mr Cameron gave this address at the official opening of the new headquarters of the Henry George League, 31 Hardware Street, Melbourne, on 25th September 1972. That was not long ago. He is no lightweight, is he? He is up with it.
– Is he right, though?
– Senator Gietzelt asks: ‘Is he right’? I advise the honourable senator not to question whether Mr Cameron is right. He will fix the honourable senator. I think that Mr Cameron has a lot of common sense and that he believes in electoral justice. Mr Acting Deputy President, could I implore your help again?
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Cant) - No, not while you are being provocative.
– Mr Cameron stated:
Proportional Representation … is coming. We were able to get Proportional Representation as a system injected into the 2 most important branches of the Labor Party, N.S.W. and Victoria. My own personal hope is that the day will come when not only will the Senate be elected by Proportional Representation but when the House of Representatives will also.
– Hear, hear!
– Hear, hear! I agree. 1 think the Minister is putting a very strong point of view. Mr Clyde Cameron went on - I would expect silence because this is one of the men who run the show in another place. I think honourable senators should be more deferential to his point of view. He went on:
Our President in Queensland, Mr Eggerton. has just returned from Scandinavia, where they have P.R. They wouldn’t have it any other way; neither would the Labor Party in Tasmania. The Prime Minister of Sweden told me in April . . . that the Swedish Social Democrats could not have held Government continually for 40 years without a break, but for the fact that they had a fair and honest system of election. And there is great temptation for a party in office to have dishonest systems of elections -
Now he is having a shot at the Labor Party - while they are there, forgetting that the time will come when the dishonest systems that were designed to keep them in office will work against them and put them out of office in a way that is dishonest too -
I hope honourable senators will remember Clyde Cameron’s warning -
When P. R. ls adopted for the House of Representatives 1 believe the truths preached by Henry George so many years ago will begin to become something which public men will not be able to resist.
Those words were spoken by a Minister of the Crown who is No. 3 or No. 4 in the hierarchy. He says that there is no electoral justice in the single electorate system and that the DLP policy of proportional representation is the only system which gives electoral justice. A couple of years ago the Victorian ALP appointed a committee to find out what system would give electoral justice. The committee comprised Dr K. Grigg, convenor; Mr W. Butler, prominent trade unionist; Sam Merrifield, member of the Legislative Council; Mr J. P. Brebner, secretary of the Paper Mill Employees Union; Senator Sam Cohen, Councillor R. Fell, Mr J. M. Tripovich, and I understand that Gordon Bryant was associated with the committee also. I have here the committee’s report which says that electoral justice cannot be achieved under a singlemember electoral system. The committee sent this report to the Victorian ALP Conference. The committee came to this conclusion:
Only the quota-preferential method comes anywhere near satisfying the criterion of justice to all electors, whereunder their right can be realised to cast a useful vote that takes part in the election of a Parliament. The committee draws attention to Table 1 which demonstrates glaringly the number of electorates in Victoria under which all Labor voters are disfranchised . . . under single-member systems.
This report says that there is no electoral justice with a single-member system and it says that in the committee’s belief electoral justice can be achieved only under a proportional representation system, and that view agrees with the views expressed by Mr Clyde Cameron. (Government senators interjecting)-
– This situation is very interesting. I know that senators on this side of the chamber will not be against knowing what is in the report because they would be interested in finding out the committee’s conclusions as to the best electoral system. As this is a report by an ALP committee on what is the best system to suit the whole community and the ALP, I ask for leave for it to be incorporated in Hansard.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Cant) - Is leave granted?
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT-^
Leave is not granted.
– We have an extraordinary situation here. This is a report by half a dozen leading members of the Australian Labor Party, and these half dozen members of the Australian Labor Party have made this report to a Victorian ALP conference. Every senator on the other side, except one, has no objection to it being incorporated in Hansard but Senator Mulvihill objects. Does this mean that Senator Mulvihill is against electoral justice?
– Read it out. You made me read documents. You read it out.
– Senator Mulvihill is against electoral justice. He knows that if I did read out this voluminous report I would not be able to put the other powerful arguments which possibly could convert all the members of his Party. I ask again whether leave has been refused. I ask Senator Mulvihill whether he refuses leave.
– You should have shown it to us first.
– I ask for leave to incorporate the report.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT -
asked for leave to incorporate a document in Hansard. I asked the Senate whether that leave was granted. Two voices on the Government side of the chamber said: ‘No’. The honourable senator was not granted leave.
– Read it out.
– Honourable senators on the other side know that if I read it all out the powerful argument which almost certainly would convert them to my way of thinking could not be adduced. So I will read out some of the more important paragraphs and then I will ask for permission to table the document at the end of my speech. 1 have already read the conclusions reached by the committee. Some of the other principal points made by the committee are as follows:
The Committee is of the opinion that the system most suitable to the electoral needs of Victoria is the quota-preferential method based upon multi-member electorates, and draws attention to its satisfactory operation in Tasmania since 1909. Since the adoption of the 7-member electorate, there has been stable government with a 2-party system, with 90 per cent of the voters receiving direct satisfaction at the polls, having a wide choice of candidates as they do, on the multi-tickets of the major parties.
In its summary the committee, which was a Labour committee consisting entirely of top men in the Labor Party, such as Jack Tripovich and the late Sam Cohen, stated: . . The Committee has examined the various main voting systems in current use, and has carried out an exhaustive analysis of the statistics . . . The Committee has reached the conclusion that single-member electoral methods are quite unsatisfactory in arriving at a result in which there. is any guarantee of correlation between the number of seats won by Parties and the wishes of electors .’ . . Under both single-member systems a great number of citizens are virtually disfranchised. In a democracy such a result is unacceptable.
This is the system supported by the Government and it is a system which an ALP committee says is unacceptable in a democracy. The committee further stated:
A more satisfactory method for public elections-
Here is the king hit - . . would be to embody preferential voting on ballot papers with the counting of quotas by returning officers . . .
What more can I say? There was a fairminded committee which had a look at this situation and it said: ‘If you want electoral justice wipe out the single-member electoral system and bring in the quota-preferential system*. Under those circumstances, all the talk about electoral justice is guff. Labor Party members have examined the situation and the only conclusion they came to is that the system proposed by the Labor Government is unjust electorally. What has been the experience of the Australian Democratic Labor Party? On occasions we have polled one-sixth of the votes in Victoria, but in a Parliament of 100 members we do not get one seat. Obviously a Party which polls one-sixth of the votes ought to get some representation. But the Australian Labor Party is violently opposed to any representation in the Victorian Parliament for a party for which one in every six Victorian electors have voted.
– Why do you not blame the Liberal-Country Party Government in Victoria?
– It is no good blaming the Liberals. If the Government was on our side we could get that representation. If I put up to the Government tomorrow a system of quota preferential which, according to the ALP’s own committee, would be better for the ALP as well as for us, the Government would vote against it because even if it was of benefit to the Government, the Government could not stand it doing any good for the DLP. In other words, the Government is not interested in electoral justice and it is not interested in electoral fairplay; all it is interested in is a system which will prevent people it does not like from getting any representation. So honourable senators opposite should not cry all over the floor about parliamentary electoral systems which will bring justice because they do not believe in it. All they believe in is a system which will benefit the Government but will not benefit anybody else.
– How many of those one in six were donkey votes?
– If it was a donkey vote the honourable senator would be amongst them for sure.
– No, he would be in the chicken vote.
– What about the end result of such a system in the Parliament, senator?
– Before Senator Georges interrupted me I was about to say that I have received-
– Why do you not answer my interjection?
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT -
Senator Georges, I call for order and I ask you to respect the chair.
– In response to your remark, Mr Acting Deputy President, the honourable senator who is on his feet has been provocative all evening. He has not been directing his remarks to you, he has been directing them to honourable senators on this side of the chamber. He has invited the interjection and he has got the interjection.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT-
Senator Georges, I have called the Senate to order on several occasions. Senator McManus did ask for my protection at one time and I refused to give it to him because he was provocative, but I now ask you to come to order.
– I conclude by referring to a document which I have received from 2 mathematics masters at the Carey Baptist Grammar School who have conducted an investigation into this whole question of electoral systems. What they found is very interesting. To test the fairness of each electoral method, the number of wasted votes was calculated. A wasted vote is one which would not have changed the outcome had it not been cast. It was found that under the preferential system 50 per cent of votes were wasted. With first past the post more than 60 per cent of votes were wasted: They did not help to elect a candidate. As a comparison, the 77 electorates were arranged in11 groups, following natural boundaries. Seven members were elected from each group under the quota-preferential system. It was found that the wastage of votes dropped from 50 per cent or 60 per cent to 12.5 per cent. The mathematics masters who have examined this go on to say:
From the parties’ point of view, the PR method gave results in fair agreement with the votes cast. It was the only system which gave representation to the Democratic Labor Party. From the voters’ point of view, single member electorates virtually disfranchise inner city Liberal voters and country Labor voters. Under PR every Liberal, Labor or Country Party voter helped to elect at least one member. We concluded that no system based on single member electorates was satisfactory, and that PR based on multi-member electorates would give a better deal for all voters.
I say in conclusion that since the matter of electoral justice has been raised by the Government - it says this is a vote on electoral justice - we are unable to vote for this Bill because on the evidence that I have presented it does not give electoral justice. Therefore we will vote against the Bill, and tomorrow we will give consideration at our Party meeting to moving an amendment which will ask the Senate to establish the principle which is set out in these documents that proportional representation does give electoral justice.I seek leave, Mr Acting Deputy President, to table the documents to which I have referred, namely, the report of the committee of the Victorian branch of the Australian Labor Party, the statement by Mr Clyde Cameron and the report of the mathematics masters who have examined the different systems of voting.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Cant) - The Chair has no authority to give you leave to table the documents, Senator McManus. Another senator may move that the papers be laid on the table.
Motion (by Senator Gair) proposed:
That the papers referred to by Senator McManus be tabled.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT- Is the motion seconded?
– I second the motion.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– We have heard a diatribe of nonsense tonight from Senator McManus in relation to electoral reform and to part of the history of the Labor Party in Victoria. It made very interesting listening but if the whole truth and nothing but the truth were told it would show that one of the major reasons why members of the Democratic Labor Party were thrown out of the Labor Party was their connivance. We had to clean it up and get some real honesty into the situation. Senator McManus has been dropping names tonight - christian names but not surnames. He has been dropping supposed leaks from the Labor Party Conference in Tasmania, without any support whatever for his accusations. The honourable senator does not know what is going on. He pretends that he does know but if he did know he would know, firstly, that the method of voting is not part of this legislation. He would know, secondly, that the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) gave an undertaking that this would not be part of any legislation by this Government over this 3-year period of government; and, thirdly, he would know that the Prime Minister has announced - it is well known - that this matter is now before a committee of the Party and that no decision has been made on it. I could go into a long argument-
– I have shown that I know and that you do not know.
– You have not been able to establish that. You used some airy-fairy tale that Joe and Bill said something to you. I do not believe you and I will not do so until you get on your feet and name these persons. Of course, you will not do that because you have always hidden behind the anonymous person who allegedly leaks you information. This is a most cowardly way of doing things. If we really talked about the history of the Party we could say that you were part of all these deals in relation to electoral reform or alleged racketeering and to the rigging of ballots in the Labor Party to get your friends in. I will tell a few stories about that, too.
– Tell them. You will have nothing to tell.
– I will tell them here one night if you want to go on in the way you are going.
– You have nothing to tell; you are all talk.
– You had to be thrown out of the Party because you cheated, and we are a better party because we took that action. I shall return to the Bill and not debate the method of voting, though that could be an exercise in itself. We will have an opportunity to do this if the DLP moves an amendment in relation to it because the simple fact is that wherever in the world proportional representation has been tried, countries have had great difficulty in achieving stable government, and we all know it. In the postwar years France had 14 governments in 18 months because minority groups like the DLP kept switching sides to get advantages for themselves, not in the interests of the nation. That is the kind of situation Senator McManus wants to perpetuate in this country so that his Party can do what it has been able to do in this Senate, namely, change the balance of power completely and absolutely all the time to get its own deals up, and any interest in the national welfare is purely incidental to its own desire to have power. That is the whole truth of the matter, so let us get rid of that nonsense once and for all.
The most interesting speech of the night was Senator Drake-Brockman’s in which he stated his opposition to this Bill because he put up a lot of spurious arguments about how the Country Party would be denied electoral advantage if we brought in the one vote one value system. Having heard the honourable senator speak one would have thought that the Country Party holds all seats in rural areas, that its members are the only occupants of these seats. The honourable senator said the areas are too big for his Country Party colleagues to handle. The fact is that the Labor Party holds the 2 largest seats in the Commonwealth and its members do not complain that the work is too heavy, because they are able to do it, they are willing to do it and they do it, and they are re-elected election after election to these 2 largest seats in Australia.
The Labor Party holds 22 rural seats in the Commonwealth, which shows quite clearly that we are not afraid of the one vote one value system. We believe that the person who does the job will be elected under any system of that nature, and we are not afraid to go to the people with a recommendation that, as was indicated earlier by Senator McAuliffe, was brought down by a joint parliamentary committee, which included members of the
Country Party and which recommended one vote one value and 10 per cent variation either way from the quota, which gives Country Party members, if they want to juggle the books, a 20 per cent advantage in any case. They know this is the true position but they are too greedy; they want 40 per cent. They want the votes of 4 people in the country to equal the votes of 6 people in the city.
If one examines the Country Party’s policy on this matter and also the electoral rigging that goes on in the State of Victoria, which is due mainly to the influence of the Country Party, its idea of democracy makes one’s hair stand on end. A redistribution of State electorates took place in Victoria in 1964. The Country Party, which then held the balance of power in the Legislative Council, put pressure on the Liberal Party. It forced upon the Liberal Government of the day a proposal under which a 3-tier quota system operated in Victoria on the basis of approximately 18,000 electors in each rural seat, approximately 22,000 electors in each provincial seat and approximately 25,000 electors in each metropolitan seat.
The Country Party was not satisfied with electoral rigging of that type. It went even further in relation to the city of Geelong in which I live. It is a provincial city of 160,000 people. The boundaries of one of the 3 seats in that area were rigged to make it a rural seat in a provincial area. A ring was drawn around the city of Geelong to create a third seat which would be won by the Liberal Party. The member holding that seat, in order to travel from one side of his electorate to the other, must cover a distance of 23 miles and pass through 2 other State electorates. This is the method of drawing the boundaries that was adopted in Victoria.
The redistribution went even further. A redistribution of Legislative Council seats in the metropolitan area only was held. The Country Party would not permit any interference at all with the country electorates. Let me give to the Senate examples of the kind of result that was achieved following that redistribution. The figures that I will give represent the number of electors enrolled for the State election to be held in Victoria on Saturday next, when a new Victorian Government will be elected. I really believe that a Labor government will be elected there. The Legislative Council electorate of Northern Province, which is almost entirely a country seat, has 65,624 electors enrolled. The metropolitan seat of Boronia Province, which incidentally is held by the Liberal Party, has an enrolment of 195,299 electors. The number of electors enrolled for the seat of Western Province is 65,190, whereas the electorate of South Eastern Province has an enrolment of 188,690 electors.
The Country Party members even cheat themselves. They do not even give real justice to their own supporters. I have pointed out already that the number of electors enrolled for the seat of Northern Province - an entirely rural electorate - is 65,624. In the seat of Gippsland Province, which is equally a country electorate, the number of electors enrolled is 93,725. The figures for other seats demonstrate the way in which the Victorian Government has juggled the numbers in those electorates and is continuing to do so to make absolutely certain that the number of electors enrolled for metropolitan seats which they hold does not even equate with the number of electors in country electorates and that this disparity will be preserved for all time. This pattern can be seen in relation to ali State electorates. The State Legislative Assembly seat of Kara Kara has 17,649 electors enrolled. The enrolment for the electorate of Scoresby is 60,500. The situation was reached with respect to Kara Kara that at the last election, despite the completely gerrymandered nature of the electorate, the handful of voters - fewer than 18,000 - elected the Labor Party candidate. The seat was won from the Liberal Party which fell on its face. It was terribly shocked that this could happen under a system in which the electorates were gerrymandered to such an extent that the Government believed that it would hold power for 20 years.
The realities of the Victorian electoral situation are the same as the realities of the electoral situation in Queensland. At least 56 per cent of electors must vote Labor before the Labor Party can actually govern with a workable majority. This is the kind of democracy thai the parties in power in those 2 States like. In other words, if 55 per cent of electors in Victoria want to change the government, they cannot do so. If 55 per cent or 56 per cent of electors in Queensland want to change the government, they cannot do so. This fact was demonstrated in the voting figures at the last Queensland State election. The State gov ernments of Queensland and Victoria are in office under a minority system which we believe should be cleaned up. The legislation before the Senate tonight affords a wonderful opportunity to carry out a recommendation of the Joint Committee on Constitutional Review which was unanimously supported by every person associated with that Committee.
On the other hand, we see the Country Party desperate to save its political life. It is talking of a marriage of convenience with the Democratic Labor Party. As my colleague, Senator O’Byrne, said the other night, it is a marriage of the hicks and the micks to achieve electoral control.
– It will not be a happy wedding, either.
– No. it will be a very unhappy wedding. There will be a divorce within a few months, I am certain. The most interesting exercise of all will be the brawl as to who will get which positions in the Senate teams put forward by the marriage partners. I can see Senator Webster giving way to Senator Little in Victoria! I can see Senator Byrne giving way to Senator Maunsell in Queensland and saying to him: ‘Oh you take my seat’! The honeymoon between the parties and their members will be a really happy one! The reason why these 2 parties are proposing this action is that separately they cannot stand on their own feet and face the people under a democratic system in which the electors make a judgment on a one vote one value basis.
The intention of the Opposition Parties to vote against this Bill has been announced. They will take this action because they seek to perpetuate and to improve the system under which they have a distinct advantage. Am’ criticism in relation to the new boundaries is not criticism of the Australian Labor Party or of the Minister for Services and Property (Mr Daly); it is criticism directed at the integrity of the distribution commissioners who will be appointed to redraw the electoral boundaries. Are honourable senators opposite suggesting, that on the last occasion when Commonwealth electoral boundaries were redrawn the redistribution commissioners rigged those boundaries? After all, those boundaries are to the advantage of the parties opposite. We certainly did not allege that. At no time has the Labor Party accused the commissioners of being responsible for the situation which gave to the parties opposite the advantage by which the former Government won a number of elections. But honourable senators opposite said by innuendo - in fact, Senator McManus said straight out - that the new electoral boundaries will be rigged. Electoral boundaries might have been rigged when Senator McManus was a member of the Australian Labor Party, but they certainly will not be. rigged while we are members of the Labor Party.
The Labor Party will appoint sincere, honest commissioners to draw the boundaries in accordance with the provisions of this legislation. The accusations by Senator McManus in relation to another matter, as in relation to this matter, are completely and absolutely unfounded. He knows that, irrespective of what some individuals may have decided or wanted to do, Ben Chifley would not have a bar of the proposal. If there were some individuals who wanted something done for them, Ben Chifley said: ‘No’. We had an honest redistribution. As a result of that redistribution, the Labor Party lost the Federal election. But we were able to keep our heads up and to say that we did an honest job in relation to that redistribution. I believe that an honest job was done in the last Federal electoral redistribution under the Liberal Party. Do honourable senators opposite suggest that we will depart from this practice and appoint crooks as commissioners to redraw the electoral boundaries? That is the inference contained in the speech delivered earlier by Senator McManus. Only the honourable senator’s experiences in the past would cause him to think along those lines. I ask clear thinking senators to vote for this legislation so that Australia may come closer to true democracy in its electoral system.
– I listened with considerable interest to the contributions from Senator McAuliffe and Senator Poyser. If Senator McAuliffe were a soccer supporter rather than a rugby league supporter, I would say to him with respect to one point that he made that he was a little offside. The honourable senator said that one of the purposes of the introduction of this Bill was to permit a redistribution in Western Australia to take place. I do not blame Senator McAuliffe for making that sort of statement because he errs in good company. The same statement was made in the second reading speech delivered by the Attorney-General (Senator Murphy). He said:
The Western Australian situation therefore makes a redistribution not only necessary but urgent -
We all agree with that statement. He continued: . . and, if the provisions of the Electoral Act relating to distributions are to be changed, appropriate legislation must be passed by the Parliament.
Of course, that is utter nonsense. The Labor Party and other people prior to the last Federal election were talking about taking legal action to compel the then Government to arrange for a redistribution in Western Australia. So both Senator McAuliffe and Senator Murphy were completely erroneous in suggesting that the need for a redistribution in Western Australia was one of the reasons why the Bill was introduced.
Senator Poyser attributed to my leader, Senator Drake-Brockman, a statement that the Country Party was interested in opposing the Bill because we wanted to preserve the interests of the Country Party in rural areas. He pointed out, quite rightly, that a large number of seats in rural areas are held by Labor Party representatives. He mentioned the distinguished member for Kalgoorlie (Mr Collard) who holds one of the seats which are well below the quota. I do not know what purpose, other than misrepresentation, he had in saying that we are concerned primarily with the fate of the Country Party, but my leader said that he was concerned with the representation of country people whether they be represented by Labor, Liberal or Country Party. We believe that electoral justice in a situation in which the movement of population to the city areas is increasing requires a loading in favour of country people.- The loading cannot alter to any major degree the balance of the parties, except insofar as country people accept the policies of the Country Party to a greater degree than they accept the policies of the other 2 parties. On Senator Poyser’s admission, certain very large areas are held by the Labor Party. At the same time, the Country Party holds the seat which is the second largest over the quota. At the previous election a Western Australian vote was worth less than a vote in any other State. So what we have to consider is the practicability of the Elecoral Act. 1 know that the cry of one vote one value is essentially the cry for a mathematical equality of seats so far as numbers of electors are concerned, and this ideal of one vote one value is inherent in the present proposals. I think all honourable senators subscribe to that idea, . within the realms of a sensible and workable scheme. I heard Senator McManus speak very strongly in favour of a system of proportional representation. He had very sound arguments in favour of it, but it is not a part of this Bill. It is not a suggestion which is contained in this Bill. The essential part of the Bill is the proposal to reduce the margin from 20 per cent to 10 per cent in order to attain this ideal of mathematical equality. Let us look at what could happen if we had, say, 100 seats perfectly and evenly divided. Would it result in an evenness of voting or would the ultimate electoral results reflect the percentage voting of the people? I submit that it would not do either unless at the same time we had in these 100 seats a situation in which all parties were equally balanced. If a small number of seats gave a large majority to one or other of the parties and if a large number of seats gave a smaller majority to one or other of the parties, a minority would elect a government. This principle is inherent in the one seat idea of electing the parliament. It is not being altered by the Bill. The Bill narrows the margin and will make the electoral system very nearly unworkable. In fact it will require such frequent alterations to boundaries that nobody will know who his member is. People will not be in one constituency long enough to know who their member is.
I listened to Senator McAuliffe suggesting, as is popular, this idea of a Country Party gerrymander. Of course, that is nonsense. The relevant section was introduced into the Act 20 years before a Country Party was in existence.
– The 1965 amendment was not.
– Let us look at the 1965 amendment. Senator McAuliffe said that the Country Party was responsible for making drastic changes to the Act in 1965. What were the changes? The old Act referred to community or diversity of interest’. The amended Act referred to ‘community of interest within a division, including economic, social and regional interests’. That is not a change. It is simply an expansion of the meaning. The old Act referred to ‘means of communication’. The amended Act referred to ‘means of communication and travel within the division, with special reference to disabi lities arising out of remoteness or distance*. The amended Act added the phrase ‘the trend of population changes within the State’. That phrase was not in the old Act, but the Commissioners had been using the trend of population changes within the State as a guide. I think everybody will agree that those alterations were thoroughly reasonable ones because if Commissioners were to be consistent in the distribution of seats or in setting them up in the first place it was highly desirable that they could take into account as a guide to the quota which should be set, whether the electorate was increasing rapidly or was declining rapidly.
The only additions in the new Act were the density or sparsity of population of the division’ and ‘the area of the division’. Of course they were simply in line with the 20 per cent margin which had been in operation since Federation. The physical features of the division’ and the ‘existing boundaries of divisions and sub-divisions’ were not altered. If they are drastic alterations, I do not comprehend the meaning of the word ‘drastic’. There was another alteration, and that required the Commissioners to make known to the Parliament the reasons for and the objections to proposed redistribution. It was provided that under the Act it would be illegal for any representations to be made to or any attempt to be made to influence the Commissioners, except in the manner set out in the Act. I think this was an eminently sound safeguard against this very gerrymandering that has so often been alleged against the Country Party. Of course, at various times it has been alleged against the Liberal Party and the Labor Party. It is a popular cry. But this safeguard was put into the Act.
If we look at this ideal of a perfect balance or equality of number of electors in each seat the situation could arise in which a swing of 2 per cent or 3 per cent either way could virtually annihilate one or other party. It is clear that the closer you get to this ideal of equal representation and equal numbers, the closer you are to getting a change that would sweep one party or the other completely out of the Parliament at an election in which a swing occurred one way or the other. I do not think that this is a desirable situation in our electoral system.
The 20 per cent margin was provided originally for a good and practical reason. I believe that if we alter it to 10 per cent, as is proposed in the Bill, we will do something that will add enormously to the cost of maintaining our electoral apparatus. We will bring confusion to the electors and I think that we will do an injustice to people who live in the outback. At times we give great support to the concept of decentralisation, but I think that we have to live with the fact that the cities today contain a disproportionate number of the people of Australia. We have to recognise the fact that people in the nutback are contributing disproportionately to the economic wealth of Australia. The members of Parliament who represent those people have a much harder task in getting access to their electors; conversely, the electors in those areas have a very much harder task in getting to see their members of Parliament. The distance that they have to travel is enormous. So unless we make this concession that was built into the Commonwealth Electoral Act at the outset, I believe that we will perpetrate a greater injustice than any of the alleged injustices in the present Act. Therefore, I must oppose the Bill.
– It seems that everybody on the other side of the chamber is in favour of the principle of one vote one value, provided that we do not have it. Each one of them spoke up in defence of the. principle and then almost in the same breath proceeded to argue against it. But this was only one of the curious examples of twisted logic that we got from the various speakers against this measure. For instance, Senator McManus is unable to join us in support of these amendments because we will not support his pet scheme of a quota preferential system. However, this presumably will not stop him from voting with parties which have had an opportunity to introduce such a system for 23 years but have not lifted a finger to do so. We can only conclude that he must have some reason, other than that which he advanced tonight, for not supporting us in this very worth while amendment of the Act.
Senator Withers, with his great natural gift for picturesque analogy, in criticising us for amending the Commonwealth Electoral Act bit by bit and pointing to the fact that we. had had an earlier amendment to the Act before this one was introduced, said that you do not buy a car part by part. But of course this assumes that what we are doing is something similar to buying a new car. Of course, what we have inherited is a ramshackle old bomb, and the act that we are engaged in is patching it up so that at least it will go.
– Give it better transmission.
– That is a good idea, Senator. As has been pointed out on numerous occasions - notably by Mr Daly in the other place - these amendments that we are proposing in this Bill are not our last word on electoral reform. We have indicated clearly that after we have put proposals to the electors on the next occasion we face them and receive a mandate we will throw this old ramshackle model out and get us a new one. So this criticism that we are trying to patch it up does not hold water at all- Of course, we are trying to patch it up so that Ais old bomb will at least go.
Senator Drake-Brockman put the curious proposition that somehow or other we are being inconsistent and insincere in ignoring the fact that the Tasmanian electorate does not come anywhere near the quotas which we are urging in these amendments. Our case is that there is spread throughout the Australian electorate a great disparity between the lowest and the highest numbers of people in electorates. Apparently Senator Drake-Brockman thinks that he has discovered some sort of Achilles heel in our position by pointing to the fact that the Tasmanian electorates are well below quota. Of course, this is something which we freely acknowledge; they are down to a little bit above 40,000. Evidently Senator Drake-Brockman has not heard of section 24 of the Constitution - something that has been there for more than 70 years. After setting out the requirements for the House of Representatives, it states:
But notwithstanding anything j> this section, 5 members at least should be chosen in each original State.
So that if Senator Drake-Brockman and other honourable senators opposite find something outrageous or reprehensible about (he Tasmanian quotas, one would have expected that in the 23 years during which they sat on the Treasury bench they would have done something in the way of sponsoring constitutional reform. Of course, we know that they have not done that. We know that there is no suggestion in their criticism of the amendments that we are putting before the Senate that the cure for the Tasmanian question is that there should be constitutional reform. I suppose that one would hope in vain to hear from Senator Wright - that doughty champion of the rights of Tasmania - any suggestion that the number of seats in Tasmania should be reduced by amendment, constitutional reform or any other method.
Senator Withers in his curious, brief speech, after which, following his custom,, he deserted the debate, suggested that nobody on this side of the chamber should mention the States. He said: ‘Let us confine ourselves in this argument to the real gravamen of what is before us, that is, the amendment of the Commonwealth Electoral Act, and let us not mention the States because they are irrelevant’. One can imagine why he does not want the States mentioned. For instance, he thought that he had scored some sort of a point on me when he said that the logic of ah interjection I had made was that I would be advocating that there should be a redistribution every 4 years. If that is necessary in order to achieve electoral justice, I do not blink At that proposition. Perhaps on occasions of great mobility or great increases of population it may be necessary to have a redistribution even as often as that. But we have not heard any Liberal voices raised against the habit which is becoming enshrined in electoral life in New South Wales where the Premier, Sir Robert Askin, is having a redistribution every 3 years. Presumably there is nothing reprehensible about that conduct from a Liberal; it is an outrageous proposition when it comes from a member of the Australian Labor Party.
It is embarrassing, particularly to the Australian Country Party, to mention the States when we remember the egregious example of Mr Bjelke-Petersen who manages to hang on to office in the State of Queensland with an electoral mandate of 19 per cent.
– You a»e just jealous.
– That is a curious interjection, Senator. Do I detect in that interjection some sort of devotion to that kind of a gerrymander? I suggest, Mr President, that this question of gerrymanders in the States also is highly relevant in our consideration of Commonwealth Electoral Bills because, as honourable senators will be well aware, the government in a State can have a great bearing on the composition of the Senate. I am referring to the situation of a casual vacancy. As everyone is aware, a casual vacancy in the Senate is filled by the Houses of the Parliament of the State in question sitting and voting together to choose a person to hold that place until the expiration of the term or until the election of a successor, whichever first happens. It will be said by honourable senators opposite that this is an argument which does not hold much water because it is the practice of the Houses of Parliaments in the States when a casual vacancy occurs to fill that vacancy by appointing a senator of the same political persuasion as that of the senator who created that casual vacancy. That may be the case.
– It has not always applied.
– It has not always applied and there is no legal requirement that that practice be followed by the States. I refer the Senate to the book Australian Senate Practice’ written by the Clerk of the Senate. The author states:
In the choice of a Senator to fill a casual vacancy, the members of the Houses of Parliament of a State are free to choose whom they may. They arc nut, for instance, bound to choose a person from the same political party as that to which a deceased or retired Senator belonged. When the political composition of the State Houses is predominately that of the political party to Which a former Senator belonged, the State Houses have, naturally enough, chosen a person belonging to that same party.
The learned Clerk goes on to point out that the history of casual vacancies in this country bristles with examples of State Houses filling the vacancy with a senator of a different political persuasion from that of the senator who created the casual vacancy. So I submit, Mr President, that it is highly relevant to our consideration of electoral reform to advert to these practices in the States on which Senator Withers adjured us to turn our backs. It is perfectly obvious, of course, why he does not like Sir Robert Askin or Mr Bjelke-Petersen to be mentioned in the context of electoral purity but, as I have demonstrated, this is a matter of some moment to the Senate because it can affect the composition of the Senate. Imagine a situation in which the numbers are deadlocked and a casual vacancy occurs in the representation of a State in which there is an outrageous gerrymander, such as Queensland, or as New South Wales will be in in a few weeks. That State could affect the Government of the Commonwealth by appointing to a casual vacancy a senator who was not of the same political colour as the senator whose death created the casual vacancy.. So with all due respect to Senator Withers I suggest that a consideration of gerrymanders anywhere in Australia is of concern to members of this chamber.
Senator McManus made great play of his desire for electoral justice. I pay my respects to the contribution of Senator Prowse who I thought made the best contribution from the Opposition side, one which 1 respect and one which I think showed a genuine feeling for the people he represents. But of course all speakers from the Opposition side spoke with varying degrees of sincerity and conviction in the name of electoral justice. They found nothing inconsistent with their love of electoral justice and the maintenance of the status quo as far as the Electoral Act is concerned, so let us look briefly at some examples of the electoral justice that we have under this status quo. Some of the figures quoted by the Minister for Services and Property (Mr Daly) during the debate on this Bill in the other place - up to date figures on the electors enrolled as at 26th January this year - showed these curious contradictions: In New South Wales the electorate of Chifley has nearly 70,000 voters: Calare has 48,000; Mitchell has 72,000; Cowper has 50,000; Bennelong has 64,000, and Gwydir 49,000. I am giving the enrolments in round figures. In Victoria Diamond Valley has 74,000; Mallee has 45.000; La Trobe has 69,000; Wannon has 48.000; Bruce has 67.000; and Wimmera has 45.000. In Queensland, Bowman has 69,000 and Maranoa has 43,000.
Despite these differences of from 20,000 to 25.000 between city and country seats, honourable senators on the other side who are defending the status quo say that there is no need for a redistribution. They say that we should stick to what we have. They say that we should stick to the 20 per cent permissible variation from the quota and in that way we will get greater electoral justice than by having a redistribution. Of course, the status quo naturally suits them fine. Why not? In the last election the Country Party won 9.44 per cent of the votes but it ho ds 16 per cent of the seats in the Mouse of Representatives; it holds 20 seats. After getting 5t times as many votes, the Australian Labor Party holds less than 3i times as many seats. Honourable senators opposite who claim that they are interested in electoral justice and that they are interested in one vote one value but can defend those discrepancies are either blind or very, very insincere.
The present law, as we all know, allows a 20 per cent variation from the quota, so if the quota is 50,000, the upper limit is 60,000 and the lower limit is 40,000. This gives a 50 per cent difference in the representation of a country seat and that of a city seat because almost overwhelmingly - almost entirely - it is the country seats which are at the bottom end of the list and the city seats which are at the higher level. In the debate in the other place Mr Anthony twitted the Government with inconsistency in allowing for any tolerance at all. He said that there was some sort of hypocrisy in allowing even a 10 per cent tolerance. Of course, we accept the fact, that it is impractical, having regard to the considerations left in section 19 of the Act and to the mobility of our population, especially in recent years, to aim for exact mathematical equity. Therefore we accept the fact that up to a 10 per cent deviation from the quota is tolerable and probably inevitable.
The recommendation that we of the Labor Party are putting forward is in line with a recommendation of the Joint Committee on Constitutional Review as long ago as 1959. It cannot be suggested that what we have put forward has suddenly been sprung on the Australian electors by the Australian Labor Party because in 1961, 1962, 1965 and 1968, when Commonwealth electoral redistributions were under consideration, the Labor Party always moved an amendment calling for a 10 per cent variation in place of the 20 per cent variation which at present is permitted by the Act.
The only other matter to which 1 wish to refer - it is impossible to cover the whole arena of this argument - is the claim that it is difficult for a country member to represent a large area and therefore it is a breach of the principle of equality of representation to suggest, as we are suggesting, that the numbers in the divisions should be nearer to equality. It was pointed out by Senator Poyser that it is not the Country Party which represents the largest electorates but the Australian Labor Party. In fact, I have had a look at the areas of the various electorates. Australian Labor Party members represent the largest, the third largest, the sixth largest and the seventh largest electorates in Australia. They are Kalgoorlie, which is 897,000 square miles; Grey, which is 195,000 square miles; and Darling and, I think, Leichhardt. Of course, it has never been a complaint of the Labor Party representatives of those electorates that they are unable to give fair representation to them.
– But the electorates have complained about them.
– This has not been a complaint of the Labor Party representatives. We do not say that we are unable to give adequate representation to these electorates. I suggest that this argument is dragged out for want of a better argument. It is about the only justification that the Country Party can give for what is otherwise a totally indefensible proposition. In conclusion, I suggest that we should face the fact, which the Country Party evidently is not prepared to face, that the percentage of people engaged in rural pursuits is steadily declining and that the Country Party is doing a King Canute act in holding up its hand and saying that, despite this and no matter what happens, the Country Party claims the right to have the same number or even a greater number of representatives in the national Parliament. The Country Party has to face the inevitabilities of history. Those inevitabilities are that the rural population, in proportion to the city population, is dwindling and that there is no reason in terms of electoral justice why its representation in the Parliament should not dwindle accordingly.
– The Commonwealth Electoral Bill (No. 2) 1973, which is presently before the Senate, as has been foreshadowed by the Minister for Services and Property (Mr Daly) in another place, is the first of at least 3 measures designed in each case, not as a solo instrument but as part of an orchestration, to produce electoral conditions for the bringing about of electoral redistributions in the future. It would be wrong to take this measure purely in a vacuum. In its solo form it has 3 main purposes: Firstly, it seeks to reduce the percentage by which an electorate varies from the quota, either above or below, from the 20 per cent now prevailing to 10 per cent. Secondly, it seeks to revise the factors which the distribution commissioners must take into account when deciding upon the size, shape and general geography of an electorate, lt seeks to eliminate such factors as disabilities arising out of remoteness or distance, the density or sparsity of population and the area of a division. Thirdly, it seeks to vary that provision of the Commonwealth
Electoral Act which now states that a redistribution may be directed whenever one-fourth of the division differ from the quota by onefifth. The Bill seeks te make the difference one-tenth of the quota. They are the 3 measures sought to be introduced under this Bill.
The Bill must be looked at, firstly, in conjunction with a measure which has been foreshadowed by the Minister to enlarge the Senate. The enlargement of the Senate from 60 senators to 64 senators automatically makes a major alteration to the structure of the House of Representatives. Under the Australian Constitution, a Senate of 64 members would mean a House of Representatives of 130 members and the addition of some 5 electorates.
– No, it does not.
– That is my calculation. Honourable senators may do the calculation if they care to. The Constitution states that the size of the House of Representatives must be as nearly as practicable twice the size of the Senate. When the calculation is made under the terms of the Constitution, honourable members will find that a Senate of 64 members would mean a House of Representatives of 130 members on the present electoral enrolment in Australia.
I say in passing that the proposal to alter the number of members of the Senate in order to grant representation to the Commonwealth Territories by the addition of 2 members for each Territory would alter, if it were carried, the whole structure and nature of the Senate. It would be absolutely fundamental to the system of government in Australia. It would destroy the essential character and balance of the Senate as a States House. No longer would it be so. It would put the balance of power in the hands of the Territories. I point out to those honourable senators who have paid lip service to this one vote, one value principle tonight that it would give the power and control of the Government to a handful of people. Those who tonight have made much of the provision of the Constitution for Tasmania to have a minimum of 5 representatives in the House of Representatives - I agree entirely that it should have a minimum of 5 representatives - forget, of course, that by their proposal they intend that the Northern Territory, which presently has an enrolment of some 27,000 electors, be represented by 2 senators. Incidentally the Northern Territory already has one member in the House of Representatives.
J state for the benefit of those honourable senators such as Senator James McClelland, who sneered and said that Senator DrakeBrockman did not know the Constitution, that there is no constitutional provision for the representation of the Northern Territory. 1 am in favour of giving the Territory representation even though electorally speaking it is a fraction of the size of an ordinary electorate. But, in fact, that representation is given in defiance of the principle of one vote, one value. This Government has said: ‘Everything that we do electorally will be done on the principle of one vote, one value’. Now it conies forward and says: ‘Pardon us, chaps. We forgot to tell you that in the Northern Territory we will break that principle entirely. Not only will we have one representative of the Territory in the House of Representatives, but we will have 2 senators for the Territory to represent a total enrolment of some 27,000 electors’. Where is the principle of one vote, one value? For that matter, where is the principle of one vote, one value when it is proposed to allow 2 senators for the Australian Capital Territory, which has something less than the quotas for 2 electorates? What is happening is that in this legislation, as now proposed, the Government cites the principle of one vote, one value when this suits it and drops it when it does not suit it.
So honourable senators must view this measure as part of an orchestration. In itself, it is not aimed at delivering electoral justice. It is designed to produce a massive gerrymander - or is it now called a dalymander? I think that Governor Gerry of New York would declare his amateur status compared with the professionalism of the dalymander that we now face. 1 remind the Senate that at this moment-
– What about the Joint Committee on Constitutional Review?
– 1 remember the Joint Committee on Constitutional Review of 1959. 1 will be happy to read paragraph 345 of the Committee’s report. It states:
The Committee considered the extent of the problems which would arise from inserting in the Constitution a requirement that no division In a State should depart from the quota for that State to a greater extent than one-tenth more or one-tenth less. The Committee was assisted in its task by the then Chief Electoral Officer for the Commonwealth; Mr
Ainsworth, who also obtained the views of the Commonwealth Electoral Officer and the SurveyorGeneral for each of the States. The preponderance of that opinion was clearly in favour of retaining the marginal allowance at the existing one-fifth fraction.
The fact is that the non-partisan and entirely unbiased experts who came before that committee said: ‘Let us keep the 20 per cent; let us not move to 10 per cent”. I was invited-
– I rise to order-
– 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 rise to speak to a matter for a couple of minutes. My attention has been drawn to the adjournment debate last Thursday and the remarks made by Senator O’Byrne which appear in Hansard. If it were a matter of what Senator O’Byrne said of me I would completely ignore it, but I found that he was capable of making this statement.
– You said Senator Byrne; do you mean me or Senator Byrne?
– I said Senator O’Byrne and I mean Senator O’Byrne. Senator O’Byrne is recorded in Hansard as saying:
He- that is me used the confidences of the archbishop, who received the confidences in the confessional, in a court to persecute a university professor.
As that has been drawn to my attention obviously it conveys an imputation of a most improper character against the Archbishop of Hobart. The Archbishop of Hobart had no communication with me either directly or indirectly in connection with that case. I had no consultation with him at any time in connection with that case. I know sufficient of the Archbishop of Hobart, Archbishop Young, to know that it is entirely proper that I should repudiate on his behalf the infraction of the confidences that he receives in the confessional. That is an imputation made by Senator O’Byrne against the Archbishop and should be completely rejected. Within my knowledge it is entirely false. It may be that the foolish senator was referring to the Lord
Bishop of Hobart, the Anglican Bishop, then Dr Cranswick. Dr Cranswick had consultation with me in the case. So far asI know he has never condemned my use of confidences that he gave me. Senator O’Byrne’s statement, even if it is transposed to the Bishop, is entirely false. I go no further than that because my professional confidences preclude me from imparting to the Senate any further matter on the subject of my consultation with the Lord Bishop. Senator O’Byrne then said that my brother who took an interest in the case later would not speak to me for 17 years. I would not deign to mention the matter of relationships between me and my family but, as I am on my feet, that too is entirely false and malicious.
– I apologise to Dr Young, the Archbishop of Hobart, if he has been involved in this debate because I made the mistake of referring to the Archbishop of Hobart rather than the Archbishop of Tasmania.
– The Anglican Bishop.
– The Anglican Bishop, Dr Cranswick, The information I had of this breach of confidence came from a man who is now dead, a man who was driven to death by the worst conspiracy that has ever happened in the history of Tasmania; a man who gave the story of an indiscretion on his way out to Tasmania on board a ship; a man who was prepared to write an open letter to the newspapers and to ask the Premier of Tasmania to have an investigation into the administration of the University of Tasmania. Every word that the Professor wrote in his open letter was later proved. He was able to bring about a complete reform of the University in Tasmania, but as a reprisal to beat this man, when he appealed against his dismissal from the University, a cooked-up dismissal, Senator Wright turned the case into a court case in which this man was degraded. Every stunt was used. People were introduced to try to shoot this man when he answered his telephone at the window. The phone number was dialled, the man answered the phone and a shot was fired. Every bit of intrigue in the book that was possible was used and Senator Wright was the man who hounded this man into the grave. His own brother pursued this case for 17 years and the University paid Professor Orr’s widow compensation after all these years. I raise this matter because Senator Wright got up the other night and talked about honour. This was the basis of my reminding him of some of his black crows that are coming home to roost and are roosting uneasily on his shoulders. Some people have a memory and a lot of people remember what Senator Wright did, for the fleeting moment of glory, to get his revenge. Professor Orr told me that the only man who knew of his indiscretion on the ship was the reverend Bishop of Tasmania, who I mistakenly referred to as Dr Young.
– The Right Reverend Bishop.
– The Right Reverend Bishop of Tasmania. The Bishop of Tasmania resigned his post and is now in retirement in Tasmania.
– You ought to take a little help from the doctor, I think.
– Not from Dr Wright, anyway. When Senator Wright brings his type of tactics into the Senate to say that the honour of the Senate is impugned he speaks in divers tongues, a split schizophrenic tongue, to make out that he is the upholder and custodian of all things righteous, and yet in his other personality, his Hyde personality - knowing his Jekyll - he tries to create standards that we know very well he would pursue to the very bitter end. He is well known as a man who has this ability to bluff and to stand over. He is well known as a man who taught law at the university and many of his students have given him away. He is well known as having lost his status in Tasmania when they kicked him upstairs to the Senate to get rid of him out of the State Parliament. He is well known as a man who is now grandstanding to try to exploit the King Island misfortune so that he can get a few votes for preselection. Although he is old, haggard, worn out and ready for the scrapheap, he is still holding on tenuously. I conclude by saying that if Senator Wright had not introduced the other night this matter of dishonour and honour against a very honourable man in part of his vendetta in association with his legal friend - both nostalgic and piqued - and had it not been for the fact that they misused their time as Ministers of Her Majesty’s Government and are now rightly in the Opposition, I would not have raised this matter. I have no regrets for having raised it.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 10.40 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated:
asked the AttorneyGeneral, upon notice:
Will the Government, in the light of its proposal to refer the question of French nuclear testing in the Pacific to the International Court of Justice, also be prepared to do likewise on the question of nuclear testing by Communist China.
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
The legal factors that make legal proceedings by Australia possible in the case of France are not present in the case of China.
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice:
Senator MURPHY - The Prime Minister has supplied the following information for answer to the honourable senator’s question:
I am advised that the situation with regard to long-lived radio-isotopes is different. The explosion of high fission yield devices by China injects this radioactive matter into the northern half of the stratosphere. Some of this slowly transfers to the southern half of the statosphere and mixes with similar material already present there from other nuclear tests. The long-lived fall-out over Australia thus contains some material of Chinese origin but this cannot be specifically identified. However, Government scientists estimate that in recent years about1/6 of the longlived fall-out over Australia is attributable to Chinese tests; most of the remainder comes from the French tests.
On5th April 1973 in answer to a question without notice from the honourable member for Warringah, I said that: ‘In general terms, the effect of the Chinese nuclear tests is only one-tenth as great in Australia as the effect of the French tests at Mururoa’ (see House of Representatives Hansard, page 1121). The latest assessment based on experimental results which have very recently come to hand is that the Chinese tests have contributed about1/6th of the annual longlived fall-out.
I would stress that any radio-active fall-out is detrimental to health and hence a matter for concern. We have protested to the Chinese Government against its failure to accede to the partial nuclear test ban treaty.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Social Security, upon notice:
Senator DOUGLAS McCLELLAND-The Minister for Social Security has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
As at 31st December 1972 there were 1,245 premises approved as nursing homes under the provisions of the National Health Act. Of these:
As at 31st December 1972 the number of approved beds provided in the institutions were:
New South Wales - 2 medical officers and1 clerical officer
Victoria -1 medical officer
Queensland -1 medical officer
South Australia -1 medical officer
Western Australia -1 medical officer
Tasmania - Nil increase
As a general rule nursing homes are also visited at six-monthly intervals by medical officers to assess the eligibility of certain patients to receive the supplementary Commonwealth benefit in respect of intensive nursing home care. However in certain circumstances a special visit may be made, for example, for assessment of a particular borderline case for which the supplementary benefit has been claimed.
In addition the financial records of nursing homes are examined, generally at six-monthly intervals, to ensure that Commonwealth nursing home benefits are being correctly claimed and set off against the fees payable by the patients. (8), (9) and (10) No. It is not the practice for Departmental Medical Officers to conduct physical examinations of individual patients.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Services and Property, upon notice:
Will the Government make available the voting figures, Sub-division by Sub-division, cast in the 1972 Federal Elections so that an examination of electorates, based on actual persons enrolled, can be made.
Senator WILLESEE- The Minister for Services and Property has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The Statistical Returns showing the voting within each Sub-division in relation to the 1972 Federal Elections are currently being printed. When available the Returns will be issued to senators and members. In the meantime each senator has been issued with a copy of a return showing the votes recorded at each polling place and Sub-division in the State he represents and each Member of the House of Representatives has been issued with a copy of a return showing the votes recorded at each polling place and Sub-division in the Division he represents.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs, upon notice:
Senator WILLESEE - The Minister for Foreign Affairs has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Adolf Andric, alien. 8 years residence in Australia. Believed to have departed Australia illegally late 1969. Travel document not known (not Australian).
Ambrozije Andric, alien. 7 years residence in Australia. Believed to have departed Australia illegally late 1969. Travel document not known (not Australian).
Filip Beslic, alien. 6 years residence in Australia. Travel Document Yugoslav Passport DK 177427. Re-entry visa issued Canberra. Departed Australia 16th May 1972 per PA 881.
Ilija Glavas, naturalised Australian. 8 years residence in Australia. Travel Document - Australian Passport G 681860. Departed Australia 29th May 1971 per ‘Marconi’. Djuro Horvat, naturalised Australian. 11 years residence in Australia. Travel Document - Australian Passport G 592267. Departed Australia 18th February 1970 per ‘Galileo’. Vejsil Keskic, naturalised Australian. 10 years residence in Australia. Travel Document - Australian Passport G 654472. Probably departed Australia 19th September 1970 per Achille Lauro’ using Yugoslav Passport DK
Ilija Lovric, naturalised Australian. 7 years residence in Australia. Travel Document - Australian Passport G 873977. Departed Australia 20th May 1972 per LH 691.
Pavo Vegar, naturalised Australian. 9 years residence in Australia. Travel Document - Australian Passport G 561457. Departed Australia 16th August 1969 per ‘Marconi’.
Mirko Vlasnovic. 9 years residence in Australia. Travel Docu ment - Australian Passport G 557335. Departed Australia 29th May 1972 per PR 212.
asked the AttorneyGeneral, upon notice:
Is the Attorney-General able to confirm the recent statement of the Prime Minister that Chinese nuclear fall-out over Australia is one-tenth of that of the French fall-out.
Senator MURPHY - The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
I refer to the answer given to Question No 147 addressed to me as the Minister representing the Prime Minister.
asked the AttorneyGeneral, upon notice:
Is a Member of the Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia an employee of the Commonwealth.
Senator WILLESEE - Senator Murphy has given the follow reply:
asked the AttorneyGeneral, upon notice:
Senator MURPHY- The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice:
Will the Treasurer consider altering the sales tax legislation so that a totally and permanently incapacitated pensioner when he purchases a motor vehicle, is not placed in the position of having to seek a refund. after paying the full price for the vehicle.
Senator WILLESEE - The Treasurer has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Under item 135 in the First Schedule to the Sales Tax (Exemptions and Classifications) Act an exserviceman who is in receipt of a special Repatriation pension in respect of total and permanent incapacity is entitled to exemption from sales tax on a motor vehicle for his personal transportation. The legislation does not require that a pensioner should first pay the full price and then seek a refund of the sales tax. In fact the procedure followed in administering the exemption is designed to allow eligible persons to buy vehicles at tax-free prices.
An eligible pensioner first obtains from the Repatriation Department a certificate which is submitted to the Commonwealth Taxation Office for approval of the exemption. The pensioner can then present this certificate to the motor dealer as authority for the dealer to sell a vehicle to the pensioner free of sales tax.
– Asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice;
Senator MURPHY - The Prime Minister has provided the following information for answer to the honourable senator’s question:
I represented Australia in Western Samoa where I met in conference the Heads of Government, several accompanied by their wives, of 6 other Commonwealth countries at the South Pacific Forum.
In Canada I had discussions with the Prime Minister and the Premier of British Columbia and some of their Ministers. In Britain I had discussions with the Queen, the Prime Minister and several of his Ministers. In Italy I paid a call on the Pope and Signor Colombo, the former Prime Minister and senior Minister in Rome at that time. In Rhodes, on the Orthodox Good Friday, I had a day’s vacation. In Mauritius I had discussions with the GovernorGeneral, the Prime Minister and other Ministers.
I am informed that the net cost to the Australian Government of the chartered aircraft - like all Qantas long-range international aircraft since 1967, it was a jet - was approximately $85,000. I am informed also that the cost of covering the same routes by scheduled air services - though they were not available within the time bracket - would have been about $39,000.
By chartering the aircraft, I was able to carry out the whole mission during the Parliamentary Recess and meet fixed commitments as well as the convenience of my hosts at various points.
In addition, there were working facilities in flight, a greater measure of security, and a form of travel in line with that adopted by at least two of my predecessors, by the Heads of many other Governments, and in keeping with the status and dignity of the country I represent.
Prime Minister’s Office:
Mr E. Williams
Mr E. Walsh
Miss C. Summerhayes
Miss B. Stuart
Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet:
Sir John Bunting (accompanied by Lady Bunting)
Mr L. F. Backen
Mr J. H. Scholtens
Department of Foreign Affairs:
Mr K. C. O. Shann
Mr R. A. Woolcott
Dr J. F. Hammett
Sergeant B. Brown
Mr R. Baudino
Mr N. Bennell
Mr G. Storer
Persons accompanying the Prime Minister for part only of the journey:
Senator the Hon. Don Willesee
Mr J. Tilemann (Private Secretary)
Department of Foreign Affairs:
Mr B. C. Hill
Mr J. H. C. Hoyle
Miss M. King
Miss K. Dunphy
Miss B. Chivers
Department of Overseas Trade:
Mr J. T. Fogarty
Mr N. Bayley
Mr W. D. Forsyth
Mr R. Woolford
SYDNEY to LONDON
Dr P. Wilenski (Principal Private Secretary to the Prime Minister)
Mr C. W. Harders (Attorney-General’s Department)
Mr M. J. Young, Federal Secretary of the Australian Labor Party
Mr B. Bentley
Mr P. Lyncham
Mr L. Seymour
Sergeant R. Massey (Security Officer)
Mr A. Barnes
Mr B. Johns
Mr A. Ramsey
Mr M. Walsh
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice:
Senator MURPHY - The Prime Minister has furnished the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice:
Senator MURPHY- The Prime Minister has supplied the following information for answer to the honourable senator’s question:
– On Wednesday, 11th April, Senator Young asked Senator Murphy representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs in my absence, the following question, without notice: 1 address a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs. I ask: Has the Minister seen reports of the critical situation that has arisen in Cambodia due to increased hostilities in that country What steps are being taken by the Australian Government to bring about a cessation of hositilities in Cambodia, whose only desire throughout has been one of neutrality and peace?
Senator Murphy replied that he was not aware that Australia was taking any steps in this matter but undertook to refer the honourable senator’s question to the approrpriate Minister. The following is now provided for the honourable senator’s information:
The Government deplores the continuation of hostilities in Cambodia and notes with concern reports from Phnom Penh of the critical situation in that country. The Government considers that a political solution should be sought based upon efforts by the Khmer parties themselves to resolve their differences through negotiations. The re-establishment of peace in Cambodia would enable a start to be made on the task of reconstruction, in which Australia is fully prepared to play its part.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 15 May 1973, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1973/19730515_senate_28_s56/>.