28th Parliament · 1st Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Magnus Cormack) took the Chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
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 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 lor 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 duly bound, will ever pray.
– I give notice that on the next day of sitting I will move:
That Australia’s foreign relations, as administered by the Whitlam, Cairns, Hawke panel be declared a disaster area.
– My question is directed to the Acting Leader of the Government in the Senate in bis capacity as Minister Assisting the Minister for Foreign Affairs. Can the Minister confirm that North Vietnamese troops are operating against government forces in Cambodia? Will he be able to advise the Senate if Vietcong forces of the National Liberation Front of South Vietnam are also operating in Cambodia against government forces?
– As everybody knows, there is a rather confused situation in this area. I understand that the main thrust is by the Cambodian insurgents, but I understand also that North Vietnamese troops are operating in that area. This is what we are told in the reports we have received. As far as the Vietcong are concerned, 1 do not remember seeing specific reports as to whether or not they are operating in the area.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Prime Minister. I refer to the Prime Minister’s statement that the present Australian Council of Trade Unions and union ban on French shipping and trade is contrary to the national interest. I ask: Is the Government aware of its clear legal powers to act in the national interest when there is a ban or boycott on overseas trade or the conveyance of passengers overseas? ls there not legislation making it an offence for unions or union officials to impose such a ban or boycott? Will the Government consider taking action to uphold the law? ff it is not prepared to say that it will consider taking such action, is the Government’s position that while it holds office union officials are immune from prosecution?
– No, nobody in the community is immune from prosecution. I suggest to Senator Greenwood that he not prejudge this issue. I suggest to everybody that in the delicate situation in which we find ourselves we do everything to help and not to hinder.
– I direct my question to the Minister for Primary Industry. Does the decision by the Government to extend the present wheat stabilisation plan for another year and to defer negotiations for a continuing 5-year plan indicate a failure by the Minister to understand the 5- year structure of the industry’s marketing arrangements, or is it to be seen as an attempt to defer negotiations in the hope that the industry next year will be in a weaker position to negotiate a just plan? Is the Minister aware that the whole original concept of wheat stabilistion plans was to reduce one of the greatest uncertainties in wheat production, namely, uncertainty as to price over an effective period of years? Does the Minister realise that his recent statements overseas, now joined with his statements at home, will plunge the industry for another year again into a sea of long term uncertainty?
– 1 reject emphatically any suggestion that the principle of stabilisation has been rejected by the Government. I also reject emphatically the suggestion that the Government does not understand the present wheat stabilisation scheme. It was a scheme introduced by the Labor Government in the 1940s. It took the initiative of a Labor Government to bring stability to the wheat industry. Stabilisation is a principle to which we subscribe. As a result of many questions that have been asked of me by Senator Drake-Brockman and other members of the Country Party in recent weeks I have indicated clearly that there are certain aspects of that scheme which I believe there is a possibility of improving. By giving both myself and my advisers time to think about these things, it may be that we can come up with a new wheat stabilisation scheme which wi’l be better than the present one. It would be wrong to assume that simply because the scheme in its present form has been operating all these years it must therefore be the best scheme.
This Government inherited a situation in which wheat growers - I am sure the honourable senator will not argue with this statement - are still waiting for their second payments from the 1969-70 pool. It may be that with careful consideration we can overcome at least this and other problems which are part of the present scheme. I assure the Senate that the principle of stabilisation has not been rejected, lt could well be - 1 hope it will be - that following the further discussions I am having with the Wheatgrowers Federation on Monday night negotiations will commence which will lead to a stabilisation scheme which will be more in the long term interests of wheat growers than the present scheme has been.
– I address my question to the Acting Leader of the Government in the Senate who is the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs. Is the Minister aware that His Holiness Pope Paul has met a delegation of the Vietcong Provisional Revolutionary Government headed by Nguyen van Hieu, Minister of State and head of the Vietcong team at the Paris talks? Is he also aware that the meeting of Pope Paul with the representative of the Vietcong follows a similar audience with leaders of the North Vietnam Government last month? Does not this lead from the Vatican indicate that the conference table is the proper place at which to ease the tensions of war and to try to bring the world to sanity?
– The news item has been drawn to my attention. However, I cannot obtain from the Department confirmation that the report is true. Indeed, I do not know whether the Department has received a copy of the news item. It probably has. I do not think that this would be anything unusual. I remember that some years ago His Holiness received Mr Kruschev when Mr Kruschev was the No. 1 man in the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. I do not see anything unusual about the meeting to which the honourable senator refers, if it does take place. I understand the information came from a United Press International news item which has been repeated in the Press. I do not see anything unusual about the meeting. As to the last part of the honourable senator’s question, I think it is becoming obvious that the negotiating table is the place to try to resolve such differences.
– I address my question to the Minister for the Media. My question concerns the Minister’s stated intention to introduce a points system of penalties for commercial television stations in order to enforce program content in line with Australian Labor Party policies It is not a fact that the Broadcasting and Television Act 1942-1972 provides that the Minister shall be empowered to give directions to the Australian Broadcasting Control Board on 2 matters only, namely, the situation and operating power of a broadcasting or television station and the frequency or frequencies to be used within the bands of frequencies prescribed by the Postmaster-General? Is it further a fact that section 16 (c) of the Act gives to the Board the absolutely unfettered power ‘to ensure that adequate and comprehensive programs are provided by commercial broadcasting stations and commercial television stations to serve the best interests of the general public* and that this responsibility of the Board is specifically free from any right of direction of the Minister? If these are facts, why has the Minister interfered with the autonomy of the Board in order to thrust on the Australian people the types of programs that the Labor Party has decided that they should watch?
– I think that the gravamen of the matters raised in the honourable senator’s question is correct, except for the last point. I have not at any time interfered with the Board in the arrangements that it is making or the discussions that it is embarking upon at the present time with the commercial licensees. In addition to the 2 matters that the honourable senator has raised, namely, the questions of broadcasting and frequencies over which I as the Minister for the Media have jurisdiction, the honourable senator will be aware that it is necessary for me to approve annually the renewal of each licence. That is not a matter for the Board; it is a matter for me. The only penalty that can be enforced upon a television station if it has not lived up to its statutory obligations is revocation or suspension of its licence. That could be a very drastic event for a commercial licensee, but it is the only penalty at present under the existing Act. I believe that penalties of a lesser nature for not living up to requirements could well be inserted in the Act. That is the reason why I have suggested such a course of action to my Departmental officers for my consideration and eventually, I would hope, for Parliament’s approval.
-Is the Minister for the Media aware of the lampooning that has gone on at the expense of the points system proposed for television programs? Is it true that sport, which most viewers wish to watch, will be no longer televised?
– I am aware of the lampooning that has occurred in the last couple of days. I am told that some of the programs shown last night, were at my expense, some of the funniest that have been seen on television for some time. In one way or another, perhaps something has been done to stimulate the programming of good humour for the Australian public. At the outset 1 would like to say that the points system, which has been designed by the Australian Broadcasting Control Board and put to the commercial licensees for their consideration at this stage, is not an attempt to dictate what the public should or should not see. No one is being forced to show any program. No one is being forced to televise a poetry reading. I notice that some newspapers have picked out the description of ‘poetry’ from the general overall description of ‘arts programs’. The system is designed as a genuine attempt to give encouragement to a better balance of programming arrangements. From everything that has been stated in the newspapers and on radio and television there appears to be a basic misunderstanding of the function of the points system that has been designed by the Australian Broadcasting Control Board.
As I said yesterday, the simple fact is that commercial ratings dictate the sort of programs which are to be shown to the public. Doubtless, these ratings will always remain he ultimate guide to commercial program planners. In other words, programs of sporting events to which the honourable senator has referred, quiz shows and certainly high quality drama are not likely to disappear under this system because public appeal and public demand will ensure that that type of programming will continue. This is why under this new points system programs on the arts receive more points than sports programs. No points are awarded for imported programs. This does not mean that we will not be seeing American and British programs on our television screens. As I have said, public demand will ensure a continuation of sports programs, quiz programs and drama programs. Because public demand will ensure a continuity of those productions, what we are setting out to achieve through the points system is better overall planning and programming arrangements.
– Has the Minister representing the Minister for the Environment and Conservation noticed a statement attributed to the New South Wales Minister for Environmental Control, Mr Beale, calling for a national pollution monitoring network? Has the Federal Government received any official approach from the New South Wales Government in this regard? If not, will the Minister arrange with his colleague in another place to call a meeting of State ministers concerned with the environment with the object of discussing ways and means by which such a network could be established?
– I have not seen the article. I do not know whether the Minister for the Environment and Conservation has received any correspondence from the New South Wales Government on this question. I shall take up the matter. 1 believe that a conference is to be held which will be attended by representatives from the Department of the Environment and representatives of the States, lt will deal with the whole question of pollution. I shall approach the Minister to see whether he has received representations from New South Wales or whether he will take the initiative and call a conference.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Primary Industry. In view of the Government’s announcement yesterday that it proposes to extend the wheat stabilisation scheme for a further year, can he inform me of market prospects for wheat from the 1973-74 harvest? If the crop is significantly above the last harvest, will ample markets be available at remunerative prices? Finally, does he expect the Commonwealth to make a large contribution to the stabilisation fund on wheat sold from the 1973-74 harvest?
– It is difficult to be certain about wheat prices. The present outlook is that the world wheal situation should remain very strong in the next 12 months. My latest information is that the northern hemisphere crop will be slightly above average with world production around 30 million tons above the actual production last year. As a result of this there could be some downward pressures on prices from their very high levels at the present time. But they should be considerably better than they were last season. For that reason, all indications are that the market will be very good. I do not anticipate that there would be a very large Commonwealth subvention required under this 12 months stabilisation scheme. I would add that this is the result of the Government’s policy in respect of wheat whereby it accepted the industry’s recommendation for a maximum quota for 1973-74 of 514 million bushels. The Government undertook to accept responsibility for an additional 20 million bushels and at the same time increased the first advance from SI. 10 to $1.20, which the previous Government had indicated prior to the election it would not do. Therefore, we bow have the prospect of a maximum crop when we need it most, with the result that the Australian Government has committed itself to a record sum of over $600m for quota wheat delivered to the Australian Wheat Board. This is why I become a little con cerned when I hear sniping remarks made about our wheat policy. We have brought about stability this year and a prospect for the wheat industry which it has not experienced for many years.
– Does the Minister for Primary Industry consider that the oneyear extension of the wheat stabilisation scheme which was announced yesterday represents a decision that is consistent with the view which he expressed to Senator DrakeBrockman in the Senate on 2 May that tha present scheme is an open-ended commitment? Is the announcement consistent with the statement which the Minister made in a speech to the Farm Writers and Broadcasters Society of Victoria on 30 March when he said :’I oppose open-ended commitments that place no limit on Treasury allocations’?
– The decision by the Government to continue the wheat stabilisation scheme in its present form is a fair decision. Because we are continuing the principles of the present scheme there will be no limit to the Commonwealth’s subvention. As I have just indicated, it is not likely that the Government will be required to make any overt contribution under the present scheme. I take the honourable senator’s point. My reply is that because of the continuation of the present scheme I think it is fair and reasonable that the Government should continue to apply the principle that will meet whatever amount of subvention is necessary.
– I direct a question to the Acting Leader of the Government in the Senate. In view of the tremendous importance to the Australian fishing industry of the successful outcome of the July-August meeting of the United Nations seabed committee, will Australia be represented at that meeting by a senior Minister? Would it be reasonable to assume that our policy would be more or less in accordance with that of the South American countries which also are beset by the piratelike activities of some foreign fishing fleets?
– My recollection is that a senior departmental officer will be representing us at these talks. I will check that to make sure I am right. I think that the policy which we will be pursuing is too complicated to answer at question time.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Health. Is it a fact that Sir Philip Baxter was Chairman of the Australian Atomic Energy Commission For 15 years from 1957 to 1972? Having indicated that I oppose French nuclear testing if health dangers are involved, I ask: Has the Minister’s attention been drawn to an article by Sir Philip in this morning’s ‘Sydney Morning Herald’ which states inter alia that any person who moves his home from Sydney to Canberra is deliberately subjecting himself and his family to a permanently increased radiation dose very similar to that from the French tests because Canberra is 1,900 feet above sea level? Is this the health threat which threatens to launch a naval vessel, and is this the health threat which has deprived the Senate, at least temporarily, of the benefit of Senator’s Murphy’s presence? Will the Government issue a statement warning all intending residents of Canberra of this health hazard? Will the Government cease the practice of transferring government departments to this hostile environment or at least pay danger money if it does not?
– As the representative in this chamber of the Minister for Health, I can say to the honourable senator that I understand that Sir Philip Baxter was Chairman of the Australian Atomic Energy Commission for some 15 years. I have not seen the article to which the honourable senator referred and on which he based his question. I think the honourable senator’s question could well have been directed to his leader in another place, the Leader of the Opposition, who has gone on record as opposing the French tests in the Pacific Ocean.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Primary Industry. Is the Minister aware that the present wheat quota system is reacting harshly against some traditional wheat farmers who, for health, family or other reasons, did not produce wheat during the quota averaging period of 1963-64 to 1968-69? As farmers who restricted their production or did not produce in those years did not contribute to the overproduction that caused the enforcement of quotas, does the Minister consider it to be fair that farmers with many years of wheat production behind them should now be prevented from producing at all by the denial of a quota in the present restricted production? Will the Minister explain to the Senate why there is a need to persist with total bans on those farmers when there is every indication that world demand is expanding and Australia’s wheat prospects abroad seem excellent? Finally, if increased quotas are allocated, will the Minister give an assurance that the claims of such farmers will be considered?
– I could say that I am indebted to Senator Little for asking that question, which does highlight one of the problems that exist under the present scheme. I hope that the members of the Australian Country Party were listening to his question. The responsibility for the allocation of quotas to farmers is not a Commonwealth responsibility; it is a State responsibility. As the Commonwealth has no powers, traditionally it has not interfered in this area. Nevertheless it is one of the problems about which I, as a new Minister for Primary Industry, also have been considerably concerned since I have held the portfolio. I hope, because of the time which we have now allowed to ourselves, that we will be able to look at problems such as this one and come up with a solution.
– Has the attention of the Acting Leader of the Government in the Senate been drawn to reports that the Leader of the Opposition, Mr Snedden, and the Leader of the Australian Country Party. Mr Anthony, have criticised the proposed French nuclear tests in the Pacific? Is the Minister aware that spokesmen for all other political parties, with the exception of the Australian Democratic Labor Party, have also supported the Government’s opposition to the tests? Is it true that the Democratic Labor Party actually wants Australia to develop its own nuclear capacity but that the Australian Government is totally opposed to the proliferation of nuclear weapons?
– Mr Snedden and, I think, Mr Anthony have complained to France about its nuclear testing. To my knowledge the Democratic Labor Party has not made any protest. I recall the Democratic Labor Party saying at one time that it wanted a nuclear capacity in Australia. Whether it still adheres to that policy I do not know. I have not seen any recent declarations on that matter. Australia is opposed to the proliferation of nuclear weapons.
– I direct to the Minister assisting the Minister for Foreign Affairs a question which refers to the inquiry in search of information recently directed to him by Senator Gietzelt. As the representative of the Minister for Foreign Affairs has apparently not been advised on the policy of the Australian Democratic Labor Party regarding nuclear explosions, will the Minister take notice that the Democratic Labor Party has repeatedly said that its policy is for complete nuclear disarmament all over the world? Our policy further states that when countries such as the Soviet Union and China refuse to take action to end nuclear armaments in the world Australia then has no alternative but to endeavour to obtain a nuclear deterrent for herself. Will the Minister arrange that, in future, Ministers and supporters of the Government are more adequately informed on these matters by the Department of Foreign Affairs?
– I do not think that it is the job of the Department of Foreign Affairs to be briefing me or to be trying to keep up with the ever moving policies of the Australian Democratic Labor Party or indeed of other political parties in Australia. The answer that I gave to the previous question by Senator Gietzelt was evidently right. The Democratic Labor Party believes that we ought to have a nuclear deterrent in Australia. Senator McManus added ‘while some other countries’ - and he named 2 of them - have nuclear armaments’. I assume he would object to anybody else having them.
– Well, the honourable senator did not say that. To that extent the Democratic Labor Party agrees with the Australian Labor Party that we would not want to see a nuclear deterrent in any country. Where we part company from the Democratic Labor Party is that we do not think that by proliferating nuclear weapons in the world we get to the point of disarmament. The attitude always seems strange to me that if one wants disarmament in the world, particularly in the nuclear area, the way to achieve this is by building more bombs.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Minerals and Energy whether or not it is a fact that certain State governments have proceeded to appeals to the Queen-in-Council on the subject of the territorial sea. Mr Reece in Tasmania is one of them. I ask the Minister whether that appeal is to the Judical Committee of the Privy Council or to the Queen-in-Council? Has the Commonwealth yet decided what attitude it takes to those appeals?
– I shall refer that question to the appropriate Minister.
– ‘I direct my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Minerals and Energy, and refer to the proposed National Pipeline Authority. Was the Minister correctly reported as stating that the proposed National Pipeline Authority will, under the auspices of the Labor Government, build a pipeline from South Australia to Sydney, New South Wales? Is he correctly reported as saying that the first 650 miles of pipeline would be built using Japanese-made steel pipes? What national respect does the Labor Party expect to gain following the great demands made by Labor when in Opposition that Australian labour and materials should be used on this project when it is apparent now that the Labor Party intends to give this important order to a foriegn country?
– J am not aware of the statements which have been made by the Minister mentioned in the honourable senator’s question but J will have that matter referred to him and obtain an answer.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral. Apart from unsuccessful appeals by the Prime Minister to noncooperating unionists, what steps does the Postmaster-General and, in fact, the Government intend to take to see that Australia honours its obligations to deliver international mail?
– I understand that the Postmaster-General is to have a discussion with Mr Slater, the Federal
Secretary of the Postal Workers Union, about this matter. I am not sure whether the discussion was to take place yesterday afternoon or will take place today.
– I direct my question to the Minister for Primary Industry. Following yesterday’s decision to reduce the subsidy for the wheat stabilisation scheme to a maximum of $l5m will the Government continue the superphosphate subsidy and, if so, at what level? Is the reduction in the subsidy for the wheat stabilisation scheme a warning to primary industry generally that the Government intends to reduce or abolish subsidies for rural industries?
– There has not been any reduction to the $15m limit to which the honourable senator has referred. As 1 indicated earlier in my answer to Senator Drake-Brockman, the Government’s decision is to continue the present scheme whereby there is no limitation on the Government’s subvention to the 1973-74 season. I thought I had made that clear. Regarding the other aspects of subsidy to which Senator Young has referred, there have been no discussions with me by anyone in respect of the superphosphate subsidy. Both of the relevant Acts are due for renewal next year and proper consideration will be given to them then. The Government plans the creation of the protection commission, of which the honourable senator is well aware. It will look impartially at the question of protection for both primary industry and secondary industry. I have said before on so many occasions that the primary producers of this country have had a legitimate complaint because there was not an overall examination by the previous Government of protection to both primary and secondary industries. Because of the intentions of this Government, that machinery is being established.
– My question is directed to the Minister for the Media. Are there any current plans or investigations under way for the provision of a second Australian Broadcasting Commission radio channel by way of relay for the people of northern Tasmania who at the moment can at best receive only the Victorian channel? If there are not will the Minister consider investigating the need for and the practicality of providing such a relay?
– A number of Tasmanian senators from both sides of the chamber have raised with me the matter of frequencies and the unavailability of radio to certain residents in Tasmania. I have asked the Australian Broadcasting Control Board to have a look at the situation in relation to frequencies and, if it is at all possible having regard to the frequencies available, to make another ABC station available. I hope that this will be possible.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Defence whether it is a fact that a Royal Australian Navy ship has been ordered to the French bomb testing area in the South Pacific. Is it a fact that this ship is at present in dock and is likely to be for some time? Will the crew of this ship be given any special consideration because of the risk of radiation? Will the crew be asked to volunteer for this assignment?
– The honourable senator has probably seen some statements by the Prime Minister and by the Minister for Defence about the matter. What was said was that planning was proceeding for the Royal Australian Navy to provide a float support for the Royal New Zealand Navy frigate should it be deployed to the vicinity of the French nuclear test area at Mururoa Atoll. Royal Australian Navy participation will be confined to providing a float support. A Royal Australian Navy ship will not be deployed until all other means of protest have been exhausted. It is true that at the present time HMAS ‘Supply’ is being adapted for such a situation. The Prime Minister and Mr Barnard have stated that if HMAS ‘Supply’ is not available another vessel will be available. There has been a clear undertaking that if that circumstance operates whatever complement is required will serve purely on a volunteer basis.
– I direct this question to the Minister assisting the Prime Minister. Has the Government made an assessment of the economic cost to Australia of the unions’ boycott of the French arising from the French nuclear testing policy? As the Government has done nothing but utter pious hopes and issue admonitions to the unions to refrain from their boycott, from now on can the nation expect trade and foreign policies to be determined and enforced by other than governmental authority?
– No, obviously we have not made a costing of the boycott. We do not know for how long it is on and what field it is going to cover. It is quite an impossible situation to assess. I do not know how far we would get if we did try to assess it. In the second part of his question the honourable senator talked about pious hopes and used the sort of language which he knows very well should not be imported into question time. The fact is, as he well knows, that the Prime Minister on behalf of the Government placed the situation clearly before the Australian Council of Trade Unions before it made its decision. I wonder what the attitude of the Opposition would have been if we had not done anything? What criticism would have come from the Opposition? Of course the answer is that the trade and foreign policies of governments are always carried out by governments.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Social Security whether his attention has been drawn to a reported statement by the Chairman of the Citizens Commission on Human Rights - it appears in today’s ‘Australian’ - in which he said that almost half the patients in Australian mental institutions were being detained against their will because of laws which intruded on personal liberty. I ask the Minister whether the Department will make some inquiries to ascertain whether there is any substance in the statement. Will he inform us of the outcome? Will the Minister examine the report and recommendations of the Senate Standing Committee on Health and Welfare which looked at the position of mentally handicapped people and, in particular, to the references to mental health institutions and the reviews of Commonwealth-State agreements?
– I did see in this morning’s newspaper the report to which the honourable senator has referred, stating that almost half of the patients in Australian mental institutions are being detained against their will because of the laws. I point out to the honourable senator that most of these laws are State enactments. However, I will refer the other portions of the honourable senator’s question to my colleague Mr Hayden in another place and ask him to provide an early reply.
– My question, which is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, is supplementary to the question asked earlier concerning HMAS Supply’. Did I understand the Minister to say that HMAS ‘Supply’ is being adapted in preparation to go to the atomospheric test area. Does this mean that special work is being done on the ship which is in addition to any normal refit or running repairs which the ship would undergo? If so, when will it be known what will be the cost of the adaptation of this ship which is to be sent? Will the Minister try to supply me with an answer to a question I asked earlier on this subject as to whether, if HMAS ‘Supply’ is to be sent to the area, it will have a volunteer or conscripted crew, and what arrangements are being made to ensure the safety of the crew and the ship from contamination?
– If I. gave the impression that HMAS ‘Supply’ is being adapted or specially fitted in any way I was quite wrong. It is not being so fitted or adapted. The position is this: If HMAS ‘Supply’ is available it will be the vessel used. The other portion of the honourable senator’s question related to the crew. Substantially it will be a volunteer crew because, although the deployment would be treated as a normal naval operation and the ship will be manned by its normal ship’s company, any member of the ship’s company who had special reasons for not proceeding with the ship could submit a request for reposting and would get it. It is intended that the ship will operate clear of the nuclear fallout area, and questions of danger and contamination do not arise. That is the situation at the present time.
– We are endangered in Australia.
– I am talking specifically of the claims which have been made by the Opposition about the danger which might be presented to the crew. Our defence experts have stated that the ship will be in the area which is not particularly involved with the explosions. The intention is clearly a commitment in support of the New Zealand Government. The Australian Government has told the New Zealand Government that it will provide a supply ship. So the situation is that if HMAS ‘Supply’ is not available another vessel will be sent.
– My question which is directed to the Minister assisting the Prime Minister relates to the question I asked earlier today. What is the delicate position in which the Government finds itself and to which the Minister referred in not answering the question which I asked him and which I again ask him? Will the Government consider taking action to uphold the law making it an offence to impose a ban or a boycott on overseas trade and to refuse to convey overseas passengers?
– 1 did not say that the Government found itself in a delicate position. What I said was that a delicate position exists and that very clearly Senator Greenwood was trying to hamper anything we could do for the good of Australia in this delicate position in which we find ourselves with France. He is not trying to help in any way. That is not an unusual position for the honourable gentleman to take. If these questions go on a little longer the whole of the anti-Australian case will have been presented by the members of the Opposition. I wonder where Opposition senators really stand on the question of fallout. I wonder where they really do stand when their Government is in the International Court of Justice.
– Why do you not answer the question?
– Why does not the honourable senator listen to the truth? He is taking a completely anti-Australian line which, I agree, is not at all unusual. Every time this Government is involved in an international situation we find people like Senator Greenwood who want to take the anti course. What did he do when there were boycotts and strikes in Australia?
– Why do you not answer the question?
– Why do you not listen to the answer you are getting? I asked you a question. What did you ever do about it? I told Senator Greenwood yesterday that he will be disappointed if he thinks that we will start shooting trade unionists or putting in basher gangs to bash them up. We will deal with the situation as we find it from time to time. As to whether legislation is under consideration to strengthen Acts of Parliament in any way, that is a matter for the Government. If such legislation is introduced, the honourable senator will be given due notice and the chance for that peculiar mind of his to function.
– I direct my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Minerals and Energy. Is it a fact that the Labor Government has taken over from the Australian Gas Light Company the construction of a gas pipeline from South Australia to Sydney? Was the construction of the pipeline approved by the previous Liberal-Country Party Government? Did the previous LiberalCountry Party Government give AGL permission to import from Japan all the pipe required with the exception of 80 miles? Is it a fact that the previous Government did this because Australian industry was unable to supply more than 80 miles of pipe?
– It is my understanding that the facts communicated by Senator Cant are correct, but I would like to refer the matter to the Minister for any further comment.
– My question is directed to the Acting Leader of the Government in the Senate. Does the statement by the Prime Minister in Melbourne last night, that it may be necessary to by-pass Parliament to implement the Government’s policies, represent the policy of the Government and of the Labor Party? Does it mean that the Prime Minister is still hankering after the 2-man form of Government by decree which prevailed in this country for a fortnight after 2nd December? Does it mean that the Prime Minister intends to provoke a constitutional crisis?
– I have not seen a report of what the Prime Minister said last night. The rest of Senator Durack’s question does not deserve a reply.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for Science aware of a recent statement by the Premier of Queensland that negotiations are proceeding between the Queensland Government and the Australian Atomic Energy Commission for the construction of a uranium enrichment plant in central Queensland? Has an environmental impact study been made in connection with the proposed project? Is the Commonwealth Government supporting the construction of such a plant?
-I shall pass that question to the Minister for Science and get a reply.
– Has the Minister for Primary Industry said publicly on more than one occasion that he will not be pressured into making hasty decisions about Government assistance to primary industries? Does the Government’s decision to extend the present wheat stabilisation scheme for a further 12 months suggest that he believed that he had insufficient time in which to make up his mind about the terms of a new scheme, or was the influence on caucus of the Minister for Northern Development and the Minister for Immigration responsible for the decision?
– The answer is no.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Prime Minister. Was the Minister for Overseas Trade, Dr Cairns, indicating Labor Government policy in his reported statement to the effect that China as a world power had justification for having a nuclear deterrent weapons system but that France was only pursuing Gaullist ambitions in seeking to do so?
-I resent the use of the word ‘betraying’ by Senator Carrick.
– I did not say that.
– ‘Portraying’, I am informed.
– I did not use the word portraying’.
– Well, somebody said that you did.
– No, I did not.
-I was advised that you said ‘portraying’.I do not have any details to give in answer to the question.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister for the Media, follows questions I asked of the Minister yesterday in regard to the points system for television programs. I ask the Minister: Who will decide the basis of rating for these programs and the quota of points that television stations must obtain?
– I thought that I explained yesterday in answer to questions asked by the honourable senator on this matter that under the existing Broadcasting and Television Act it is necessary for the Australian Broadcasting Control Board, after it has reviewed quota arrangements and before any new quotas are given effect to and implemented, to hold discussions with the licensees of commercial television and broadcasting stations.I understand that in the past the practice has been the mere formality of the Board calling in representatives of the broadcasting and television stations, sitting around a table and informing them of the proposals that were being considered. However, on this occasion, because I have undertaken to have the utmost and closest cooperation with the commercial licensees, the Board has given to the licensees in advance a confidential copy of the proposals which it intends to submit to the licensees so that the licensees will have a much longer period in which to consider the Board’s proposals. When they come to the meeting, whichI think is to be held on 30th May, they will be fully briefed and will be able to put forward any amendments, suggestions or ideas that they might have. For those simple reasons I cannot at this stage make the information public, much as I should like to be able to do so. It is a mandatory requirement for the Board to discuss the matter with the commercial licensees in the first instance.
Might I say that I have honoured my personal undertaking to the licensees that I would consult them before I made any decisions. On this occasion the Board has consulted the licensees before any firm decisions have been made. Further, I have honoured my undertaking that I would not discuss these matters publicly while the Board and the stations were considering them. Unfortunately some proprietors and senior directors of the newspapers, which are presently indulging in cynical comment on the points system, are all connected with television stations and are in full possession of the facts given to them on a confidential basis. How these gentlemen can allow their newspapers to publish what they know are irresponsible reports based on gossip and apparent part information completely out of context baffles me. I suppose, despite my long period in politics, in my short term as a Minister 1 am learning the hard way.
– I direct my question to the Minister for the Media. It relates to the proposed points system as did the last question that he answered. Is it a fact that the televising of Australian rules football would qualify for 10 points under that points system as this game is merely a form of ballet?
Senator DOUGLAS MCCLELLANDBeing a former rugby league footballer, and as the honourable senator comes from Queensland, I can well understand the points suggested by him. However, the honourable senator must be aware that his suggestion if implemented would give Australian rules quite an advantage over rugby league. Therefore, he might wish to have another look at his proposal.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Prime Minister in relation to the appeal by Australia to the International Court of Justice. Was the evidence relating to the effects of nuclear fallout given by Professor Linus Pauling of importance to the Government when it made the original appeal? Is he aware that Professor Linus Pauling now says that personal X-rays are as dangerous to Australians as the French atomic tests? Would he suggest that this information might be forwarded to Senator Murphy at the International Court of Justice? If the Professor’s evidence is taken as fact, will he seek an appeal to the High Court of Australia to have an injunction obtained to prohibit X-rays of individuals in Australia? Will he consider encouraging unions to ban all communications to hospitals and units where X-rays are carried out? Will the Government review the stupidity of its present action at the International Court of Justice if it is a fact that French Atomic tests are no more harmful than personal X-rays.
– I do not know what the lawyers have based their case on to the International Court of Justice. I was not advising them on it. I do not know whether it is based on what Professor Linus Pauling or some other scientists have said. The honourable senator commenced his question with the words: ‘If it is a fact’. I do not know whether it is a fact. As I understand the situation, scientists throughout the world are disagreeing on this situation. As for the rest of the question as to whether we should appeal to the High Court about banning people doing something in pursuance of their health, I do not think that that requires an answer.
– For the third time today, I direct a question to the Minister representing the Prime Minister. Will the Government consider taking action to uphold the existing law making it an offence to impose a ban on overseas trade or the conveyance of overseas passengers? Is his failure to give an answer to this question which I have asked twice already an indication of the apprehension which he or the Government feels on even considering taking action against any member of the trade union movement?
– Ignoring the insulting part of the question, which is the tail end of it, surely Senator Greenwood would understand that a government is for ever looking at situations which arise from day to day. It is for ever looking at the powers it has on the statute books of this country. I would have thought that surely that would have been selfevident.
- Mr President, I ask that all further questions be placed on the notice paper.
– Mr President, just prior to the closing of question time-
– It is closed. Senator Webster. Under my ruling, no further questions may be asked.
– Mr President, you did not actually rule that way. I was just asking before you did rule.
– I have already ruled that the Minister at the table, the Leader of the Government in the Senate or the Acting Leader of the Government in the Senate can ask that all further questions be put on notice and that at that stage I will uphold his right to do so on the basis that there is no compulsion on any minister to answer a question. Ministers could ask that alt questions be put on notice and not give verbal answers. I might add as conclusive support to my ruling that within 2 days of my previously giving this ruling the Prime Minister in another place attempted to upset Mr Speaker’s ruling on this matter. He was overruled by Mr Speaker. This is a ruling that is upheld in every Parliament of the English speaking world that operates under the Westminster system.
Senator DOUGLAS McCLELLAND (New
South Wales - Minister for the Media) - For the information of honourable senators, I lay on the table a report of the inquiry into academic salaries conducted by His Honour Mr Justice Campbell.
– Pursuant to contingent notice of motion, I move:
The motion refers to the order of General Business at 8 p.m.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Senator Withers) agreed to:
That at 8 p.m. this day intervening business be postponed until after the consideration of General Business notice of motion No. 10 relating to the suspension of Standing Orders to enable a motion to be moved for the rescission of the vote of the Senate of 10th May negativing the question for the appointment of a select committee on civil liberties of migrant Australians and order of the day No. 7 relating to the Estate Duty (Termination) Bill 1973.
Motion (by Senator Willesee) - by leave - agreed to:
That the dates for presenting the Estimates Committees reports be extended to 31st May 1973.
– In the absence of and at the request of Senator Murphy, I move:
Mr President, I do not think that the time of the Senate ought to be taken up for very long on this motion. You know the situation. Senator Wright has moved to set up a committee on which the majority of members would not be Government members but would be Opposition members. This motion seeks to have equal numbers on the Committee - that is, 3 Government members and 3 members from the combined Opposition senators. There is an added proviso that in the event of an equality of votes the chairman, who would be appointed by the Committee from one of the nominees of the Government, would have a casting vote. The Committee will deal with a problem which is somewhat of a localised nature. Tasmania has always had problems in relation to shipping services. I can remember questions about shipping services to Tasmania being asked since the first day that Senator Wright and I became senators.
– The first Senate select committee inquired into a shipping matter.
– I have been reminded by Senator Rae that the very first select committee established by this chamber was set up to inquire into that very thing. It is a problem of long standing duration. I request the Opposition to look very carefully at this proposition. After all a government has to govern. A government has to be in a position where it can allocate moneys and make decisions on all sorts of things. This motion refers to one of those things.
The fact that there are unsatisfactory shipping services to and from King Island and Stanley is a perfectly legitimate cause for action. It is also perfectly legitimate for the Senate to feel that Government action should be taken to correct the situation. It may be that a Senate inquiry will result in the bringing down of a report which will be beneficial to the Government in its endeavours to do something about this problem. Facts and recommendations could be placed before the Government as a result of such an inquiry. 1 understand that clearly. But it has been a timehonoured tradition in this chamber for the Government to have a majority on such committees and for it to appoint the chairmen of such committees.
I do not want to go into the necessity for an inquiry into the situation with respect to King Island. If a committee is to be set up to inquire into shipping services to and from King Island it will be set up. I wish merely to put to the Senate in very unemotional but nevertheless precise terms that it is a serious thing to do to seek in an oblique way to take the governing of the country out of the hands of the Government. One cannot foretell where such a situation could end. One could finish up in the situation where the last position is very much worse than the first. I wish merely to put it to the Senate that the motion of which Senator Murphy gave notice before he left Australia and which I have now moved on his behalf should be given the very serious consideration which I think it deserves.
There is one other thing I want to say. Those honourable senators who have served on committees know that there is a lot of common ground between members of committees. I admit that at times party political considerations enter into the examination of matters by committees and that at times there are people who cannot help making a political forum out of committee meetings and trying to score political points. But I think it is true to say that whenever a committee is set up of people who apply their minds singularly and collectively to a problem a lot of common ground is reached.
I repeat that I have moved this motion because there could be a conflict with the lond standing tradition of the Senate with relation to the membership and chairmanship of committees. I know that from time to time there has been a departure from the tradition when one political party has decided not to appoint members to a committee or to do something of that nature, but I put it very seriously to Senator Wright, who has been a member of this chamber for a long time, that the interests of all would be best served if he and his colleagues were to accept the motion that I have proposed. I repeat that a serious situation exists when, by any means at all, an Opposition seeks to depart from its normal role of moving amendments to legislation, seeking the setting up of committees and opposing Bills and puts itself into the position of attempting to take over, by one form or another, the business of a government that has been elected by the people of Australia.
– 1 indicate at the outset that the Opposition will not be supporting the motion moved by Senator Willesee. I will shortly be proposing an amendment to it. But before doing so I wish to take a moment or two of the Senate’s time to discuss quite briefly some of the matters mentioned by Senator Willesee. Firstly, I think it ought to be made clear that the decision of the Opposition to oppose Senator Willesee’s motion was not entered into lightly. It was the result of a very long discussion among Opposition senators during which all sorts of arguments were canvassed. I turn now to Senator Willesee’s final remark that Oppositions ought not frivolously oppose Governments and take the business of the chamber out of their hands. I suppose that is the normal Government attitude. I can remember i..y friend and colleague, Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson, saying as much from when I returned to this place in 1968 almost up to 2nd December last. Without being too party political, I think a large number of Government Bills were amended or rejected by the Senate during that time.
– Could I interrupt to say that I said it was the legitimate function of an Opposition to reject or amend.
– That is right. We are not really doing anything different. In regard to the committee system itself, there could be an argument as to what is the traditional method of setting up a committee. My colleague Senator Rae spoke to me about this matter. I researched back through the committee system from the commencement of the Senate. Certain propositions were followed in earlier days which we do not follow now. I suppose that in the days when the government had the majority in this place it naturally had a majority of members on committees because there is an argument that a committee is a part of the Senate and that it should reflect the view of the Senate. But with the increase in the committee system in this Parliament over the last 4 or 5 years it became the accepted fact that the government had the majority of members and also the chairman on committees.
Until the Committee which we are considering and the one which we will be discussing tonight came up, that practice was accepted by the Opposition. There are 7 standing committees of the Senate, and the Government has the majority of members on and the chairmanship of those committees. We accept that as the normal thing within those committees. We accept it as being the normal thing that the Government should have a majority of members on and the chairmanship of the Estimates Committees although, as we ail know, that is contrary to the House of Commons’ practice, which is that the Opposition supplies the chairman of estimates committees or their equivalent. There are arguments both ways as to what is traditional and what is not. But the honourable senators who sit behind me believe that the Committee which was set up as a result of Senator Wright’s motion will more accurately reflect the views of the Senate if it is composed as suggested in the motion which was previously carried. It is for that reason, that we will oppose Senator Willesee’s motion.
I now come to an amendment which I desire to move to Senator Willesee’s motion. The leaders of all parties have been provided with a copy of the amendment. In fact, basically it is notice of motion No. 11 standing in Senator Wright’s name. I move:
Leave out all words after ‘be varied to read as follows’ and insert: ‘that the Committee proceed to the despatch of business notwithstanding that all members have not been duly nominated and appointed and notwithstanding any vacancy’.
I move the amendment in that form for 2 reasons. Firstly, it will shortcircuit debate - we will have only one debate instead of 2 debates on this subject - and, secondly, the Committee has been established and it ought to get under way as soon as possible. This is not an unusual provision to be placed in motions setting up committees. If my memory serves me correctly, it has been the standard form in motions setting up joint committees proposed by the Government which have been coming from the House of Representatives. As I recall it, this provision was part of the motion for setting up the Senate Select Committee on the Canberra Abattoir which the present Government proposed some 2 or 3 years ago. As the then Government did not appoint members to that Select Committee, the Committee was composed solely of Opposition senators and perhaps a senator from the Australian Democratic Labor Party. I have forgotten the composition of the Committee - I know that it was composed solely of Opposition senators - but the Committee went off, carried out an investigation and came back with a report. The inclusion of this provision in the motion is not a new departure.
– What was the point of that epitaph you were making?
– 1 am saying that the amendment I am putting down is not a new type of amendment; it does not contain words which are new to a motion to set up a committee.
– Specifically part of what you are saying, not all of what you are saying?
– No. The Committee may sit irrespective of the fact that members have not been appointed and irrespective of any vacancy on the Committee. This has been done before and, as I understand it, is presently being done. It is for those reasons I indicate that the Opposition will oppose the motion and ask the Senate to support the amendment.
– I want to clear the air regarding a number of points made. In regard to the last observation made by Senator Withers, I suggest to the Senate that in fact this is a radical departure from the resolution which set up the Senate
Select Committee on the Canberra Abattoir in that for the first time in the history of the Senate the motion contains a provision which takes away from the government of the day the right to chair the Committee and to have a document vote in the Committee.
– You are on the wrong point.
– 1 am coming to the point you made. I accept the fact that the Senate’s resolution which set up the Senate Select Committee on the Canberra Abattoir did contain a provision in line with that which Senator Withers has indicated to the Senate. But 1 just want to clear the air on this point: While this provision accords pretty much, I think, with the resolution setting up the Senate Select Committee on the Canberra Abattoir, it departs from it in a very radical way in that for the first time in the history of this chamber it takes away from the government of the day the dominant position in the Committee.
– That is not a fact.
– That is the situation as I understand it. In 1950 or 1951 a committee was set up to consider the National Service Act, and I think that then Senator McKenna chaired that committee. The committee was manned only by members of the Australian Labor Party. The then government declined to appoint members to the committee. Similarly, in relation to the Senate Select Committee on the Canberra Abattoir, the then government declined to appoint members to the Committee. It was well known - it was indicated to me as the Chairman of that Committee - that the then Government would not appoint members to that Committee. No such indication has been given to the Senate that the Labor Party proposes to follow that course in this instance. I repeat that we find a completely radical departure from what has happen edn previously.
As 1 indicated in the earlier debate that ensued on this matter, the course which has universally been taken in our Party is that members of the Party are elected to committees by the caucus of the Party. The question before the Senate has to be resolved, after which the Labor Party will follow the usual practice in electing members to the Committee. But I suggest that we are moving into a completely new and, I think, quite dangerous area. I say ‘dangerous’ because it tears away the fabric upon which the committee system of the Senate has been established in the past and the practice which has been religiously followed in recent year when there has been a proliferation in the number of Senate committees.
Never at any stage has there been a departure from the concept that the government of the day has the prevailing position on a committee. We departed from standing order 289 which states that where the Senate so orders the composition of a committee as to numbers shall be changed. In the past we have moved that committees of the Senate be set up on the basis that there is an equality of numbers as between one side of the chamber and the other, but the government of the day has always been given the right to elect the chairman of a committee, and we have not departed from that. The Standing Orders provide that where there is an equality of voting, the chairman of a committee shall have 2 votes. I suggest that that point ought to be well and truly known and thoroughly considered.
Senator Withers, when he was speaking about this matter, seemed to me to indicate that there was some opposition among honourable senators on his side to proceeding with the setting up of the Committee on the basis of the numerical strength which has been indicated.
– I said that all views were canvassed.
– All views were canvassed, and 1 know that there has been some difficulty in reaching a decision. It is an important Committee but not one about which one would have imagined the Opposition would have taken all this time and trouble. This suggests to me that a number of people on the other side of the chamber have very serious misgivings whether this practice should be pursued, whether we should tear down a system and practice which have operated successfully in this chamber over the years. What is the reason for this departure? Are the circumstances of this matter sufficient to depart from that practice in this way? Are the circumstances such as would cause members of the Opposition to deliberate at such length as they have, as has been indicated to us? Are the circumstances sufficient to warrant this? If they are, what are those circumstances? What is the reason why we suddenly find this radical departure from a system that has obtained here for so long? No reason has been given to the Senate for this departure. Can somebody clarify this situation? Will somebody come clean and make known to the Senate why suddenly there must be this departure from a time-honoured practice which has been accepted on all sides in the past but which now will be breached? Why is this so? There must be a reason. Indeed, I suggest that when the practices of this place are to be changed so radically there must not only be a reason but also a good reason.
I think - I would hope this would not be the case and that there would be no reasons for people to accept that this is the case - that damage could be caused to the credibility of the Committee. The Committee’s standing and credibility could be damaged by the fact that for the first time the Government of the day is not to be given its rightful position, its rightful voice and its rightful place on this Committee. Perhaps I ought not to canvass the situation further than that, but I think that the Senate is at least entitled to be told why this happened. Some assurance must be given that the credibility of the Committee will not be damaged by this quite radical departure from what has always obtained. I am always loath, and I would hope that other honourable senators would likewise be loath, when a system has operated satisfactorily and beneficially, as the committee system of the Senate has operated over the past several years, to see any damage resulting to it or any breaking down of that standard. I strongly suggest to the authors of this amendment and to people interested in preserving the standing of this Senate that they ought to reconsider the course which they have decided to take on this occasion.
Of course, these things are double-edged swords because whilst there may be some minor advantage today in a certain position being taken on a question of this kind, there is then established a precedent for similar action to ensure in a number of other ways in the future which may not always be to the comfort of those who now take so much satisfaction in setting out to destroy the system which has operated here so well in the past. I notice that Senator Wright took action within the last couple of days to correct a defect in the motion as originally proposed for the setting up of this Committee in that he indicated - Senator Withers has taken it up today in similar terms - that notwithstanding the failure of the Government to appoint members to that Committee, the Committee may sit. Surely the circumstances are very much different. My Party meets each week and elects members of the various committees. What is now proposed apparently is that we are to be pre-empted and not given an opportunity to follow the normal forms which we pursue in matters of this kind. I imagine that the Committee will commence to function immediately. I understand from information I have been gathering over the last few days that in fact it was proposed to commence the sittings of this Committee some days ago.
– Order! This is a procedural matter on which I should like to clear your mind. Since the time Senator Murphy’s motion came down there has been no meeting of the Committee except that I have allowed the Senate secretariat to gather the agenda particulars together.
– Thank you, Mr President, for clarifying that point. But I understand that certain people outside have been contacted by members who will be serving on this Committee in regard to the taking of evidence and things of that kind. Perhaps somebody can clear my mind on that too. I think we have got ourselves into a sorry situation. I still wonder about, and I still seek the advice of those concerned, the authors of this proposition, on the reason for this departure from our standard practice which has worked very well. I have heard no complaint about it in the past. Why does the Opposition take this course when we in Opposition never took such a step although we proposed many committees? I wonder whether proper consideration has been given to the damage to the credibility of the Committee that will arise from the fact that for the first time in history the running of a committee of this kind has been taken out of the hands of the Government of the day.
– I support the motion and oppose the amendment which I would prefer to see as an addendum. In other words, I support Senator Wright’s motion which could have been added to Senator Willesee’s motion instead of Senator Willesee’s motion being deleted and Senator Wright’s motion being substituted. I support Senator Devitt. The Leader of the Opposition in the Senate (Senator Withers) has not yet given one reason why on this occasion only the Committee will have a preponderance of Opposition members.
– Non-government members.
– Non-government members. It is all very well to say that certain things happen in other Parliaments and that, if we believe in them, let us come to some agreement and do them in this Parliament. But to date, as far as I am aware, the Government of the day has always had a majority of members of those committees, and if the Opposition felt that it had not received justice on any committee it could always submit a minority report. This has always been the case, and I think that changing this concept because the Opposition has the numbers is wrong. 1 have said previously - 1 know the reason for it in regard to another notice of motion - that the Opposition is abusing its power. There is no other way about it; the Opposition is just abusing its strength. If the Opposition would tell the Senate the reason - it has not done so-it intends to change the methods of the Senate, we could listen to that reason to see whether it was good enough. But the Opposition has not given a reason.
– The Opposition does not have one.
– 4 do not know. It must have one to have done this, but I do not follow it. I am happy to support Senator Wright’s motion when it comes on but I would be happier if it could be made an addendum to the motion moved by Senator Willesee. I would prefer that to Senator Willesee’s motion being deleted. I ask the Leader of the Opposition or one of his supporters to tell us why the Opposition is doing this.
– One would have thought that the setting up of this Committee was a genuine effort to inquire into and report on the problems related to King Island and the provision of an adequate and reliable shipping service to and from the island. Opposition senators have tried to create the impression that they have the interests of King Island at heart, but it does appear that this has developed into a test of strength in the numbers game and that the objective of the Committee is of secondary importance. The proposition before the chamber is:
. the appointment of members to serve on the Select Committee on Shipping Services to King Island, Stanley and Melbourne . . .
This composition would allow the Committee to get off the ground and do the job which it is supposed to do. It seems that the honourable senator who proposed the setting up of a committee with an Opposition majority did so to bring about a critical situation between the 2 sides of the Senate. In my view this does a very grave disservice to the concept of the committee system. The chairmanship of a committee is important in relation to guidance or leadership and the way in which the committee goes. Perhaps there is some advantage to the chairman in that he is the official spokesman of the committee. Perhaps any publicity which comes from the committee’s activities is directed more towards the chairman than to other members of the committee. But be that as it may, in my view the whole idea of setting up a committee to investigate this very difficult problem on King Island is being degraded by the intransigence of honourable senators opposite who insist that the business be taken out of the hands of the Government by proposing a committee on which Government senators are in a minority.
In doing that honourable senators opposite are taking away the value of such an investigation by a Senate committee. Over the last few weeks the principle involved in taking the business of the Senate out of the hands of the Government has been very well canvassed. The people on King Island have become the meat in the sandwich, or a political football. Insult is being added to injury when, instead of their plight being in the forefront of the minds of honourable senators, they are being used as a political opportunity to score points and publicity. If honourable senators on the Government side are appointed as members of this Committee I believe that it will be their duty to inform the people on King Island, and those who will be associated with giving evidence and assisting in compiling the necessary material for the Committee to report to the Senate, of this debate. I believe that these people will feel that the Committee has been reduced in status by the debate on the composition of the Committee.
After hearing the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Withers) state that he will not support the motion which has been moved by Senator Willesee and that we cannot expect any alteration in the stand of the Opposition, I feel that at this late stage there should be a reconsideration of that stand in order to give some credence and standing to the Committee when it goes out to do a job for the Senate. At the present time it would be going out under a cloud. The details of the terms of reference of the Committee ostensibly provide for an examination of many of the irritations and disadvantages in the long unhappy story of transport to and from King Island. I am quite familiar with the problem, having first travelled to King Island in 1923. I travelled on a State Government ship, the ‘Tambar’. This ship, which was run by the State Government, had a sister ship called the ‘Colloboi’. The ‘Tambar’ ran backwards and forwards to King Island and the ‘Colloboi’ to Flinders Island. At that time they provided a very good service. But King Island is in the geographical area of the Roaring Forties. The trade winds blow in and make it difficult-
– How relevant is this?
– I am trying to outline the importance of the problem on King Island. If the honourable senator goes to King Island they will draft him into the bull pen. Very difficult climatic conditions exist down there and there is difficulty with the port facilities at Currie. I recall that when I went there on this ship in 1923 we had to stand off for quite a considerable period. We could not get into the port on the west coast of the Island so we had to come around to an alternative port at what was called the Fraser River. There are problems with port facilities yet the development of war service land settlement and mining interests have continued over the years despite those problems. Nothing specific has ever been done since a Liberal Government sold the State Shipping Service in Tasmania and deprived the island of a secure and regular service. It is true that the State shipping line was not a very profitable line but nevertheless King Islanders are Australians with equal rights. They are without the facilities which other parts of the Commonwealth have by way of roads, railways and the like. Shipping is their only substantial means of transport. Since the State shipping service last ran to King Island in the 1920s there has been an uncertain and irregular service.
I believe that it is the responsibility of the State and the Commonwealth in combination to provide the island with a regular shipping service. These are correct and proper objectives for a committee to investigate. Without doubt the future of King Island depends on some solution being found to this problem. The States, particularly the mendicant States, and local authorities are fully committed in relation to rate finance so no one else can find the necessary financial facilities to set up a shipping service. The Minister for Transport (Mr Charles Jones) has indicated that the Government is prepared to provide a service. Perhaps this Committee will be able to find out whether it is the best service or a compromise. I make this appeal to honourable senators opposite who have taken this intransigent stand: If they do not follow the traditions of the Senate in giving the chairmanship of the Committee and equal membership on it to the Government then they are doing a grave disservice to the Committee and to the objectives for which it is supposedly set up.
In the fina) analysis when the history of the Senate is being written the activities of a temporary majority on the Opposition benches will be recorded as occurring during a very negative period for the institution of the Senate. The honourable senators who are participating in the setting up of this Committee and who are breaking the accepted traditions of the Senate will be judged, I believe, in the records of the Parliament and by history as having done a disservice to the Senate. So I am hoping that Senator Wright and those honourable senators he intends to have on the Committee will allow their better judgment to prevail and that during the luncheon suspension of the sitting they will decide that the motion put forward by Senator Willesee is far better than the one they have proposed and that the best interests of the people of King Island and Tasmania generally will be served if this motion, notice of which was given by the Leader of the Government in the Senate, Senator Murphy, is; adopted.
Senator BISHOP (South Australia- Minister for Reptriation and Minister Assisting the
Minister for Defence) (12.47) - 1 am surprised, after all the debates we have had and the tensions created in the Senate, that the Opposition has not agreed to the proposition put forward by the Government. I think Senator Willesee has already established very well the case that it has been a tradition, a practice of the Senate, to do what is proposed in our motion. We have to have a darned good reason to change the practices which have obtained over the years. The proposition advanced by the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate (Senator Withers) in fact is a political ploy which arises from the antagonism which the Opposition has had towards the Government since it came to power. It is not a proposition which would have been advanced during the years in which the present Opposition was in Government during the time that I have been here, because it has been the custom over many years to uphold what are stated to be the traditions and the prestige of the Senate by expanding our committee system, as we have done over the years, to give the impression that the Senate committee system is working fairly and is seen to be working fairly.
It seems to me that what is proposed by Senator Wright, which is now an amendment to Senator Willesee’s proposition, as to the consist of the Committee, will impede the inquiry. Obviously there is a case for an inquiry into the matter. If the answers supplied by the Minister for Shipping and Transport (Mr Charles Jones), and Senator Cavanagh who represents the Minister in this place, have not been satisfactory, of course the Senate has an obligation and perhaps a responsibility to make some further inquiries, if it so chooses, into island shipping services. But in doing so surely we ought to have regard for what has been the Senate practice over the years. I suggest what is happening here is simply a continuing frustration by the Opposition of the Government’s work. We have a mandate from the people-
– We want a Senate committee.
– Of course it is a Senate committee, but the Opposition is proposing something quite different. That is the point we are trying to make. The Opposition has put up a proposal. It is prepared to go ahead with setting up the Committee even though we as a government have not had time to consider whether in the circumstances we will provide the minority representation the Opposition wants us to provide. Senator Wright, who is interjecting, knows the procedures of the Senate better than I do. I am greatly surprised that he should put his name to a proposition which provides for such imbalance and which would, I suggest, impede the inquiry which he wants. His proposition, reduces the prestige, the work and the traditions of the Senate because obviously its intention is to set up a committee upon which the Opposition can do what it likes. Such an inquiry will not be impartial; in fact, it will be suspect.
– lt lowers the prestige of the Senate?
– It certainly does, because, as I say, it will leave a lasting suspicion not only with Government senators but also, I am quite sure, with some Independent senators and with the public also, because what the Opposition is doing in effect is another form of gerrymander. It is proposing to set up a committee when it already well knows what the Committee’s report will contain. It will not be a committee of balance. When it reports it cannot correctly present an impartial view because the number of members on the Committee does not favour the Government. The consist of the Committee is quite contrary to what has been the custom.
– Therefore no Senate view can ever reflect the people’s point of view because the Opposition parties are in a majority against the Government.
– At any rate, the Senate ought to be consistent with what has been the practice over the years. There are occasions each day in this Senate when there is some suggestion as to the practice of the Senate. If an honourable senator wants to challenge a ruling of the President, what does he say? He says that the ruling is contrary to the traditions of the Westminster system. We follow a practice which is well established in the Senate. There is no doubt that over the years the Senate has built up its prestige. It has been enlivened, as everybody knows, not only because there have been moves for more activity, more inquiries and examinations by active committees but also because the consist of the inquiring body has fairly represented all parties. They are not fairly represented under this proposal. How can the Opposition in these circumstances justify proceeding with such a system?
Because we requested last week that the Senate return to some sort of moderate and constructive discussions rather than continuing the tensions we have had since we met with the Labor Party forming the Government, I would have thought that the Opposition might properly reconsider what has been put up. The proposition foreshadowed by the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Murphy) and ably proposed by Senator Willesee is consistent with what we have tried to do and what we think the Senate practice has been in the past. We want a fair system, and when a committee comes down with any finding each section of the Senate is entitled to have put its point of view. Decisions and determinations then arrived at will not be suspect, but if what the Opposition proposes is carried, whatever the Committee might do will become suspect before it gets off the ground because it will be not a fact finding committee as it should be but rather a committee dominated by the Opposition which is pledged, in the words of Senator Withers, to frustrate the work of the Government by not carrying out parliamentary procedures. On the question of impediment alone, Senator Wright ought to be the first to withdraw and say: ‘Yes, we will adjourn the matter and have another look at it to see whether an agreement can be reached by discussion’.
– The Committee would have finished its work by now but for your frustration.
– I have already heard a rumour that the Committee will meet on Monday. I recall the events of last week. I said at the time - I thought that it was a fair statement - that tension in the Senate was becoming heightened and dangerous and that it was not good for the Senate to run on those lines. That tension had been occasioned by certain things about which we all know. After that there was a blow-up and a certain exchange between the Acting Leader of the Government (Senator Willesee) and the Leader of the Opposition.
– Do you want to repudiate pairs again?
– The honourable senator is raking up the origin of disputation. During the suspension of the sitting he might well consider accepting what ought to be done.
– Filibusters never impress.
– We are not filibustering on this matter. Important things have to be considered by the Government. We want to examine our position. We did not know what the Opposition intended to do about what the Leader of the Government in the Senate had put forward. We expected at that stage that the Opposition would accept the representation proposed. If the Opposition did accept it there would be no impediment and the Committee could proceed forthwith. The Opposition could obtain what it claims to be the aim of the Committee, that is, an examination of the proposition. If the Opposition accepts the suggestion of the Government the Committee can get off the ground. If the Opposition does not do so I am sure that the opinion of the independent senators, Government supporters and people outside will be that the Opposition is carrying out a political ploy and whatever findings it might bring down will be suspect for all time. I am sure that on reflection the Opposition will see the position in that way. Despite what the Leader of the Opposition has advanced as an amendment to the motion, I ask him to consider during the suspension for lunch whether he might change his view about the consist of the Committee. That is the only thing that is holding up its work at the present time. If the Opposition proceeds to set up this Committee despite what the Government has said - in my opinion, and in the opinion of the Government, a fair statement about the past role of the Senate - it seems to me that the Opposition has not properly and constructively considered what has been said and that it will not make possible a proper and impartial examination of the issues involved. For those reasons 1 support the proposition put by Senator Willesee. I hope that the Opposition will do what we used to do in the old days. I hope that the partisan positions which are developing, and which of course are part of politics and the conflicts which come to government, will not occasion a departure on this question.
– Are you suggesting that this always has been the situation?
– It has been in the general course of Senate activity and inquiries, with one exception.
– Since federation?
– No, not since federation. I am talking particularly about the period since this Senate enlivened its activity and became recognised as a place of prestige. Its findings are respected, as everybody knows. Until now every report of a Senate committee has received considerable examination by people in authority. I refer to Senator Laucke’s committee on water pollution and all the other committees. If the Opposition starts a practice of having committees whose composition is not balanced and does not take account of what the Government of the day would expect to have by the way of representation, it must face the fact that the value of any determinations by such committees-
– Why should not the Committee reflect the Senate’s view rather than the Government’s view?
– I am not saying that the Committee should reflect the Government’s view. I am saying that the Opposition ought to have regard for the position of the Government as was the case when we were in Opposition.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.15 p.m.
– The position of the Government has been fairly clearly stated. 1 conclude by pointing out again that if the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition is agreed to and the motion is carried in that amended form, the inquiry will be impeded. The need exists to test the position in relation to the King Island shipping service and to establish the benefits that might flow from such an inquiry, but the consist of the proposed committee suffers an imbalance. The second point that I make is that what is proposed in connection with this committee is to my thinking inconsistent with what has been the practice of the Senate. What is proposed tends to reduce the prestige of the Senate. For those reasons, I support the motion moved by the Acting Leader of the Government in the Senate.
– I rise to say only 3 things. The first is the reason why the Opposition is adhering to the original terms of the resolution for the appointment of this committee and not acceding to the motion which has been moved by Senator Willesee. The basic reason is that we desire, and the vote of the Senate has confirmed that it is the wish of the Senate, that a select committee should be appointed to inquire into the shipping services to King Island. There is a long history of prevarication and of failure to honour promises with respect to this matter. There is a need to find out why it is that this service has not been restored and what steps can be taken to ensure that the people of King Island have a shipping service.
The reasons have been canvassed, but the relevant point is that the Government has resisted over a long period any inquiry into the shipping service and has failed in the discharge of its own executive function to provide a shipping service. I make the point, for the information and at the request of Senator Turnbull who sought to have some explanation, that it would be destructive of the purpose of the committee to have it dominated by a controlling majority of members of the Government. The Government has indicated already by the actions of its members and its Ministers what its attitude is. The Senate has decided that a committee should be appointed to inquire into the King Island shipping services. Because it is an inquiry into an act of the Executive it is appropriate that the Senate should have the power to probe and not be stultified by the actions of members of the Government.
– Does that not happen in most committees?
– I think that Senator Turnbull ignores one, very salient fact. That is, that members of the Labor Party caucus determine their policies in a way in which members of the Opposition never did and never do. If a decision is made by the Labor Party caucus to uphold the Labor Government, everybody in the Labor Party will support that viewpoint; and therein lies the problem.
The second aspect to which I wish to refer is whether the appointment of this committee breaks tradition. There is no tradition in the Senate that the Government shall have a majority on Senate select committees. If one studies the records of the Senate dating back to federation and notes the facts concerning the establishment of select committees one ascertains that there is no rule at all which says that the Government shall have a majority on such a committee. The rule in the 1950s and 1960s was generally - and this is what the Standing Orders of the Senate provide - that the mover of the motion which is carried in the Senate for the appointment of a committee has the convening of the committee and usage used to require that he should be the chairman of the committee. It is only in the last two or three years, since the establishment of Senate standing committees and Estimates committees, that a practice has developed, initially because this was the will of a majority of the Senate, that a government member should be chairman. What has happened is that with the change in government the Opposition has conceded that the chairmen for these established Senate standing committees and Estimates committees should come from the ranks of the Government. But that is not a rule which applies to special committees which are set up during the life of the Parliament to deal with specific matters. Where such committees are set up and the Government resists their appointment, 1 think it would be pointless for the Senate to establish such committees if the Government were to have control of them and be able to stultify their operation. It is for those reasons, as the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Withers) said when he responded briefly to Senator Willesee earlier, that the Opposition is adopting this particular course..
The second matter 1 refer to is the way in which this whole question has been approached by the Government. A tendency has been expressed by Government senators and Ministers to identify the wishes and decisions of the Government as the wishes and decisions of the Senate. That, of course, is patently absurd; it is wrong; and it is dangerous. lt is a view which does not accord with the numbers in this place or with decisions which have been made. Furthermore, it is a view which does not accord with what the present members of the Government constantly asserted when they were in Opposition. That is that in a House in which neither the major Opposition Party nor the Government Party has a majority, it is the will of the Senate which prevails and determines the course of conduct.
I believe that the attitude adopted by Government spokesmen reflects an authoritarian trend in the Labor Party, a trend which the
Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) and the Minister for the Media (Senator Douglas McClelland) on occasion have acknowledged, that any opposition or view which is contrary to the Government’s view or any suggestion that the Government does not know best is in some way obstructive to and frustrating Government action. This approach leads to misrepresentation and to some devious tactical manoeuvres. One of these manoeuvres is to allege that the Opposition is delaying Government Business. I think the record discloses that the Government has had passed by the the Senate this year all the legislation which has been presented for debate and to which the Opposition has not expressed opposition.
The legislation which is currently being debated is legislation to which the Opposition is opposed and upon which naturally it has a right to speak. What has happened with regard to this motion to change a decision which has already been arrived at by the Senate? In the first place, it is a motion moved by the Government. This action takes up time. Secondly, when the motion was moved by Senator Willesee as Acting Leader of the Government he spoke for 3 minutes. When Senator Withers responded he spoke for 7 minutes. A succession of Government senators then spoke. Senator Devitt, a Government senator, spoke for 14 minutes. Senator O’Byrne, a Government senator, spoke for 13 minutes. Then, Senator Bishop, a Government Minister, spoke for 14 minutes. 1 say, not offensively to Senator Cavanagh, that we are about to hear him and we know that his speeches are never short. This indicates that Government senators have taken up most of the time in this debate - some 40 minutes or more. It will be longer after Senator Cavanagh’s speech. It is a misrepresentation of the position for Government senators to say that the Opposition is taking up the time of the Senate because this procedural motion, to which Senator Willesee as Acting Leader of the Government in the Senate could address himself adequately in 3 minutes, has been elaborated for some 40 minutes or more by 3 honourable senators who sit behind him. I say that that is wasting time. If it is not wasting time, there is no justification for accusing the Opposition of wasting time.
I know that I am being political in saying this: We know the attitudes that prevail in the Government Party. Senator Murphy is away and we know that there is tremendous dissension in the Labor Party over the merits of
Senator Murphy. We have a new acting Leader of the. Government in the Senate. Maybe there are some Government senators who are not prepared to give the support to Senator Willesee to which he is entitled. Sooner or later the people of this country will see these internal rifts and dissensions which are destroying the effectiveness of the. Government which ought to be legislating and acting in the public interest. As I indicated it may be unworthy of me to make that political reference in what should be a debate confined to the merits of the motion.
The third matter that I wish to speak to is simply this: We have taken an inordinate length of time on this motion for reasons which I have indicated - the times for which honourable senators have spoken. I suggest that this debate should be finished forthwith. It is a Government motion. I am not moving any motion that the debate be terminated, but I make the suggestion to the Government that if it is really concerned to get on to Government business, to deal with the orders of the day and to finish the debate on the Bill that we have been dealing with for the last 2 days, it has 2 alternatives. Firstly, it should not put up any more speakers, but should let the issue go to a vote. Secondly, it could move that the question be put. If it does this I can assure it that the Opposition will accede to the motion. It is in the Government’s hands as to whether it wants to get onto its business. I believe that the pattern that we have been seeing today is a pattern of frustration and delay. It is a calculated device to put the blame on the Opposition when the real blame rests with the Government itself.
– I will disappoint the honourable senator who has just resumed his seat because I shall be very short in my remarks. I advise him that I am often very short in my remarks. Senator Greenwood, the former Attorney-General, said that the diatribe we have just heard from him about Senator Murphy in any attempt to split the Labor Party is perhaps unworthy of him. I would say that it would be unworthy of anyone else but it is completely worthy of Senator Greenwood. We have become accustomed to hearing such remarks from him. I wish to deal with the question seriously. I think that I have the right to say a few words as the Minister representing the Minuister for Transport (Mr Jones) who is most concerned with this question. When this question arose previously during the last minute of the debate discussions were held with the responsible Minister. His attitude, which we announced at the time, was that he was prepared to go along with the establishment of the Senate Select Committee on Bass Strait Shipping Services and to give it every assistance possible, provided that the usual practice operated - that the Government had a majority of members on the Committee. This is the usual practice.
Those who have served on committees will realise that in the main majority reports of committees are the unanimous view of the Committee. Honourable senators serving on committees arrive at different decisions when making reports after hearing the opinions of experts who give evidence before a committee. But on most occasions unanimous decisions are reached. Therefore, I would not think that the membership of the Committee would be very important. When there is disagreement by a section of a committee, prominence is given to that disagreement by the presentation of a minority report which is published and circulated. No one loses by the fact that the members holding this view were in the minority on the committee.
We now have a new position. Normally, the official Opposition has accepted the right of the Government to have a majority on committees. Now, we have proposals which have not been put forward by the main Opposition Party, whereby we would have a stacked Committee.
We have 2 proposals, one a private motion presented by Senator Wright and another which I believe we will discuss this evening presented by Senator Gair. These individuals want, not an inquiry, but a witch hunt. As I stated, the Government wants a majority of members on the Committee because it will be an inquiry into government action. It will not be an inquiry into this Government’s action. It will be an inquiry into the operations of the ‘Straitsman’ and whether it is suitable for the service between King Island and Australia. If the inquiry finds that it is a suitable vessel and that it has not been used, this will be more a condemnation of the previous Government than of this Government. In June of last year the vessel went off the run after an appeal was made from Tasmania for a subsidy from the Commonwealth for the purpose of keeping it in operation. That appeal was rejected by the then Minister for Shipping and Transport. If what Senator Rae and Senator Wright hope to find - they appear determined to find it - by the appointment of this Committee is found, it will be a condemnation of the previous Government. As I have told honourable senators, active consideration is being given to the solution of this problem.
If a committee is appointed to which the Government is hostile because the Government knows that it is appointed only for the purpose of political propaganda, the Government will have to decide whether it will participate in the committee and whether it will make available to it the evidence that it would make available if it were in complete agreement with its appointment. The Government promised its co-operation if it were needed. Finally, the Government will have to decide whether it will accept the Committee’s findings. The report of the Committee will have no other value than as propaganda if its recommendations are not adopted by the Government. The reports of many committees have not been adopted by the previous governments. The whole success of the Committee’s inquiries relies on the co-operation of the Government. We are not asking for anything unreal on this question. We are asking only for what has been the practice.
– It has not.
– It has been the practice.
– I have one in front of me–
– In relation to the Joint Commitee on the Canberra Abattoir, although the Government of the time would not appoint members, it had the right to have a majority of members on the Committee. What 1 am suggesting to honourable senators is that if they want a full inquiry on the terms they are proposing for the Committee, we should seek to get Government support for the inquiry. I am not in a position to say that the Committee has that support at the present time. We had a meeting just prior to the resumption of the sittings of the Senate. We decided that in view of the fact that the conditions under which Government members were prepared to sit on the Committee have not been met. we must reconsider our attitude. Reconsideration of our attitude can be undertaken only by the Caucus of the Party.
If honourable senators opposite are prepared to adjourn this debate until next Wednesday the Government can give a definite answer. If the Opposition decides to go on with the matter and if it decides to hold a meeting of the Committee, until next Wednesday at least the senators who are chosen from the other side will be meeting on their own. It is a question of adjourning the matter for half a week. I have spoken to the Clerk about this matter, and I find that I cannot move that the debate be adjourned. To allow the Opposition to consider my suggestion, I ask for leave to continue my remarks.
– Is leave granted?
Opposition senators - No.
– Leave is not granted.
Motion (by Senator Bishop) put:
That the debate be now adjourned.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator Sir Magnus Cormack)
Majority . . . . 1
Question so resolved in the negative.
– Thank you, Mr Chairman. I enter the debate-
– Order! There is a habit creeping in here of addressing me as Mr Chairman. I am not the President of the Politburo in Moscow.
- Mr President, I resent the inference. I made a verbal mistake.
– But it is a common one here.
– If you require an apology I will give it to you in writing.
– No. I was only making a facetious aside.
– You certainly were. Mr President - if I have to say it twice, I am prepared to do so - I enter the debate because I think that something very dangerous is being done in the Senate this afternoon. From 1951 until approximately 3 years ago the Senate did not pursue the committee system as a result of the fiasco in relation to committees in 1951. Committees were re-introduced about 3 years ago. The reasons why they were re-introduced were valid and good reasons. As every honourable senator knows, I supported the establishment of a standing committee system because I believed that it gave the Senate a system by which it could examine matters of national importance. The system worked very well. When we were in Opposition we never suggested that we should dominate the committees. In the early part of this sitting, we never suggested, nor did the Opposition, that because the Opposition had the weight of numbers we should reverse the position in relation to standing committees which were established as a result of Senate decisions and that the Opposition would control the committees. But a different situation has now evolved. Liberal Party senators, because they have the weight of numbers when they are joined by Country Party senators and Democratic Labor Party senators, want to dominate certain committees to achieve the results which they require. They are trying to establish a very dangerous precedent in relation to the committee system. If they do this they will destroy the very things which were established by the Senate, basically on a non-Party basis.
I recall that the vote on whether the committee system would be set up was a free vote. No honourable senator was obliged to carry out Party policies. Honourable senators were obliged to vote for what they thought was in the best interests of the Senate, which honourable senators opposite have always chosen to believe is a House of review. But they are so drunk with the power that they have today that they are prepared to risk the whole system of committees considering important matters by forcing the power of numbers onto the Parliament. We are prepared to serve on the Committee as long as we have equal representation. We have asked for nothing more. We have not even asked for majority representation on this Committee. We have asked that the Committee consist of 3 senators to be nominated by the Leader of the Government in the Senate, 2 to be nominated by the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate and one to be nominated by any minority group or Independent senator.
The ridiculous situation arose the other night during the debate on the establishment of another committee where a member of the Opposition stood up and said: ‘We are being more than fair. You will have 3 representatives compared to one from each of the Opposition Parties.* That was said during the debate on a committee that Senator Gair wants the Senate to establish. That person was not honest enough to say that in reality there would be 4 members of the Opposition Parties to 3 Government supporters on such a committee. The Opposition’s actions could result in the creation of a situation whereby no self respecting government will give any support to the committees that are sitting.
The Opposition can have its witch hunts and it can do what it likes, but it should remember that it will be seen through the eyes of the people of Australia to be an Opposition that is not prepared to carry out in Opposition the principles and traditions that honourable senators on this side of the chamber carried out when they were in Opposition. We have the situation before us this afternoon where a fair and reasonable motion has been moved that seeks to amend the resolution of the Senate in relation to a proposition put to it by Senator Wright. That motion is not acceptable to the Opposition because apparency it would be far too fair to have a situation where the Government had equal rights in relation to any discussions that take place. The Opposition is so determined to ensure that it has the numbers to embarrass the Government that it is prepared to let the whole committee system of the Senate go down the drain. The whole integrity of the committee system is at stake.
– Is the honourable senator not one of the Labor Party senators who once said that they would never attend committee meetings?
– I think you are.
- Senator Webster is getting his thinking well and truly mixed up. I have said on many occasions in this House that I do not agree with the examination of Estimates by Estimates Committees. I stand by what I have said. The examination of Estimates by Estimates Committees is a system of hiding them from the people of Australia. The Estimates are taken to a small room in the back of Parliament House and examined virtually in camera. An entirely different method is used by the standing committees and select committees that have been established by the Senate in the conducting of their inquiries. I have never refused to be a member of such a committee. I am very proud to have been a member of a standing committee.
Senator Wright has drawn the attention of the Senate to the problems that exist in relation to the shipping service to and from King Island. The Government knows that these problems exist. They are a hangover from the administration of the previous government. Honourable senators opposite had every right, and would have been supported by honourable senators on this side of the House if they had done so, to refer this matter to the appropriate Senate standing committee. Indeed if this matter had been referred to that committee it would have been examined by persons who had previously examined the whole question of transport between the mainland of Australia and Tasmania. I believe that a simple motion seeking the referral of this matter for inquiry to a standing committee which has already studied it to some degree would have been carried almost unanimously by the Senate. The Opposition believes that it is now in a position where it is entitled to ride roughshod over the minority Government in the Senate. I warn honourable senators opposite that their actions will effectively destroy that which has been built up over the last 3 or 4 years, namely, a system of committees that are honest and whose integrity is unquestionable. The Opposition is prepared to destroy the system because it wants to have the numbers on this Committee. It wants the numbers so that it can dictate the terms of what it wants to report to the Senate. That is completely unfair. It is stupid to the extreme. It will destroy the whole of a committee system that was established for a valid purpose.
– I had no intention of entering into this debate because I was quite happy to abide by the decision that the Senate arrived at the other evening. However, as an independent senator, I do realise how the Government feels. It appears as though the motion that was carried in the Senate the other night was in direct contrast to the practise of the Senate in relation to the establishment of committees and that the Government did not proceed to the nomination of 3 members of the Committee because it felt that something untoward had happened. The motion proposed by the Acting Leader of the Government in the Senate, Senator Willesee, would seem to be quite a reasonable proposition but for the fact that it says that the Chairman of the Committee should have a casting vote. The Standing Orders provide that the Chairman of each select committee shall have a deliberative vote only.
– From where did you get that?
– It says so in the Stand, ing Orders.
– Unless otherwise ordered.
– No. The Standing Orders state:
Every Committee previously to the commencement or Business, shall elect one of its Members to be Chairman, who shall have a Deliberative Vote only. When the Votes are equal the Question shall pass in the negative.
That seems to me to be quite clear. I was wondering whether the Acting Leader of the Government knew of this when he included in his motion a proposition to the effect that the Chairman of the Committee shall have a casting vote. Otherwise his motion appeared to me to be quite fair. As an Independent senator, I have always felt that the purpose of Senate committees was for them to present findings to the Senate and for it to decide whether they should be acted upon. I thought it was entirely up to the Senate to do that. The proposition put forward by Senator Wright, and accepted by the Senate, was that a select committee be appointed to inquire into and report upon the justification for the employing of ‘MV Straitsman’ on a particular service. That Committee’s recommendations wi’.l have to come back to the Senate for it to decide whether to act upon them.
I am trying as an Independent senator to make both sides of the House see a little bit of reason. There was some argument the other night when Senator Wright suggested thai Senator Townley should be appointed the Chairman of the Committee. It was argued that he could be an Independent Liberal senator, which would make things a little awkward. Any one of the Independent senators could be an Independent Liberal, Labor or Country Party senator. It seems to me that we could overcome the deadlock in relation to the membership of this Committee by, if it is possible, bringing in from outside as Chairman of the Committee someone who is completely impartial, such as an electoral officer. Electoral officers are not supposed to have political aspirations of any kind. I was under the impression that select committees were appointed to inquire into certain matters and bring down findings on their inquiries in order to save the whole Senate from having to consider them, I understood that a few members of the Senate were appointed to select committees to inquire into these matters and report on them to the Senate in a condensed form. In other words, they could do the hard work.
Surely we can get over this situation in some way. I understand from members of committees that if any member of a committee disagrees with the findings of the committee - if he has been beaten in a vote of a committee - he can present, an individual report to the Senate. I do not know whether that would be acceptable or whether it would carry any weight. If any member of this Committee disagrees with the findings of the Committee and believes that there has been a wrong vote, he can present an individual report to the Senate and the Senate can make a decision, taking that report into consideration. There are various ways in which we can get over this problem. I understand that one man in this country who is absolutely unaffected by any political considerations is the Chief Electoral Officer. If a deadlock is reached in this Committee, for goodness sake let us call in the Chief Electoral Officer to adjudicate and so get over this problem. Why waste the time of the Senate by continuing to discuss this matter backwards and forwards across the chamber? I do not know whether I have made any contribution to the debate; I have tried to do so.
That the words proposed to be left out (Senator Withers’ amendment) be left out.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator Sir Magnus Cormack)
Majority . . . . 2
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
That the words proposed to be inserted by Senator Withers’ amendment be inserted.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator Sir Magnus Cormack)
Majority . . 2
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
That the motion, as amended, be agreed to.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator Sir Magnus Cormack)
Majority . . 5
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from 16 May (vide page 1675), on motion by Senator Murphy:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– The Commonwealth Electoral Bill (No. 2) is an effort by the Government to bring some measure of justice into the inequitable electoral laws which apply today. I will close my speech by reiterating my support for the Bill. I think it is only reasonable that we ought to support any law which gives equality of votes to all citizens.
– I want to place on record straight away that I am opposing the Bill for a number of reasons which I will refer to during my remarks. The Bill is simply described as Commonwealth Electoral Bill (No. 2) relating to the distribution of States into electoral divisions. At the outset, it needs to be put into the record that this is the Commonwealth Electoral Bill (No. 2) and that we understand others will follow, one of which will relate to the possible membership of the Senate by providing for territorial representation. The thing to point out at this stage is that the Government had in mind to bring into the House a Bill to strengthen the House which, according to its political policy, it is pledged to abolish. As I understand it now, the Government intends to take from the States the very right they have, according to the Constitution, to a controlling involvement in the Senate. I understand also that another Electoral Bill will deal with methods of voting. This is a proposal, I understand, whereby the Government seems bent on taking from the Australian people the ultimate in their system of preference and their freedom of choice. This Bill is consistent in its theme, motives and understanding with the 2 Bills to which I have referred. Therefore I find it rather curious that at the beginning of his second reading speech the Minister for Services and Property (Mr Daly) said:
Free elections are basic to a democratic society.
He went on to state: the results must reflect the will of the majority both in individual constituencies and throughout the nation.
In short, the measure before the Senate this afternoon is confined to majorities irrespective of who they are, where they come from, and what they represent. I find this surprising for a Government which prides itself on having some concern for the special situation of minorities and which has talked about the special needs of groups of people, of minorities and of people who are in some particular and peculiar circumstances whether in the field of social welfare, education, the arts or communications. I find it surprising that a Government which talks about the rights of minorities constantly being protected and preserved does not follow this theme through into the field of electoral reform.
The Bill does not appeal to me in any way at all. Looking at h very quickly, I note that under the proposed amendment to section 19 the boundaries will be changed so that instead of having a 20 per cent variation from a quota of electors there will be a 10 per cent variation only. It has been said before, and I am sure that it will be said again today, that if the Bill is passed the result will be an increase in the number of seats in urban areas and a reduction of the number of seats in rural areas. I am bound to say that I deplore this very much. The proposed amendment to the Act continues to make clear that the number of factors which the commissioners are to take into account do not display any understanding, appreciation or tolerance of groups of people within our community who may be in some minority situation. It is proposed that there shall be certain deletions from the existing factors. It is proposed that the reference to disabilities arising out of remoteness or distance, to density or sparsity of population of a division, and even to the area of a division, be deleted. I say quite forthrightly that the Bill is unfair, partisan and biased. The speech of the Minister, and the content of the debate, depart from conventions and usage which have acted as guidelines of fairness through the years.
As everyone knows in the 1972 election the present Government got the numbers and also the number of seats. It received 49.6 per cent of the votes and 53.6 per cent of the seats on boundaries which were drawn by the former Government. I claim that the present Bill is an attempt by the Labor Party so to organise its affairs that it can get the majority of seats without necessarily having to get the votes. As such this Bill is deliberately dishonest and unfair. It pursues the continued antagonism which the Government has, for some reason or other, against the rural community, the provincial community and others, particularly those industrial areas which are isolated from the larger groups of population.
A representative of a large area must have some loading in his favour if he is to represent his people at all. It is impossible to ensure that the value of a single vote is the same in every electorate. If all divisions were arranged so that the voter populations were equal then it is obvious that they would remain in that condition for a very short time. Indeed, they would alter in a moment. The very movement of people, the changes in development, industry and residential circumstances all change the numbers. The population is continually changing. The commissioners could never make an accurate determination as to when all votes were of equal value. It is impossible to adhere rigidly to a defined quota when making a distribution. It is necessary to try to equate the value of one vote with that of another. But what is more important is to ensure that that equality of value, as near as can be arranged, should continue for a reasonable time. We cannot have a situation where redistributions have to be frequent. An arrangement must be made whereby there can be some stability of community interest.
The Government has placed great emphasis on the fact that it has taken the terms of the Bill from the report of the Joint Committee on Constitutional Review. The Minister for Services and Property in another place and his representative here, the Attorney-General (Senator Murphy), have rested their argument for this on what they call the recommendations of the Joint Committee Constitutional Review. 1 point out to the Minister that it is significant that section 353 of that report states:
A merit of allowing divisions to be fixed within one-fifth limits of the quota for a State is the latitude it allows the distribution commissioners in taking account of likely population changes.
When we change from a tolerance of 20 per cent to 10 per cent we take away the latitude of the commissioners. In short, we restrict their movement and their interpretation. I think this only strengthens the argument that the Bill is unfairly drafted.
The tolerance about which we speak is of the greatest importance. It provides for equality in the Australian vote. In Australia we have special reasons for seeking a tolerance of the 20 per cent to which I am referring. Territorially we are a large country. We have large areas where the population is scattered. Also we have large areas where there may be only one or two population centres. In contrast to this picture of size and space and our reputation of being a great outdoor people we are the most urbanised nation on earth. Between 80 per cent and 90 per cent of our people live in urban areas. They tend to be concentrated along the eastern and southern seaboards and, to a certain extent, along the south-western seaboard. This tolerance needs to be very carefully preserved.
Unlike the populations of most other developed countries the population of Australia is spread or distributed in this way. Therefore we have a special reason and a special place for this kind of tolerance. We have population growth and population explosion situations. We have movements of people which are unparallelled anywhere else. There have been great migrant intakes in the last 20 to 25 years. There have been the developments in subdivision, housing, high rise building, population concentration and the movement of people right across the country in connection with new industries and towns. So it is necessary to have a tolerance that is large enough to take account of this situation and which enables the equality of the vote to be preserved. A tolerance is necessary also to allow for the preservation of this kind of equality for a reasonable time. So 20 per cent is a desirable tolerance but 10 per cent is unfair, unreasonable and undesirable. Australian citizens have been fortunate over many years in having had this 20 per cent tolerance. Most countries have no margin of tolerance. Australian people, Australian voters, owe this singularly fair situation to a long list of distinguished leaders, not the least of whom have been great Labor Prime Ministers, and of course to the commissioners through the years, all of whom are of great integrity. lt has been stated before in this debate that the British voter is in a somewhat different situation. Electorates in Britain are known to vary by from 40,000 to 100,000 in number. Yet such variation is apparently accepted. The emphasis is on retaining the 20 per cent tolerance. I ask: Why do we need to change? I am not convinced by the arguments and statements which have been made in support of the change to 10 per cent. To me the Minister’s speech does not give any convincing reason save that of wanting to keep the Australian Labor Party in office for ever and ever. The Minister stands here and talks about free elections reflecting the will of the majority. How can a 10 per cent tolerance in a country with its population distributed like Australia’s reflect the will of the people? it is quite impossible in today’s mobile society for this to take place. Indeed, a redistribution would be necessary almost as frequently as every 2 or 3 years. The average member of our society would not know who his member was or even what his constituency was. The boundaries would always be changing I he Bill disregards distance, isolation, loneliness and special circumstances, and its whole approach is anti-social. It favours the areas in which the power centres are located and despises the areas from which great trade benefits come. It is a violent measure and it discriminates against those who are the very vanguard of decentralisation.
People should know that the Bill simply does not promote the concept of one vote one value. My opinion is that the Government is not interested in one vote one value. The Government is considerably interested in eventually carving up Australia on a population basis. I know that the Bill makes references to the divisions on a voter basis, but I draw the attention of the Senate to a speech made in the other place by the present Minister for Services and Property (Mr Daly) when he introduced a private members Bill - the Commonwealth Electoral Bill (No. 2) - in April 1971. Mr Daly is an expert in this area. I think everyone freely acknowledges that he has made a great and detailed study of electoral systems and how the numbers work.
What he said on that occasion in a long and comprehensive speech which was part of an extended debate must not be disposed of lightly, and I take the opportunity of quoting from his speech of 1st April 1971. He said:
On the election of a Labor government next year immediate steps will be taken to redraft the Electoral Act to meet the changing needs of our time . .
To that point everything he said has proved to be true. He continued:
Pending this review of the Act, the Opposition-
That is, the present Government - proposes these 3 major amendments as the basis on which a democratic vote may be registered by the people of Australia in the election of their government. 1 now outline the major provisions of the Bill.
Mr Daly then referred to the clauses of the Bill by number and went on to detail how a particular clause was to be amended. . by substituting the words ‘people of for the words ‘electors of in ascertaining a quota for each State. This means that electorate quotas will be determined on the basis of population and not only on those qualified to vote. This is a major departure from the present method and is basic to the principle of providing equality of representation on a population basis . . .
Then he made further reference to substituting the word ‘people’ for the word ‘electors’. The word ‘people’ may not have been substituted for the word ‘electors’ in the Bill which is before us today, but I warn the Senate and the community that this is the thinking of Mr Daly who is the responsible Minister. If he is successful with his electoral measures people should be warned that he will move to substitute ‘people’ for ‘electors’. This is the kind of thing that Senator Withers was getting at when he spoke on this measure. The Bill takes no account of people who live in an area where they are not listed as voters. I refer, for example, to migrants who are not naturalised citizens, people in new housing areas where there is a large population which would include a considerable number of non-voters, or, by contrast, an area which is described in our language as a settled area in which the majority of the people might be on the electoral roll. This seems to me to be a very serious warning of which the Senate should take notice, because the Minister has spelled out and received support from the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) - not only in 1971 but also on an earlier occasion - for this theme and this principle and he will be ever ready and alert to introduce this principle whenever the opportunity presents itself.
If we carve up the country on a population basis we are getting miles away from the concept of one vote one value. So I am constrained to say that in my opinion the Bill is dishonest. It denies the standards which have been set down, including the standards set down by previous Labor governments. I regard it as ominous. As I said earlier, it is a discriminatory measure. But most of all, in my opinion the Bill is totally and absolutely inconsistent with Labor thinking. I draw attention to the procedure which has been followed by the Government’s counterpart, the Labor Government in Western Australia, which only the other day introduced legislation to allow a 20 per cent variation - I emphasise that percentage - in the quota of voters in the electorates when distributing the electoral boundaries. This change was introduced by Mr Evans, the Attorney-General of the Western Australian Labor Government. He pointed out that the present Act in Western Australia allowed for a 10 per cent variation, more or less, from the quota figures set for metropolitan and country electorates. Mr Evans said that the existing 10 per cent margin had been reported by electoral commissioners to be too restrictive. I claim that Western Australia is a very good sample area because it is a large State, it has urban areas with density of population, it has closely settled rural areas, it has provincial centres, it has large sparse areas and it also has, as you well know, Mr Deputy President, isolated industrial centres in the north-west and elsewhere. The most important thing to observe is that the Labor Government of Western Australia has listened to the experts on this matter and introduced legislation accordingly. I point to the fact that the measure before us is totally inconsistent with what is being done by the Western Australian Government.
I return, to support the remarks I have just made, to the Joint Committee on Constitutional Review. In section 345 of the report it is recorded that 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 Surveyor General in each of the States. Those men comprise a very substantial board of advice. The preponderance of opinion obtained was clearly in favour of retaining the existing allowance of one-fifth above or below the quota. In short, it was the experts who recommended the continuance of the 20 per cent variation. In spite of the fact that the report lays down a 10 per cent tolerance, the recommendation was contrary to the professional advice sought by the Committee. It is worth recording that the Labor Government of Western Australia had the good sense to take the advice of the professional committee.
There are other areas of discussion upon which I would like to embark, but I leave it at that for now. I feel that I put down a correct point of view when I say that the Bill is unfair, inconsistent, discriminatory, unworkable, unworthy, unacceptable and, as such, I oppose it.
– I rise to take part in this debate because of some of the remarks made by the previous speaker, Senator Davidson from South Australia. I did not intend to speak in this debate, but Senator Davidson’s remark that this Bill is biased seems rather strange to me since he is a member of the South Australian branch of the Liberal Party, which is on record as being the most biased party in the history of this country in regard to electoral reform. I do not think that Senator Davidson really believes that the Bill is biased, although he is prompted to make that remark. He knows, if he read the second reading speech properly, that the purpose of the Bill is to create electoral justice so far as the Federal Parliament is concerned. That means that the purpose of the Bill is to ensure that the people of Australia have the right to be governed by the people for whom they vote and not by the people who poll a minority vote. Since Senator Davidson talks about bias I would like to refer him to that part of Senator Murphy’s second reading speech which quotes the words used by the former Leader of the Country Party, Sir John McEwen, when speaking to the 1965 amendments. Sir John McEwen said:
There is in this measure a provision which I say unashamedly, I hope will operate to bring out more tolerance towards the permitting of a smaller number of electors in the gigantic, remote and difficult electorates.
Government speakers have pointed out quite adequately that it is not necessary to have more representatives in this place from country areas in order to give better representation to country people. We believe that it is the people who ought to be represented here. This is borne out by the situation in South Australia today. There are 4 country electorates in South Australia which send 4 country members to this place but only one of them believes it important that he should live in the country electorate or even have an office there. That person is a member of the Labor Party, Mr Wallis, the honourable member for Grey. The other 3 representatives - the honourable member for Wakefield (Mr Kelly), the honourable member for Barker (Mr Forbes) and the honourable member for Angas (Mr Giles) - do not live in their electorates and do not have even an office in their electorates. That shows how much they care about country people. If an elector in those 3 country areas wants to see his member he has to journey to King William Street in Adelaide and go to the AMP building to consult with him.
– Mr Giles services the electorate of Angas with great efficiency. He is constantly travelling through it.
– I am not talking about whether he services the electorate. What I am saying, Senator Davidson - you will recall my remarks - is that he does not see fit to live in the electorate among the people he represents. He does not live in the country area. The Opposition is criticising the Labor Party because we want to give adequate representation to people who live in the cities. After all, people in the cities pay their taxes and have to abide by the laws just the same as do people who live in the country. I live in the country. Of the 10 senators who represent South Australia, I am one of the 2 who live in the country. Senator Laucke is the other one. There are only 2 of us who live in the country but I am the only one of the 10 who has an office in the country to service the country people.
– You are looking after your business interests.
– I do not have any business interests. For the information of Senator Webster, when I came into this Parliament I closed my business interests because I believe that the electors of Australia pay me to represent them. I am their servant. I cannot be a servant to myself and have a business, and also do justice to the people who pay me. Therefore I relinquished my business
Interests and my sole source of income is the salary I am paid by the electors as their servant. When Senator Webster can stand up in this place and say that he does the same thing, I will congratulate him.
I want to refer to the situation that existed in South Australia. Senator Davidson was so uncomplimentary in the remarks he made about this Bill as to be completely biased. He was a party to the gerrymander that existed over the years in South Australia because he has been associated with the Liberal Party in that State for a great number of years. I refer the Senate to an article written by Mr Dean Jaensch which was published in the ‘Australian Quarterly’, Volume 42 of 1970. He wrote about the gerrymander in South Australia between 1944 and 1970. In part of that article he said:
The L.C.L. was defeated by Labor In 1965 and elected a new ‘young-image’ leader, Steele Hall, possibly to counter Labor’s expected election of Don Dunstan. But Labor was unable to overcome the effects of the inbuilt electoral bias to its opponent in 1968, and, with the party seats tied 19-19 the L.C.L. was returned to power on the shoulders of the sole independent who became the natural choice for Speaker of the House. This Parliament produced a new redistribution - a compromise proposal which retained some considerable bias to rural areas demanded by the L.C.L. but which also was seen by Labor as a step In the right direction.
I congratulate Mr Steele Hall, the South Australian Premier at the time, for at least having thought that some justice should be given to the electors in South Australia. The author continued by referring to what happened as a result of that redistribution. He said:
A snap poll In 1970 showed that the LCL’s prop had ali but disappeared. Labor won 27 of the 47 new districts, and there is every indication that a new era’ is beginning.
Throughout this period of 26 years from 1944 to 1970 10 elections were held, and the LCL formed a government following all but 2. Labor, on the other hand, could claim that it bad won a clear majority of votes at all but 2. An analysis of these elections shows clearly that the Labor Party was denied the treasury, benches on 6 of the 10 occasions when it could rightly claim them.
An analysis of electoral apportionment and election results 1944-1968 shows:
a strong and effective bias against urban voters in favour of the rural areas,
a consequent effective bias In favour of the LCL.
A comparison of the 1968 and 1970 elections and an analysis of the 1969 redistribution shows:
i hat Labor was returned to power in 1970 by the effects of the redistribution, not by a major swing of electoral opinion,
the electoral system is still far from wellapportioned.
Finally, an examination of party support up to and Including 1970 indicates that the Playford Era could well be replaced by the Dunstan Decades.
Those are the remarks of a very prominent political commentator in South Australia, a person who stands in good stead so far as his integrity is concerned with every person in South Australia who knows him.
In 1971 another article by Dean Jaensch was published in the ‘Australian Journal of Politics and History’, Volume 17, and in that article he quoted the percentage of votes gained by the Labor Party in South Australia under a system which has been proved to be biased towards the Liberal Country League. In 1944 the LCL won 20 seats with a vote of 45.65 per cent. The Labor Party won 16 seats with 42 per cent of the vote. In 1947 the LCL won 19 seats with 40.05 per cent of the votes, and the ALP won 25 seats with 48.64 per cent of the votes. There were 13 Independents then so the ALP did not form a government. In 1950 the LCL won 19 seats with 40.51 per cent of the votes, and the ALP won 23 seats with 47.91 per cent, and 12 other seats were contested for which the percentage was 11.58. In 1953 the LCL won 22 seats with a vote of 36.44 per cent, and the ALP won 20 seats with 49.39 per cent of the vote. In that case we gained 13 per cent more of the votes but won 2 seats less. In 1956 the LCL won 19 seats with 36.69 per cent of the vote, and the ALP won 17 seats with 47.37 per cent. We received nearly 11 per cent more of the votes but won 2 seats less than the LCL. In 1959 24 seats went to the LOL after winning 36.95 per cent of the vote. I am sorry, I have been reading the wrong column.
– The Minister for Works will take a point of order against you if you are not careful for not dealing with the Bill.
– I am dealing with the Bill and I shall relate my remarks to the Bill. Senator James McClelland pointed out in the debate last night that a gerrymander in the States has a very big bearing on the Federal Parliament. I will not cover the ground he traversed but he pointed out that a State government elected on a gerrymander and a minority vote could nominate a person to this House who could control the Government of this country. That is why a gerrymander in the States is very closely related to this Bill. I understand why Senator Withers, when he led for the Opposition in this debate, did not want anyone to discuss the gerrymanders which exist in the States because he did not want them uncovered.
To correct the record I shall go back to the point at which I read from the wrong column of figures. I was quoting figures relating to the seats contested instead of the seats which were won. In 1944 the LCL won 20 seats after getting 45.65 per cent of the vote. The ALP received 42 per cent of the vote and won 16 seats. In 1947 the LCL won 23 seats after getting 40 per cent of the vote, and the ALP only won 13 seats yet it gained 8 per cent more of the vote. In 1950 the LCL won 23 seats after polling 40.51 per cent of the votes, and the ALP won 12 seats after receiving 47.91 per cent of the votes. In 1953 the LCL won 21 seats after receiving 36.44 per cent of the votes, and the ALP won 14 seats after getting 39.39 per cent of the votes. In 1956 the LCL won 21 seats having received 36.69 per cent of the votes, and the ALP won 15 seats after gaining 47.37 per cent of the votes. In 1959 the LCL won 21 seats with 36.95 per cent of the votes, and the ALP won 16 seats after receiving 49.35 per cent of the votes. In 1962, 18 seats went to the LCL after it gained 34.51 per cent of the votes, and the ALP won 19 seats after getting 53.97 per cent of the votes. In that year the ALP still could not win government. In 1965, with a vote of 35.94 per cent the Liberal Country League obtained 17 seats. The Labor Party with a vote of 54.83 per cent took 21 seats. This was the first time for a great number of years that the Australian Labor Party won government in South Australia. It had to poll nearly 55 per cent of the total State vote to achieve government. Yet, Senator Davidson who was a party to that gerrymander which existed in South Australia, had the audacity to stand here today and to say that the Minister for Services and Property, Mr Daly, has introduced a Bill which is biased.
– What is the principle that the honourable senator is quoting?
– I am quoting the principle that by the introduction of this legislation we are endeavouring to bring about some measure of justice to the Australian electorate. I advise Senator Webster that he should read the article which was written by Mr D. H. Jaensch.
I do not wish to take up any more time In this debate except to refer to the conclusion reached in this paper by Mr Jaensch. He states:
This paper has not set out to examine all the factors which led to the record long term Playford-La government. It has been limited to a study of the electoral system and the consequent voting patterns which can be considered as an important if not tha main factor in this period.
A report to a conference of political theorists in 1965 stated: . . the only legitimate basis of representation . . is people. One man’s vote must be worth the same as another’s. That is not a call for mathematical nicety. It is a statement of the fundamental principle upon which any proper system of legislative appointment must be constructed.
That is the very principle which by this legislation the present Government is trying to achieve, that is, the right for the vote of every person to be of equal value. We know that those who are now in opposition do not believe in that principle because for many, many years the Country Party controlled the Government like a tail wagging a dog. The Country Party insisted that it should enjoy some priority in country seats. Looking back on this matter, we find that the Ministers responsible for electoral affairs have been Country Party Ministers. As far back as one cares to look, one finds that Country Party Ministers for the Interior have been in charge of electoral matters.
I hope that when this Bill comes before the Senate again, it will be passed. The 3 Parties on the Opposition side have already stated that they will oppose it. But I assure them that this Bill will again be submitted to the Senate in not too many months time. If they again refuse to pass the legislation which seeks to give some electoral justice to the Australian people, as has been said by the Leader of our Party, Mr Whitlam, and by many Government Ministers, the Parties opposite will be called on to face the electors and to face the consequences which will follow from their actions. With those few remarks, I give my full support to the Bill and the measures it contains which seek to give some electoral justice to the Australian people.
– A number of particularly important legislative matters are to come before the Senate. In the past week or so, the challenge has been made by the Government in the House of Representatives and in the Senate that the Senate apparently is frustrating the Government’s wishes and is not getting on wilh a consideration of the Government’s legislation. In the Senate, we experienced yesterday and again today the way in which the Government itself has held up the consideration of its legislation. I refer to the number of divisions that were called yesterday and today by the Government. These are an indication of the Government’s intention to create a situation in which it could be said that time is being wasted by the Senate.
The Bill now before the Senate appears to me to be one of the most important measures that could come before the Parliament. I note that, at this time, approximately 15 pieces of legislation are on the Senate notice paper. This is the situation on the last day of this sitting week. The House of Representatives has announced that it intends to rise at the end of next week. The House of Representatives has not yet transmitted to the Senate some 39 Bills which are on its notice paper. I imagine that the intention of the Government will be to say at the beginning of the parliamentary sittings next week that the House of Representatives will rise after 3 or 4 days of sitting but that the Senate is frustrating its legislation-
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Prowse) - Order! Senator Webster, I think that you should relate your remarks to the subject matter of the Bill. I think that you are straying a long way from the provisions of the Bill.
– If I could complete that sentence - that the House of Representatives and the Government will be saying that the Senate is frustrating the Government’s legislation-
– 1 rise to take a point of order. Mr Deputy President, you ruled that the honourable senator was straying from the subject matter of the Bill. He said: ‘Well then, to finish these remarks’. If that is not canvassing his remarks and a complete defiance of your ruling, I do not think I have ever heard defiance. I do not think that the dignity of the occupant of the chair should be lowered to this level. When a senator is corrected, he should abide by the decision of the Chair.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- Order! I was giving Senator Webster time to relate his remarks to the Bill. This is the customary practice. I trust that he will return to the Bill without further ado.
– You would be well aware, Mr Deputy President, that I would recognise your requirements of me at any stage. The only problem for me was that your interruption came in the middle of a sentence. I was anxious that Hansard should not fail to record the most important point that I was making. I thought that my point was well related to the Bill.
The Commonwealth Electoral Bill (No. 2) 1973 is a most important measure raising an extremely important issue and time must be provided for a lengthy debate by all those who would be involved in and concerned with electoral matters. I was relating my argument to the fact that many other important pieces of legislation are on the notice paper and that a great deal of debate may occur on them also. But the importance of this Bill is such that the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) and his Government have said that if this Bill is rejected a situation will be created in which the Government will be pleased to take the issue to the people of Australia and to hold an election for the House of Representatives and the Senate which will be dissolved at the same time.
Mr Deputy President, I think that you can now see the relationship of my earlier remarks to the Bill. I draw attention to the great importance of the issues related to this legislation and to the important fact that the Prime Minister has said that the rejection of this legislation and of other important legislative matters to come before the Senate will be viewed as frustration of the Government and will lead to a double dissolution. I am anxious to say to you, Mr Deputy President, and to the Minister for Works (Senator Cavanagh), who is at the table, that this Bill will be rejected by the Senate. But I hold the view that this Government has not sufficient intestinal fortitude to take the House of Representatives to the electors this year or next year. There is little doubt about that. Too many members and Ministers in the Labor Party are experiencing for the first time in their careers a situation to which they are quite amenable. They certainly will not be looking for a dissolution of the House of Representatives, even though the threat may be there to dissolve both Houses. This is a matter on which comment needs to be made because the issue is of great importance.
The declaration by the Labor Government that the rejection of this legislation may create a foundation for a double dissolution is one that I challenge - not that I think that the Labor Party will take very much notice of my challenge. But the Government certainly will not take the House of Representatives to an election. I think that in the very near future the Government may hold a Senate election. The result of that election will be quite interesting. The Prime Minister’s challenge is well set out in comments that he made last night in Victoria. He was most abusive of the Liberal Party in that State.
– He could not hold a double dissolution without the permission of Mr Hawke, surely?
– I agree. Very little action takes place without the approval of the Australian Council of Trade Unions.
– That is not relevant to the Bill.
– Of course it is relevant. It is relevant to show the shabby Government that we have.
– I agree with Senator Wright. The point that I make in relating my remarks to the Bill is that I regret that the Prime Minister should be noted as using the words which he did use when speaking in Victoria last night. Of my colleagues in the Liberal Party, the Prime Minister said:
This rabble, this mish-mash of vested interests, this motley crew of incompetents still believe themselves to be our natural heaven-born rulers.
I am not pleased to repeat that. But I take note of the type of thinking that is in Mr Whitlam’s mind at the present time. More important than that, the report continues:
He made it clear he would regard Saturday’s Victorian State election as a judgment on whether the Senate Opposition’s actions had the backing of the electorate.
I predict to the Labor Party that the antisocialists in Victoria will have a very handsome win in that coming State election. I hope that the Minister for Works (Senator Cavanagh) who is at the table and who is a keen listener in the Senate will return next Tuesday with a message from the Prime Minister that he has learned how much the people of Victoria are in favour of not having a similar type of government to that which we have in the Federal scene. I think it is most important that that situation be made clear. If the Prime Minister states that he will take the judgment of the people of Victoria on the Federal Government by their vote in that State election, I will be very pleased to learn of their reaction next Saturday. The Prime Minister will be terribly disappointed. The opposition to ti/.is Bill and the confidence which Mr Daly has shown in proposing it are matters that need to be looked at very quickly. Within a few months of the Australian Labor Party taking office, it sees as one of the great important matters requiring attention the altering of the electoral situation not only in Victoria but also on the Federal scene.
This Bill is one of a number of Bills that have been mentioned by the Federal Government in relation to electoral matters. It intends by this legislation, firstly, to eliminate some of the provisions which attempted to bring equality of voting to people who did not have that equality when viewed in the light of great distances that they had to travel to have communication with their member of Parliament, the difficulties caused by sparseness of population in the great area of an electorate and the difficulty of an elected member of Parliament in giving justice, fair consideration and representation to some of those people who lived in the great outback areas. It must be acknowledged that it is so much more difficult to represent a sparsely populated electorate of great area than it is to represent a small pocket handkerchief-sized metropolitan electorate. I well remember an instance many years ago that occurred in Victoria. A Federal member of Parliament who represented a metropolitan electorate was talking to my dear father, who was a State member of Parliament in Victoria. My father said: ‘Late at night I have great difficulty in my electorate of Balaclava. Do you know that I have got a parents’ committee there and they drive the very devil out of me’? The Federal member who represented a large area, said: ‘I have 50 state school committees and they all have the same problems as your committee’. He had 50 times the problem of the member in the metropolitan area. The city member could walk around his electorate in a Sunday morning. But in some electorates
In Victoria, which is only a small State compared to the vastness of Queensland and Western Australia, it may take a day to travel around an electorate. In fact, I am probably underestimating the position. Probably, there would be no public transport and an aeroplane, horse, or car would be needed to get around some of the vast Federal electorates in Queensland and Western Australia. It is not true of the Minister or any member of Parliament to say that this Bill represents an attempt to bring about the principle of one vote, one value. Anybody who stands up and says that this is what the Labor Government is trying to do is treating the truth lightly because there is no truth in that. I see Senator Fitzgerald shaking his head. Senator McLaren, who just resumed his seat, heard for the first time from Senator Davidson that in Western Australia last night a statement was issued by the Labor Government AttorneyGeneral in that State, Mr T. D. Evans. He said:
The State government has introduced legislation to allow a 20 per cent variation in the number of electors from the quota figures in distribution of electoral boundaries.
What an interesting proposition. Government senators opposite are not willing to say whether their Labor Party friends in Western Australia are creating a gerrymander. How quiet they are. How dishonest they are. The Labor Party in Western Australia, with some honesty, stated:
Mr Evans said that the existing 10 per cent margin had been reported by Electoral Commissioners to be too restrictive.
We have had a series of speakers in the debate from the Government side who have been willing to stand up and say that a gerrymander exists. They have stated an untruth in that they have said the Country Party had a hand in this matter. They know as well as I that in actual fact a 20 per cent variation was first written into the Commonwealth Electoral Act in 1902. The reference is Act No. 19 of 1902, Part 3, section 16 - electoral divisions. Yet a number of Government speakers have spoken this untruth. I heard Senator Douglas McClelland suggesting in his comments that the Country Party had played some part in requiring this disparity in the weight of a vote. This was a complete falsehood. Will the Minister at the table be truthful enough to say that since the federation of this great country that cries out for development we have concentrated people in the metropolitan areas and that is where we find the attraction to expend money? The representatives of the electors in those areas must fight and see that the interests of their constituents receive attention. Great wisdom has been shown since 1902 in relation to the great sparsely populated areas of Australia in seeing that they have more adequate representation than the pocket handkerchief-sized electorates in the metropolitan areas. There can be little doubt that if the Labor Government in the Federal sphere says that it believes a gerrymander takes place if there is a 20 per cent variation in electors, it is, in effect, criticising the. Labor Government in Western Australia. It should say that that Government is producing a gerrymander because yesterday it issued a statement that it believed that in Western Australia there should be a 20 per cent disparity in the number of voters in electorates.
– Senator, do you think that regional development will have a bearing on this in the future?
– The point made by Senator Jessop is correct. It is that where we have representatives we have development. What the Australian Labor Party is attempting to do is withdraw representation from regional areas and place it in the great cities where, admittedly, it gains a great deal of the vote of the working population. However, even the working population today is getting pretty sick of untruths. I do not know how the Minister for Services and Property (Mr Daly) can say that it is a genuine fact that the Federal Labor Government is trying to give equality of representation and that they believe in one vote, one value when their colleagues in Western Australia are doing exactly the opposite to what they are doing at this time. It is very regrettable that we have these statements that some proposition is an attraction to the public. The principle of one vote one value is a very attractive one. Honourable senators opposite have said that they want to introduce this principle. The Minister knows as well as I do that a 10 per cent permissible variation in quota will allow a 20 per cent disparity. Honourable senators opposite do not really believe in the principle of one vote one value. The Prime Minister has said: ‘We want this wonderful principle of one vote one value’. He forgot to say: ‘We know that no country has this. We cannot get it’. We believe that the practice which has been followed for the past 70 years is the best course which can be followed.
– What is the purpose of electing them at all? There, is only one Minister and one Labor Party senator in the chamber.
- Senator Wright capitalised on a very good point. He made the point that only one Minister and one Labor Party senator are present. The most vocal of the 2 is Senator McLaren who made a great speech about the way he represents South Australia. He said that he sold out his business when he decided to devote his time to representing South Australia. He forgot to tell us that when he sold out his business he transferred the cash into a business or a house in Canberra.
– I take a point of order. Senator Webster’s remarks are completely untrue. I have no interests in Canberra, except my duties as a member of Parliament. I ask that that remark be struck from the record.
– I certainly withdraw the remark if Senator McLaren assures me that he has made no purchase in Canberra since his election to the Senate. I understood the position to be the opposite. I apologise to him. I certainly agree that the remark should be struck out if it is untrue.
– You do not strike things off the record; you withdraw.
– That is quite so. I was dealing with the principle of one vote one value. The adoption of that principle would not reflect the true situation because people in the vast outback do not have the same access to their member of Parliament that people in the closely populated metropolitan areas have. There is no equality of voting there. There is no equality of voting when a member of the House of Representatives does not have the ability to get to a constituent who lives in a very vast and unpopulated area.
It is untrue to say that each person’s vote is of equal value. That might be so theoretically. It sounds a very attractive proposition. At the moment nobody in the Government can tell me that the vote of a person who has the necessary finance to put money into the election campaign fund of a party has the same strength as the vote of a poor citizen who has not the necessary finance. I can recall one prominent businessman being proud of the fact that he poured $50,000 into the Labor Party’s election campaign fund. That gentleman climbed to the top of the Great Wall of China the other day, beating Dr J. F. Cairns by a few lengths. The strength of that man’s vote cannot be compared with the strength of the vote of some individual in the pensioner class or in the less fortunate class in our community. The principle of one vote one value is really a false principle. The Minister recognises that that principle cannot be introduced in this country. So it is only a matter of degree over which we are arguing - whether the permissible variation should be 10 per cent, as is proposed by the Government, or whether it should be 20 per cent, as it has been, as was proposed in 1902 and as has been accepted by all governments, including Labor Party governments, until 1973. It amazes me that within 3 or 4 months of attaining office this socialist Labor Government says: ‘We will change the electoral system in a number of ways. We will change this disparity of vote. We will attempt to give Senate representation to the Territories. When we do, we may bring into the Senate a balance that will give us control of the Senate. When we have added to the numbers of the Senate we will be able to enlarge the House of Representatives to make it, as near as practicable, twice the size of the Senate, thereby getting greater control’. What an amazing situation.
I refer now to that wonderful phrase ‘first past the post’. Every Australian who loves horse races thinks that the introduction of that system of voting is a wonderful suggestion, but it would be a bad voting system in Australia. Under a first past the post system, if 3 candidates stood for an electorate, one candidate could win if he got 34 per cent of the vote. That would be against the wishes of 66 per cent of the electorate. If 4 candidates stood for an electorate, as often happens, one candidate could get as little as 26 per cent of the vote and win. The situation would be worse in electorates where there were more than 4 candidates. The working population generally claims some allegiance to the Labor Party, as the Minister knows. The introduction of a first past the post system would give Labor office forever. I do not blame the Labor Party for looking at these things, but it is very unfair for it to adopt them.
The other important matter which is proposed in the Bill is the withdrawal of certain criteria on which the distribution commissioners shall base their considerations. The 2 criteria which will come out of the 1918-1966 Act are the area of the division and the sparsity of population in the division. The elimination of the Country Party has been the main aim of the Labor Party in its attempts to delete these criteria. 1 do not think honourable senators opposite will deny that. The Country Party certainly has an attraction for rural people, but by no means does it have control of all the rural seats in the Federal Parliament. It is calculated that there are 45 rural seats. The Country Party holds only 20 of those. The Labor Party is credited with holding 15, and the Liberal Party 10. 1 am proud to belong to the Country Party. People in rural areas must be given equality of voting. That means that there must be some loading for the rural areas. It is based on various factors which were laid down by the previous Government. That Government directed that distribution commissioners should give attention to the community of interest within the division. That was in section 19 of the Act. Other criteria included means of communication and travel within the division, the trend of population changes within the State, the density or sparsity of population and the area of the division. The last 2 criteria are the ones which the Labor Party wishes to excise. Two other criteria are the physical features of the division and the existing boundaries. They are in the existing Act. The commissioners are directed to give due consideration to these matters. If consideration is not given to these matters they would create anomalies in the weighting of electorates and in the weighting of the votes of individuals. I think the Minister would agree with me that there is a loss of strength of representation for the constituent who lives in a vast area.
– Only if it is your area.
– -I am glad to have the Minister on record as saying only if it is my area. There are some members of the Australian Labor Party who claim to have a rural background. Indeed there are 2 honourable senators sitting in this chamber at present to whom I usually look up to as having some background knowledge on rural matters. If I may say so, they are very vocal members of the Senate, too. But there has not been one word from those honourable senators about standing up for the rights of individuals who live in rural areas. Senator McLaren has argued that the people who live in metropolitan areas are entitled to the same voting strength as rural dwellers, in spite of the size of country electorates. That statement is deserving of the greatest criticism possible. He often has discussions with poultry farmers and Senator Primmer often has discussions in Victoria with dairy farmers. I wish that they would be prepared to say during their discussions that they be ong to a Party - the Australian Labor Party - which wants to deprive farmers of their vote. Those honourable senators opposite cackle and moo but they will not get down to accepting the fact that this is a matter of great importance to the people who live in the great outback areas of Australia.
The Australian Labor Party seeks the removal of subsections (2.) (d) and (e) of section 19 of the Principal Act. One refers to the density or sparsity of the population of a division and the other to the area of a division. The Labor Party is inconsistent because it wants to see retained in the Act the provision relating to consideration of the physical features of a division; it has been inconsistent in its argument about the principle of one vote one value; it has been inconsistent in its argument about the 10 per cent disparity, especially as its colleagues in Western Australia are saying that there should be a 20 per cent disparity; and it has been inconsistent in its attempts to remove certain provisions from section 19 of the Act. The Labor Party has been inconsistent in so many things.
But I do congratulate the Labor Party - I am sure Senator McLaren will bc quiet while I discuss this aspect - for the fact that Australia has until now had the best and most modern electoral system of any country in the world. All members of the Parliament should be proud of that. The people of Australia also should be proud of it. An Act of Parliament has been set down in 90 pages which has given and continues to give the people of Australia a very fair electoral system.
– Fair to the Country Party.
– Senator McLaren said fair to the Country Party’ and then smiled. He does not think that there will be any objection to that. How many seats does the Labor Party hold in rural areas?
– We have nearly as many as the Country Party and all of our members live in their electorates and not in the cities.
– Senator McLaren has to stay there and put the lights on so that his chooks will lay twice a day.
– I know that you, Mr Deputy President, would say that I was getting away from the terms of the Bill if I were to suggest that. I am delighted that the Labor Party has seen fit not to seek the deletion of sections 21, 22 and 23 from the Act. I implore the Labor Party not to consider doing so in the future. Those provisions relate to the redistribution of electorates. They prevent anyone from unlawfully seeking to influence the distribution commissioners in the performance of their duties. 1 congratulate the Labor Party for not seeking the deletion of a provision which controls the ability of anybody to give directions to a redistribution commissioner as to where he will draw boundary lines. This work has to be done out in the open. Suggestions or objections have to be made public. I think I should quote section 22 of the Act because it is of great public importance. I do not think any other country has the controls that we have in this respect. Section 22 gives an independence to distribution commissioners of which we should be proud. It states:
Except as provided by section 18a of this Act or by the last preceding section-
Incidentally, that is the section which states that any objections or suggestions have to be lodged in writing and made public - a person shall not, by writing sent to a Distribution Commissioner, or by words spoken to or in the presence of a Distribution Commissioner, seek to influence the Commissioner in the performance of his duties under this Act.
We should be proud of our present Act. I ask the Senate to vote against the proposals that have been put forward by the Government.
– It was not my intention to take part in this debate but after listening to some of the silly arguments that have been put forward this afternoon by members of the Opposition in an attempt to debate this Bill I thought I should stand up and state my point of view. Surely the whole crux of this matter is people. Everyone knows that, as the population of the Commonwealth has increased, the membership of the respective Parliaments has tended to increase. The increases may have been somewhat tardy in some respects, but as a general principle they have taken place. That being the case, if the Parliament is to be truly representative of the people of the Commonwealth it is only right that the representation should be determined upon the basis of where the people live. It should be determined not by the number of cows, trees and bales of hay in an area - factors that the Australian Country Party seems to have had in mind over the years - but by the number of human beings.
An examination of the situation in Victoria in this regard will reveal that that is exactly what this Bill seeks to do. Figures given in another place on 11th April by the Minister for Services and Property (Mr Daly), in answer to a question, show that on a broad basis the population of the rural areas of Victoria is declining and that the population of the strictly metropolitan area - the inner suburbs - of Melbourne is also declining. For example, in the electorate of Batman, which is in one of the inner areas of Melbourne, there has been a decrease in population between 1970 and 1973 of 116 voters. Tha same situation applies with respect to the electorate of Chisholm, where there has been a decrease of 992 voters. In the hub of Melbourne itself - in the electorate of Melbourne - there has been a decrease of 2,321 voters.
Let us have a look at the situation in the outer areas of Melbourne, which is where the Australian Labor Party won the last election. There have been dramatic increases in the number of voters in those electorates. That is where the people of Victoria are living at this stage. In the 3 years to which I have referred there has been an increase of 14,626 in the electorate of Burke; 15,000-odd in the electorate of Diamond Valley; over 12,000 in the electorate of Flinders; 12,000 in the electorate of Holt; and 14,000 in the electorate of La Trobe. Regardless of what those people may do for a living, surely to goodness they are entitled to be properly represented in this Parliament. It is all very well for members of the Australian Country Party in particular to get up in this place, as they have been doing ever since I have been a member of this chamber, and bleat like a lot of motherless bull calves about the situation in rural areas and whinny about the fact that there is not enough representation of country areas in the Parliament.
Let us have a look at the situation in the area of Victoria in which I live. Not one Federal member of the Opposition has an office in the whole of south-western Victoria, from the outskirts of Melbourne to the South Australian border. On the other hand, twothirds of the Australian Labor Party’s Senate team in Victoria has an office outside the metropolitan area. Not one Opposition senator has an office outside the city of Melbourne. So honourable senators opposite should not come in here bleating like a lot of motherless calves about poor representation for people in the country when they are not prepared to get out into the country and service people by providing an active office 5 days a week.
As I see it, the argument that has been put forward by the Opposition on this Bill for larger representation for less and less people in the country areas is really an argument for the provision of better facilities for members who represent those electorates and for the provision of better services for those members. I repeat that I hold firmly to the conviction that this Parliament must be made to represent people. It may be unfortunate for honourable senators opposite that in the 23 years in which they were in government they allowed a situation to develop wherein people had to move to the great metropolitan areas in order to get an income, and an education for their children. That is one of the tragedies of this nation, but the responsibility for it lies at the feet of honourable senators opposite. Now they are hoist with their own petard. People have moved to the metropolitan areas, but those who have allowed them to do that now wish to deny these people the right to be represented as fully as anybody else in the community in this, the Federal Parliament.
– I rise to speak in this debate mainly because of the use that has been made of my name in ignorance or in suppression of the whole facts regarding my position. The Bill that we are considering is a Bill that mainly is focused on the provision which enables electorates to be fixed by taking a number of electors which may vary from the quota by a margin of 20 per cent up or down. The Australian Labor Party wishes to reduce that margin of difference to 10 per cent. It has been stated that that position is required by the idea of one vote one value. We had a simple illustration last night when Senator Wriedt compared a professor of political science in Sydney with a farm labourer in western New South Wales. An individual comparison of that sort in regard to voting in this system is wholly misleading.
We are dealing here with groups of people in an electorate of the order of 40,000 or 50,000 or 60,000 in number. Under our preferential system, after the votes are counted effect is given to the wishes of the majority who vote for a candidate. So it is an entirely absurd approach to consider whether a professor of political science and a farm labourer are equal, any more than it would be a rational approach to compare the equality of any person who happens to be a member of this Senate. What we are considering is the grouping of people so that their votes, when expressed in the majority, may fairly represent that group in a majority opinion.
It was said that 1 was a member of the Joint Committee on Constitutional Review which reported in 1959 and that one of the recommendations of that Committee to which I subscribed was that the margin of difference from the quota should be one-tenth. That can be found in paragraph 365 of the report. If the Senate will only deal fairly wilh the report it will observe what Senator Carrick stated clearly in the course of the debate, that is, that that recommendation was made after considering the views of the Commonwealth Electoral Officer and the Surveyor-General in each State. The preponderance of that opinion was clearly in favour of retaining the marginal allowance at the existing one-fifth fraction, or 20 per cent.
The next point I make is that the Committee took note of the problem of large scale electorates, and in paragraph 348 it out on record this rather arresting fact:
As a consequence there are in 4 States, New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia and Western Australia, rural electorates of greater area than the State of Victoria.
Then the members of the Committee went on to consider how those large electorates could be better represented, and I am afraid that they followed a false guide by suggesting that when they ridded the House of Representatives of the nexus with the Senate they would be able to increase the number of representatives in the House of Representatives, they thought, like a cauliflower, and so give an electorate like Kalgoorlie 5 new members in the House of Representatives and so on.
The futility of that approach was fortunately frustrated when the people voted against the proposal, and I have great pride in recalling my being among the 10 members of the Senate who advocated a ‘No’ vote. The people’s No’ vote on the nexus question was carried by about 75 per cent to 25 per cent.
When one subscribes to a majority report on such a matter as a general review of the Constitution, quite obviously and quite reasonably one subscribes to what is acceptable as a package proposition. On the Committee there were 6 members of the Australian Labor Party, 4 members of the Liberal Party and 2 members of the Australian Country Party. The terms of our reference were to make a comprehensive review of the Constitution and to bring in recommendations which had, so far as practicable, the greatest unanimous party support that we could give. When 1 look at the other recommendations in the report, I offer no apologies for being capable of a little compromise on that occasion and of subscribing to the majority viewpoint of 10 per cent as being preferable to the margin of 20 per cent.
But those who sought to make much of that in the rather superficial way in which references to my name were made in the course of this debate did not do themselves the credit of informing the Senate that I had occasion to advance an individual view on this matter to the Senate as long ago as 1965. I made it plain that my own opinion, divorced from any countervailing considerations that would enable us to get a package proposition for amendments of the Constitution, was strongly in favour of making allowance for area in respect of electorates and so not be concerned with a mere count of heads. If I were to do that now I would feel ashamed because on the Government benches this afternoon since this debate on the Commonwealth Electoral Bill (No. 2) was resumed the number of honourable senators supporting the Minister has not exceeded five.
– Come off it. You have only 2 members of your own Party in the chamber.
– At the same time, when I called attention to the fact, there was only one and Senator Turnbull being in here as he is - what fraction of time would you spend in here, Senator? - about one-fiftieth of the sitting time of the Senate just has the occasion to make that interjection. All I am saying is that the number of heads of the electors is not a complete and sufficient guide. If there are, as in an area like Kennedy, some 40,000 electors - (Quorum formed). I am delighted that the Senate has been able to muster a quorum and that it included 8 members of the Austraiian Labor Party until Senator Brown took his seat to make 9. That is an indication of how absolutely valueless it is to consider either merely the number of members or the number of people. A comparison was made last night between an area like the electorate of Kennedy covering 350,000 sq miles and the electorate of Grayndler which, I estimate, would not cover 4 sq miles. One relates to that comparison the words that fell from the Minister, Senator Wriedt, who said in the debate that if it was a question of ensuring that the electors in the country were given less opportunity to express their political views than were urban people he would be fighting that proposition to the utmost. Senator Wriedt, obviously in the reasoning of the proposition that commended itself to him, emphasised that what is relevant is that the electors have opportunity to express their political views on an equal basis. Just imagine the difficulty in the Kennedy electorate of getting 200 electors to one central point for a meeting by comparison with the same requirement in the Grayndler electorate. We hear in this place the sheepish shibboleths of one vote one value for the whole of Australia though we know that the cities hold 80 per cent of the population and the great outback, the great productive areas of Australia, have less than 20 per cent. I would prefer to see the honourable senators who advocate that point of view as shepherds telling their tales as their sheep run through the race than as persons occupying senatorial benches. The pathos with with which I contemplate their feeble arguments does not end there. It was a habit of mine to speak frequently in this place until I observed a becoming silence and spoke only in the role of my portfolio as Minister for Works for 5 years. But I take this opportunity of bringing to the Senate’s attention again the celebrated statement of Senator McKenna whose observations, I am sure, will not be repudiated on the Government side. He made this statement as reported in Hansard on 17th October 1950, on a great occasion when the Senate failed for the second time to reject the Communist Party Dissolution Bill 1950 (No. 2). The Labor Party Opposition had rejected it on the first vote. and then the controlling body of the Australian Labor Party directed the honourable representatives of the people not to vote against it a second time lest they be dragged before the people for judgment. Senator McKenna, excusing that shameful situation, declared the position in this way: . . the federal executive is the controlling body of the Australian Labor Party, and directs all its activities during the periods between triennial conferences . . .
Not only is every member of the Federal Parliamentary Labor Party honourably bound - -
I always emphasise in inverted commas that word ‘honourably’ - by the decision of the federal executive, but so also is every member of the Australian Labor Party throughout Australia . . . So far as I, and other members of the Federal Parliamentary Labor Party are concerned, whatever we may say regarding that decision in the halls of the Party, we are bound by the decision, and accept it unquestionably.
When the grand old Duke of York came in here pretending to represent the majority of the people and voted against the Bill on the first occasion, was he bound by numbers that he represented in the electorate? The second time he simply took the direction of the federal executive of the Labor Party. What is the materiality of the sufferage, the voters, the number and the quota that affects the members of the Australian Labor Party? They are just puppets when they come into this place or the other, whose strings are pulled by the Australian Labor Party Federal Executive which is constituted on a vote of 2 members from each State and after a conference of 6 members from each State. In all its shabbiness and all its superficiality the shamefaced pretence of Senator McAuliffe and those other members of the present Australian Labor Party who advocate this shibboleth is revealed.
I need not go only to the former Minister of a former Labor Government for my criticism -Senator McKenna. The present Tasmanian Minister in the present Government in this place, Senator Wriedt, gave expression to some weird remarks last might when he advanced a viewpoint. I thought that he was trying to engage us in a novel proposition. Of course he hadnot had the opportunity to be present during 95 per cent of the preceding debate. I am entitled to say that and hope that somebody, if a quorum is not present, will show the Labor Government members up again as not being present for a second time during my speech. Senator Wriedt has been absent for 95 per cent of the debate; I have been present for 95 per cent of it When presenting this novel idea he said: ‘I call your attention to a peculiar people in the south of this continent.’ He had the temerity to refer to Tasmania in those terms. Nobody who really doves and rejoices in being a true citizen of Tasmania ever refers to it in those terms. I give Senator Wriedt the credit that he may have been in a somewhat satirical mood.
He said that Tasmania had a proportional representation system called the Hare-Clark system. He was indulging in a bit of ambivalence. I brought him to the point and asked him whether he was recommending or rejecting the system. He said: ‘Surely you understand me, Senator. As a Tasmanian I adopt anything Tasmanian.’ He was saying that his popularity was not to be besmirched by an interjection from Senator Wright. Proportional representation is his recipe for the new House of Representatives. If I may I pause just to go into another key. I remind the Senate that in this House we already enjoy proportional representation. When people in their wisdom at the last election constituted this chamber they gave an Opposition numerically exceeding Government members. How honourable members on ‘the Government side jaundice and squirm when we come here and reflect the people’s vote and verdict. I do not notice much hilarity at the moment. I think that is a tribute to their silence. They are pausing for consideration. The weirdness of this reference was to suggest that proportional representation gave no opportunity for a gerrymander by drawing the lines for electoral divisions. My goodness me! In Tasmania there are electoral divisions and 7 members are elected from each of them. One has only to put a division around a nice industrial corner and one can ensure the fourth quota with much less effort than one can in a straight out single electorate where one has to get a real man into office and where he has to recommend himself not as one of 4 or 7 but as himself to command preferences. I think that proportional representation was a rather unfortunate viewpoint for the honourable Tasmanian Minister to advance as a guide to the Government. The thing is that proportional representation reflects not merely the majority opinion in an electorate but all shades of opinion. If one has to elect 7 members under a preferential system from the one. district then minorities are assured of representation, and in that respect the system has its virtue. But the point which was made by Senator Wriedt does not do credit to anybody who has studied the Tasmanian system in more detail than in a glance at the page.
This Government is magnificent in its comprehension and the unanimity with which it is able to obtain agreement from the Australian Labor Party branches throughout the country. The Labor Party now has 3 Labor governments in the States. On the very day on which the Senate debate is proceeding to its zenith the Government in Western Australia introduces a Bill to reverse its experience of the past few years and what this Government recommends, that is a 10 per cent margin, and seeks to go back to what we wish to retain, which is a 20 per cent margin. So on this side of the Senatethe Opposition, in voting against this Bill, is simply identifying itself with the opinion of the Labor Government in Western Australia on this issue. The Attorney-General, who introduced the Bill there, said that the experiment with the 10 per cent margin had proved impractical. That gives support to the expert opinion which was given to the Joint Committee on Constitutional (Review. The opinions of all the Chief Electoral Officers and the Surveyor-General were summarised by the Committee as follows:
The preponderance of that opinion was clearly in favour of retaining the marginal allowance at the existing one-fifth fraction.
– I suggest that the honourable senator read the next paragraph.
– I have listened intently to Senator McAuliffe. If this were not my peroration I would love to answer the honourable senator’s interjection. But now I have the opportunity to give way to the Minister for Works (Senator Cavanagh) and to hear what can be said in reply or in defence of this Bill.
– I accept the opportunity and invitation which Senator Wright has given me. But I must say that I am not the Minister who introduced this Commonwealth Electoral Bill (No. 2). I took over the Bill soon after its introduction. In accordance with Standing Orders I am not replying in the normal way but I hope it will be accepted, as Senator Wright said, that this is a reply to the debate which has gone on in this chamber. I intend to reply to the points which were raised rather than to lead discussion on the matter. The first matter which we have to consider is the Bill. We have had 3 days of discussion ranging over a wide field and much of it was not relevant to the Bill. In the last 3 days there has not been a criticism of the Australian Labor Party which has not been stated. Firstly, the Bill is concerned with the distribution of the States into Federal electoral divisions. Whether the Bill is carried or defeated, a redistribution can and will have to take place. Section 25 (1.) of the Act states:
A re-distribution of any State into Divisions shall be made in the manner hereinbefore provided whenever directed by the Governor-General by proclamation.
Therefore the setting up of a commission for the purpose of redistribution requires only the issuing of a proclamation. Section 25(2.) reads:
Such proclamation may be made -
whenever an alteration is made to the number of Members of the House of Representatives to be elected for the State; and
whenever in one-fourth of the Divisions of the State the number of the electors differs from a quota ascertained in the manner provided in this Part to a greater extent than one-fifth more or one-fifth less; and
at such other times as the Governor-General thinks fit.
The Governor-General acts upon the advice of his Ministers, and if representations are made from the Cabinet at any time the Governor-General can issue a proclamation for a redistribution, whether this Bill is carried or defeated. Of course, a redistribution is essential because the June 1971 census showed that Western Australia is entitled to another member in the House of Representatives. Therefore there has to be a distribution at least in Western Australia. If such a redistribution is not carried out, any party can make application to the High Court of Australia stating that Western Australia is not properly represented in the Parliament in accordance with the Act or the Constitution. Possibly the High Court would then order - there is precedent for this - the appointment of an additional representative by means of an election involving the whole State. Having this knowledge, we want to avoid the situation where this happens.
The Bill seeks, before a redistribution, to put the Commonwealth Electoral Act in order not so that we can effect a gerrymander but so that we can prevent a gerrymander, or so that we can correct the conditions which lead to gerrymanders at the present time. It has been said that this is the second of many electoral Bills which the Labor Government proposes to introduce. The Government introduced the Bill giving the vote to 18-year-olds, which was 3 years overdue, as a matter of urgency. If it had been made part of the present Bill it may have been rejected because the Senate would not accept some other clause in the Bill. So it was introduced on its own so that 18-year-olds would have the right to vote should an emergency by-election be held at any time.
Let me deal with the question of which electoral system we should adopt. The Constitution establishes the Parliament of Australia with a bicameral system comprising a House of the people and a House of the States. This Bill deals with the people’s House. So it is of no use for Senator Drake-Brockman to say, as he did, that we do not believe in the concept of one vote one value simply because we propose that the Northern Territory should have 2 senators and the Australian Capital Territory should have 2 senators. The Senate can never be a House democratically elected by the people on a popular basis. The purpose of the Senate is to give State representation. Its sole purpose is to prevent the Parliament from being dominated by thickly populated areas or thickly populated States. This domination would occur except for the system by which the members of the Senate are elected.
The Constitution lays down that we must have an upper House for the purpose of protecting the interests of the States. If it were not for the existence of the upper House or the Senate, the Parliament would be controlled by Victoria and New South Wales., which people have visualised could occur. We cannot compare a Senate election with an election of the House of the people. The House of (Representatives represents the people. It does not represent acres or areas of land. It is true that it is impossible for the members for some electorates to serve the electorate as well as they should, and this is a reason for them to get some assistance. But immediately we destroy the concept of one vote one value, we destroy our belief in democracy and we could finish up with a fascist state, or one electorate of Australia or, as someone suggested, one party in Australia.
We claim that people are equal under the law and we expect the population to obey the laws of the country, but they have to be laws that the people can respect and the people must have equal representation in the making of the laws. ! We cannot expect the same respect for the law from the citizen whose vote is of half value as from the citizen whose vote, has double value. Therefore we must achieve, as nearly as practicable, the concept of one vote one value so that everyone in this country has an equal say in electing representatives to the Parliament. If this creates any problems in insolated localities we should give assistance to the parliamentary representative or to some other agency for the purpose of meeting the requirements of the electors so that they are not disadvantaged. (But we cannot at any price destroy this system by giving preference to individuals in relation to representation in a democratic Parliament. Immediately we tamper with the people’s House and depart from the concept of one vote one value, we destroy the democracy in which we all believe.
It is true that the 20 per cent variation in the quota has been effective since 1902. It was a provision of the first Commonwealth Electoral Act introduced in 1902 when the population of Australia was 4 million, when we had transport difficulties and when it >vas the best approach we could make to this question. But this is 1973 and transportation is much easier today. The population is bigger and we have given the vote to 18-year-olds. Despite the fact that the margin of variation from the quota has been 20 per cent, variations of 50 per cent between electoral rolls have been created. This did not result from the actions of the commissioners. Despite Senator McManus’s reference to what the Labor Party seeks to do in relation to the commissioners, I have respect for them. They have tried to maintain an equality of numbers in the electorates under their terms of reference until they were prevented from doing so by the 1965 gerrymander. On that occasion the Australian Country Party was given preference under section 19, which we are trying to amend.
Let us look at the redistribution that occurred in 1948. The only electorates in the 1948 election which had a number of electors either in excess of 10 per cent of the quota or below 10 per cent of the quota were one in New South Wales, 3 in Victoria, 5 in Queensland and 6 in Western Australia. There was none in South Australia. The total was 15. After the redistribution in 1955 there were 8 electorates which were either above or below 10 per cent of the quota. In 1962 there were 11 such electorates. We must remember that there were some 120 seats and the distribution commissioners tried to do something. They had a new charter after 1965 and in 1968 they produced 34 electorates which were 10 per cent above the quota. When up to a 20 per cent variation was an acceptable figure no conditions were imposed on the distribution commissioners. However, when conditions were imposed, 20 per cent above or below the quota was no longer acceptable. In the 1948, 1955 and 1962 redistributions there was only one electorate in New South Wales which was 10 per cent above or below the quota. In 1968 there were 16 such electorates. In Victoria there were 3 in 1948, but none in 1955 or 1962. However in 1968, after the gerrymander, the number went up to 7. The other States remained practically as they were except for a reduction in Tasmania.
Because there was an increase in population in the urban areas of Sydney and Melbourne the Act was amended so that distribution commissioners had to take certain things into consideration, not so that the people in Sydney and Melbourne would get proper representation but so that such representation could be given to areas outside the big cities. The figures I have stated show what happened. The action that was taken did not bring about equality. While at the present time in New South Wales there are only 2 electorates which are either 20 per cent over or 20 per cent under the quota, there are 18 electorates in that State which are either 10 per cent over or 10 per cent under the quota.
The electorate of Darling in New South Wales is 23.5 per cent below the quota but the electorate of Mitchell is 25.3 per cent above the quota. In Darling there were 44,374 electors on the roll as at 23rd February 1973 while Mitchell had 72,682 electors on the roll, which is nearly double the number of electors in Darling. Therefore the value of the vote in the Darling electorate is almost double that of the vote in the Mitchell electorate. Therefore while 72,000 voters can elect a member for Mitchell only 40,000 voters are needed to elect a member for Darling.
In Victoria there are 13 electorates which are either over or below the 10 per cent quota. There are 8 such electorates in Queensland. The McPherson electorate in Queensland is a glaring example of inconsistency. It is 27.19 per cent in excess of the quota, and the electorate of Maranoa is 24.88 per cent below the quota. However, McPherson has 73,130 electors and Maranoa has 43,915 electors. Who can have respect for a law when there is such inequality of electors?
– Those are different figures from the figures I have seen.
– The figures were supplied by the Commonwealth Electoral Office and I doubt whether the honourable senator would have the figures for February 1973. The point is that we cannot allow another election to be held while such a situation obtains. The Country Party does not accept the principle of one vote one value. Senator Lillico and Senator Davidson do not accept that there should be one vote one value, or that there should be government by the people. They think that areas should be represented, not people. However, every other Opposition speaker has supported the proposal although they have said that the Government is not genuine or that the Bill does not achieve that purpose. But there is no condemnation of it. Instead we hear extravagant statements claiming that it is our desire to create a gerrymander. Senator McManus revealed that he had no confidence in anyone. I interpreted his speech to mean that I was a delegate of the Australian Labor Party when the Minister for Services and Property (Mr Daly), who is responsible for this Bill, was only an observer. I was Mr Daly’s teacher, and as he came from a hard school and had a good teacher he therefore must be crooked and people should not trust anything that he does. Senator McManus commenced his speech by saying:
I have been deeply moved by the expressions 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 ‘It is electoral justice”? But ‘Who will win’? I am not impressed one bit by all the hyprocrisy about this Bill . . .
I suppose it is a question of who will win, but we can argue justice on this. Opposition members can say that in their opinion this Bill may be electorally fortunate for the Government but it is not as good for the purpose of gerrymander as is the present Act. If we have distribution commissioners who will bring down recommendations to suit political parties, they can juggle electorates more if there is a 20 per cent tolerance than if there is a 10 per cent tolerance. They can move populations. They can move 50 per cent of the population in order to make a Labor seat. In this Bill we propose to restrict the redistribution commissioners to a 10 per cent tolerance of movement to cut out that possibility.
It was said in the course of this debate - I think it was said by the Minister for the Media, Senator Douglas McClelland - that the Country Party has opposed decentralisation because it would result in factories being built in country areas and the workers in them might vote for the Australian Labor Party. This Government has a policy of decentralisation. It has established a Ministry of Urban and Regional Development and has set up a Cities Commission to build cities and developmental areas in the country. The development of country areas leads to new industries transferring to those regions. If as a result of that development Labor voters move into such an area, the result is that fewer voters on a percentage basis are needed to elect a Labor candidate in that electorate. When the number of electors is reduced-
– What about Mt Isa in the electorate of Kennedy? Does not that example blow your argument?
– I give as an example the electorate of Grey in South Australia which, on one occasion, we did not win. We do not always win electorates in areas of the type that I have described. My point is that it is easier for the Labor Party to capture seats in these country areas under the present Act than it will be if the new provisions contained in this Bill are agreed to. I know as well as anyone that we cannot achieve in full the principle of one vote one value. Possibly the only way to achieve one vote one value would be to introduce a proportional representation system for the House of Representatives with Australia as the only electorate or perhaps each State being a single electorate. Of course we know that under proportional represen tation in the Senate the one vote one value concept has not worked. Perhaps the HareClark system in Tasmania comes closest of all the electoral systems to the one vote one value principle. We have heard today of the possibility of multiple elections and of subdivisions of the type mentioned by Senator Wright, but this is not the complete solution. The legislation does not seek to change the voting system. It seeks to change the method of electoral distribution.
By its action the Government will not destroy all those principles which it is alleged we will destroy by giving directions to the distribution commissioners. Proposed new section 19 provides:
In making any proposed distribution of a State into divisions, the Distribution Commissioners shall give due consideration, in relation to each proposed Division, to -
community of interests within the division including economic, social and regional interests;
So, ‘community of interests’ is retained in this legislation. The proposed new section continues:
That provision remains but special reference to difficulties arising from remoteness or distance are deleted. The proposed new section states further:
The tolerance to be provided is protected but a variation to meet the problems of density or sparsity of population in a division or in an area of a division will not be permitted; that provision is deleted. Anything that relates to area and not to people is to be deleted from the Bill. The sole purpose of this action is to accord status and responsibility to the House of Representatives, which is the people’s House. That is the main purpose of this Bill and the proposed new section that I have quoted. On that basis we justify the provisions of this Bill against which we say no argument can be made out.
A great deal of what has been said in this debate is not relevant to the provisions of the Bill. I wish to clear up a few points that have been made. Firstly, the new Electoral Bill for Western Australia was introduced into the Western Australian House of Assembly on 9th May last. It was not introduced last evening. The proposal to increase House of Representative’s representation in the Australian Capital Territory to 2 members will be authorised on the basis of section 122 of the Constitution as will the election of 2 Senators for the Australian Capital Territory. The founding fathers laid down that there shall be an equal number of senators from each State. Special provision is made for the number of members of the House of Representatives to be elected in Tasmania. But the Constitution commits us ito the principle that the number of members of the House of Representatives shall be as near as practicable double the number of members of the Senate. Legal opinion is that the provision of senators from Commonwealth Territories - this relates to another part of the Constitution - will not require an increase in the number of members in the House of Representatives. Section 122 of the Constitution provides: 122. The Parliament may make laws for the government of any territory surrendered by any State to and accepted by the Commonwealth, or of any Territory placed by the Queen under the authority of and accepted by the Commonwealth, or otherwise acquired by the Commonwealth, and may allow the representation of such territory in either House of the Parliament to the extent and on the terms which it thinks fit.
That is what the Labor Party proposes. If this proposal is not acceptable to this Senate, the Senate can reject it, but this proposal will not be a cause for action seeking to increase the number of members of the House of Representatives.
The only other matter which I wish to raise concerns the question of optional preferential voting. Despite what has been said about the threat posed by the Labor Party’s commitment to the first past the post system of voting, the present Bill contains no provision seeking to introduce that system. Honourable senators will not be voting on that principle on this occasion. A definite assurance has been given by the Prime Minister to the effect that the system of voting to elect the House of Representatives will not be altered to the first past the post method before the next House of Representatives election.
I do not think anyone would say that Mr Whitlam goes back too much on his statements; he has that reputation. In the course of the last House of Representatives election campaign and in answer to a question on 15th March he gave that assurance. This was not one of the proposals contained in the policy speech for which he has a mandate from the people. AH he has asked Parliament to do in respect of legislation introduced by this Government is to vote in support of those actions for which he has a mandate. First past the post voting was part of the Labor Party’s policy but it was taken out of that policy in 1971. That principle will not be introduced as part of any Bill relating to electoral matters until it has been reintroduced into Labor Party policy and the Labor Party has been returned to government with that policy as part of the platform on which it was re-elected.
Mr Whitlam said in answer to Mr Lynch on 15th March in the other place that he favours a system of compulsory voting for the House of Representatives in which a voter expresses a direct preference or follows the optional preference system. The present voting system need not be changed at all for optional preference voting to apply. A voter is given the option to decide for how many candidates seeking election for a division he will cast a vote. As an example, 14 candidates may seek election for a division. A voter may allocate preferences, following his first preference, to 6 or 7 of the other candidates. That voter then may not wish to cast any further preferences. He may not believe in or like the Country Party or the Australian Democratic Labor Party. He stops allocating his preferences. So, the point is not reached where a voter must express a preference - in the example I have given, by allocating a thirteenth and fourteenth preference - for the candidate or candidates who satisfy least the views of that voter. The voter would support those candidates only if the wish was to see one of them elected to Parliament. That is what tha6 system of voting means.
The whole point of this exercise is that this Bill has been introduced here for the Senate’s approval. We believe that it will be defeated. I take the matter no further than saying that the Government has justified its reasons for introducing this Bill. I do not make any threats about a double dissolution. If this Bill is rejected, those who vote against it shall answer to the people at some time or other for their action.
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator Sir Magnus Cormack)
Question so resolved in the negative.
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.
The main purpose of the Bill is to extend the operation of the Stevedoring Industry (Temporary Provisions) Act 1967-1972 for a further period of 12 months. The Bill also proposes to extend the power to make regulations to include non-continuous ports and to remove some existing limitations in relation to other ports. These measures are necessary to permit the evolution and introduction of permanent legislative arrangements for the industry. The Stevedoring Industry (Temporary Provisions) Act was enacted in 1967 to give legislative effect to the agreement entered into by the National Stevedoring Industry Conference which was set up by the previous Government under the chairmanship of Mr A. E. Woodward, Q.C., with the object of achieving long-term improvement of conditions in the stevedoring industry.
The National Conference reported to the then Government in April 1967, and recorded agreement in principle, inter alia, on a scheme for the permanent employment, on weekly hiring, of watersiders in major ports; a pension scheme for regular waterside workers; arrangements for coping with anticipated redundancy; procedures for handling industrial disputes; and disciplinary procedures. These proposals involved significant changes in the role of the Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority, whose functions in relation to permanently employed watersiders were to be largely transferred to the stevedoring companies.
The enabling legislation was originally introduced for a trial period expiring on 30th June 1970, by which time it was anticipated that legislation providing for permanent arrangements in the industry could be introduced. However, before that date it became evident that a number of factors prevented the introduction of permanent legislation at that time. The most important of these were that it had not been possible for the principal parties in the industry to determine what employment arrangements would be introduced in the smaller ports, where about onefifth of the industry’s work force was still employed on a casual basis, and the fact that the structure of the industry was being greatly affected by the development of containerisation and other new cargo handling techniques. For these reasons the life of the temporary legislation was extended for 2 years until 30th June 1972.
By early 1972 no significant progress had been made to resolve these issues. Furthermore the task of evolving permanent employment arrangements for the entire industry was further complicated by the financial difficulties in which the Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority found itself. From 1970 onward, the Authority has been progressively less able to meet is commitments from the levies on employers raised under the Stevedoring Industry Charge Act, mainly because of a rapidly rising level of expenditure on idle time. Idle time expenditure comprises payments made to permanent watersiders in respect of full shifts for which they are available for work but are not required. The rising trend in idle time expenditure is a reflection of the progressive introduction of technological developments in the industry. Accordingly the temporary legislation was again extended for a further 12 months until 30th June 1973.
Notwithstanding the difficulties which have prevented the introduction of permanent legislation relating to this industry in the past, the Government believes .that it will be possible during the next 12 months to determine permanent legislation arrangements for the industry. In contrast to the approach adopted by .the previous Administration, positive steps have already been taken to resolve the outstanding issues in this industry. The Minister for Labour (Mr Clyde Cameron) has requested the Stevedoring Industry Council to supply him with its views on future permanent employment arrangements for casual ports, and on funding arrangements for the industry as a whole. Mr Clyde Cameron also commissioned an officer of his Department, Mr Norman K. Foster, to inquire into and report on certain aspects of stevedoring operations in relation to the activities of the Australian Coastal Shipping Commission.
Nevertheless it will not be possible to reach finality on future arrangements for the industry in sufficient time to prepare permanent legislation ‘before the Stevedoring Industry (Temporary Provisions) Act expires at the end of June this year. It is therefore proposed that the life of this Act be extended for a further 12 months to 30th June 1974. Extending the life of the Act until June ‘1974 will not of course preclude the introduction of permanent legislation at an earlier date if this proves feasible. Indeed, an earlier date for .permanent legislation is desirable.
As presently framed, the Stevedoring Industry (Temporary Provisions) Act does not have application to non-continuous ports, and places some limitations on the powers of the Governor-General to make regulations in relation to permanent and continuous ports. It is, therefore, proposed to extend the regulationmaking powers to cover non-continuous ports, and to remove existing limitations in relation to other ports to the extent necessary to ensure that any transitional arrangements for permanent employment of a different nature to that in existing permanent ports can be introduced by regulation pending .the framing of permanent legislation. This involves minor changes to section 8 of the Act. I commend the Bill to the Senate
Debate (on motion by Senator Greenwood) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Willesee) read a first time.
– !l move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
This Bill seeks the approval of Parliament to the provision of a contractual guarantee by the Australian Government for an overseas borrowing by Papua New Guinea in foreign currencies not exceeding the equivalent of $US20m or $A14.3m. Legislation to authorise the borrowing, to be used by the Government of Papua New Guinea to finance public works and services, has already been passed by the Papua New Guinea House of Assembly and it is expected that arrangements for the borrowing for which this Bill provides a guarantee will be concluded before the end of this financial year. The borrowing will be the first loan raised by Papua New Guinea on international capital markets, although this is not the first time Parliament has been asked to approve the provision of contractual guarantees for overseas borrowings by Papua New Guinea. Parliament has on several previous occasions approved such guarantees by the Australian Government in respect of loans to Papua New Guinea from the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development and the Asian Development Bank. All borrowings by Papua New Guinea internally or on the Australian market, or course, carry a statutory guarantee by the Australian Government by virtue of section 75a of the Papua New Guinea Act.
One of the loan possibilities currently being investigated by the Papua New Guinea Government is a public bond issue denominated in deutschemarks underwritten by an international syndicate of banking and financial institutions, which makes it necessary to seek parliamentary approval for the provision of the guarantee in advance of the time the issue is actually negotiated. A legal opinion by the Secretary to the Attorney-General’s Department, to the effect that the legal pre-requisites for the provision of the guarantee have been fulfilled, will need to be furnished to the underwriters immediately the loan documents have been signed and before the proceeds of the borrowing are paid over. This is normally done about 7 days after the signing of the underwriting agreement. There would, therefore, be insufficient time to seek parliamentary approval for the guarantee after the loan agreement has been signed, as has been the normal practice with guarantees for loans to Papua New Guinea by the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development and the Asian Development Bank.
The form of guarantee that is customarily required in international capital markets is similar to those that have been given to the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development and to the Asian Development Bank in respect of borrowings by Papua New Guinea from those institutions. The borrower and the guarantor would also both be required to give customary undertakings to the effect that interest payments and repayment of the loan would be made without deduction for taxes and would also be free of exchange control restrictions. The Bill accordingly provides for such undertakings to be given.
The Bill is purposely couched in general terms in respect of the currency and the precise form of the proposed borrowing so as not to restrict Papua New Guinea’s choice as to the particular overseas market in which it finally decided to arrange the loan. In present circumstances, it seems probable that the cost of an overseas borrowing by Papua New Guinea will not differ greatly from the cost of a borrowing for a comparable term from institutional sources in Australia. The Papua New Guinea Government wishes to undertake an overseas borrowing as soon as possible to establish a favourable standing in international capital markets before it becomes independent, as this could enhance its borrowing prospects thereafter. A contractual guarantee by the Australian Government for such a borrowing should ensure the success of this first issue and will materially assist Papua New Guinea in furthering this longer term objective. I therefore commend the Bill to honourable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator Cotton) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Cavanagh) read a firsttime.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a secondtime.
The purpose of this Bill is to change the name and composition of the National Urban and Regional Development Authority. We propose to change the name of the Authority to the ‘Cities Commission’. Since coming to office the Government has established a Department of Urban and Regional Development. It is important that the Authority’s name be clearly identified as seperate from the name of the Department. It is also important that we have an authority whose name is symbolic of one of the great themes of this Government’s program - cities, old and new.
We propose in this Bill to change the composition of the Authority so that instead of one Commissioner there will be in the Cities Commission a full time Chairman of Commissioners and 4 part time Commissioners made up as follows: Firstly, the Secretary of the Department of Urban and Regional Development; and, secondly, 3 other members. In selecting the part time members we would pay special attention to the representation of State interests and involvement.
There are several reasons for changing the composition of the Authority. Firstly, where there is a shared responsibility under the Act, the Commissioner is given greater protection and greater independence from external pressure. Secondly, the Cities Commission will be a bridge between the Commonwealth and the States. Co-operation will be encouraged with participation of the States on the Commission. It is the objective of the Cities Commission and the Department to make federalism work. Federalism is a partnership in a spirit of mutual co-operation at all levels of government. Thirdly, the new structure of the Cities Commission will provide an opportunity for a greater contribution from a wider range of interests.
The reason for having the Secretary of the Department of Urban and Regional Development on the Commission is to ensure a degree of consistency in policy implementation between the Department and the Commission. In the evolution of our urban and regional development policies, it is vital to provide a link between these 2 bodies in this portfolio. The Authority that was set up by the previous government did not have the capacity of itself to solve the problems of our cities. These problems involve moving across a whole range of inter-connected issues. They are not just physical planning problems. Rather, they concern the allocation of resources in urban and regional areas, the coordination of investment in urban and regional facilities and a complex web of social relationships. The previous Authority was unable alone to deal with these problems. Accordingly, honourable senators will recall that in October of last year, the Minister for Urban and Regional Development (Mr Uren), moved in another placed the following amendment to the National Urban and Regional Development Authority Bill: the Bill be withdrawn and re-drafted because in its present form, it creates a mere investigating and advisory body which will have no authority -
The previous Authority merely advised the Minister. Under this Government, the Cities Commission’s role will be greatly strengthened through its working partnership with the Department of Urban and Regional Development. Under this Government’s comprehensive urban and regional policies, there will be several roles for the Cities Commission. Firstly, the Cities Commission will conduct studies of regional areas. These studies will be undertaken for a variety of reasons. Some studies will be assessing regions as potential growth centres capable of rapid population growth. Some will be considering strategies for development which may be already taking place. Others will be assesments of proposals for financial support put to the Australian Government. And some may merely be collecting information about particular regions. At present, the Authority is conducting studies in all States. Some of these studies are into possible growth areas and I am pleased to say that some States have announced their intention to introduce land price stabilisation legislation to apply to the particular areas.
For example, we are studying an area 17 miles to 42 miles north of Perth where the Western Australian Government has imposed price stabilisation. South Australia has already introduced price stabilisation legislation for its new city area at Monarto. The New South Wales Government is introducing legislation to stabilise prices in the areas of BathurstOrange, Gosford- Wyong and MenaiHolsworthyCampbelltownCamden. We believe that soon the Victorian Government will introduce price stabilisation legislation, and we are having discussions with Queensland to see if that State will also co-operate in price stabilisation legislation. I cannot overemphasise the importance of land price stabilisation in areas being studied as possible growth centres. Although the carrying out of a study does not imply a commitment by the Australian Government to support the area as a growth centre, it can lead to speculation. The activities of speculators could result in defeating policies for the support of the particular growth centre.
Secondly, the Cities Commission will also play a leading role in the establishment of new cities and assisting in their early stages of development. For example, the National Urban and Regional Development Authority is already playing a vital part in the establish-, ment of the new city at Albury-Wodonga. Thirdly, the new Commission will act as a professional consultant to the Department of Urban and Regional Development in physical planning exercises. In this capacity it will advise the Department on: (a) the development of national urban programs; and, (b) measures necessary to meet the problems of existing cities. Fourthly, the Commission will also be available to consult with and provide advice and information to State governments, semi-local and local government bodies and regional organisations.
In the speech referred to earlier, the Minister claimed that under this Government the National Urban and Regional Development Authority would wither on the vine. It should be clear now that, as the Cities Commission, the Authority will be playing a more active and useful role than that envisaged for it by the previous government. With the establishment of the new Department of Urban and Regional Development, the Minister has found that the National Urban and Regional Development Authority can play a role in the physical planning fields complementary to the work of the Department. As the Cities Commission, it will be a physical partner of the Department. The National Urban and Regional Development Authority by itself could not have possibly coped with the problems of the cities. However, in conjunction with the new Department, it has a more enterprising and constructive role. In this role, it will be assisted by the many and varied skills of planning, engineering and other consultants. The Authority has already briefed a number of consultants to assist it in carrying out the studies 1 have already mentioned.
In addressing himself to the National Urban and Regional Development Authority Bill, the Minister made the following comment:
The Government must approach decentralisation and regional development in an integrated way. A Department which can be involved in national planning and the allocation of national resources is essential. The National Urban and Regional Development Authority proposed by the Prime Minister will not have this kind of support in Cabinet to ensure that the country’s resources are really joined to achieve the stated goals. However, authorities with comprehensive power would be, highly appropriate for the planning and integrated development of each individual site chosen for selective decentralisation. They will be able lo ensure the widest use of the natural resources present and would be accountable for the presentation of environmental impact statements on the departments. However, behind them they will require national planning to ensure that employment, houses, recreational and cultural facilities, transport and other key factors are provided. Only government departments can do this. All that the authorities will be able to do is to design the locations on the ground and ensure that by design, these cities are livable ones of the highest environmental quality.
This Government has now set up a department which has a voice in Cabinet. The department being set up is designed to cope With the problems of urban and regional development. It is designed to develop positive policies to create new forms of urban living in order to overcome the chaos in our cities. It is designed to co-ordinate the allocation of resources which affect urban and regional development. It is designed to assist and co-operate with the States and local government bodies. It will not duplicate the Cities Commission’s skills in physical planning fields. But it will work closely with the Cities Commission.
It is important to realise that at the Australian Government level, a policy on urban and regional development is not just a question of physical planning. This Government, unlike the previous Government, recognises that the problems of the cities will not be solved until the expenditures which affect urban and regional development can be coordinated. We can no longer afford to finance an extensive freeway system through inner city areas without regard to the social and economic consequences of building that system. We can no longer afford to tolerate without serious questioning the long and costly journeys to work from outer suburbs to central cities. We can no longer afford to permit large Government offices to be built in the central cities without studying the consequences for further over-centralisation. We can no longer afford to encourage commercial buildings to be sited in central areas without examining the consequences of transport loads and the lessening of opportunity for decentralised employment. We can no longer afford to spend large sums on public transport without making the attempt to encourage a more balanced load in the system. We oan no longer afford to finance large housing estates without due regard to obtaining a proper social mix and to obtaining access to work and recreation opportunities.
These are just a few examples of how expenditures which affect urban and regional development must be co-ordinated. 1 said earlier that one of the great themes of this Government will be its policies on the cities. The Australian Government is committed to bring about changes in our cities. Changes that will make our cities more efficient. Changes that will equalise the opportunities for urban living. The Cities Commission is a vital part of the vigorous programs we will be adopting to achieve these great aims. I commend the Bill to the Senate
Debate (on motion by Senator Laucke) adjourned.
– Honourable senators, I have been concerned at a habit which is growing among honourable senators of addressing the Chair, on occasions when the President is in the Chair, as ‘Mr Chairman’. This afternoon when Senator Poyser so addressed me, in what I hoped would be a light quip I said to him: ‘You must not confuse me with the Chairman of the Politburo’. That was meant to be humorous, but in fact Senator Poyser felt aggrieved about it. As the President is the focus of all the rights of honourable senators and the one from whom they can obtain redress, instinctively I knew that I had hurt Senator Poyser, so I requested him to come to see me. I apologised to him in my office this afternoon for hurting him. I now publicly redress the hurt that I inflicted on him by making this observation to honourable senators.
Sitting suspended from 5.59 to 8 p.m.
General Business taking precedence of Government Business after 8 p.m.
– Mr Deputy President, I move:
I regard this as a procedural motion and I do not intend to speak to it.
– As Senator Withers has pointed out, this is a procedural motion but it is leading to a situation which would result in the setting up of a committee to which we object, not only in its terms but also because of the composition of the committee on which the Opposition would have a majority. I do not intend to delay this Senate or to re-hash the arguments because the matter was dealt with very fully the other evening. I merely indicate that we will vote against the rescission because obviously we know what the rescission is all about. We know clearly that the Opposition does not intend to change its mind about, firstly, setting up what we regard as a witch hunt and, secondly, the composition of that committee. So, Mr Deputy President, the Government will vote against the rescission.
That the motion (Senator Withers’) be agreed to.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator Sir Magnus Cormack)
Majority . . . . 1
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
– I move:
The reason for seeking the rescission of the Senate’s vote of last Thursday negativing the question for the appointment of a select committee on civil rights of migrants in Australia is that we believe the vote recorded last week did not accurately reflect the Senate’s will. The motion for this committee was originally put forward by the Australian Democratic Labor Party. I am, on behalf of the Liberal Party, taking the action for descission rather than the Democratic Labor Party because the actions of the Government last Thursday which caused the original motion put forward by the DLP to be lost were directed against my Party.
I do not wish to go over the events of that evening or any other matters which are related to the debate. I think enough was said then and has been said since on the incident. However, what was done can be undone and we intend to attempt to do that. Any vote taken in this chamber must truly reflect the voting intentions of honourable senators in this chamber. The vote recorded must mirror the Senate’s opinion. No decision which would mirror the Senate’s intentions should be circumvented by an action which contravenes a custom of the Senate and which enables a vote to be recorded which does not truly reflect the Senate’s intentions. 1 doubt whether anyone here would wish a decision to remain which did not reflect accurately the opinion of the Senate. That is all if desire to say on the matter. I think I have put the matter factually, calmly and without heat.
– The Government will vote against this motion. Whatever was the result of the vote the other night and whatever was the result of a motion which was put this afternoon for the setting up of another committee, the fact is that a government must govern, lt is absolutely out of the question for an opposition to be taking over the business of government. The setting up of this proposed committee is nothing more or less than a witch hunt. Even if that is overstating the case, the Opposition refuses to give the Government either the chairmanship of or the majority of members on a committee. We can look at committee after committee, irrespective of the colour of the government, and in almost all cases there has been a majority of government members on it and invariably a government chairman.
– That is not so.
– I repeat that in the majority of cases, in nearly all cases-
– In the history of the Senate?
– In the history of the Senate. In nearly all cases - I am not saying 100 per cent of cases - that has been the position. If the honourable senator casts his eye down the notice paper as it stands today I think he will agree that the vast majority of committees are set up in this way.
– 1 am asking about the historical situation; that is all.
– How far back does the honourable senator want to take history? I am referring to the years I have been here. The situation is that on a recent night Senator Turnbull moved a motion which, at least, would have made the number of Government senators on the committee equal to the number of other senators. There has been some sort of suggestion that, if there were an independent senator on the committee, in some way there would be an impartial situation. That might well be so but Senator Turnbull points out that Senator Townley is still a member of the Liberal Party in Tasmania. He stands as an independent Liberal. The suggestion was made that he would be the chairman of the committee. Surely nobody suggests that the Government should accept Senator Townley in an independent role. Senator Turnbull said that he did not wish to be associated with the committee and that left one other independent senator. But, as I see it, that was unacceptable to the Opposition. It is obvious that the Senate cannot continue to function if the Opposition is going to abuse in this manner the numbers which it has. This situation just cannot go on.
As I said earlier I do not want to see a rehash of all the arguments of the other night, although that is for the will of the Senate. If it wants to do that that is within its right. I think that would be a fruitless exercise. I think we have thrashed this matter over. No one has changed his mind. We believe that this is an abuse of power. The Opposition, for reasons best known to itself, believes that it should use that power to have a majority on the committee to inquire into a situation which we believe should not be the subject of inquiry by a committee. The basis of this move for an inquiry is to be found in the following words of the motion:
It seems to me from the use of the word ‘unwarranted’ that this committee has made up its mind before it has heard one tittle of evidence.
If there is an invasion of premises - and these are allegations which are made against law enforcement officers day by day in the community - then there is a right of recourse within the law of the land. Every time a law enforcement officer associated with the Commonwealth is alleged to have stepped outside his normal powers to search, arrest or something of that nature, are we going to turn round and set up a Senate committee to inquire into that situation. Is the Opposition going to take the matter out of the hands of the Government? If these things occur then they should be reported to the senior officers of the law enforcement body. If a citizen wishes to go further than that then he has a right of recourse at law. We are getting into a pretty ludicrous situation when somebody has a grievance within the law and, instead of taking the normal action which any other citizen has to take because the allegation has been associated with an emotional situation in which tempers have risen, set up a Senate inquiry and take the matter out of the hands of the Government.
The Government will vote against this proposal at all stages because the principle and the basis of it are wrong. I suggest that this is a prejudiced body. Honourable senators opposite have used the word ‘unwarranted’. How do they know that this action was unwarranted if they want to have an inquiry? If they wish to have an impartial inquiry how can they say that the action was unwarranted before the inquiry starts? The Government will vote against the motion.
- Mr President–
– You are wasting time.
– I can hear the mumbling of an old stager on the other side who does not want to have this matter put straight. I intend to put on record the story of the committees in this Senate. According to ‘Aus tralian Senate Practice’ by Odgers the Canberra Times’ of 31st March 1971 stated:
Yesterday was the day opponents of the burgeoning Senate committee system had long feared and warned against, the day when a committee began to look as important as a Linked States Senate committee, and as powerful . . . And it (the Senate Select Committee on Securities and Exchange) is doing a job which no one has ever tried before, which even a Royal Commission could not match in terms of speed, power, economy, and the use of expertise, yet which can only be regarded as highly desirable in the public interest.
Mr Odgers also quoted the ‘Sydney Morning Herald’ of 3rd November 1970 which stated:
The Senate is now undergoing the most fundamental and dramatic changes witnessed in the Commonwealth Parliament since the States decided to federate 70 years ago. The introduction of a wideranging committee system will make the red-carpeted Upper House potentially the most powerful parliamentary chamber in Australia.
I am submitting that what the temporary Opposition is doing tonight is turning the clock back and negating the great potential that the Senate had in introducing the committee system which was arranged in the normal way with the Government of the day supplying the Chairman, the Government of the day supplying the funds, the Government of the day interested in the activities of the committees, and the people of Australia interested that the Senate had some useful purpose in this country. For cheap, opportunistic political purposes this whole trend and the great hope that the people had for the Senate are being altered and prostituted by means of the motion on which we are about to vote. At this late stage I ask the Opposition to reconsider what it is doing. There is no political kudos in trying to justify what has been going on amongst this murdering lunatic fringe of Croats in Australia. They are foreign to Australia.
– You are prejudging it.
– I am talking about the people of the Croatian Revolutionary Brotherhood who are known to have gone to take part in the Bosnian incursion, as it has been called. They went there to wage a quiet war and they were arrested. This is what this whole thing is about. I put to the Opposition senators that they arc in more deeply than they understand. The lid has been lifted off this stupidity of members of exiled governments coming to Australia and obtaining refuge under a Liberal-Country Party Government. It is no longer on. The Opposition is trying to maintain this stupidity and it is prostituting the Senate committee system in the process. 1 ask Opposition senators to consider carefully the way in which they vote on this motion because if committees are to be used in this way by the Opposition the demise of the committee system in the Senate is being prepared. This is what the Opposition is doing. As indicated by the quotations I read earlier a great crescendo was built up. The Clerks of the Senate, the custodians of the Senate, have worked carefully to build the Senate into a worthy place so that it could take its place as an effective force in the Parliament of this country. Tonight we are seeing a nail being driven into the coffin of the committee system and the worthiness of the Senate. I ask Opposition senators to think very seriously about that.
– BrieflyI express my concern that clause 13 (d) remains in the proposition that is before us. Clause 1 3 (d) clearly states: witnesses may be accompanied by counsel or solicitor for the purposes of being advised by them as to their rights and. subject to the discretion of the Committee, be permitted to ask questions of other witnesses either themselves or through their counsel or solicitor;
– We are going to take that out.
– If I can get the assurance that this clause will be taken out, I will not make any further comment except to say that the Australian Democratic Labor Party was guilty of a subterfuge. It circulated an amendment indicating that this clause was to be deleted but subsequently Senator Kane moved the gag and the clause was not deleted. 1 am glad to hear that the Opposition intends to take steps to delete that clause in particular which indicated the intention on the part of the DLP to set up a McCarthy-type committee in this Senate.
– in reply - First, 1. say to Senator Georges that earlier this clay 1 advised all party leaders that if this rescission motion were carried I would ask for leave to move a further motion to delete from the terms of reference of the Committee the whole of paragraph 13 and the whole of paragraph15. I think it is too early to deal with that now. I just say at this stage that the mover of the original motion readily agreed to the suggestion that those paragraphs come out. In fact, Senator Gair attempted to take out some of his original motion last Thursday but was unsuccessful. As I said in my opening remarks, this is a matter which was debated at great length over a long time in the Senate. As Senator Willesee said, the whole matter could be rehashed but we would just be going over the old ground. It is quite clear that no argument will prevail to change honourable senators’ minds on this subject, so the sooner the vote is taken the better.
That the motion (Senator Withers’) be agreed to.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator Sir Magnus Cormack)
Majority . . . . 2
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
– Order! The Senate has just carried a motion that this matter be pursued without debate. The matter refers to the appointment of a Select Committee on Civil Rights of Migrant Australians. Copies of this motion have been distributed to honourable senators. I now put the question:
That Senator Gair’s motion relating to civil rights of migrant Australians be agreed to as follows:
That a Select Committee of the Senate bo appointed to inquire into and report upon the following matters:
the unwarranted deprivation of liberty, privacy or good reputation; and, if so, what review or amendment of the law or administrative or judicial procedures is necessary or desirable;
That the Committee shall observe the following rules for the protection of witnesses:
receive and dispose of requests from such person to subpoena additional witnesses;
Question put. The Senate divided. (The President - Senator Sir Magnus Cormack)
Majority . . . . 2
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
– Mr President, I ask for leave to move a motion to vary the resolution appointing the Select Committee on Civil Rights to Migrant Australians. I will just explain briefly, if I may, that the purpose of the motion I propose to move is to cover the objections raised by Senator Georges.
– Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– I move:
That notwithstanding anything contained in the Standing Orders, the resolution of the Senate of 17th May 1973 relating to the appointment of a Select Committee on Civil Rights of Migrant Australians be varied as follows:
Leave out paragraphs 13 and15.
As I mentioned earlier, an attempt was made to do this although the whole of paragraph 13 was not then involved. However I think it would be better if the whole of paragraph 13 were omitted. I think Senator Georges would agree to that course. Unfortunately, through nobody’s fault, this did not occur last Thursday.
– It was not. He did not know what it was all about.
– Well,I regard it as an accident. It certainly always was the intention that paragraph 13(d) and paragraph 15 be omitted. It is now considered to be far better if the whole of paragraph 13 and the whole of paragraph 15 were omitted. Senator Georges is nodding his head. I think he is an expert in this field.
– Well, he has had a lot of experience with a committee where this has happened.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from 12 April 1973 (vide page 1 1 05. on motion by Senator Kane:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– I move:
It is rather unfortunate that the Senate should be wasting its time dealing with this Bill introduced by Senator Kane seeking the termination of estate duty because the Senate on 7th October 1971 referred to the Senate Standing Committee on Finance and Government Operations the investigation of this matter. A considerable amount of time and energy has been put into examining the whole problem of estate duty as imposed in the Federal sphere as well as by the various States. As late as Tuesday of this week, that Committee completed its public hearings. Only one witness remains to be interviwed, that is. the Commissioner of Taxation. The Committee then will present to the Senate a report of its findings.
The inquiry by the Committee has been most exhaustive. AH of the points that have been expressed in debates in the Senate have been most seriously considered by the Committee. Many eminent persons in our community - those who can be considered to be experts in the field of estate duty and taxation generally - have had the opportunity to present not only verbal but written submissions on this important matter. Thirteen public hearings have been held in the course of which some 45 witnesses, including representatives from Government departments, economists, lawyers, accountants and other specialists as well as a number of private individuals, have given the Committee the benefit of their information and knowledge. In addition written submissions were received and are still being considered by the Committee. On Tuesday of mis week, the Committee gave authority to its officers to draw up its recommendations.
In the light of these facts, and considering the Government’s heavy legislative program, it is rather strange that the Senate should be debating a Bill of this nature, containing proposals which have been endorsed already on several occasions in the past as expressing the will of the Senate, which relates to a matter on which the Senate can express only an opinion. Any vote on this legislation is not capable of being any more than an expression of opinion and in fact has no standing or bearing at all. One can only come to the conclusion that this is another example of political window dressing by the Australian Democratic Labor Party.
– You may spoil your prospects if you go on like that. You have a chance now.
– Having recognised that they are in a position where they cannot sustain the electoral support that they have been able to gain in past years, the DLP senators are now faced with the possibility of seeing their forces reduced in this place from 5 senators to 2 senators and are adopting what will surely be construed as an irresponsible attitude. The more one looks at the statement made by Senator Kane in his contribution in this place, the more one can see how irresponsible is Senator Kane’s contribution in this debate and how irresponsible, the attitude the DLP is in this matter. The weight of the evidence is not to be found in the contribution made by Senator Kane.
The facts are quite simple, lt is a pity that those DLP senators who are trying to interject now have not taken the time to read the Hansard reports of the Committee’s deliberations. If they did, they would find that of the amount totalling nearly $300m that is collected annually by the Commonwealth and the States as estate and death duties, the Commonwealth receives by far the smallest amount of those duties. It receives approximately $70m per annum. The States are the principal beneficiaries from these taxes. One has only to look at the Budgets of the various States to see this. I have taken the trouble to refer only to the Budget papers of the New South Wales Government because, as a senator from New South Wales, they are easily available to me. Comparisons made between New South Wales and the other States will reveal similar situations. What are the facts? Probate and death duties in New South Wales bring the State Government, in excess of 12 per cent of its total taxation revenue. When the DLP contests State elections, it has never suggested that State governments should abolish estate or death duties. It is suggesting now that those duties should be abolished at the Commonwealth level only.
The evidence that has been put before tha Senate Standing Committee shows an abundance of opinion from those who are more specialised in this field advocating that the Commonwealth should nol opt out of the field of death duties. In fact, the weight of all the expert evidence is that the Commonwealth should stay in the field of death duties and, if necessary, collect these duties on behalf of the States. A powerful argument can be made out in favour of uniformity with respect to estate duties. Why should this not be so? lt is interesting to find the DLP talking of a merger with the Country Party in Queensland where the Country Party runs that State, and then to have a look-
– You had a merger, with the communist-
– It will be a merger or an absorption. It does not matter what the DLP calls it. That is what Senator Gair has advocated in that State. It is most interesting to see the quota adopted in Queensland with respect to death duties. It seems that those honourable senators who have so much to say on this matter and who are still trying to interject do not appreciate these facts: An estate does not qualify for an assessment realisation for Commonwealth estate duty unless its value is $40,000 or more. In Queensland, under the Country Party Government, all estates valued at $15,000 and above are assessed. The Commonwealth in its wisdom in 1972-73 Budget adopted by the Parliament extended the range of benefits with respect to estate duty rather considerably, especially for primary producers.
A considerable amount of the evidence available to us shows that a case exists for some improvement on the manner in which death duties are implemented. But the main area in which changes and amendments should be made relate to State jurisdiction. The evidence presented to members of the Senate Standing Committee - and all Parties were represented on that Committee - showed overwhelmingly that the bulk of the difficulties suffered by those with small estates flows from the imposition of estate or death duties at the State level. Therefore, I point to honourable senators that by our action we are virtually jumping the gun. The Senate by even discussing Senator Kane’s Bill is in fact denying the value of the many countless hours of work that senators and witnesses have put into the examination of the reference made to the Senate Standing Committee on Finance and Government Operations in October 1971. We are indebted to Senator Negus because it was on his initiative that the Senate finally took the step to refer to the Senate Standing Committee on Finance and Government Operations the terms of reference relating to estate duty. There is no doubt from the Committee’s examination of the issues that a great deal of hardship has been occasioned to the community. But I point out, as the Hansard record and the subse quent report will show, that the hardship is not at the Commonwealth level. The amendments to statutory provisions on which estates are assessed have so improved those provisions over the years that the bulk of the problems that now exist are due to estate duty administered at the State level. Senator Kane, in his speech to the Senate, said:
The purpose of this Bill is to terminate Commonwealth estate duty. 1 know that Senator Negus realises that that is a misnomer. That is pulling the wool over people’s eyes because the Senate cannot terminate Commonwealth involvement in estate duty. It is not within its mandate. It can only give an expression of opinion. The matter involved here is a matter of Government policy and a matter associated with budget considerations. He also said:
Commonwealth estate duly has become an oppressive, punitive and discriminatory tax . . .
That flies in the face of the truth of the matter. If it is a discriminatory tax - i suggest that it is - as I have said previously, it lies in the areas of State jurisdiction. When the States insist on estates being assessed at the level of $15,000, as is the case in 2 of the States, and when the level in all states is considerably lower than the level at which the Commonwealth levies estate duty, it is not true to say that it is the Commonwealth that is the bad boy in this whole area of estate duty. Honourable senators should be aware that when the States introduced estate duties or death duties, depending upon .he terminology of the legislation from State to State, it was done for the purpose of breaking up large estates. That was the purpose of the tax. The Commonwealth entered the field in 1914. It did so purely as a revenue producer. Of course, there is no doubt - the evidence of the witnesses who have appeared before the Committee show this - that it has developed State by State and, to an extent, federally, into a tax which the wealthy have evaded by estate planning and by tax avoidance schemes on a massive scale. The Committee found that this situation existed because lawyers and accountants appeared before it and were able to convince it - I am sure that I am able to speak on behalf of all the members - that there was wholesale tax avoidance by the wealthy. In point of fact, the more wealthy you are the more you are able to rearrange your estate.
– Senator, perhaps it would not be wise to canvass this issue at the moment. The matter is before the Committee.
– Honourable senators say: ‘Why not let the Committee present its report?’
– No, I said-
– That is precisely what wc seek to do.
– If the honourable senator stops being provocative we will consider his proposal.
– If honourable senators are prepared to indicate that they will give serious consideration, to the amendment which I have proposed on behalf of the Committee, there is not a great deal of argument to be engaged in. After all, 1 have to deal with the subject matter that is before us. I am quite happy if it is the will of the Senate in the face of the evidence and the remarks that I have made that we withdraw the resolution and adjourn the debate until such time as the Senate has an opportunity to have the report of the Committee presented to it. If that is the will of the Senate, I am quite happy to bow to it. If I can be given an assurance that the Senate is prepared to give me leave to amend my motion this debate could be adjourned and we could then argue whether the Commonwealth should remain in the area of estate duty or withdraw from it completely.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Prowse) - Is the amendment seconded?
– Yes, I second the amendment. 1 understand that Senator Gietzelt wishes to omit the word ‘withdrawn’ in the second line of his amendment and substitute the word ‘adjourned’.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– The members of the Australian Democratic Labor Party were not very happy about some of the provocative remarks made by Senator Gietzelt. Perhaps he made them under the impression that we were going to oppose this action. So we will not be worried about them. Providing the form of the words in the amendment is that further consideration of the Bill be adjourned until the Senate Standing Committee on Finance and Government Operations presents its report of the matter referred to it by the Senate on 7th October, our attitude is that there is a good argument that this should be done. In the circumstances, we can save the time of the Senate. We can leave over the debate on the principles involved until the Committee has presented its report. The Democratic Labor Party has a great regard for the Committee system. We think that where possible the Senate should have regard to the work that the committees have done. Therefore, the Democratic Labor Party supports the proposal that further consideration of the Bill be adjourned until the Senate Standing Committee on Finance and Government Operations looking into this matter presents its report.
– Speaking briefly, 1 state that we in the Liberal Party of Australia always have been disposed to take this course of action. I do not want to go into a long debate on this matter which we have debated at length before. Our views on estate duty are recorded in Hansard. We believe in the principle of looking after the provident society. We have great sympathy for all of those who wish to abolish estate duties. We have consequential regard for the revenue situation. We are not unsympathetic to the general intent of all the people involved in this matter. However, we point out that the Senate Standing Committee on Finance and Government Operations has had 18 months to produce a result. Without wishing to upset anybody, we also point out that the Asprey Committee is examining this subject as one of its terms of reference. Therefore, we should not have to wait long for the conclusions of the Committees to be brought before us. Of course, if the matter is delayed much longer we might want to rai.se it in more specific terms. The Liberal Party accepts the amendment. In doing so, we would hope that the same principle will be observed on future occasions when the Government wants to bring forward legislation the subject matter of which a Senate committee has under consideration. In such circumstances, we hope that the Government will defer to the wishes of the Senate and wait upon the presentation of the committee’s report.
– The Australian Country Party supports the amendment moved by Senator Gietzelt for the reason suggested by Senator McManus and Senator Cotton. The Country Party has stated its case in respect of this legislation on numerous occasions. We realise that the Senate Standing Committee on Finance and Government Operations has spent a great deal of time on the subject. Much evidence has been submitted to the Committee. We agree that perhaps this report should be presented before the Senate continues with this debate. So we are happy to go along with the amendment.
– I am very happy to support the amendment moved by Senator Gietzelt on behalf of the Government. It was quite obvious to me when I introduced a provision in relation to hardship during the last session of the Senate that the majority of members, who voted against it - they were members of the present Opposition - did so because they felt that we should wait until the report of the Senate Standing Committee on Finance and Government Operations was presented. As mentioned by previous speakers, the Asprey Committee is also looking into the matter of estate duties. I presume that the Senate Select Committee on Finance and Government Operations will be working, in some way or other, in conjunction with the Asprey Committee. So we will have the combined result of the examinations conducted by 2 committees on which to decide in our debate in the future. I support the proposal that the debate on the Bill be postponed for the time being.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Prowse) - The question is:
That the words proposed to be omitted be omitted.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- The next question is:
That the words proposed to be added be added.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- The question now is:
That the motion, as amended, be agreed to.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Douglas McClelland) read a first time.
– 1 move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
I indicate that I am delivering the second reading speech on behalf of my colleague Senator Wriedt who represents the Minister for Minerals and Energy (Mr Connor).
The purpose of this Bill is to amend the Petroleum (Submerged Lands) Act 1967-68 to take account of the new seabed boundaries established under 3 agreements signed with Indonesia in 1971, 1972 and 1973 and thus permit formal ratification of the 3 agreements by the Australian Government. On 22nd February 1973 on the occasion of the visit of the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) to Indonesia the Prime Minister and President Suharto issued a joint communique which referred to Australia’s intention to ratify at an early date the 1971 and 1972 seabed boundary agreements. It was slated also that both governments would also ratify the 1973 agreement as soon as practicable. The Bill provides new descriptions of the areas adjacent to Queensland, the Northern Territory, the Territory of Ashmore and Cartier Islands, me Territory of Papua and the Territory of New Guinea. These descriptions amend those in the Second Schedule to the Petroleum (Submerged Lands) Act 1967-68 and thus formalise the new seabed boundaries established under the 3 agreements.
The 1971 agreement, which was signed on 18th May 1971, delimits the seabed between Australia and Indonesia in the Arafura Sea and between Papua New Guinea and Indonesia off the southern and northern coasts of Papua New Guinea. The boundaries relating to Papua New Guinea were approved in 1971 by the Administrator’s Executive Council. The 1972 agreement, which was signed on 9th October 1972, is supplementary to the 1971 agreement and delimits the seabed between Australia and Indonesia in the Arafura and Timor seas west of the boundary agreed to in 1971. The 1973 agreement, which was signed on 12th February 1973 by the Chief Minister of Papua New Guinea, Mr Somare, one behalf of the Australian Government, deals with the land boundary of Papua New Guinea, and with the seabed boundary immediately south of Papua New Guinea. The 1973 agreement provides in addition that the seabed boundary lines shall also serve, so rar as necessary, as the lateral boundaries of the territorial seas and exclusive fishing zones of Papua New Guinea and Indonesia.
The 1973 agreement has been approved by the Administrator’s Executive Council of Papua New Guinea. In addition Che agree? ment expressly envisages that the approval of the agreement by the Papua New Guinea House of Assembly is to be obtained before Australian ratification of the agreement takes place. It is expected that the agreement will be considered during the next session of the House of Assembly commencing on 21st May 1973. Each of the agreements is subject to ratification in accordance with the constitutional requirements of each country and is to enter into force on the day on which the instalments of ratification are exchanged. The Indonesian Government has in fact already taken the constitutional steps necessary for their ratification of both the 1971 and 1972 seabed agreements.
The seabed boundaries set out in the 3 agreements differ in some respects from the limits of Australian and Papua New Guinea adjacent areas’ described in the Schedules to the Petroleum (Submerged Lands) Act. Some parts of the ‘adjacent areas’ of the Northern Territory and of the Territory of Ashmore and Carrier Islands project beyond the boundary agreed in 1972. As a result 6 exploration permits in the Ashmore and Cartier Islands adjacent area’ and one exploration permit in the Northern Territory ‘adjacent area’ are reduced in area. The present adjacent area of Queensland lies inside the boundary agreed’ in 1971, and a small addition to trie adjacent area has resulted. In the case of Papua NewGuinea, there is a net gain to Papua New Guinea in the seabed area to the south, while in the north some re-adjustment in favour of Indonesia is required. Passage of this amending legislation will allow the Government to ratify the 1971 and 1972 agreements with Indonesia and ratification of the third agreement will follow, subject to the approval of that agreement by the Papua New Guinea House of Assembly.
The signing of the third agreement withIndonesia in February this year concluded negotiation of the seabed boundaries between Australia and Indonesia. We now have a boundary which extends from an area north of Papua New Guinea through the Arafura and Timor seas to a point north-west of Aus tralia, incomplete only in the area opposite Portuguese Timor. The Government has been in contact with the Portuguese Government in relation to the seabed boundary in this area and We expect that discussions will commence later this year. I suggest to honourable senators that the passage of this amending legislation will have 2 very important implications for Australia. Firstly, it win enable the Government to ratify the agreements signed with Indonesia and thereby help to maintain the friendly relations which exist between our 2 countries. Secondly, early ratification of the agreements will allow exploration in areas adjacent to the new boundaries to proceed with certainty as to the extent of Australian jurisdiction. I commend the Bril to the Senate.
– ‘Before I move the adjournment of the debate, can the Minister tell us whether there are any maps accompanying the second reading speech?
– ii have not any maps accompanying the second reading speech which I delivered on behalf of Senator Wriedt. I will refer the matter to my colleague to see whether he can obtain the information for the honourable senator.
Debate (on motion by Senator Cotton) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Douglas McClelland) read n first time.
– I move:
I am delivering this second rending speech on behalf of the Minister for Primary Industry (Senator Wriedt), who represents in this place the Minister for Minerals and Energy (Mr Connor,.
The Governor-General’s Speech foreshadowed that, in pursuit of its policy for maximising Australian ownership, control, use and development of Australian resources, the Government would introduce legislation to establish a Pipeline Authority. This concept of a national pipeline system also takes account of wide issues - of defence, of decentralisation, of population growth, of national development, of the importance of interconnected supplies to meet increasing long term demands, emergency situations and the exhaustion of particular regional energy sources, and the possible export of liquefied natural gas.
This Bill seeks to establish the Authority for the transmission of petroleum, natural gas and other hydrocarbons, by interstate ringmain pipeline system. With the aim of ensuring continuity of supplies and uniformity of price, the Authority will have trading rights to buy and sell hydrocarbons. In addition to its role of being a common carrier, the Authority will naturally sell for reticulation to appropriate authorities and corporations.
In estabishing the Authority the Government is following the well established and highly successful precedent of the former Labor Government which created the Snowy Mountains hydro-electric scheme. This will be a project of at least equal magnitude. The project provides for the linking by a continental pipeline of the city of Sydney with the Gidgealpa natural gas fields in the Cooper Basin in South Australia, with an early extension through Wagga to Albury and Wodonga with later extensions to Melbourne and the Bass Strait reserves.
From Gidgealpa the pipeline will be linked to the Palm Valley field in the Amadeus Basin of the Northern Territory. From there it will continue to Dampier on the northwest coast of Australia where the resources of the northwest shelf will be available. The proposed pipeline route will also traverse and serve the Pilbara region of Western Australia. There will also be a spurline to serve the Northern Territory. The first stage of the project will be from Sydney to Gidgealpa ensuring that there will be no delay in planned supplies of natural gas for Sydney under the long standing city of Sydney gas franchise legislation. Extensions will also be built to the Newcastle and Wollongong-Port Kembla areas.
Because of the lack of indigenous on-shore fuel supplies in Western Australia, a pipeline link between Palm Valley and the Kalgoorlie mineral province and Perth will be an early priority. The Commonwealth and the Western Australian governments have already agreed to a feasibility study on this section of the project. In view of the limited reserves of the Moonie Field, an additional spurline will be built between Sydney and Brisbane with extensions to coastal Queensland cities. The total concept will provide a completely interconnected grid system, ensuring back-up supplies in case of interruption by natural calamities or exhaustion of supply from an individual source.
I should mention that the construction and operation by East Australian Pipeline Corporation Ltd of the Gidgealpa to Sydney pipeline would have pre-empted the Government’s concept of, and decision for, a national pipeline system. In taking over responsibility for that pipeline and to obviate unnecessary delays, the Government has undertaken that it will stand in the shoes of the pipeline company; observe contractual commitments entered into by it, including the retention of the project managers already retained by the company; and reimburse expenditure already undertaken and, committed on the project. The Government will enter into a contract with the Australian Gas Light Company Limited to carry the gas for the company and, in general terms, it is the Government’s intention that the replacement of the company’s proposed pipeline by the national pipeline system will not disadvantage the company in respect of the transmission of the gas which it has contracted to purchase from the South Australian field. Arrangments with the company are continuing.
The Bill is not a complex one. It is simple and has the clear and definite purpose to set up an authority with adequate powers to construct and operate a major public utility having the responsibility of making one of our greatest natural resouces available to the Australian people. The Authority will consist of 5 persons: A part time Chairman; 3 part time members, one of whom would represent the trade unions and another will be, ex officio, the Secretary of the Department of Minerals and Energy; and a full time executive member. Members other than the Secretary will be appointed for periods not exceeding 7 years but will be eligible for reappointment. The Authority will be required to submit a report with appropriate financial statements annually to the Minister for presentation to the Parliament. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Cotton) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Douglas McClelland) read a first time.
That the Bill be now read a secondtime.
I am delivering this second reading speech on behalf of the Special Minister of State (Senator Willesee).
The purpose of this Bill is to amend the Superannuation Act 1922-71 to provide for annual increases in certain pensions payable under the Act. It gives effect to the recommendations made by Professor A. H. Pollard, who was asked to report to the Government on the methods available for adjusting Commonwealth Superannuation Fund and similar type pensions. Honourable senators will be aware that the report was tabled in the Senate by the Attorney-General and Minister for Customs and Excise (Senator Murphy) on 1 1th April 1973.
As Professor Pollard stated in his report, the aim of employers in providing superannuation schemes is not only to give protection but also to give peace of mind or to free the employee from the ever present fear that a long retirement might bring severe financial problems in its latter years. Professor Pollard also stated that the necessary criteria for pension adjustments, if superannuation schemes are to achieve that aim, are that adjustments should take place automatically, that they should maintain the purchasing power of the pension and that they should be made frequently, in examining possible methods of adjustment. Professor Pollard considered the notional salary method of adjustment that had hitherto been adopted on an ad hoc basis. He observed that the notional salary method has a number of disadvantages in its operation and that it performs more roles than merely adjusting pensions in changing economic circumstances because it adjusts for salary increases not received before retirement began and for changes made to the rules of the scheme. To the extent that the notional salary method effects these other changes, it exceeds its role as an adjuster for price and productivity increases. He also noted that it acts quite inequitably between different groups.
Professor Pollard also gave consideration to adjustments by growth in average weekly earnings. He look the view that those figures include overtime, shift work payments and like allowances which are not appropriate when considering pension adjustment. He also referred to the fact that Commonwealth Service salaries have, on average, increased at slightly below the rate of increase in average weekly earnings over recent years and that, in these circumstances, pensioners would receive larger proportionate increases in their incomes than public servants still in the work force if average weekly earnings were to be used. Like the notional salary method it could provide increases higher than those represented by price and productivity increases.
Other methods were also examined but Professor Pollard concluded that automatic annual adjustments of the Commonwealth share of pension by 1.4 times the consumer price index was the most appropriate formula. His formula is designed to provide a greater share of productivity increases when inflation is high and adjustments are needed, and a lesser share when there is little inflation. Professor Pollard suggests that the adoption of his proposal will result in the pensioner receiving the guarantee that the purchasing power of his full pension is more than maintained.
The Bill proposes that the Commonwealth share of the pension being paid to excontributors or their widows, including the full share relating to non-contributory units of pension, be adjusted automatically each year on the first pension pay day in each July. The adjustment will be by a percentage - to the nearest one-tenth of one per cent - equal to 1 . 4 times the percentage by which the immediately preceding March quarter consumer price index - 6 capital cities - exceeds that index for the March quarter of the previous year, with the proviso that the percentage by which pensions are increased should not exceed the percentage increase in the estimates of average weekly earnings, seasonally adjusted, for the corresponding period. Where the period between the date of retirement and 1st July is less than one year, the percentage will be reduced in the proportion that that period, taken to the nearest month, bears to one year.
The Bill does not require pensions to be reduced in the event that the index moves downwards. Increases will be paid notwithstanding that the percentage increase in some years may be small. The. first adjustment will be made on 5th July next. Because no increase has been granted since 1st October 1971, that increase will be related to the movements in the index between the lune 1971 quarter and the March 1973 quarter. The proportionate reduction, however, will be related to the 21 months between 1st October 1971 and 30th June 1973. We cannot be certain at this stage, pending the publication of the estimate of the average weekly earnings rale for the March 1973 quarter, that the proviso to which I have earlier referred will nol apply to the adjustment this year. If it docs not apply, those in receipt of a pension at 1st October 1971 will receive an increase of I5.S per cent in the Commonwealth share of the pension then being paid. The estimated cost of the increase on this basis is $S.4m for the financial year 1973-74.
Examples of the increases that would result are: A telecommunications technician whose pension on retirement at 1st September 1971 was $2,925. made up of 25 contributory units and 10 non-contributory units, would receive an increase in his pension of $359.45 per annum, th.nt is 15.8 per cent of S2,275, the Commonwealth element of his pension. A clerk. Class 4, whose pension on retirement at 10th October 1972 was $4,342, made up of 42 contributory units and 8 non-contributory units, would receive an increase in his pension of $220.07 per annum, that is. 9/21 of 15.8 per cent of $3,250, the Commonwealth clement of his pension.
As a previous occasions, a widow will receive the appropriate proportion, five-eighths or one-half as appropriate, of the increase that her husband would have received had he been alive and in receipt of a pension on 30th June 1973. Certain orphans will also receive increased pensions. A full investigation of the present superannuation scheme has been made by a Treasury committee. The committee’s report was tabled in the Senate on 8th May 1973. The Government has taken no stand on the report and has expressed interest in receiving comments from interested persons and organisations. Other matters raised by Professor Pollard, such as children’s and orphans’ benefits, investment powers and actuarial investigations of the Superannuation
Fund, will be considered by the Government in the context of the general review of the present scheme. 1 commend the Bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Cotton) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Douglas McClelland) read a first time. (Quorum formed.)
– I move:
I have had circulated to honourable senators an explanatory memorandum concerning the effect of each clause of the Bill now before the Senate. I need not therefore now go into all the details but I wish to explain the main principles. I begin by speaking to the main part of the Bill which deals with the grant of citizenship. The guiding principle for the Government in the vitally important matter of the grant of Australian citizenship is that there should not be discrimination between different groups of settlers seeking to join the family of the nation. Wherever they were born, whatever their nationality, whatever the colour of their complexion, they should all be able to become Australian citizens under just the same conditions. If we are to maintain our great tradition that every citizen should be equal before the law, it is surely essential that everyone seeking to become a citizen, after being lawfully admitted for residence in Australia, should find they are equally treated when they try to become citizens.
So it is that this Bill provides For all, regardless of origins, the same requirements as to residence, good character, knowledge of the language and of the rights and duties of citizenship, and intention to live here permanently. There will still however be special exemptions for humane and other seasons. The common period of residence proposed is 3 years. After this period in Australia substantial numbers of fine migrants have come to know Australia, feel settled here, want to identify themselves as members of our community and are in fact living as such without friction or problems. They should not have to wait for a longer time. People from any of the Commonwealth countries - now numbering no less than 31 - have in the past been in a distinctive, and in the Government’s view, an anomalous position in regard to the conditions under which they could become Australian citizens. After only one year here they have been able to apply for what is called registration as a citizen. If they do not seek registration they can, after 5 years here, simply notify the Department of Immigration that they want to be citizens; and they thereupon become citizens. This applies to people from the following countries: People’s Republic of Bangladesh, Barbados, Republic of Botswana, Canada, Republic of Cyprus, Fiji, The Gambia, Republic of Ghana, Guyana, Republic of India, Jamaica, Republic of Kenya, Kingdom of Lesotho, Republic of Malawi, Malaysia, Malta, Mauritius, Republic of Nauru, New Zealand, Federal Republic of Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Republic of Singapore, Republic of Sri Lanka, Kingdom of Swaziland, United Republic of Tanzania, Kingdom of Tonga, Trinidad and Tobago, Uganda, United Kingdom and Colonies, Independent State of Western Samoa and Republic of Zambia.
All of these discriminatory provisions will be phased out by this Bill. To avoid any suggestion of breaking faith with people who have recently come here or who come in the year after the new Act commences, and who understood before coming that they could apply after one year, the Bill provides a transitional period of 2 years during which such people will be able to apply for citizenship after only one year’s residence. But thereafter all will have to be here at least 3 years. It is intended to publicise this change throughout Australia and of course people seeking to migrate to Australia will be thoroughly informed by officers of the Department of Immigration. It is also obviously essential that we try our utmost to remove the general misconception on the part of many British migrants already here that by long residence they have automatically become citizens. It has been unjust to them to leave them confused about their status. We shall be correcting this in publicity concerning the new Act during the period before and after it is proclaimed to commence. For a period of 6 months after commencement, the Bill will enable citizens of Commonwealth countries, who have been here over 5 years and still do not realise the true position, to become citizens by the simple existing process of notification that I have mentioned earlier. (Quorum formed).
Likewise the Bill provides that the oath or affirmation of allegiance shall be taken by all, except children under 16, regardless of former nationality. This means that migrants from all the 31 Commonwealth countries will now have the same opportunity as other migrants to take part in citizenship ceremonies suitably marking the important occasion of their becoming citizens. At these ceremonies, so well known to honourable senators, the community in which the new citizens live will welcome them into the community and the family of the nation. It will end a situation of active discrimination against enthusiastic Commonwealth of Nations applicants for Australian citizenship who have been denied the same welcome as has long been afforded others.
By these means, and by ali other possible means, it is the Government’s wish to ensure that our migrants from Commonwealth countries are no longer ignored or left in the mistaken belief that they acquire our citizenship automatically and that the rest of the Australian community attaches no importance to their becoming citizens. We do attach great importance to the conferment of our citizenship. We intend to demonstrate that beyond any shadow of doubt, and warmly welcome all migrants without distinction. It is important to end the confusion which has been permitted to continue since the Citizenship Act of 1949 and the use of terminology which has given many Australian the mistaken impression they are not only Australian citizens but also citizens of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. This has not been the case for 24 years yet the past Government permitted Australians to remain confused on this point. The Citizenship Acts of 1949 ended the common citizenship between the colonies of the once British Empire, the then British Commonwealth and now Commonwealth of Nations. Australians have not been nor had the status of British citizens since 1949. This Bill has not changed that. It recognises it. Australian citizens have, however, the additional right and description of possessing the common nationality of the Commonwealth of Nations, called in some
Commonwealth countries Commonwealth citizenship and in Australia for convenience, because we in Australia use the term ‘Commonwealth’ ourselves, as British. At this point let me make it perfectly clear that the Bill does not change the situation whereby citizens <>f the 31 Commonwealth countries, whether they become Australian citizens or not, continue to have the status of British or Commonwealth of Nations subjects and as such have privileges such as the vote and eligibility to be appointed to public services under other Acts of Parliament.
There are 2 notable changes in the form of the oath or affirmation of allegiance. The first is the omission of the renunciation of other allegiance. That renunciation has been a cause of great emotional misgivings amongst people who want to become Australians. Lt has served no legal purpose at all because loss or retention of former citizenship depends entirely on the law of the person’s former homeland. A Creek citizen remains, a Greek under Greek law, and an American ceases to be an America^ tinder American law, upon their becoming Australians, quite irrespective of whether they say at our citizenship ceremonies tha* they renounce Greek or American citizenship And so I put it to honourable senators nhat it is both the humane and the sane course to drop these distressing and Ineffectual words about renunciation.
The second feature cf the oath or affirmation is that allegiance is to be sworn to the Constitution of Australia. Specific mention of the Queen is not made, but of course allegiance to our Constitution fully embraces allegiance to the Throne. All that is sought by this change is to clarify the real position for those candidates for our citizenship who find it hard to understand why they are to swear allegiance to a monarch they have understood to be primarily Queen of another country where they pave never lived and never intend to live. Again this seeks to remove a condition of granting citizenship that burdened some of our migrants more than others. It also obviates the confusion which exists in law between the Queen of Australia and the Queen of the United Kingdom, Great Britain and Northern Ireland. It is also proposed administratively to replace the term ‘Naturalisation ceremony’ with ‘citizenship ceremony’. The word ‘naturalisation’ is one which does nol come easily to the tongue, lt is clumsy and has, for many, connotations totally unconnected with citizenship. For all these reasons we favour and will use in future citizenship ceremony’.
Turning from the main provisions concerning grant of citizenship, another change achieved by the Bill is to bring up to date the list of Commonwealth countries whose citizens have the status of British subject under the Citizenship Act. South Africa and Pakistan have ceased to be members of the Commonwealth and they are accordingly omitted. It is, however, recognised that citizens of these countries who have settled in Australia should be able to keep their present status under our law for a transitional period of 2 years during which they will be encouraged to become Australian citizens. Otherwise, for example, a person in the Public Service might suddenly find he can no longer lawfully retain his appointment because the Public Service Act allows permanent appointment only of people who have the status of British subject.
The Bill also proposes, in line with the age qualification for voting, that a person shall be deemed to be of full age for citizenship purposes when he has reached 18 years of age.
It is just on 25 years since the first Australian Minister for Immigration, now the Right Honourable Arthur Calwell, introduced, with great and justifiable pride, a Bill which for the first time created in law the status of Australian citizen. What was then a novel status in law has, of course, become the proud title of the people of a nation, which has continued to grow not only in mere numbers but in recognition of its individual and quite separate role in the world. The Government has dedicated itself to enhancing still further the significance and repute of the title Australian citizen’; and in this Bill we ask the Senate to endorse a charter for the grant of that title, without discrimination, to all of our settlers who seek it and are worthy of it. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Davidson) adjourned.
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.
The primary purpose of this Bill is to enable Parliament to approve ratification by Australia of amendments to the Constitution of the International Labour Organisation. In this the Government is following the example set by the Chifley Government in 1947 on the occasion of major changes to the ILO Constitution following World War II. The Government reaffirms its strong support for the ILO and its wide-ranging activities concerned with the promotion of social justice throughout the world. The ILO is unique in the international community because it is the only organisation in which representatives of workers and employers participate on an equal footing with those of Governments in policy formulation and decision-making. This tripartite composition ensures that the ILO is widely representative of each country and that its work is clearly established in, and focused on, the human and social problems of the peoples of the world and the real improvement of their life. For this reason alone it deserves the support of us all.
It would take too long to list all the achievements of the ILO during the 54 years it has been in existence. It is sufficient to say that it has had a major role in promoting the acceptance and application of human rights in such areas as abolishing forced labour, promoting freedom of association and removing discrimination in employment. It has underlined the importance of social considerations in the drive for economic development. It has provided fresh hopes, insights and support to those seeking improved living and working conditions, while being at the same time, conscious of economic realities. Finally it has stressed the relationship between social justice and peace - ‘universal and lasting peace can be established only if it is based upon social justice’. In recognition of its work the ILO received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1969.
These emphases continue to guide the ILO’s work program. For example, a current thrust of the Organisation is aimed at urgent, effective action to deal with the massive problems of unemployment and underemployment existing in many parts of the world. Its world employment program is directed at ensuring that governments must take employment considerations into account in formulating their development plans and programs. It is quite evident, as the Opposition can testify, that high rates of unemployment bring political retribution. The ILO has made it clear that the achievement of high levels of employment does not occur as a spin-off from high rates of economic growth. It occurs only if governments accept it as a priority objective of policy and act accordingly.
No one can guarantee that the ILO’s activities in the employment promotion field will be successful but it is obvious that unless the high levels of unemployment and underemployment in many parts of the world are reduced rapidly there is a danger not simply of economic stagnation but of political and social conflict of crisis proportions in many countries. (Quorum formed) The Government vigorously supports the ILO’s work under the world employment program and its regional segments and the Minister for Labour (Mr Clyde Cameron) hopes to discuss with the Director-General of the International Labour Office, Mr Wilfred Jenks, when he is in Geneva in June ways in which this work can be advanced. Perhaps the ILO is best known for its standard setting activities. Annua) sessions of the International Labour Conference - it has been called the world parliament on labour and social questions - adopt international conventions and recommendations dealing with most aspects of living and working conditions. (Senator Georges interjecting) -
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Prowse) - Order! Senator Georges, I think it is most discourteous to the Minister for Repatriation (Senator Bishop), when he is reading a speech, for you to be calling out across the chamber. I trust you will recognise that.
– Mr Deputy President, I apologise. I was provoked by the fact that honourable senators opposite were deliberately leaving the chamber in order to allow Senator Wright to call for another quorum. It was that action which encouraged me to act.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- I accept your apology but I do not want an excuse.
– The 136 conventions and 144 recommendations constitute an international labour code covering virtually the whole of the labour and social fields. I would hope that all honourable senators share the Government’s belief in the value of ratifying as many of the ILO conventions as quickly as possible.
First, acceptance and ratification of ILO conventions help to impart a favourable international image of Australia as a forward looking country which gives priority attention to vital areas of human relations. It is essential that Australia have a good record of ratifications if we are to be able to speak with authority and standing in the international community on labour and social matters. Second, a good record of ratification would underline our support for the work of the International Labour Organisation, the tripartite character of which, with representation by employers and workers as well as governments, as I have mentioned, gives it a unique standing among international institutions. Third, as an advanced economy in a region comprising mostly developing countries, the Government firmly believes that Australia should be in the vanguard of countries taking action to foster and develop sound labour and social policies in accordance with accepted international standards. Acceptance of the concept of fair labour practices is important and, indeed, was one of the premises on which the ILO was founded.
Fourth, the ratification of ILO conventions stimulates us to improve our own standards. Fifth, Australia has a very special responsibility for Papua New Guinea which will soon be self-governing and independent. Industrial relations in the Territory frequently have racial ramifications, since most employers are expatriates and most employees are indigenes. It is important, therefore, that Australia should leave Papua New Guinea with industrial laws which accord with international standards. There are several conventions of particular significance for Papua New Guinea which can only be extended lo Papua New Guinea and our other non-metropolitan territories when they have been ratified in respect of Australia itself.
Since coming to office the Government has taken positive action to improve Australia’s record of ratifying ILO conventions, a record which leaves much to be desired. Up to December last Australia had ratified 33 conventions out of the 136 adopted by the International Labour Conference. This is just under the average number of ratifications for the 123 member States of the ILO, a considerable proportion of which are developing countries. When I add that some 19 countries have ratified more than 50 conventions and that France has been able to ratify 93 con ventions, the extent to which Australia has fallen behind is all too evident. Of course we face difficulties because of our Federal Constitution but if Australia genuinely wishes to ratify conventions ways can be found to do this.
Already this Government has made significant advances in promoting CommonwealthState co-operation. The Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) wrote to all Slate Premiers in December last stressing the importance which the Commonwealth Government attaches to the ratification of ILO conventions and requesting their support in stepping up the pace of ratifications. He indicated that priority attention was being given to those conventions dealing with fundamental human rights which Australia had not ratified at that time. These were: Convention No. 87 - Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise, 1948; Convention No. 98 - Right to Organise and Collective Bargaining, 1949; Convention No. 100 - Equal Remuneration, 1951; and Convention No. Ill - Discrimination (Employment and Occupation). 1958. (Quorum formed) Conventions Nos 87 and 98 were subsequently ratified by Australia on 28th February this year. Cabinet has agreed to the ratification of Convention No. 1 1 1 next month and I am advised that the Minister for Labour is consulting with the Slate Ministers for Labour with a view to early ratification of Convention No. 100.
The ratification of a number of ILO conventions was discussed with the States - at Ministerial level at the meeting of Commonwealth and State Labour Ministers in February and at Permanent Head level at the meeting of the Departments of Labour Advisory Committee held in Papua New Guinea in April. Ministers decided that a working party of Commonwealth and State officers would be set up to report to their next meeting, scheduled for later this year, on how the ratification of ILO conventions might be accelerated, including the establishment of an order of priority for action in respect of particular conventions. The working parly held its first meeting recently and follow-up action is now being taken. The Government is moving quickly to fulfil all of Australia’s outstanding obligations connected with the application of ILO conventions ratified by Australia to our non-metropolitan territories. Thus the Government is consulting with the Government of Papua New Guinea to clear up outstanding action required in respect of ILO conventions ratified by Australia. For the first time a tripartite observer delegation from Papua New Guinea will be attending this year’s session of the International Labour Conference and the Minister for Labour anticipates that in company with the Minister for Labour of Papua New Guinea and the other members of the Papua New Guinea delegation he will be able to register with the Director-General of the ILO a considerable number of declarations on ILO conventions for Papua New Guinea.
Attention is also being paid to making declarations for the Cocos (Keeling) Islands and Christmas Island for conventions ratified by Australia. It is a matter of some embarrassment to Australia that the requirements of the ILO constitution that declarations must be made for these Territories have not yet been fulfilled. This was one of the matters discussed by my colleague, the Minister for External Territories (Mr Morrison), when he met Mr Clunies Ross recently.
In addition, the Government is giving final consideration to ratifying 4 ILO conventions relating solely to non-metropolitan territories. They are: Convention No. 82 - Social Policy (Non-Metropolitan Territories) 1947; Convention No. 83 - Labour Standards (NonMetropolitan Territories) 1947; Convention No. 84 - Right of Association (Non-Metropolitan Territories) 1947; and Convention No. 86 - Contracts of Employment (Indigenous Workers) 1947.
All the measures I have mentioned speak for themselves in demonstrating the Government’s determination that Australia’s record of ratification of ILO conventions can, and will, be improved significantly. Let me turn now to the specific provisions of the Bill itself. As I indicated at the outset, its primary purpose is to enable the Parliament to approve ratification by Australia of the amendments to the ILO constitution adopted in 1964 and 1972.
The 3 amendments adopted in 1964 involve matters of some significance. None of these is yet in force and the Government hopes that ratification by Australia will give a new impetus to their ratification or acceptance by other countries. Amendments to the ILO constitution come into force only when they are ratified or accepted by two-thirds of the member States of the ILO including 5 of the 10 States of chief industrial importance.
The first of the 1964 amendments was designed to strengthen obligations on ILO member States with responsibilities for nonmetropolitan territories in relation to the application of ratified ILO conventions. Under the ILO constitution at present, when a member State responsible for the international relations of non-metropolitan territories ratifies an ILO convention there is no specific time limit in which it is required to make declarations providing for the applicability of the convention to its non metropolitan territories. The main effect of the amendment is to make it an obligation for declarations to be made at the time of ratification. The principles it embodies have received wide support and the previous Government was proposing to ratify the amendment at a later date. The new Government sees no reason for delaying any longer Australian ratification of the amendment which will assist in improving working and living conditions in nonmetropolitan territories.
Of the other 2 amendments adopted in 1964, one provided for the suspension from participation in the International Labour Conference of any ILO member State which had been found by the United Nations to be flagrantly and persistently pursuing by its legislation a declared policy of racial discrimination such as apartheid and the other for the expulsion from the ILO or suspension from the exercise of the rights and privileges of membership of the ILO of any member which the United Nations had suspended from the exercise of the rights and privileges of membership. These amendments are now of less significance than when they were adopted in 1964 because South Africa has since left the ILO. Nevertheless, the Government proposes to ratify them to demonstrate Australia’s firm opposition to all forms of racial discrimination such as apartheid.
As to the amendment adopted last year, it provides for an increase in the number of titular members of the governing body of the ILO from 48 to 56. This was agreed on virtually unanimously by the Conference last year and the Australian Government, employer and worker delegates all supported it. The amendment is designed to restore the relationship between the size of the governing body and the number of members of the ILO, which has increased with the entry into the organisation of newly-independent States.
The Government is also taking the opportunity while the legislation is before the Parliament to provide for approval of the 2 amendments to the ILO Constitution accepted by the Australian Government on 20th August 1953 and 21 st December 1962. These amendments came into force on 20th May 1954 and 22nd May 1963 respectively and had the effect of increasing the size of the governing body of the ILO. In introducing this Bill the Government is indicating its firm and vigorous support for the ILO. its basic concepts and the work it performs. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Greenwood) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 1 May (vide page 1201), on motion by Senator Primmer:
That the following Address-in-Reply to the Speech of His Excellency, the Governor-General be agreed to:
MAY IT PLEASE YOUR EXCELLENCY:
We, the Senate of the Commonwealth of Australia in Parliament assembled, desire lo express our Royalty to our Most Gracious Sovereign and to thank Your Excellency for the Speech which you have been pleased to address to Parliament.
Upon which Senator Withers had moved by way of amendment:
That the following words be added to the AddressinReply, via: ‘but the Senate is of the opinion and regrets that - The Government in ils conduct of the nation’s affairs has subordinated the security, and welfare of the Australian people on whose behalf it should govern to the factional decisions of the Conference and Executive of the Australian Labor Parly, in that:
without regard lo cither economic or social consequences it intends to award Government contracts to employers who will comply wilh trade union policies;
in defiance of its election policy, it attempted lo introduce compulsory unionism for Commonwealth public servants;
it has pursued and intends to pursue defence and foreign policies which are contrary to Australia’s international treaty obligations and which ingore «>r reject long established bonds with traditional and trusted allies; and further the Senator views with alarm -
economic decisions which take no account of their impact on the nation’s exporters and their employees; and
the Government’s lack of action to curb runaway inflation’.
– I rise lo support the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply to the Speech with which His Excellency, the
Governor-General, opened this session of Parliament on 27th February and the amendments which are attached to that motion. First I refer to the 2 formal paragraphs at the commencement of the motion. In the second paragraph we take the opportunity to reaffirm our allegiance to Her Gracious Majesty the Queen, and in this I warmly concur. I pay tribute to His Excellency the Governor-General for the manner in which he discharges the duties of his high office. We have been singularly fortunate in the gentlemen of Australian background we have had to fill this very important post. Without doubt Sir Paul Hasluck is doing a magnificent service as he performs the duties of Governor-General of Australia.
The outstanding feature of the Speech, as I see it, is the emphasis, placed on social questions. We are all in favour of bettering our way of life. That is one of the really motivating forces in society. But I am concerned that the base from which comes the ability to improve conditions in the social structure be really sound and firm to enable us to do what we aspire to do across the whole board of governmental spending. On page 9 of his Speech appears one of the wisest paragraphs of the whole Speech. It reads:
The extensive program of educational, welfare and urban and public transport reform and renewal planned by my Government can only be achieved on the basis of sound economic growth.
It is not until page 9 that the GovernorGeneral reaches reference to what is so basic to enabling us to do those things which we desire as a society.
The stability of the economy is the matter to which 1 wish to refer specifically this evening. We cannot have a stable economy unless productivity matches costs as far as possible. The continued growth of our economy is vital to our well being and we must not be insular in our attitudes towards investment from overseas. Recently the American Ambassador, Mr Rice, said that Australia could lose. the United States market. This market now takes from us no less than 12.6 per cent of our total exports which are worth a total of $615. 3m. We import from America goods to the value of $872.6m, or 21.8 per cent of our total imports. It is vitally important to have a nation such as that on the friendliest of terms in business co-operation and in policies which are of importance to ensure a stable world situation. I noted that the Ambassador said recently that Australia could lose her exports to the United States if she became too nationalistic or protectionist. We have to heed this sort of warning. If we do not, we will not be able to provide the things that we wish to provide and thus be able to improve our standing. The Ambassador was reported as having said: it would be shortsighted for any country to assume that the US would remain forever a free trade nation with low tariffs, generous import quotas and free outward flow of capital and technology. Hie protectionist advocates in America could well win their objective of putting a wall around our economy if our trade partners drastically restricted the flow of our exports or completely cut off our participation in their economies.
He went on to say that Australia and other countries faced a choice - whether to build economic bridges to other nations or to erect walls to restrict the inflow of foreign imports and investments. The American Ambassador is also reported in this way:
At present there are 6 Bills before Congress, all aimed at restricting the export of our capital, our technology, our patents, our skills and executives.
Should Australia, through very small or parochial attitudes, say that we can provide for ourselves through the generation of our own capital, that we can learn skills in our own time at our research places and so on. and then deny access to us of that which has been of such real benefit to the growth of our economy in recent decades, we will be heading into a situation where, as wealthy as we may feel that we are as a nation, we will not be able to sustain the growth and the living standards which has marked our economy and society in recent decades. We all have to realise that we cannot take more out of the barrel than we put into it. We can regard ourselves as a very strong nation economically, but according to world standing we are not at this stage of our development a nation capable of doing all of those things within our own capacity if we want to make adequate use of our natural resources and ensure to our populace a betterment in its standard of living, as is so enthusiastically and imaginatively described as the aspiration of this Government.
There is a real need for firm and effective measures to control inflation. To have measures which are to be applied at the end result of policies that generate inflationary conditions, and then to try to put stoppers on price increases and on costs with money buying less and less is not a sound long term pol icy. Consideration has to be given in the first place to the things which generate heat in the economy and which lead to inflation to the degree which unfortunately we are now experiencing. Over the past 10 or 12 years we have seen an inflationary tendency no higher than 2i per cent to 3 per cent on average. It has gone higher in the more recent part of that period. Today we are faced with an inflationary condition of from 8 per cent to 10 per cent. With the very high deficit which now looms ahead of our national finances - in excess of $ 1,000m, one-tenth of our national budget - there are elements prevailing which could lead to a situation of decreased value of money here which would wreck the very basis of our economic structure.
There should be continuing encouragement to private industry and commerce. I was pleased to note that the export incentive schemes are to be continued at least until 30th June next year. I believe that Australia has an absolute need to build up its export trade. At present 75 per cent of our export income is derived from primary industries - 50 per cent from the agricultural sector and 25 per cent from minerals. The remaining 25 per cent comes from our manufactures. It is in the manufacturing field that we should seek to increase our earnings of overseas funds which enable employment opportunities here in Australia. The money paid as export incentives to industry has been in no small measure a major factor in building up our exports in recent years. I think it is most necessary that the immigration policies which were pursued by the previous Government continue to be persued. Certainly we are looking at somewhat reduced numbers to meet the economic situation of li to 2 years ago, but unless we have an active immigration policy which brings us skills and assistance in the labour field we will not have the generation within our own economy on the local scene that we need to have to continue the growth that has marked our economy in the last couple of decades.
The Leader of the Opposition, Senator Withers, moved an amendment in the following terms to the original motion:
That the following words be added to the AddressinReply: ‘, but the Senate is of the opinion and regrets that - The Government in its conduct of the nation’s affairs has subordinated the security and welfare of the Australian people on whose behalf it should govern to the factional decisions of the Conference and Executive of the Australian Labor Party, in that:
For many years, contracts have been let on the basis of price and capacity to complete the work with a high quality performance. Those were the accepted considerations which governed the letting of contracts by Government to industries. If a system is to be introduced which foregoes those basic requirements, I can see far greater funds being required from the taxpayer to meet Government expenditures in many areas.
The amendment moved by Senator Withers continues:
As honourable senators understand, this refers to the events of some weeks ago. We know the result of action taken in the Senate which rejected the principle that preference be given to unionists in the Commonwealth Public Service.
– What did the Queensland Government do? Do you know?
– At the moment, I am speaking of the Federal Government.
– You will not speak of your Queensland counterparts, will you?
– I am speaking of the Federal Government at the moment. The amendment continues:
This is one area in which I am at great variance with the Government which has so rapidly and so ruthlessly cut off to a large degree old and proven associations with the United States of America, the United Kingdom and other allies and adopted so definitely new policies in which those who follow other than our democratic system of government have been paramount. I deplore the recognition of North Vietnam and East Germany and the hurt and harm done to our foreign relations with the United States through quite objectionable and disgusting criticisms of the President of the United States and his personnel. These are actions which have been disruptive to all that we hold to be so necessary and which has proved to be so helpful to our nation for many years.
The amendment also states: and further the Senate views with alarm–
– What would you have done?
– I would have had a close look at the collective effect of the 2 revaluations. We must be so careful in regard to the income received from our exports to ensure that that revenue continues to be available to give our industries in the first place the ability to sell at prices which will enable them to make profits, of which the Government receives half. The incomes earned by our industries must maintain industrial buoyancy and the basic resources which are the background necessary to maintaining the economic capacity to meet the commitments into which we are entering in many ways. I have referred constantly to this need.
The Australian Mining Industry Council has estimated that the February 1973 devaluation of the United States dollar cost the 20 largest mining company groups in Australia $143.5m in gross revenue in a full year. This figure relates to the revenue lost irrespective of the destination of the mineral exports, but it would largely relate to exports of iron ore and coal destined for Japan, the contracts for which are written in United States dollars. The net decrease in after tax. profit by the same group of companies is estimated at $76.7m. I understand that those figures have been checked and are correct. Half of the income earned by Australian companies which export their goods is absorbed in taxation. That taxation revenue enables us to acquire funds to carry out necessary programs in Australia.
– What do you think will happen in the mining area as a result of the actions of the Government in relation to taxation concessions?
– I am concerned that taxation concessions be provided to encourage exploration and to create an ability to extract from the ground those minerals which we need. A lot of capital is required to carry out this work. In many instances it is risk capital and taxation concessions are necessary to ensure an active interest in the exploitation of these minerals.
– 1 am very concerned at the action of the Government. Any decrease in interest in mineral exploration will become a national disability and cause national harm. Irrespective of where national income is derived, every person in the community obtains some benefit from it. On the basis of the figures that 1 have quoted from the Australian Mining Industry Council, a rough estimate indicates that the combined effect of the December 1972 and February 1973 revaluations would be of the order of $230m in gross revenue lost and $120m in decreased net after tax profit in a full year. An impact of that type coupled with growing costs arising from a situation in which inflation is increasing steeply must throw in doubt Australia’s ability to sustain the budgets which have been introduced in the past. The control in a reasonable way of the value of the Australian dollar becomes a major problem and one deserving the deep consideration of each individual.
– ft discourages Australians from putting their money into Australian enterprises.
– This is the very thing that we seek to do and that we have achieved. We know that 85 per cent of our industries are owned by Australians. It is through this capacity to generate successful industries here that we can have greater participation in the resources of the nation and in that which it produces.
I wish to refer to a paragraph which appears on the first page of the printed copy of the Governor-General’s Speech, lt states:
The program which my new Government proposes is designed lo achieve basic changes in the administration and structure of Australian society in the lifetime of this Parliament.
Those are not idle words. It is most obvious that in the short time that this Government has been in office we have seen some radical changes. I doubt whether many of them are very good for the long term interests and benefit of our country. With the new administration has come a proliferation of Government departments and a great growth in the Public Service. I have a great respect and regard for the Public Service as such and for the men and women who work in it. The proliferation of Government departments, bearing in mind the Australian population, has become a matter of concern to us. We think there should be a balance between the public and private sectors. When reference is made to the structure of the Australian society during the life of this Parliament, we can certainly see that there are changes which are, at base, potentially dangerous. It behoves honourable senators who, to a certain degree, have different attitudes in relation to certain matters, that they should at all times keep a close watch on the proposals brought forward that do not pay regard to the long term benefit and the wellbeing of the nation in general. I support the motion, as amended by Senator Withers.
– I rise to order. Mr Deputy President, is it in order for honourable senators to peruse newspapers obviously in the Senate chamber?
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Prowse) - Tt is not in accordance with the custom and practice of the Senate for honourable senators to peruse newspapers or books other than those relating to the proceedings before the Parliament. I think that this is a habit that has gone unchecked, lt would be well for honourable senators to bear in mind that it is not in order to read newspapers in the Senate chamber.
– I wish to address myself to the Address-in-Reply debate and to give consideration to the contents of the speech of His Excellency, the Governor-General, lt gives us an opportunity, with some little experience of this Government’s operations, to see just what damage can be done to the country in the course of a brief period. I regret that the Government cannot supply a speaker even to reply to Senate Laucke’s contribution from this side of the. Senate. Therefore, I rise to speak. I regret the absence from the Senate chamber of the Minister for Primary Industry (Senator Wriedt) because I want to address my remarks to the parlous state of primary industry. We were promised that the Government would promote the activities of the Rural Bank to make available long term finance at reasonable rates of interest for the rural industries. We get the impression from the preaching of Senator Wriedt who has come newly into the matter injected by the serum of the Caucus - he has no knowledge of the work of the farmers or their organisations - that the position of rural industries, just because of an upsurge in wool prices, has changed from their parlous condition of last year when the newspapers were full of stories about bankruptcies and people being assisted to desert their properties without recompense and to go on to pensions.
Now Senator Wriedt would give us the impression from his small knowledge of the situation that there had been a change to ample good fortune in the country. Recently I asked him for a few figures in relation to primary industry. He did not even know that the indebtedness of the rural community had increased from very small dimensions 10 years ago to something in excess of $2,000m today. It is said that this is to be reduced just because a Labor Government has come into office. Yet we find him coming into the Senate chamber and saying on every occasion that his policies for the support and development of rural industries will be based on welfare. That is to say, he will give pensions to those who cannot make a living. Does he know that since he and the Labor Government came into office, the public servants have been fattened to an unprecedented degree and that over the last 10 years the cost of running the Commonwealth Public Service has increased from about $480m to $1 130m? It is pathetic to see the Labor Government still fattening the people near the bakehouse here in Canberra with pensions, superannuation increases, increased workers compensation payments and wholesale increases in salaries.
The Labor Government does not even reflect upon the basic factor that 40 per cent of the agricultural community has been living on an annual income of less than $2,000 over the last 10 years. That indicates the miserable partisan outlook that this Government adopts in its ignorance of the people whom today it wants to disadvantage in respect of the franchise. I state this with some degree of definiteness in the hope that it will begin to penetrate this socialistic, union ridden Government that incites the dislocation of industry. We have reached the depraved stage where the Minister for Labour (Mr Clyde Cameron) has openly encouraged, every day in the Parliament, in public and in the Press, chain strikes against the biggest and most indispensable industry in this country, the Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd. He is trying to create disruption when the agricultural community has reached the degree of peasantry to which I have referred.
The Government has allowed shipping freight rates, upon which primary industry depends, to increase to an unheard of degree. Yet it is unable to have a ship operate between Melbourne and King Island because, as the report of the Bureau of Transport Economics tabled in the Parliament this week shows, 60 per cent of carrying costs go to labour. The labour costs have increased to such an extent that the operating costs of a ship prevent its utilisation. That ship, recently built in Australia, is prevented from moving between Melbourne and King Island to transport the produce of the island community. We have this rabble that sits opposite us in the Senate. One of its members is a representative of the people of King Island. He obtained a promise from his Party that the Straitsman’ would be utilised. But once the Labor Party was voted into power it repudiated the promise. Now, we have the inane vapouring of Senator O’Byrne opposing the move to have this shipping service operated, despite these mountainous transport costs. I have only just commenced my remarks. I wanted to give some indication of the degree of my indignation. Mr President, I notice that you are about to call on me to resume my seat. I will do so, as long as I do not lose my right to resume my speech at a later stage.
– I oan guarantee that you will not do that.
– Order! In conformity with the sessional order relating to the adjournment of the Senate. I formally put the question:
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– I am not one who normally speaks in the debate on the motion for the adjournment of the Senate, but I feel that there is occasion to speak tonight. For some little while the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) has been making it part of his publicity program to downgrade the Senate and to speak of it as a chamber which is holding up his legislation, destroying it and so on. The true fact is that, until today no legislation of a worthwhile nature or of an important character has been rejected by this chamber.
– What about the Electoral Bill?
– 1 said ‘until today’. So, I think it is. fair to presume that the Prime Minister is trying to create an atmosphere of his being frustrated by this chamber, so much so that in Melbourne in connection with the State election campaign he has used some very despicable words to describe honourable senators. He spoke of Liberal Party senators in these terms: ‘This rabble, this mish mash of vested interests, this motley crew of incompetents still believe themselves to be our natural heaven born rulers’. I think that a statement such as that indicates the vanity and the arrogance of the man. There is no question about it: it is because of this arrogance and conceit that he is making statements such as that. It is quite evident from what is taking place in another place that when questions are asked he treats the Parliament, through its members, with utter contempt. He treats the people who ask these questions in the most contemptible manner. In my opinion, this is an affront to the institution of Parliament.
During the election campaign Mr Whitlam spoke about open government. There has never been a more closed government than that which is operating at present. However, the conceit and arrogance of the man are such that in Victoria he said that he hoped that a strong Labor vote in Victoria on Saturday would give Opposition senators the warning they need.
– So say all of us.
– So say all of us? If a strong Liberal-Country Party-Democratic Labor Party vote is recorded, I take it that he will recognise that the people agree with the Senate.
– That is only wishful thinking.
– The Minister cannot have it both ways. We will see on Saturday night when the results start coming in. From the stories that are coming in, he might well have to consider that aspect. The Senate was established by the Constitution and it has to serve certain functions. It was deliberately planned that half the number of senators would be elected each 3 years. The purpose of that was that while the political complexion of the other House might change completely this chamber would have a carry-over from the previous election of senators so there would not be a sudden change and there would be a continuity of thought. Apparently Mr Whitlam does not like this. I say this without hesitation: lt is well known that he is a hater of the Senate. If he had his way, he would do everything possible to deprive it of its power and even to get rid of it.
– Some people might say that he refused money for our committees.
– If that is done, it will show more clearly to the public the arrogance of the leader of the present Government.
– That cannot be done. I thought you would know that that cannot be done.
– Senator Devitt, 1 was replying to the interjection. Senators are elected by the people of Australia, the same as the Prime Minister and members of tha House of Representatives are elected. They are elected by the popular vote - by the adult franchise - of the Common wealth. Therefore the Senate has a right to express its views on legislation which comes before Lt. I am one of those who believe that if we do not agree with legislation it is our duty to act accordingly. I will not be frightened by the Prime Minister or anybody else. 1 think this chamber has a duty to perform.
The Prime Minister believes that it is all right for him to storm about the country ranting about the Senate. But we have our rights and our duties. We have to carry them out. If we see something more clearly than possibly he does or his Government does, we, have a purpose to perform. I have never failed to carry out my parliamentary duty. I will continue to carry it out. Listen to how he described us. This shows the respect in which the Prime Minister holds all senators.
– Only Liberal Party senators.
– He described Opposition senators as ‘arrogant, fearful men’. He said:
It is Incredible but true that this rabble, this mish mash of vested interests, factions, bitter old men and frustrated new ones, this motley crew of incompetents still believe themselves to be our natural heaven born rulers.
Mr Whitlam may have had more education than people such as myself, but I do not play second fiddle to him so far as my progress through the world, as I see it, is concerned. He might have the vanity, the conceit and the arrogance, but that does not make him a better parliamentarian. The arrogance and conceit which he is displaying will, I am sure, help to bring him down in the long run.
What really counts with a man, whether he is the Prime Minister, a senator, a member of the House of Representatives or anything else, is the quality and the character of the man. I do not know that Mr Whitlam rates so very highly with everyone. It is well known that there have been deep divisions in his Party in regard to himself. It is known that there have been deep factions so far as he is concerned. There is also a strong feeling of disloyalty so far as he is concerned.
– Who told you that?
– It is talked about freely. It has a ring of truth about it because of the source from which it comes. It is said that he is prepared to stab his own Ministers if he wants to injure them. Take the case of the Attorney-General, Senator Murphy. It is well known in this chamber and everywhere else that the story concerning the interview that the Attorney-General had with the Yugoslav Ambassador was leaked from the Prime Minister’s office. That leak would not have occurred if the Prime Minister had known nothing about the matter. I am quite convinced that the Prime Minister knew of the interview before he left Australia. (Government senators interjecting) -
– Order! Honourable senators must remember that the parliamentary reporters are taking down the speeches of honourable senators. I am sure that they cannot report accurately when there is a barrage of interjections.
– There would not be a poison pen that would be able to write the filth that Senator Wood is talking now.
– It is not filth. I am not being filthy. Let me say that it is well known that the Prime Minister has a tie in with Rupert Murdoch of the Murdoch Press.
– He has; and members of his Party know it. So much so that a pressman of the Murdoch Press has been seconded to and is more or less associated with his office for the purpose of obtaining informa tion about one of his Ministers, and that is the Attorney-General. This man is going round trying to find out about the private life of the Attorney-General, Senator Murphy, and about his business dealings.
– Mr President–
– You are a disgrace to the Senate and the State you represent. I am sorry to know you.
– I challenge Senator McAuliffe to deny this.
– Order! I am being addressed by the Acting Leader of the Government in the Senate.
– I rise to a point of order, Mr President. The purpose of an adjournment debate is to bring matters of public importance to the attention of the Parliament and the Government. Matters raised are generally ones which the persons raising them feel are urgent and about which Ministers within whose portfolios they fall can do something. Senator Wood has been a member of this chamber for a long time and has every reason to be proud of his record. Therefore I am sure that, on reflection, he will appreciate that there are grounds for some honourable senators to object to the manner in which he is going on.
– The point of order is not upheld. Senator Willesee has used the procedure of raising a point of order to make an appeal to you, Senator Wood. It is your business whether you accept or reject his appeal.
– I reject the appeal, Mr President. As I have already pointed out, the Prime Minister has gone out of his way to downgrade honourable senators. I have said that a member of the Murdoch Press is trying to obtain information about the AttorneyGeneral’s private life and his business dealings. I know of a person in Sydney who was taken out by this Murdoch pressman. The purpose of it was to investigate Senator Murphy. The tie up is quite apparent.
– Name the person and do not engage in inuendo.
– This is being done by people associated with the Prime Minister - the Murdoch Press. This is the same Prime Minister who has criticised honourable senators. You can see the tie up, Mr President. Time after time we see the Murdoch Press calling for Senator Murphy’s resignation and calling upon the Prime Minister to dismiss him. In the very same issue we see praise for the Prime Minister. It is well known that Murdoch and Whitlam are the closest of friends and that when the Prime Minister went to England recently Rupert Murdoch was one of the people upon whom he called.
– He spent Easter with him.
– That is true. This is the tie up. Everybody in this chamber knows that the Prime Minister would cut Senator Murphy’s throat politically tomorrow if he could. That is the type of man who gets up and publicly criticises honourable senators. His back stabbing characteristics towards his own Minister indicate what sort of a Prime Minister he is. The association between the Prime Minister and the Murdoch Press is quite clear. Senator McAuliffe, who is continually interjecting, knows that his Party is very disturbed about it. We have heard a great deal from the Government about owners equity and its belief in Australian ownership. But what about Rupert Murdoch with his newspapers and radio and television stations? Nobody could truly call him an Australian now. He is an expatriate Australian. He lives in England and that is where he spends most of his time. With his tie up with the Prime Minister and the media, he plays an important part in moulding the minds of the people of Australia politically, yet does not live in Australia.
I wanted to show that the Prime Minister, who has been so keen on deriding some mem bers of this chamber, is himself not the type of person who is spotless in his judgment of others and that he can be guilty of stabbing his own Ministers in the back. A story is going around the city of Melbourne at present that there are Australian Security Intelligence Organisation men in Dr Jim Cairns’s entourage in China, reporting every little thing that goes on. Of course, we know the feeling between Whitlam and Dr Cairns. We have seen little dribs and drabs in the newspapers about Dr Cairns’s visit, and then denials. These sorts of things must come out from somewhere. Of course they come out from the Prime Minister’s office and the Prime Minister can say that he has nothing to do with them.
There is no doubt that the Prime Minister is the last person who should talk in the way that he has about honourable senators. In my view he would stab his own Ministers in the back in order to make sure that he did not have any rivals among them. It is not surprising that the types of men he attacks are those who could well be rivals to his position as Prime Minister. As I said originally, the Senate has a duty to carry out its functions in the way that it feels fit. I hope that the people of Victoria will show their good sense on Saturday and that the Prime Minister then will be prepared to admit that the people have shown the right judgment insofar as the Senate is concened. I think that he is mishmash and not us.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 10.49 p.m.
The following answers to questions were cir culated:
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 17 May 1973, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1973/19730517_senate_28_s56/>.