28th Parliament · 1st Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Magnus Cormack) took the chair at 12 noon, and read prayers.
– I present the following petition from 606 citizens of the Commonwealth:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of the Commonwealth respectfully showeth:
1 ) That Australian citizens place great value on their freedom to choose their own doctor in all aspects of medical care.
That we believe in a doctor’s freedom to provide a personal service based on personal responsibility within a system based on quality rather than quantity, as opposed to an impersonal service in which doctor and patient lose their identity.
3 ) That proposals to change the existing health scheme are unacceptable to the people of Australia.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
– I present the following petition from 20 citizens of Australia:
To the Honourable President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled: The humble Petition of undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That they oppose the Australian Health Insurance Program and any National Health Scheme.
That they wish to retain the right to choose their own medical care by selecting a general practitioner, specialist or any other medical classification of their own choice under the present conditions in private consulting rooms and also the right to choose an intermediate ward or private hospital of their own choice.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Government will take no measure to interfere with the existing health scheme.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
– I give notice that on the next day of sitting I shall move:
That leave be given to introduce a Bill for an Act to constitute a law reform commission.
I also give notice that on the next day of sitting I shall move:
That leave be given to introduce a Bill for an Act relating to the Supreme Court of the Northern Territory of Australia.
-My question is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate in his capacity as Attorney-General. It relates to the allegations made by some Government Ministers that the Liberal Party is being financed by multinational companies, especially mineral groups, and that a sum of $lm has been donated to the Liberal and Country Parties by foreign interests. I ask the Attorney-General: Has he investigated these serious allegations? Will he have tabled and made available for the Parliament to peruse the evidence- I repeat, the evidence- on which the Minister for Immigration and the Minister for Services and Property base their allegations? Will he name the persons who have been offered money or high official office in return for political favours and the organisations or persons who have made those offers?
– The Leader of the Opposition describes the allegations as serious, and no doubt they are. He asks me, in effect, whether I as Attorney-General have investigated the allegations. I can say that I have not. But, he having suggested, as I understand it, that the allegations be investigated by the office of AttorneyGeneral, I will take that suggestion into consideration.
-Has the AttorneyGeneral invited businesses, companies and trade, manufacturers and directors associations to express to him views on the trade practices legislation currently before the Senate? Did not the Attorney-General invite those views to be made known so that they could be considered and, if thought desirable, changes made to the legislation which he has introduced? Why, therefore, is the Attorney-General seeking to rush this Bill through the Parliament before opportunity has been given for those views to be formulated, expressed, forwarded to him and considered by him and his departmental officers?
– We see the commencement of the great stall from the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. The fact is that the Bill dealing with restrictive practices which has been introduced is of the same character as was indicated by me throughout the country on a number of ocasions last year before the election and in a number of published articles and as has been indicated during this year even prior to the Bill coming in. There have been discussions during the year. The officers of my Department have been available to those in industry and commerce who wish to discuss aspects of the Bill with them. Those in industry and commerce who would be affected have great and powerful organisations with lawyers and others who are sufficiently capable and well versed in the principles of trade practices to understand well the implications of the Bill.
It is just nonsense to suggest that in some way there should be some great stalling by some repetition of what occurred during the 1960s, when it went on for month after month and year after year. I am ready, and the officers of my Department are ready, to discuss the Bill. If persons want to take up matters with my officers or to discuss affairs with them, then I am happy that that should be done. A few minutes ago I spoke to the Leader of the Opposition, and he has indicatedI do not think he would mind my saying so in the light of what has now been said- that the Bill could well be debated in this chamber within the next week or two. Certainly, there is no suggestion that it should be more than a fortnight before the debate on the Bill is commenced, and whether it is next week or the following week may not be so important. But I would be resolutely opposed to any stalling of this measure so that it would not come into operation this year, particularly as I recall that the Bill contains a provision for a 4-month moratorium on various agreements which would be affected by the Bill so that those who are party to them may disengage from them before they become unlawful.
– Is the Minister for Primary Industry aware of the deep concern among primary producers about the shortage of farm implements and steel fencing materials? Does he know that in Western Australia there is a 6-month delay on the supply of ordinary fencing wire? Has this matter been brought to the attention of the Minister? Has any investigation been made of it? Can he give the Senate some assurance that the supply situation will improve in the near future?
– This matter has not been officially brought to my attention although the comment was made to me recently by somebody in the agricultural machinery trade that the backlog of orders was as much as 12 months. It is true that, because of the very great upsurge in rural income in the past few months and the replenishment of new equipment by rural producers, the manufacturers and suppliers are not able at present to keep up with the demand. I do not think that there is any specific action that the Australian Government can take. Our action in cutting tariffs by 25 per cent, for example, would have helped the situation as would the revaluation decisions. Incidentally, this is an example of the manner in which primary producers have benefited by these actions. I think that the only thing that can be done is what is in fact happening: The manufacturers are producing to the maximum of their ability and overseas suppliers are endeavouring to the maximum of their ability to meet the demand.
– I ask the Leader of the Government in the Senate: What measures are in train to educate the Australian public as to the extent of multi-national organisations and their influence on the economic, industrial and political life of Australia? In view of the alarming escalation of military coups, undertaken by the military in conjunction with multi-national organisations such as the International Telephone and Telegraph Corporation and the Central Intelligence Agency, in countries such as Cambodia, Thailand and Chile, what measures are being taken by our Government to examine the activities of multi-national organisations in this country?
– One of the measures which is being taken is the support of the Senate Select Committee on Foreign Ownership and Control which has brought to light some of the evidence about the operations in this country of multi-national corporations in various fields of endeavour. As well, there is the operation of the legislation relating to foreign takeovers and the committee that works under that legislation. It has concerned itself with foreign moves into trade and commerce here. In addition, the Treasurer has the responsibility to acquaint himself with what is being done by multi-national corporations. As Attorney-General, I have ministerial responsibility with respect to foreign corporations as well as trading and financial corporations formed in Australia. A study is being made in my Department of the operations of these multi-national corporations in Australia. I do not know that any special steps have been taken officially by the government to educate the Australian people as to what is happening in this country with respect to multi-nationals. All I can say is that I think not only Senator O ‘Byrne but also the whole of Australia deplores the interference in the internal affairs of any country by multi-national corporations for their own purposes.
(Senator Young having addressed a question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate and the Leader having asked him to place it on the notice paper)-
– I have a supplementary question.
– The Minister has not answered the honourable senator’s original question. He has asked that it be put on notice.
– It is supplementary to that aspect.
-Well, I do not know whether that is fair. The ruling that I have put down is that a supplementary question may be asked on the basis of seeking further information in relation to the answer already given by a Minister. I cannot allow a supplementary question to be asked at this juncture.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for the Environment and Conservation whether I am correct in recollecting that the Minister for the Environment and Conservation constituted a committee to examine the question of draining Lake Pedder and removing construction work there? Did the Government subsequently submit the report of that committee to the Snowy Mountains Engineering Corporation for an assessment of the cost? Did the Corporation report that the cost of draining would range between $5m to $8m and that the cost of destruction of construction work ranged from $21m to $65m. I ask the Minister whether he is aware that the original Lake Pedder was 4 square miles and 10 feet deep and the new Lake Pedder is 93 square miles and 100 feet deep. I ask the Minister whether he is aware that the new Lake Pedder provides magnificent unique scenic reflections and beauty unparalleled even by any other asset in Tasmania. I ask him whether the Government or its ruling body, the Caucus, has come to any decision on the question of Dr Cass’s inquiry into Lake Pedder.
– The honourable senator has asked a number of questions. It is true that the Department held an inquiry and that it then engaged the Snowy Mountains Engineering Corporation for the purpose of conducting a survey of costs. It is also true that the assessment of a moratorium on the project would be between $5m and $8m spread over a period, I believe, of 3 years. I cannot express an opinion of the magnificence of the beauty of the new lake because like the majority of Tasmanians, I have not seen or visited the area. The question of whether the lake can be preserved is one, as I understand it, for the Tasmanian Government. I think I can say now that the decision of this Government is that, if the Tasmanian Government is prepared to have a moratorium of a 3-year period during which time draining would gradually reduce the quantity of water in the lake, this Government is prepared to finance the loss in respect of a further study of the possibility of finding other sources of water supply for the generation of hydro-electric power.
-I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Transport and Minister for Civil Aviation the following question: In view of some pessimistic assessments made by the Australian Federation of Air Pilots on the future viability of Qantas Airways Ltd, can we obtain any indication whether that airline intends to expand its operations into eastern European countries?
– I do not know the answer to that question. If I did know, I doubt whether it would be proper for me to state the intention of Qantas in regard to future air routes. I will take up the question with the Minister and if I can supply any information I will do so.
-My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Social Security. As some members of this Government have indicated that much of Australia’s inflation is imported, and surely it is the province of the Government to protect people on fixed incomes as much as possible, I ask: Has the Government any plans that would automatically protect pensioners and superannuitants from whatever rate of inflation may prevail at a certain time? If not, could such a plan be considered?
– In a time of inflation the burden falls most heavily on people on any kind of fixed income, particularly those on superannuation or other forms of pension. The Government’s policy is to deal with that situation by adjusting pensions in accordance with the increasing average wage. We have arrived at a formula which provides a basic relationship of 25 per cent of the average wage. As inflation may proceed and the average wage increases, adjustments will be made to pensions in order to keep pensions up to the level of 25 per cent of the average wage. I am not aware of any way by which people on other kinds of fixed income ought to be dealt with. It seems logical that people on any sort of government superannuation ought to be dealt with in a similar way, In that way the well known effects of inflation would be mitigated.
– My question, which is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate and the Attorney-General, follows from an answer he gave to a previous question which I heard when I was briefly outside the chamber. Will the Leader of the Government table as soon as possible the evidence upon which the Minister for Services and Property and the Minister for Immigration based their allegations and upon which the Government plans to base its legislation concerning the matters he referred to?
– I have indicated already in relation to this matter that I, in the office of Attorney-General, have made no investigation. One ought to be clear to differentiate between the party approach and what may be in the hands of persons in a non-official or non- government role, and the role of the Attorney-General in enforcing the law or of making proper investigations. I draw that distinction very deliberately. I indicate that as Attorney-General I have made no investigation. The honourable senator heard what I said before. I do not know that it is my function as Attorney-General to present to Parliament material relating to these matters which may be in the hands of other members of the Australian Labor Party or which may come into their hands. Any investigation to be begun officially by the Attorney-General, through his Department, into such matters would be the subject of deliberation. I said that I would consider it. I do not regard this as a matter which should be confused with what information might be available to other persons in their role as members of my Party.
– I direct my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Transport. In view of the announcement yesterday by the Minister for Transport, Mr Jones, that he had let a contract to the value of $1.6m to Monier Prestressed Concrete of Seacliff, South Australia, for the supply of 200,000 prestressed concrete sleepers for use in maintenance work on the Trans-Australia Railway and that this decision was based on economic grounds and not on political motivation, as was the case with the timber sleeper contract let by the previous Minister, Mr Nixon, will the Minister consult with his colleagues with a view to ensuring that the component parts used in these sleepers are again manufactured in South Australia, as was the case in the manufacture of the sleepers for the Whyalla-Port Augusta rail link, when the components were manufactured so competently and at a competitive price by the country based firm of Shearer’s of Mannum?
– Order! Senator McLaren, you know the rules as well as I do. I have let you get away with that one, but I will not let you get away with the next one.
– I will take up the matter with the Minister for Transport. As the honourable senator knows, the previous Minister for Shipping and Transport decided that timber sleepers would be used on this railway. On attaining office the Labor Government called for alternative tenders for the supply of concrete or timber sleepers. It has been a long procedure, but the tenders, when they were received, were referred to the Bureau of Transport Economics for the purpose of making a survey as to the life and suitability of the sleepers, and the resultant letting of a contract for concrete sleepers would suggest that concrete sleepers won out on that point.
As regards components, at one time I had some discussions about this question and I think that as much as possible not only of local material, but also of material from in and around Port Augusta, such as sand and screenings, will be used. I believe that the only components that could be brought from interstate would be reinforcing rods, clips, etc. I shall take up the matter to see whether such firms as Shearers or other country engineering firms in South Australia can participate in this venture.
– I ask a question of the Minister representing the Minister for Foreign Affairs. It concerns the present war between Israel and the Arab States. I have noted the Government’s attitude, that it deplores the war, it hopes for peace, but at the moment it maintains a kind of neutrality. However, in view of the fact that the war has now proceeded to the stage where the United States and the Soviet Union are supplying large quantities of arms to both sides, I ask whether it is not time that the Government should use its undoubted influence at the United Nations level and internationally to promote a ceasefire. I do that in the belief that is expressed by leading commentators and critics today that this war is at the stage when it could develop into a world war.
-I do not think anyone could disagree with the last observation made by Senator McManus. We all have our own personal appreciation of what is happening. I agree that this is probably the most perilous time for the world since the last World War. I assure the honourable senator that the Australian Government is doing whatever it can to bring about peace in the conflict. During this month of October the Australian representative at the United Nations is chairing the Security Council, and every endeavour is being made by Australia to bring about peace in the area.
-I ask the Leader of the Government in the Senate a question following upon Senator O ‘Byrne’s question concerning multi-national corporations. Has any investigation been made into or cognisance taken of the ownership or control of the news media in Australia, including, of course, newspapers, by people resident overseas? Are not such propositions in the same or worse category than overseas ownership of industry which some people so much deplore?
– Some surveys have been made from time to time, outside government, as to the foreign ownership or non-resident ownership of the media, including newspapers, in Australia. The Broadcasting and Television Act imposes restrictions upon the foreign ownership of radio and television stations. Foreign takeovers come within the purview of the Treasurer. Foreign ownerships of the media also comes within the scope of various other Ministers. I agree with the honourable senator that foreign ownership or non-resident ownership of the media is, in the broad sense, far more dangerous than such ownership of the other branches of industry or commerce.
– My question is addressed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. In pursuance of the Government’s policy of open government, can the Senate be informed as soon as possible as to how much commission was paid, and to whom, for the purchase of the $ 1 ,300,000 Jackson Pollock painting Blue Poles’? What was the address and occupation of the recipient of the commission, if any, at the time of the purchase of the painting?
-I do not know of any reason why that information could not be obtained. It is a matter of expenditure of public moneys, I assume, directly by the Government. The painting may have been purchased by some statutory authority. I am not sure of the details; but, whatever they are, I assume that they could be given here or, in the ordinary course, to the appropriate Senate Estimates committee. This is not a matter of a new doctrine of open government. I would think that even under the previous Government’s policy of closed government such information should have been available.
– Do you wish to ask it because you believe that the question has not been answered fully?
– I wish to add to the question.
– Very well.
-Will the Leader of the Government in the Senate seek information overseas, because I imagine that the commission would be payable by the seller, not the buyer? Will the Minister extend the scope of his inquiries?
– I do not know whether any difficulty is involved in obtaining the answer. As far as I am aware, the moneys were paid either directly by the Government or indirectly by the Government through some statutory authority. All the information on this matter that is within the knowledge of the Government ought, in the ordinary course, to be made available. The honourable senator asked about inquiries overseas. I did not quite catch the drift of his question. If there was some transaction between other parties to which the Government was not a party, it may be that that information is not available to the Government. I would think that information, which is within the Government’s knowledge, about payments made by way of commission or otherwise should be available. It may be that some contract was entered into in respect of which commission was paid. There may be restrictions of some confidentiality in the contract. I do not know any of those matters. I assume, on the face of it, that such information ought to be in the public domain. Unless there is any such restriction, it ought to be readily available either to the Senate or to the appropriate Estimates committee.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, concerns a statement by the Minister, which was reported in the Queensland Press, that there was an outbreak of virus influenza at Edward River in Queensland and that he was trying to provide assistance because the present aid from the Royal Flying Doctor Service was insufficient. Can the Minister inform the Senate of the nature of that assistance? Is it a fact that the sister in charge at Edward River did not consider this socalled epidemic serious enough to request medical help? Was assistance sought from the Royal Flying Doctor Service? If so, what was the reply? Was the Queensland Department of Aboriginal and Island Affairs consulted? If so, what was its reply? What is the situation at present?
– I can reply to very little of this question. The fact is that I received from the Edward River area a message that there was an outbreak of virus influenza and that the medical facilities and the Flying Doctor Service were insufficient to meet the requirements of the natives in that settlement. I conveyed that message to my Department and received a reply from it that it would look into the matter immediately and, if necessary, the essential medical assistance would be sent to the area. I do not know what has happened since then.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Treasurer. Is the Minister aware that the previous Liberal Government, when it fixed interest rates on long term government securities in 1970 at 6.97 per cent agreed, for the first time, to a fixation of interest rates on savings banks accounts under $4,000 at 3.75 per cent? Does the Minister know that the previous Government maintained this unfair policy of penalisation of smaller accounts until its dismissal in December 1 972? Did the present Labor Government receive advice from the previous Government when it increased the long term bond rate to 8.5 per cent and compounded this injustice by continuing the interest rate on workers’ savings at 3.75 per cent, or was this merely a coincidence? Will the Government review this injustice to help preserve some equity in workers savings now that the inflation rate each year is robbing them of more than oneeighth of their total savings?
– I am not aware of the facts and the figures which the honourable senator puts to me. I will pass those along to the
Treasurer. I assure the honourable senator and the Senate that the last thing the Government wants to be prevailing in the community is high interest rates. Whatever the necessities of the moment may be, the firm desire of this Government is that interest rates be kept down to a level which is compatible with the desire of people to acquire their homes and goods and not to be crippled by the burden of debt.
– Will I place that question on the notice paper so that the Treasurer can give a supplementary answer to it.?
-Has the Leader of the Government in the Senate noticed recently that in discussion about the Senate disallowing certain legislation pressmen and leader writers have indicated that it is not right for the Senate to disallow certain types of legislation? As one who upholds the rights of the Senate, I ask him whether it is not a fact that the Senate has whatever right the Constitution gives to it to disallow legislation. Is it not a fact that the Senate derives its constitution and existence in the same way as the other House of Parliament insofar as it is elected by the people of this country by vote? Is it not a fact that the Senate has the authority to carry out its constitutional rights? In view of Senator O ‘Byrne’s question in relation to education, would the Minister take it upon himself to educate the Press about the real rights and authority of the Senate?
-There is no doubt that under the Constitution the Senate has authority to refuse to agree to any legislation. Leaving aside the deadlock provisions, no law can be made by this national Parliament except with the concurrence of the Senate as well as the House of Representatives. Again, I lay aside the rare provision of a constitutional change by referendum following the decision of one House alone. Leaving aside those extremely rare cases, the Senate must concur with the House of Representatives in regard to all legislation before it becomes law. That is its authority. As to what it should do in the exercise of its authority, that is another question. If the democratic process is to be observed, then a government which is elected on a clear program which has been put to the people ought, in my view, to be entitled to have that program carried out. As part of the democratic process the Australian people are entitled at least to have the program which they endorsed carried out. Honourable senators opposite were in office prior to the election on 2 December last. The people expressed their view and gave endorsement to a detailed program. I hold in my hand the program which was put to the people. Every word of it was available to every person. I suggest to the Senate that it is in conformity with the democratic process that the will of the people, as expressed through the legislation which has been brought into this Parliament by the Government, ought to be allowed to have free play, although within the authority of the Senate it would be inconsistent with the democratic process if the Senate were to reject legislation which has been endorsed by the people.
– Matters are automatically taken up with the appropriate Minister when I make such an announcement. It will not be necessary for the honourable senator to put the question on the notice paper. I will see whether a reply can be obtained for her today.
– I ask the Leader of the Government in the Senate, in the absence of the Minister for the Media, whether it is a fact that the Australian Broadcasting Commission is precluded from accepting purely advertising matter. If so, can the Minister explain to the Senate why last weekend ‘Four Corners ‘ devoted 1 0 to 15 minutes of its precious time to publicising the birth of a new porno-type publication- I will not mention its name- controlled by one Gordon Barton? It is a paper designed, on its editor’s statements, to carry advertisements, inter alia, for homosexuals, call girls, strippers, massage parlours and the rest. If such a publication deserves such lavish free advertising on the ABC and actual encouragement from the compere, can the Minister explain why the recent birth of a respectable weekend publication jointly by Melbourne’s established Press passed without notice by the ABC?
-No doubt the answer to the honourable senator’s question is found in this very happening in the Senate. Because it is a matter which the honourable senator considers of social importance, and perhaps because of his disapproval that such a journal should circulate, he chose to stand in the Senate and draw attention to it. On other occasions other honourable senators have stood up and asked why the ‘Little Red School Book’ or some other book was allowed to circulate in the community. This simply shows that these are matters of public interest and discussion. No doubt that is the reason why the Australian Broadcasting Commission chose to deal with this as a topic, not to advertise the publication but because the public was interested. The very fact that the honourable senator chose to pursue the matter and to raise it in the Senate shows that perhaps the Australian Broadcasting Commission’s appreciation of the public interest in such a matter was justified.
– My question is directed to the Attorney-General and it refers to a question which I asked him on 1 1 October last concerning Constable Sandeman, the hero of the Alice Springs hijacking. I ask the Attorney-General whether he recalls having advised me that he had asked that Constable Sandeman be brought to some other centre, if necessary, and retrained for some other position which might enable him to advance without any loss in the police force. I ask the Attorney-General whether the contents of a telegram which I received from Constable Sandeman are true. The telegram reads:
I wish to advise as of this date -
That is 11 October- that I have received no instruction as stated by Senator Murphy on the ABC news and that the Northern Territory Commissioner advised me on the 10th instant of no provision for future promotion. I am to be placed in a clerical position without compensation.
Constable Sandeman went on to say:
It is my desire to be discharged on superannuation from the police force and adequately compensated for disabilities which have been medically assessed -
– Order! You are entitled to give enough information to make the question intelligible to the Minister who is to answer it.
– I merely ask the AttorneyGeneral: Are the contents of that telegram true?
– I have been concerned with this matter. Even this morning during the course of the Caucus meeting one of my colleagues spoke to me about the matter.
– Would you like the telegram, Senator?
– Yes. A further representation was made to me by the Mayor of Alice Springs, Mr Nelson. I quite appreciate what the honourable senator is trying to put. I assure him that I have done everything that I thought was proper in this matter. The Commissioner of the Northern Territory Police is in Canberra this week attending a conference at the National Library of the Institute of Criminology. I will ask him to see me. I assure the honourable senator that I will endeavour to see that not only his wishes but my wishes are carried out in this matter. I cannot say with certainty what has occurred. It may not be quite as bad as the honourable senator imagines, but it is my wish that this man, who is a hero, be treated properly, that he be given employment or discharged, that he not be disadvantaged and that everything be done for him which the country would expect to be done for him. If the efforts that I have made to achieve that have not been sufficient- and it appears from the telegram from which the honourable senator has quoted that the efforts have not been sufficient- I will make further endeavours to see that my wishes in this matter are carried out. As I apprehend from what is being said around the Senate they are the wishes generally of the Parliament. All I can say to the honourable senator is that one can decide matters, one can issue instructions, one can give further instructions but one cannot always be certain that the instructions will be carried out.
Sitting suspended from 12.48 to 2.15 p.m.
– I wish to ask a question of the Minister representing the Minister for Transport, but do not know whether he is here yet.
– I raise a point of order, Mr Deputy President. The Senate has resumed and not one Minister is in the chamber.
– I am.
– I withdraw the imputation and say expressly that Senator Wriedt is here- and I notice that Senator Murphy has just entered the chamber.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Prowse)- There is no substance in the point of order.
– I now direct my question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. I refer to the report that a ship is missing off the Tasmanian coast; it still had not been located at the time of the broadcast of the lunchtime news bulletins. Does the Navigation Act not provide for ships to report their position by radio at regular intervals, in a similar manner to aircraft? If this is not the case, will the Minister take action to see that this is done, so that in the case of a missing ship a search can be started at a much earlier time and with a better chance of saving life?
– I am not aware of the requirements under the Navigation Act or other Acts. What is suggested by the honourable senator seems to be eminently reasonable and I will pass it on to the Minister for Transport.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister for Primary Industry, refers to an answer given recently in the Parliament by the Minister for Overseas Trade, Dr Cairns, on the terms of the wheat sale to China. Dr Cairns said:
I have some little difficulty in persuading the Chinese Minister for Foreign Trade, Mr Pai Hsiang-kuo, to agree to this principle. He eventually did so but limited it very strictly to 3 years so that, in the event of a change of government in Australia, the position could be re-examined.
I ask: Does this not clearly mean that Dr Cairns and his Government have accepted a wheat deal contingent on political and ideological considerations? Is it not a fact that the so-called 3-year contract is to be negotiated year by year, in terms of price, and that therefore there is no certainty at all that in the final 2 years the price offered will be adequate? Is it not dangerous to advocate to the Australian wheat farmer an open-ended policy of wheat growing if no guarantee of long term economic price can be given?
-Presumably, Dr Cairns-I am going only by the statements he has madedid have some difficulty in persuading the Chinese Minister that a long term agreement should be entered into. I do not see that that is any cause for concern; in fact, I think it is an indication of the excellent work done by Dr Cairns in China. It is true that the price will be negotiated year by year, which is as one would expect, because the variation in the world market price for wheat must be a consideration every year. This does not suggest for one moment that agreements at prices favourable to Australia will not be negotiated. As for the suggestion that after 3 years the Chinese Government may reconsider its position should there be a change of government in Australia, that is a matter for the Chinese Government, if it desires to look at it in that light; but it does not suggest in any way that the present Australian Government is compromising our sales of wheat in any way as a result of the initiatives it has taken.
Speaking for myself- I would be very surprised if this cannot be said for Dr Cairns also- I have not received from the wheat industry any objections to the agreement that has been entered into. I invite members of the Opposition, and Senator Carrick in particular if he wishes to answer, to state categorically that they oppose the wheat agreement that has been entered into with China. If the honourable senator does not oppose it, I presume that he supports it. Let us hear a clear statement from the Opposition. Let it tell the wheat growers of Australia that it opposes the agreement that has been entered into. Let the wheat growers of Australia return to the position that they were in for the last 3 years or 4 years when they were waiting 3 years or 4 years for a second payment as a result of the policies adopted by the previous Government.
– I direct my question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. I refer to the extraordinary statement by the Minister for Overseas Trade, Dr J. F. Cairns, which appears at page 2056 of the House of Representatives Hansard of yesterday’s date, and which has just been quoted by Senator Carrick, that Mr Pai, the Minister for Foreign Trade of the People ‘s Republic of China, stated that the People ‘s Republic of China would sign a wheat agreement for 3 years only in case there was a change of government in Australia. Is it a fact that the formula for the recognition of the People’s Republic of China contained an undertaking of non-interference in each other’s affairs? If so, does the Government regard the statement by Mr Pai as a breach of that undertaking and as a flagrant and arrogant interference in the internal affairs of Australia? If it does not, does it regard the attitude of Mr Pai as a normal condition applying to trade agreements between countries?
– I cannot see any interference in Australia’s affairs if another government says: ‘We will enter into an agreement with you and we will make that agreement for no longer than a certain period in the event that there might be a change of government in your country’. I suppose another country is entitled to take the view that, if there were a change of government, it would not want to enter into commercial arrangements with somebody who was hostile to it. I do not know. This may be the purport of what the honourable senator is putting to us. It is the affair of the other country whether it chooses to enter into arrangements with us. I will refer the question to the appropriate Minister to see whether there is any further comment that ought to be made on it. I do not see why the honourable senator should be seeking to stir up trouble when there has been a sensible commercial arrangement entered into for the benefit of primary producers, to the advantage of our trade balance and which will add to the prosperity of Australia.
– I address my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Transport. I refer to the answer given earlier relating to the announcement made yesterday concerning the supply of concrete sleepers to the Commonwealth Railways. Can the Minister say where the manufacture of these concrete sleepers will take place? In the light of his earlier reply relating to materials available at Port Augusta, can he say whether Port Augusta will be the manufacturing centre, or will the manufacturing centre be located at Port Pirie?
– I do not know. I understand that the company concerned is Monier Concrete Products Pty Ltd which has a depot at Brighton. I believe that it was with this company that I had discussions, when I was acting Minister for Transport, on the desire to get recognition for the establishment of a factory at Port Augusta. I do not know whether it is the intention of the successful tenderer to manufacture these sleepers at Port Pirie, Port Augusta or even Adelaide. I will try to find out.
– I direct my question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate in his capacity as the representative of the Prime Minister in this place. I refer to the purchase of the Jackson Pollock painting ‘Blue Poles’ for the sum of $1,240,000, the most expensive purchase in Australian art history. I ask: Was a report on the physical condition of the painting sought and obtained from an independent expert conservator of international repute before agreement to purchase was made? If not, why not? Also, were all members of the Visual Arts Board given the opportunity of inspecting the painting before a decision to purchase was made? Was the decision to purchase a unanimous one among all members of the Board? Will the Government make available to Parliament the full record of discussions of the Board and the minutes of the meeting relevant to the decision to purchase this painting?
– I do not know the answers to the questions asked by the honourable senator, but I imagine that information could be provided on some of them. The honourable senator referred to the discussion that took place between members of the body which considered whether the purchase should be made. Well, how far is it all to be carried on? Do we have to keep and produce a record of simple discussions that take place within any body? I believe that a requirement of this kind would inhibit the work of people who belong to such organisations.
I can understand that these matters should be pursued if there is any suggestion of fraud or something has gone wrong. But are we really to produce this kind of material in a situation in which one person might say: ‘I think it is a beautiful work of art, the best that ever has been produced’, and someone else says: ‘I think it is rotten and disgraceful and not worth 20c’?
My observation of the matter raised by the honourable senator is that requirements of the type that he mentioned would seriously inhibit the operations not only of government but of other bodies when they ought to be able to talk fairly freely and frankly. I will look into what the honourable senator suggests. Certainly part of his questioning ought to be productive of answers.
– I ask the Leader of the Government in the Senate the following question: Is there any substance in the information that multi-national organisations are paying the salaries of the staff of office bearers of the Senate and House of Representatives? If not, could the Leader ascertain who is paying the salary of the secretarial assistants to the Opposition Whip in both the Senate and the House of Representatives?
– I have no information on this matter. I am astonished at the thought that this might be occurring and I certainly think that it would be a matter of great concern to everyone. I regret that I am not in a position to say anything about the matter. If this is happening I would hope that those concerned would readily put the position at rest by informing the Senate one way or the other as to the position.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Prowse)- Order! I would like to make a comment. I allowed the last question but I suggest that honourable senators refrain from using question time to raise matters of this sort. There is a proper time to raise such matters. I suggest that they should not be raised during question time.
-I refer the Minister representing the Minister for Minerals and Energy to a question I asked on 9 October about the Commonwealth Government’s plans for a refinery at Dampier in Western Australia. The Minister requested that I place the question on notice that day. It is question No. 479 on the notice paper. I now ask: In view of the fact that the Minister for Minerals and Energy last night made a lengthy statement on this subject and related matters in the House of Representatives, will the Minister ensure that the Minister for Minerals and Energy provides me and the Senate with a prompt answer to the question I asked more than a week ago?
– I shall endeavour to have an answer to that question supplied to the honourable senator within the next day or two.
– I direct my question to the Minister for Customs and Excise. I refer to the consolidation of federal law enforcement agencies. I take it that this consolidation in no way will impair an expansion of the use of the Department’s tracker dogs to locate narcotics smugglers.
-No. This will continue to be done so far as other species can be used to aid mankind in suppressing a traffic which is, I suppose, among the worst crimes that can be imagined.
– I ask that further questions be placed on notice.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Prowse)- I ask the indulgence of the Senate to permit Senator Kane to ask a question because he has been rising for some time.
– I preface my question to the Minister representing the Postmaster-General by saying that I have noted that the Post Office made a profit last year of $4 1.2m, a drop of $ 18.6m on the previous year. Given the fact that the Post Office made this profit of $4 1.2m, what possible justification does the PostmasterGeneral have for such savage increases in postal charges? Also, what possible justification can the Government have for closing down non-official post offices in rural areas, thus depriving country people of necessary services?
– This matter of postal charges was discussed in some detail by the Senate, I think last week, and after a full discussion the Senate made a decision on the various matters now raised again by Senate Kane. The Postmaster-General has assured me that he will do everything he can to stop any further increases in postal charges. It is against his wishes, as it is against the wishes of the whole Government, that there be any increases in postal charges, but one has to face the facts of life that costs in various directions are increasing, and the Government has had to undertake the unpalatable task of increasing charges.
– Why make a profit?
– That is a good point and it was thoroughly canvassed. One hopes that the postal service could be carried on without any further increases in charges. What has been said on the matter has been noted. As the honourable senator knows, it only echoes the views of the members of the Government themselves. They do not want increased charges, but any increased charges that have been brought in are necessary.
- Mr Deputy President, earlier today Senator Kane asked me a question about Constable Sandeman. I have since spoken to the Commissioner for the Northern Territory Police. As a matter of fact, I was talking to him when the bells were ringing to summon the Senate. That is why I was delayed a few moments in coming into the chamber. There appears to be some misunderstanding. It may be that since the telegram was received by Senate Kane, the Commissioner has spoken to Constable Sandeman and, amongst other things, has told him that retraining would be possible.
I will not go into all the details of the matter, but I assure the Senate that I will take steps that represent the evident wish of the whole Senate to ensure that Constable Sandeman should be dealt with as the man he is. He is a man who was injured grievously in the course of heroic actions on his part. He should get not only the full measure of what the law entitles him to receive; it should go beyond that. He should not be disadvantaged. The Commonwealth should deal with him graciously and handsomely in every way, and I assure the Senate that I will do everything I can to bring that about.
- Mr Deputy President, I ask for leave to make a very brief statement- I assure the Senate that it will be brief- arising out of a question which I understand Senator O ‘Byrne recently asked Senator Murphy.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Prowse)- Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– But you said it should not be discussed at question time.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- I permitted the question.
-I have leave, unless Senator Turnbull is refusing to give me leave. I understand the burden of Senator O ‘Byrne’s question was- he will pardon me if I am wrongthat the salary of the secretary of the Opposition Whip in the other place -
– In both places.
-In both places, was being paid by a multi-national company. I do not presume to have the total knowledge of this, but I can assure the Senate that what Senator 0 ‘Byrne alleges is not correct.
– Who is paying them?
-As I understand it-and 1 am subject to correction, Senator O’Byrnethose salaries are being paid by the Liberal Party of Australia and not by a single multi-national company.
– It is the same thing.
– There have been interjections. It is not the same thing. The Liberal Party of Australia is no doubt an incorporated body under the law of the Australian Capital Territory. I should imagine that it is incorporated in the Territory as a non-profit company, or whatever it is called in the Territory, and it is not the same thing as a multi-national company.
– I inform honourable senators of the following situation: A group of people has moved from the area which is generally recognised as the protest area to occupy the front steps of Parliament House, so impeding the free entry and egress of people who have business in this Parliament. I sent for the person who apparently is acknowledged as the leader of this group and asked him to remove his people from the front steps of Parliament House. He has refused to do so. I have instructed the police to remove them.
– For the information of honourable senators, I present the final report by the Immigration Advisory Council on its inquiry into the departure of settlers from Australia. The progress report was presented to the Senate on 15 March 1973.
– For the information of honourable senators, I present a further report by the Bureau of Transport Economics on tenders for re-sleepering the TransAustralian Railway. I regret that when I was answering questions today I was unacquainted with the fact that I had this report to present.
– Pursuant to section 24 of the National Capital Development Commission Act 1957-1960, I present the sixteenth annual report of the National Capital Development Commission for the year ended 30 June 1973, together with financial statements and the Auditor-General’s report on those statements.
– Pursuant to section 25 of the Apple and Pear Organisation Act 1938-1971, I present the Twenty-seventh annual report of the Australian Apple and Pear Board for the year ended 30 June 1973.
Report on Supply of Steel Pipes
Senator WILKINSON (Western Australia) I present the report of the Senate Standing Committee on Industry and Trade relating to the supply of steel pipes for the Moomba-Sydney gas pipeline.
Ordered that the report be printed.
– I ask for leave to move a motion that the Senate take note of the report.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
That the Senate take note of the report.
The Senate referred this matter to the Committee late last year, following the confusion surrounding the announcement that the Australian Gas Light Co. Ltd intended to import from a consortium of Japanese firms steel pipe for the proposed natural gas pipeline from Moomba to Sydney. From the many Press reports on this matter at the time and from the conflicting statements attributed to spokesmen for Australian steel manufacturers and fabricators and the Australian Gas Light Co. Ltd, it was by no means clear that the national interest had been considered adequately in relation to the use of steel pipes for the project. I am pleased to say that the Committee has been able to satisfy itself that arrangements have been made, through the agency of the Australian Government, the Australian Gas Light Co. Ltd and its subsidiary, for Australian steel producers and suppliers to fabricate and supply appropriate quantities of the steel required for the Moomba-Sydney gas pipeline. On a related matter, we were informed that Australian steel pipe will be used for the residue of the proposed national pipeline grid which will comprise ultimately another 4,000 miles of pipeline.
The report outlines what has been done by the previous and present governments to rationalise the confused situation which existed when the pipe supply contracts were announced last year. I trust that this report will be of benefit to the Senate. I acknowledge the ready assistance provided by the Minister for Minerals and Energy (Mr Connor) in clarifying certain aspects of the Government’s policy in relation to the national pipeline network and the Moomba-Sydney pipeline in particular. I acknowledge also the assistance given to the Committee by Senator Murphy in his capacity as Minister for Customs and Excise in making available the summary of conclusions by Professor Muir in his report to the Minister on Australian steel pipe production capacity.
-I wish to speak in relation to the report of the Senate Standing Committee on Trade and Industry which has been presented by Senator Wilkinson. I was a member of the Committee and I am anxious to comment on that report. The report was a difficult one to make in that it dealt with the major matter of the production of steel goods in Australia. The Committee took considerable time to make an evaluation of the various government and private interests, and certainly also the public interest. I give credit to Senator Wilkinson from Western Australia, the chairman of the Committee, in this regard. Also, I pay credit to the excellent assistance that was given by the staff under Mr W. J. Symington and Miss Ann Lynch. I seek leave to continue my remarks at a later stage.
Leave granted, debate adjourned.
Assent to the following Bills reported:
Australian Capital Territory Representation (House of Representatives) Bill 1973.
States Grants (Petroleum Products) Bill 1 973.
Pay-Roll Tax (Territories) Bill 1 973.
– by leave- Yesterday, I informed the Senate of arrangements that had been made for the sittings of the Senate and the Estimates Committees for this week and also for next week. I said also that I would advise honourable senators today of the proposed arrangements for the meeting of Estimates Committees next Monday. It is proposed that Estimates Committees A and C will meet from 2 p.m. until 10 p.m. on Monday, 22 October. Estimates Committee A will meet in the Senate chamber and Estimates Committee C will meet in committee rooms Nos. 1 and 2.
-by leave- It has been well accepted that it is for the Government to fix when the Estimates Committees will sit. Until this year I think that the regular practice had been for the Estimates Committees to sit during the sitting hours of the Senate. That was the basis upon which the Estimates Committees were originally constituted. We have departed from that practice this year and there have been sittings of Estimates Committees on non-sitting days. Initially, that was an arrangement in which the Opposition concurred. But notice was always given of the dates on which there would be meetings of the Estimates Committees on non-sitting days so that honourable senators had a reasonable time in which to schedule their arrangements. On 26 September, after discussions had taken place, we were given a list of the meeting times for Senate Estimates Committees. On Monday, 22 October, 2 Senate Estimates Committees were to meet, namely, Senate Estimates Committees B and C. No other Committee was to meet. Now, we are told on the Wednesday prior to this coming Monday that Estimates Committee A will meet on that day. Of course, that has the effect of determining the movements of some people. Speaking personally as a member of Estimates Committee A, I state that I cannot be present on that day. I am not attributing design to anybody for the fact that it happens to be Estimates Committee A which is to meet next Monday, but I believe that it is an unsatisfactory situation. I will simply use the facilities of the Senate later to ascertain the information I desire in the areas in which I am interested. The simple position is that these changes ought to be made only in consultation with the members of committees and not by direction of the Government without any regard to the ability of members of committees to be present.
– by leave- The Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Senator Cavanagh, has been called out of the Senate chamber so I shall try to deal with the matter. If there is any problem concerning those arrangements, perhaps it could be discussed this afternoon. We will see whether we can arrive at some rational arrangement. We are all living in the hope that we may be able to complete the examination by Senate Estimates Committee A before the due time. Perhaps it would meet the Senators -
– A few laymen on the Committee might also help.
– Yes. Would it meet Senator Greenwood’s convenience if perhaps on the Monday Senate Estimates Committee A went ahead with its examination of the Estimates for departments other than the AttorneyGeneral’s Department? We seem to have bogged down on the first line of the estimates for the Attorney-General’s Department for S or 6 hours. Perhaps we could dispose of the estimates of other departments -
– I do not want to give credence to the view that I am interested only in the Attorney-General’s Department. All departments are intensely interesting.
– I put forward the suggestion that this may be a way to deal with the problem. If that would meet Senator Greenwood’s convenience, I suggest that the Estimates Committee deal with the other departments on the Monday and stand over its consideration of the estimates for the Attorney-General’s Department until some other time. I suggest that some discussion be had with Senator Cavanagh on this matter this afternoon to see whether we can arrive at a reasonable arrangement. No one wants to have matters brought on when it is not possible for honourable senators to deal with them. I know that there are difficulties when Committees meet at the one time. That is one of the reasons why it was suggested, for example, that only one Committee meet at a time. It is always difficult to meet multiple demands that are made upon the time of honourable senators. We recognise that. I suggest that Senator Greenwood confer with Senator Cavanagh to see whether some arrangement can be made to meet bis convenience and also in the hope that we can at some stage, with reasonable regard to the requirements of proper investigation, manage to complete the examination of the Estimates.
– by leave- I inform the Senate that the Government has decided to extend the range of income over which aged people will be entitled to the full rebate of $156 announced in the Budget Speech of the Treasurer (Mr Crean) as part of an overall pensions and taxation package. It had been intended that the rebate would phase out for taxable incomes above $2,236 but the Government has now decided, in the light of representations it has received, to propose that the full rebate of $156 will apply for taxable incomes up to $3,224. It will be reduced by 25 cents for each $1 of taxable income above $3,224, so that aged people with taxable income of as much as $3,847 will benefit from the special rebate.
The Treasurer will be saying more about the new arrangements, and the reasons for them, when the necessary legislation is introduced. He is confident that they will be found to provide an appropriate set of rules for elderly people. More than 80 per cent of pensioners will not be called on to pay tax or lodge tax returns for 1973-74 and the extended rebate will provide additional relief for those who will be asked to pay some tax.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Prowse)- I have received a letter from Senator Hannan requesting his discharge from attendance on the Joint Committee on the Australian Capital Territory and a letter from the Leader of the Opposition nominating Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson to be of that Committee.
Motion (by Senator Murphy) agreed to:
That Senator Hannan be discharged from attendance on the Joint Committee on the Australian Capital Territory and that Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson be appointed a member of the Committee.
Motion ( by Senator Murphy) agreed to:
That unless otherwise ordered the sitting of the Senate or of the Committee of the whole Senate be suspended from 4.30 p.m. until 8 p.m. this day.
That unless otherwise ordered, the Sessional Orders be varied as follows:
Tuesdays- 2 p.m. to 7 p.m.
Wednesdays- 2 p.m. to 6 p.m., 8 p.m. to 1 1 p.m.
Thursdays- 1 1 a.m. to 1 p.m., 2 p.m. to 7 p.m.;
This is proposed after Senator McManus, I think it was, raised this matter last week. It had been raised on earlier occasions. I recall that over a period of time I had said that there should be a more rational approach. After the matter was raised by Senator McManus a meeting of the leaders of all parties in this chamber was held. There were some discussions into which I do not need to go. My own Party has met. As a result of all this I have moved this motion. Honourable senators are aware that the sitting hours are only a part of the business which is incidental to the operation of the Senate. There are inevitably Party meetings to discuss the business. There are executive or Cabinet meetings to deal with the business which is coming here. There are Party committees, some restricted to one side and some to both sides. There has been a great proliferation of those committees. In addition there are the Senate committees which meet at various times. Those committees are not only standing committees but also some of them are select committees. There are the Estimates Committees which are not inquiring into specific matters but into the Estimates. There is an enormous amount of work. Any observer of the Senate is aware that the amount of time to be spent by almost every senator has increased enormously in the last few years. It would be quite fair to say that the Senate has reached the limit at which it can work and, indeed, that honourable senators are overworking.
The Senate has turned more and more into a committee House. There needs to be more rational hours of sitting in the Senate. Especially we must do something to avoid the existing state of affairs where most honourable senators come into this building at 9 o ‘clock in the morning and they are here at close to midnight on all sitting days. In our view this just cannot continue. There might be different views as to how the matter should be arranged. All of us have our own views as to what is the best arrangement but the Government has come up with this proposition. I hope that in the future if there is any adjustment of these hours which are now proposed and which I trust the Senate will adopt it will be in the direction of perhaps starting a little earlier and finishing at 6 o’clock rather than at a later hour. But I suggest that we give these hours a try. It will get us away from what has been the worst feature of the sitting hours which were designed for a different time and different ways of proceeding. I think that the proposed arrangement will be more efficient and better in terms of health. I say that we should not simply proceed with hours which were designed for entirely different circumstances, when we were not doing the amount of committee work that we do now, and when there was not the amount of legislation or the number of motions and other matters that now come before the chamber. One thing is apparent and that is that the hours we were working were quite unsatisfactory and inefficient. To us these hours seemed an improvement. Let us give them a try and see how we get on with them.
– As the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Murphy) quite rightly said, the leaders of the 4 Parties in this place had a meeting in his office. At that meeting I undertook to take back to my Liberal colleagues the suggestions put forward. I inform the Senate that my colleagues are not prepared to support the proposed sitting hours as put down by Senator Murphy. I understand quite well the reasons alluded to by Senator Murphy. I know that the public at large thinks that if these proposed hours are carried the Senate will be working only 5 hours a day. Most of us put in a stint here even longer than the 9 a.m. to midnight to which Senator Murphy adverted. They would be definitely the minimum hours in this place as I know from my dealings with Senator Cavanagh. We get together at half-past eight each morning and most of us are here until well after midnight. I know that prior to 11 September last we worked what might be called the traditional Senate hours of approximately 19 hours a week. I know also that perhaps they were the product of history in times prior to the commencement of the workload of the committee system of the Senate. The Party committee system also has grown. It was only on 1 1 September last that the Government, rather than having the Senate sit about 1 9 hours a week- I do not pretend to know the exact hours- suggested other hours which would have taken the sittings of the Senate to some 23 hours a week. Due to the co-operation of the Leader of the Government in the Senate we did not follow that suggestion exactly. He acceded to my request not to sit on Tuesday morning because of certain Senate Liberal Party arrangements. As a result those hours were carried and the Senate now sits some 22 hours a week. I said at that time that the Opposition was prepared to co-operate with the Government in the sitting of reasonably extended hours. That has always been our view.
Since the election, with the parties now sitting on different sides of the chamber, certain Government supporters in another place- I am not saying that it occurred in this chamber- have commenced to make allegations that the Senate is obstructive and unco-operative. The stance of the Liberal Party- and I do not think my colleague, Senator Drake-Brockman, will mind my saying the same for the Country Party- has been that we will give the speediest possible passage to Bills to which we are not opposed and those to which we are opposed we will do our utmost to defeat. We have gone out of our way not to be obstructive. On 11 September the Government considered that the Senate should sit an extra 3 hours a week to achieve the Government’s legislative program. It is somewhat surprising that 5 weeks later the Government thinks it can achieve its legislative program in 19 hours a week.
– We have 2 Ministers who are sick, you know.
-I realise that, Senator. If one were being perfectly selfish as Leader of the Opposition in this place the proposed hours would be quite delightful. I do not wish to meet with a situation, come the end of November, of the Government’s saying that it has some 30 Bills on the notice paper and the Senate is not getting through the Government’s enormous legislative program. We would prefer to sit extra hours and deal with the Government’s legislative program. It is fair enough to be criticised by the Government for political reasons but we do not wish to be criticised by the media, because of misinformation or other misguided reasons, with the statement that the Government is not able to achieve its legislative program because the Senate is not sitting long enough.
We are prepared to sit until 10.30 each night. I know the hours are difficult but one was not sent to this place to have an easy life. If one wants an easier life than the burdens imposed by being a member of this place allow, there is no conscription for this House and one can always resign and go back to that other easier life. It is a hard life and I know the burdens which are placed on Ministers. There are 6 Ministers in this place representing 27 Ministers. In the previous government there were 5 Ministers in this chamber. I believe that the burden placed on Ministers in the Senate is intolerable compared to that placed on Ministers in another place. The 3 Ministers at present in the Senate are representing 27 portfolios and, I think, 39 departments at the last count- it might be more now. It is an impossible burden. I understand all the reasons but I believe at the same time that the Senate ought to be seen to be working about the same number of hours as is the other place. I realise all the other problems. I realise the benefits which could flow from the proposed hours but my colleagues are of the opinion that the Senate ought to be seen to be working the longer hours and sitting to 10.30 on both Tuesdays and Thursdays. For that reason, Sir, we will vote against the motion.
– The Democratic Labor Party will support the motion which the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Murphy) has placed before the Senate. We think it is plain commonsense. No member in this House is unaware of the strain under which members have been placed because of the extended hours which were introduced some time ago. A number of Bills of extreme importance which demanded a great deal of study have been placed before the Senate in this session. More Bills have been placed before the Senate this session that perhaps in any other session for many years. We all know that the hours suggested by the Leader of the Government in the Senate will be added to by committee work and by other work which falls to the lot of honourable senators.
Two Ministers are at present hospitalised because of what can be regarded only as complete exhaustion in trying to cope with the tasks of administering departments and at the same time attending to the Senate, preparing legislation and carrying out all the other ministerial tasks. Other members of this House have been ill in recent weeks. I do not believe that any medical man who examined the way in which the work of the Senate is being carried on at present would come to any other conclusion than that what is being done threatens the health of the ordinary members.
This is a particularly good time in which to experiment. After all, if we find during the next session that there are reasons for changing these hours we can do so. There will soon be a period when the Senate will be meeting for 6 or 7 weeks and this proposal can be tried. I wonder whether the members of the Liberal Party who, I am told, are opposed to the proposed hours will not bear the shorter hours with great fortitude if they are brought into effect. I do not think that Opposition members will protest very vigorously. I have a kind of feeling that sometimes members of the Opposition say that they wish to work longer hours in the happy knowledge that the members are there to ensure that they will not have to.
– They have pairs, too.
– Yes. I point out that whereas they enjoy the privilege of pairs we of this party do not. We have to attend. It has been put to us on occasions that members of the Democratic Labor Party should remain here when others are away because we have a duty to keep the House. When people tell us that it is our duty to over-work ourselves to keep the House it is very nice when others under the guise of pairs are able to stay away from this Parliament. The next 5 or 6 weeks will be worked without the normal week off which we now have after every 3 sitting weeks. The schedule which we have seen indicates that we will be working for 5 or 6 weeks on end.
– What is your authority for that?
– A document which I received for my information suggested that that course would be followed. I am sure that other members have a copy, too.
– I would like to see one.
-Well, if that is the case it would appear that the honourable senator is not in as close liaison with what is happening as we are.
– Would you give them our address, Senator?
-I have a feeling that Senator Young is not as uninformed on these matters as is being suggested. However, the position is that we have a lot of legislation and it has to be compressed into S or 6 weeks. A referendum is to be held, unless Caucus decided this morning to cut it out.
A tremendous amount of work is before the Senate. In the interests of the ordinary health of members, I believe, any medical man would commend the proposed hours as better than the present hours. In those circumstances the DLP will vote for the new hours. We believe that matters such as General Business and urgency motions can be ironed out by consultation between the members of the different parties. We believe the proposal is well worth trying. In these days when people say that we should not be conservative and that we ought to be progressive, let us set an example of progressiveness by trying out a new way of running the affairs of this House. So, the position is that the Democratic Labor Party will support the proposal for the new hours. We have the numbers. I am prepared to say that if there were a conscience vote on this issue half the members of the Liberal Party would move over and vote with us.
-The announcement by Senator McManus that the Democratic Labor Party will support the Australian Labor Party in this move obviously will produce the result that the hours proposed will be those that we will sit. The proposal has been put to the Country Party by the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Murphy) and my understanding is that the Leader of the Country Party in the Senate (Senator DrakeBrockman) conveyed to him that we did not consider that those hours were appropriate. However, the hours have been introduced in the form in which they were originally presented to our Party; they remain unaltered.
The suggestion is that there should be a change in the sitting hours so that we shall finish sitting at 7 o’clock on 2 evenings of the week. I imagine that there is not a senator who does not wish to sit shorter hours. I imagine that that is very acceptable to the Opposition and that any attempt to find more acceptable sitting hours certainly would be viewed quite reasonably. But we must realise that it was the Labor Party which after it came to power proposed and brought about the great change in the range of sitting hours which we have experienced during 1973. When the hours were changed by the Labor Party it was certainly my view that that was a change for the worse- a change for the worse for the Senate and a change for the worse for the health of honourable senators. That has proved to be the case. It is regrettable that we have seen Ministers in this place, who carry a great deal of the burden, breaking down under the strain. Even young Ministers in the Senate have demonstrated that the strain on them is too great for them to continue to perform their duties.
The change in the system from that which we had originally- not only in the Senate but also in the House of Representatives- can be seen as an attempt to prohibit a reasonable argument on legislation being made by the Opposition. Let us consider the attitude in the House of Representatives today where the Government is in control. Can anyone imagine anything so stupid as the sitting hours on 5 days a week which members in that place are sitting? I predict that the problem which may have caused the breakdown of Ministers in this place will be seen in another place because the ability to gather information in order to be prepared for debates is just not available to an Opposition sitting 5 days a week as it is in another place. Our problem in this chamber, of course, has been that our committees, including our statutory committees such as the Joint Committee of Public Accounts and the Joint Committee on Public Works, over the last few months have been unable to do their work effectively because the Houses have been called upon to sit during the morning. Originally Tuesday and Wednesday mornings were always free. That enabled the parties to meet and to determine their attitudes to legislation which was being brought forward.
Senator Murphy has said that the hours which we have been sitting and which we are now altering were designed for a different time and a different way of procedure; but that is just plain rot. They were designed by Senator Murphy and they were designed as a change from what had been traditional in the sitting hours of the Senate.
These new sitting hours will prove to be unworkable. Why should one suggest that they will be unworkable in the general view of the Senate? We will have Tuesday and Wednesday mornings free, and I congratulate the Government for suggesting that. But both Tuesday evening and Thursday evening apparently are intended to be free. This may suit some of the senior members who like to retire at a reasonable hour in the evening or who wish to do other work. I am not certain of the reason why we should be looking to close the Senate at 7 p.m. I have not heard the Leader of the Government say what is likely to happen in relation to the adjournment. What will happen when an important matter is being debated at 7 p.m.? Senator Mulvihill, who is interjecting, is one of the most effective speakers in adjournment debates. Does he intend to speak at 7 p.m. on both Tuesday and Wednesday?
– If there is a grievance, I might exercise my right to speak.
-Let me take that point. The honourable member says ‘If there is a grievance . . . ‘. I would suggest that the greatest grievance, which is being overlooked by Senator Mulvihill ‘s side of the chamber, concerns the people who work in this place. The Government is completely disregarding the transport officers, the attendants and those who staff the catering facilities in this House. What will happen at 7 o’clock when the adjournment debate is called on? Everybody will have to stay back for many hours. I do not know whether it is proposed that when we adjourn at 7 o’clock we shall return to hold committee meetings. If that is to be so, is it proposed that an hour be allowed for dinner when the adjournment debate finishes at perhaps 8 o’clock and that we should then bring back public servants at some late hour in the evening so that we can attempt to proceed with some of our extra-parliamentary duties? It appears to me that there are many reasons why one could predict that these sitting hours which are proposed and agreed to by the Democratic Labor Party will be very inappropriate for our operation.
The final thing I say on the matter is that one could well predict that between now and Christmas these hours will need to be changed again. We have had the Labor Party, in the flush of its first year in office, attempting to push through this chamber an enormous amount of legislation. One could predict that in the last 2 or 3 weeks of the sitting of the Senate we will see, as we have seen in many other years, that there will be a need for longer sitting hours to get legislation through. Senator Murphy forgot to tell us what he proposes. Perhaps he proposes that the Senate sit in the evening, and perhaps the Democratic Labor Party will support that.
– Would it not be better to sit from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. than from 1 1 p.m. to 1 a.m., if we have to sit for an extra 2 hours?
-Senator Byrne suggests that it may be appropriate to vary the hours that are being laid down. All I say is that apparently sufficient senators are supporting these proposed sitting hours which provide that on both Tuesday and Thursday we will finish at some time after 7 p.m. The proposed hours are being introduced by the Government and I, on behalf of the Country Party, support the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Withers) in his opposition to them.
– I support the proposal that has been submitted by my Leader. If we think in terms of the sitting hours of the Senate and those of the House of Representatives also, we will see that the hours that are set down now were based on the Parliament as it existed at the turn of the century when it was initiated- that is, on starting in the late afternoon and sitting through until the early hours of the morning- because in those days the persons who were serving in the Parliament were, in the main, persons who earned their living in another area. They were not full-time members of Parliament. I can recall from my reading of the history of this country that the Labor Party initially collected money from individuals to pay a salary to the member who sat in the Federal Parliament so that he could exist.
The system of starting at 4 or 5 o’clock in the afternoon, as it was then, and working through until 1 or 2 a.m. is exactly the system that operates now at the municipal council level, where persons are earning their living in another area and they fit the sitting hours of their organisation, whether it be a parliament or a municipal council, into the times they normally have to spare. I think we have to look at this situation in a practical manner. We may decide that some revolutionary changes are required in relation to the sittings of the Senate. I believe, for instance, that a system could be devised by which the Senate would meet early in the morning and finish at 5 o’clock in the afternoon. Meetings of party committees or Caucus committees could be held in the evening. Such an approach, I think, would be far more sensible than the system that we have at present. ^
Every member of this Senate agrees, and agrees conclusively, that one cannot burn the candle at both ends. This is what is happening at present. The Opposition is arguing about only one hour or 2 hours that are involved. I think the argument that it is putting forward is proposed on that basis. What we are saying in effect is that, instead of having a dinner break of 2.25 hours, we will reduce the dinner adjournment to one hour. If an honourable senator has guests and requires a little longer for the evening break, there is nothing wrong with going to the dining room a little earlier than the proposed time of adjournment, with the proviso that that honourable senator will answer the call if the division bells ring. We should use some common sense and adopt some of the procedures that are followed by other parliaments in the world. Some parliaments do not have a dinner break at all. Certain rules- admittedly they are unwritten rules- are observed. In those parliaments unless divisions are to be held in relation to a Bill quorums are not called. In the 2-hour period allotted for the meal break, members are not called to the parliamentary chamber unless this is absolutely necessary.
The House of Commons in London operates continuously. Long breaks for meals are not taken. Debates continue through meal times. The British House of Commons follows a more sophisticated system than we have here. Proceedings are televised on closed circuit sets to the public areas of the Parliament Members are able to observe visually what is actually occurring in the chamber. We must modernise our thinking in many areas including the waste of time that results from our method of counting divisions. The old ritual goes back to the English parliamentary system whereby the individual vote of each member is counted. The counting of each division takes up to 7 minutes or 8 minutes. This is the situation here. Other parliaments have systems by which this time consuming operation is eliminated. We must live with the present. We must live with the knowledge of the medical advice that many of us receive to the effect that we are going at it too hard. We all are.
What is the situation faced by honourable senators when they leave Canberra on Friday morning? They go to their offices as quickly as they can to catch up on the work that has built up in the course of the parliamentary sitting week. I would venture to say that there would not be 2 senators who would not have commitments on at least 3 out of every 4 Friday nights. Friday evening seems to be the most popular time for people to want senators to meet commitments. Perhaps some honourable senators may get a weekend off. I get very few. Honourable senators then must be back on a plane on Sunday night or early Monday morning to return to Canberra as many of our committees meet on Mondays.
– That is all part of the job.
-Of course it is all part of the job. I am not disputing that fact. I am not saying that we should not be doing this work. But we must consider whether we should cut down the period actually spent in sitting in this chamber.
I have been a senator for 7 years. Admittedly that is not a very long time. On all the occasions when the hours of sitting have been extended, not much more legislation has been passed in those additional sitting hours, particularly on a Wednesday, because the opportunity is taken for senators to speak longer and more senators rise to speak. I commend the Opposition in one respect in relation to our proceedings. If the Opposition does not oppose legislation it will not waste the time of the Senate in talking on that legislation. This attitude is most commendable. Legislation which is not being opposed is passed quickly. When we were in Opposition we may have been at fault in this respect in that we did talk for perhaps a little too long on matters that we were not opposing.
I think that far greater co-operation could exist in the Senate particularly with respect to the committee stages of Bills. I refer to those occasions when 2 individuals decide to have a long argument about certain clauses of a Bill in the committee stage. An honourable senator should be able to make his point- the Senate exists for that purpose- but honourable senators then should not get into long arguments, particularly between 2 individuals, because neither will decide the issue as we all know where the numbers are at that stage. We know what the result will be when the vote is taken. I believe that quite a deal of time could be saved in this area. This could be achieved without unjustly denying the rights of honourable senators who may wish to express their point of view. As the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Murphy) indicated, this proposal basically is for a trial period. If the new sitting hours are not successful we will need to look again at our sitting hours. Let us consider this proposal to see whether by what is proposed we can act as sane, sensible people. Let the Senate operate under these new hours. This is a time of experimentation in this area. Let us see whether we can avoid the breakdowns which have occurred in the past, in recent weeks and which surely will occur in the future if action is not taken on a practical basis.
Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSON (New South Wales) (3.31)- I rise to speak ever so briefly on this motion as I feel an obligation to give some explanation of the fact that I will vote against the motion. By an odd quirk of fate I find that Senator Poyser has said many things with which I completely agree. But he made other comments which are a complete justification for my opposing this proposal. I believe that an overwhelming case exists- I have not been hesitant in stating this belief to honourable senators of all parties- for a review of the sitting hours of the Senate. We all know- perhaps I know better than most people- of the tremendous burden placed on members of the Ministry in the Senate. At present 6 Ministers represent 27 portfolios. In my time, 5 Ministers represented that number of portfolios. The short answer to the problem presented by that situation is that it is physically impossible for any Senate Ministers to sustain their health. The same remarks apply equally to the Leader of the Opposition. There is a case for review of sitting hours. Senator McManus said that he felt that we would bear this decision with fortitude. I added in an undertone: ‘And with pious resignation’. It is quite obvious that the motion will be carried.
To me the motion in itself justifies its defeat. The motion proposes that on Tuesdays the Senate should sit from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m. On Wednesday, the existing procedure will be followed because the proceedings are being broadcast. Therefore, we are bending our knee to the mighty microphone. We do not necessarily need to do this. This is a regrettable aspect of our parliamentary procedures. This is not to say that I do not agree with broadcasting of our parliamentary debates, but I do not think that because a period for broadcasting of our proceedings till 1 1 p.m. is available we must therefore sit to 1 1 p.m. on that day. The. motion proposes that on Thursdays the sitting hours should be from 1 1 a.m. to 1 p.m. and from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m.
I say that an overwhelming case exists for the re-examination of our sitting hours. But, for the life of me, I cannot see any logic in the proposed exercise of adjourning at 7 p.m. At that time, if Senator Mulvihill or some other spirited honourable senator does not wish to speak on the adjournment the Senate will rise and we will go to dinner. If honourable senators hurry and everything goes according to plan they will probably be free again at 8. 1 5.
– And sit on a committee.
– It is suggested that we might sit on committees. I would suggest that the logic of the situation is that, if we are to play around with our sitting hours, we should consider meeting earlier, as Senator Poyser said, and concluding each sitting day at a more appropriate time.
My objection is this: The Government is taking piecemeal action. It is picking out one aspect in isolation. Honourable senators opposite say: We are going to play around with the sitting hours. If what is proposed in this motion does not work out we will do the exercise again.’ My 20 years experience in this place tells me that if action is taken on one occasion in the course of a session to change sitting hours it will be pretty hard to change what has been agreed upon for a long time. The whole framework of our parliamentary procedures should be considered. In my view an overwhelming case exists for some streamlining of those procedures.
Senator Poyser referred to the procedure in relation to divisions. The parliaments of other countries are using electronic systems for recording divisions. Perhaps we could use such a system for counting divisions in this place. At present, when the heat is on and one side or the other is continually calling for divisions, one could sit in this place on one’s bumdoon, if you like to call it that, for a couple of hours in the day while the bells are ringing and the names are being recorded. That is a waste of time.
The second point I want to make is that the part of the Standing Orders relating to speaking times should be looked at. I remember that last year we had some spirited debates on this aspect. I am convinced that there is an overwhelming case for the adjustment of speaking times.
– Are not these suggested things before the Standing Orders Committee?
– Look, we are engaged in a confrontation on a resolution and the honourable senator is going to vote in favour of it. We cannot say: ‘Oh, we will not do this, because it is going to be incorporated in the Standing Orders’.
– Not the Standing Orders. I did not say that.
-That is inherent in what was posed in your question. The facts of life are that the Standing Orders Committee has not been famous in the last S to 10 years for the number of times it has met, even though I tried to persuade it to meet more often during the time I was Leader of the Government in the Senate. I know that the present Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Murphy) and the President are moving towards an examination of the Standing Orders but Senator Byrne would be drawing a long bow if he were to rely upon the Standing Orders Committee to recommend changes to the Standing Orders.
We should all understand that we have moved into the committee concept. This concept is part of a world pattern in parliamentary government. I have been attending a conference of the Interparliamentary Union, and I leave on Sunday to go back to it. We are to talk about the new development of parliamentary procedures in the democratic concept. We shall discuss this need in regard to not only the plenary sessions but also committees by which we can draw knowledge from the executive of our democratic processes. We have to make provision for such a system in this Parliament.
I do not suggest that the proposed hours of sitting will make a contribution to the committee system because no one can convince me that we shall get very effective work performed by committees late on Tuesday and Thursday nights if the Senate is to adjourn at 7 p.m. or 7.30 p.m. on those nights. We are living in Australia at a time when more and more demands are being placed on government. If we go on the way that we have been, we shall find that the probability of a deterioration in the health of honourable senators and members in the other place will increase. I am prepared at some stage or other to look at a variation of hours because I believe that this is needed, but I do not accept that the proposal now before us has been thought out enough. It has not been given proper, detailed consideration. I believe that the whole situation should be looked at in totality and not separately as is the case in regard to the suggestion that we should adjourn at 7 p.m. on Tuesday and Thursday nights. The whole machinery and set of procedures that we have adopted should be revised and brought into line with modern concepts and standards so that we can give more effective service to the people of Australia.
– I intervene in this debate only to clear my own position. Of course, it goes without saying that I will support the proposal put forward by the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Murphy). I rise because Senator Webster and, to a lesser degree and in a lower tone, Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson, implied that because I used the opportunities afforded by the motion for the adjournment of the Senate, I was someone who, with dynamite, was ready to blow up any arrangements that might be made. As a matter of fact, if I have used more time than many honourable senators to speak in adjournment debates in order to ventilate grievances I have done so because of the influence of a prominent Opposition senator.
– Who was that?
– That was Senator Wright. He said to me on one occasion that the adjournment debate provides a forum for ventilating injustices. I believe that some honourable senators have grossly overrated the number of times that I have used the opportunity to speak in adjournment debates, although I do not deny that it is there to be used. If honourable senators listened to what I had to say in the adjournment debate last night they will know that I spoke for S minutes and that Senator Cavanagh, who was the Minister who spoke in reply, spoke for 3 minutes. I think that this is a fair pattern of what happens when I raise matters on the adjournment debate.
Let me ask, in regard to a challenge made by Senator Webster, whether I am likely to speak at 7 o’clock on Tuesday or Thursday nights. As Senator O’Byrne, my venerable Whip knows, if I did speak I would not abuse the opportunity given to me. In fact, I regard the adjournment debate like the threat rather than the execution of a strike. There have been occasions on which I have told both Ministers from my own Government and Ministers of the previous Government that I was impatient and that I would speak in the adjournment debate. It was amazing the number of times that I received correspondence at 9 o’clock at night. I do not say that in any disparaging way of any Minister. But I believe that while I am here and if I want to use 10 minutes I should be able to do so, and I will not abuse the opportunity.
One or two of my colleagues on my right have wanted to know the type of matters on which I have risen. I can remember two of them in particular. On one occasion a 10-minute burst settled a dispute between Mr Jago, the New South Wales Minister for Health, Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin and the New Zealand Health Minister in regard to a position in which people were exporting dogs to New Zealand and there was a foul-up in regard to how long it took to unload the dog crates because of documentation. Another example which I prize very much concerned a letter I received from Ray Gietzelt, the Federal Secretary of the Miscellaneous Workers
Union when some of the top brass of the Commonwealth Bank in Sydney refused to give organiser Groves, a Miscellaneous Workers Union official, details of award rates for the bank cleaning staff. I used the adjournment debate on each of these occasions to draw attention to these matters. I prize a letter from the Federal Secretary of the Miscellaneous Workers Union which expressed the effectiveness of the weapon I used.
Having said that, I point out to the Senate that 1 do not like to be looked upon as a Captain Starlight or a Dick Turpin. If I happen to speak in the adjournment debate for 5 minutes at 7 o’clock on one Tuesday or Thursday night I can assure honourable senators that I will do so to air someone ‘s grievance. I think that I would not be talking out of school if I said that there have been occasions when I started something in the adjournment debate which concerned the overall salaries of staff and things like that So I can assure senators that like Senator Keeffe, if I do not get satisfaction I will on occasions have to speak.
I challenge honourable senators to go through the Hansards for the 7 or 8 years that I have been here and to show where I have abused the opportunity given to me to speak in the adjournment debate. I think that, on the average, I have spoken 7 or 8 times during each sitting. The number of occasions on which I have to speak in an adjournment debate are fewer than they could be because in recent dmes I have found that both Ministers in the previous Government and Ministers in my Government have handled my representations pretty fairly. But if I am culpable it is because of Senator Wright’s influence.
– I rise to oppose emphatically the new sitting hours. I believe that this is an important matter, more important than the perspective in which it has been debated. I believe that the decision which brings this recommendation to this Senate is based on committing the hours to the convenience and the commitments of honourable senators outside this chamber to the neglect of the priority of their responsibilities inside this chamber. That, in itself, is of profound importance. It is not enough for honourable senators to rise in this place and to justify this proposal on the basis of over-work. I will confess that I would agree that all members of Parliament today are heavily over-committed. I notice no reluctance whatsoever, however, on the part of those who are complaining of over-work today to nominate to succeed to this Parliament. They take the privilege of being elected to this Parliament and take with it the burdens that go with it.
I want to address myself not to the environmental parrots- and that perhaps might be a subject for Senator Mulvihill ‘s next adjournment debate- but to the great principle that is involved in this Parliament. The people of Australia, for better or for worse, elect us through the ballot box to this chamber as our prime duty and responsibility. It is to this chamber and in this chamber they vest for the time being their sovereignty and they give to us the responsibility to carry their sovereignty. It is not enough to say that Cabinet duties and the duties of the Executive commit Ministers to heavy duties that occupy them for hours and hours of a day. The job of the Senate chamber is to bring the Executive back on to the floor of this chamber. It is to bring it to the floor of this chamber and to make it accountable to this chamber and through this chamber to the people of Australia for the decisions that it makes. It would be the very travesty of justice for us to increase the time available to the Executive and diminish the time available to the Senate. I want to stress that the power of government resides on the floor of this chamber. We might well say yes to the demands of the Labour Caucus. It takes it twice as long as anyone else to reach a decision. Caucus has to make a decision, reverse it and then make it again in each instance. We might well say that the Labor Caucus ought to be given more time to settle its civil wars. But the people of Australia should not be penalised by a reduction in the sitting hours of the Parliament just to allow the government of the day to settle its civil wars.
Any decision about the sitting hours of the Parliament should be based on the demands of the Parliament. Government supporters are interjecting but I remind them that it is recorded in Hansard that 4 weeks ago they stood up and said that we must increase the sitting hours of this Senate. That is what their Leader said. They said that we must appreciably increase the sitting hours. Notice the solemn silence now, Mr Acting Deputy President. For the rest of this session we have the heaviest burden and program of legislation, ever and if we are to deal with it properly we must have longer, not shorter, sitting hours. Honourable senators may shout if they Uke, but that is what was said. In the meantime 4 weeks have passed and in that time the legislative program has fallen further and further behind. The demands of the program at this moment require greater sitting hours, not less. Let honourable senators get up and deny that statement.
Let me say this, and say it with some emphasis: I know of no time in the past 30 years since the end of World War II in which the people of
Australia and this Parliament were facing more serious domestic issues than at this moment. At this moment it is accepted that Australia is facing an economic crisis. The inflation rate is running at between 1 3 per cent and 20 per cent at the moment and nothing is being done to handle it. We see the tears of the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Murphy) each day when he is asked a question about inflation. When he is asked why his Government has done something to exacerbate inflation we see tears in his eyes. Today we were told that the Government did not like putting up the price of postage stamps. When it put up the price, members of the Government cried. Senator Little was told that the Government did not like putting up the interest rate on houses, cars and refrigerators. Members of the Government cried when they did so. These are serious matters.
– What has this to do with the sitting hours?
-I thank the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs for asking what this has to do with the subject. If the sitting hours of this Parliament have nothing to do with the grave issues of inflation and strikes in this country, if it is not our bounden duty to solemnly examine every issue thoroughly, then I do not know what our responsibility is to the people of this country. I notice the agitation of the Minister. This suggestion is an outrage when at this time, when we are facing Christmas, every day the savings of the people are being robbed because the cost of goods is going up and up. The Government is doing nothing about this. It has adopted the pretext of holding a referendum which it knows is going to fail. In the face of all these things the Government wants to shrink the sitting hours of the Senate. And why not? The last thing that the Government wants to hear is the voice of the Senate going out to the people of Australia.
The primary task of a senator, overburdened with work or not, is this Senate. The first determination should be: How long should the Senate sit to discharge its duties? Other commitments should be modified to meet that determination. The Leader of the Government in the Senate, and the Government itself, said 4 weeks ago that we must sit longer hours because we have a very heavy legislative program. Only at the tail end of the last session did the Government see fit to do something in this Senate that I personally deprecate, although there is a mote in the eye of my own Party when in government in this respect. I refer to the application of the gag. There is no doubt in the world that when the gag is applied in the Senate, and applied ruthlessly, it is to the detriment of the whole philosophy of the Senate. What will happen inevitably if we adopt the proposed hours is that we will hear another plea by the Minister, with tears in his eyes, in which he will say: ‘Sorry, but we must rush these measures through, we must gag them. ‘ It will gag them as it used the gag the other night when we were dealing with the referendum on incomes. We dealt with that measure in about one hour, yet it was a most important and profound measure.
– It was 20 minutes.
– I am reminded that that Bill went through this chamber in 20 minutes. The Government says that it is overburdened. So have been other governments of the past. Members of the Australian Labor Party do not have to be in government if they do not want to be. If the burden is too high senators on the Government side have their redress. They can discharge the government tomorrow and the people of Australia would welcome that. If the burden of the Executive is too heavy for them, let them sit Saturdays and Sundays and not crowd work into this parliamentary session. If the onerous business of Caucus is too much for them, let them make their own domestic arrangements. At a time of great crisis in the domestic economics of Australia, at a time when the people of Australia are being asked to suffer and to pay penalties as a direct action of this Government, the Senate is asked to strangle its voice. We are being asked to limit the voice of the Senate, to speak for shorter periods and to debate matters for shorter periods, and then ultimately the gag will be applied.
I say that we should look firstly to our commitments outside. In my term in this Parliament I have said repeatedly in this place that there should be a thorough look at the whole philosophy of the work of the Senate. I have taken the view that honourable senators are overburdened. However, I never thought that such an argument would be related to shrinking the sitting hours of the Senate. I believe that the whole philosophy of the sitting of Senate committees, the whole question of the size and nature of references to them, must be looked into. I believe that what will happen as a result of adoption of these hours will be the first step towards the attenuation and ultimate destruction of the Senate committees. I say that because what will happen will be that the committees will sit Tuesday nights and Thursday nights. The Committees will commence their sittings at 8.30 p.m. or 9 p.m. and thus lose the emphasis of their function. The function of a Senate committee should be to sit in the cold light of day, exposed to the people and the Press of Australia. Debate should flow at length and should not be bottled up. It should be reported through the media to the people of Australia so that there can be dialogue and participatory democracy involving this Parliament and the people of Australia. Inevitably this Government is going to crowd committees into a couple of hours on Tuesday night and a couple of hours on Thursday night to the great detriment of the Senate committee system.
Some honourable senator suggested that one hour should be enough for the dinner adjournment. I hope that honourable senators and the people of Australia understand that the so-called meal breaks when Parliament is sitting have as one of their minor functions the partaking of meals. Primarily I suppose that 2 out of 3 senators in this chamber would have a commitment at a policy committee meeting, a Party committee meeting or some kind of function during the meal break. It is absolutely imperative for the good government of Australia that there should be some break between the sittings of the senate and the renewal of activities. Equally every honourable senator in this chamber has other duties in this place. He has duties in his office while debate is going on. He can hear the debate and thus can participate in it later. He has duties to his constitutents, by letter and by telephone, and has duties such as research and preparation. What is happening here is the shrinking of all of that time.
– You are wasting time.
– I rarely get to my feet to waste time in this chamber.
– That is what you are doing now.
– That is a matter of judgment by the 2 honourable senators who are entitled to make that judgment. I oppose this motion because the judgment on hours is made on wrong premises. It is forcing the sittings of the Senate to conform with outside bodies. The Senate must never be subservient to an outside body. It must be sovereign in its own right. I say this to the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Cavanagh) who in my judgment has had and has displayed in my presence a proper sense of understanding of the functions of this chamber and of the Parliament. He has shown a desire not to gag debates, but to have debates run freely, and I pay a tribute to that in speaking to this motion. I think he would agree with me that fundamentally, the true sovereignty lies here. If there is pressure upon us in the executive, in the
Labor Party’s Caucus, in our parliamentary party meetings and above all in our Senate committees, then we should get together on this question. I have urged that there be a meeting of all interested parties in order to try to get some rationalisation of the Senate committees. I believe that this has not been done.
Even though Senator Murphy at this moment will not be shedding a tear for what he calls the tyranny of numbers- he can save his tears at this time because the tyranny of numbers is working for him- I call upon the Senate to recognise that between now and the time when this Senate rises not only do we have to deal with a program of 100 or more pieces of legislation but also we have to consider some of the greatest domestic and foreign issues that this country has ever faced. In this Parliament we should be debating the great foreign affairs that are going on at the present time and the great issues facing the world. We should be doing this; this is the function of this Parliament. In the future- and I welcome it- the portfolio of Minister for Foreign Affairs will be in the Senate and, just as in America the Senate is the chamber of foreign affairs and defence, so it should be here. We should be doing these things, but what will happen inevitably is that the right of general debate will be restricted; there is no doubt in the world that there will be a cutback in the discussion of general business. If not, let the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, when he speaks, tell us that there will be no gags, that there will be no restriction on moving urgency motions on Wednesdays, that there will be no restriction on the discussion of General Business which now takes place on Thursday nights, that there will be full debate and all the processes will be followed. Let him also say that the program which 4 weeks ago the Government thought could not be carried out and which is now further behind, can be carried out with the fullest debate in this chamber. Above everything, I ask those who are the socalled party managers in this place to look outside to the commitments and not make the Senate subservient to other interests in this place.
– I think that it would be fair to say that until such time as Senator Carrick made his contribution, the level of debate by each and every honourable senator who took part in it was both rational and objective. I think even Senator Carrick acknowledges the tremendous demands on the physical and mental resources of each and every member of this chamber. He introduced so many matters -
– Red herrings.
– And red herrings, as my colleague Senator Poyser has just said, that he lost sight of the genuine intention of endeavouring to find a rationale for the operation of this chamber. I think that the contribution made by Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson was a very sound one. I am pleased to learn that he is one of the members of the delegation who will be attending a meeting of the Inter-Parliamentary Union at which the whole structure and the procedures of our parliamentary systems will be examined in depth and detail. I look forward to his return from that meeting with a report which can give some guidance to this Parliament for future reference for the purpose of restructuring if necessary and altering our procedures to meet this time in 1973.
I firmly believe that our prime responsibility is to ensure the effective and efficient operation of this Senate. No one can convince me that when honourable senators are in this place- when I say this place ‘ I mean in the Senate chamber and in the precincts of Parliament House itself- for between 14 and 16 hours on every day of sitting that makes for efficient and effective legislative processes. I am sure that honourable senators cannot agree that such hours allow that. I remember when I first arrived in this place. Of course, at that time I was in Opposition and this is not a criticism of the then government because it found itself in the same sort of bind as we find ourselves in today; the difference being- and I do not say this in any form of criticism- that we have endeavoured to lay down a more extensive legislative program which makes even more demands than previously on every individual member of this Senate. I remember my first reaction when I was in this place for about a month. I thought to myself: ‘How can they really effectively think things through? ‘ I came to the conclusion that most of the legislation was passed through this chamber by exhaustion and not after rational and objective debate. In fact, I am sureand I have said this from the Chair when I have had the privilege of sitting in the position which my colleague presently occupies- that much of our time is wasted in the Senate- for 2 reasons. The first is that when honourable senators get physically and mentally tired it is inevitable that they will discuss matters outside the subject matter that is really the concern of the Senate. We all contribute to this. I am sure that if the mental and physical attributes were sharper than they are after a week or two in this place, the Chair would be able to manage the affairs of this chamber much more efficiently, and honourable senators would be seized of the need to concentrate their attention on the matter before the Chair. I am sure that we could get through twice as much work more efficiently and more effectively. It is not true to say that because a person is given 2 or 3 hours in which to speak it will prove any more successful than if that person knows that he has only one hour in which to speak.
– You do him a lot of harm sometimes.
– You can do a person harm. I have found that people seem to stay on their feet for too long and they get to the stage where they burble, ramble and repeat. I believe that this is a consequence of long hours when we become physically and mentally tired, and it is not in the best interests of the Australian people from the point of view of our being their legislators. If the suggestion that we are putting to the Senate is carried, it does not necessarily mean that that is the end of the matter. I think that there would be an obligation on both sides of the chamber to ensure that from time to time we review our hours of sitting.
I agree in part with what Senator Carrick said- and it would be one of the few things he said that seemed to have any relevance to the subject matter before the Chair- that we should be sitting more hours. I mean not more hours in the day but more days on which we can sit more hours. Instead of our coming here for a 3-week sitting of 3 days a week, I would much prefer to come here for a 3, 4 or 5 weeks sitting of 4 days a week, if necessary, but again restricting the hours in the sense that the hours we sit enable this place to be workable, and individual senators can sustain a state of alertness which is critically important to the Commonwealth of Australia.
I have no hesitation in saying here and now that I support these proposals. A lot of what has been said by the Opposition, particularly by Senator Carrick, was designed only to cloud the issue. He introduced so many issues that one lost sight of what was really before the Senate. I hope that this motion is carried and that in due course we will have an opportunity to review the whole structure of our operation and our whole procedures. I believe that in due course this will make for a better Parliament and for better decision making.
– I rise to express my opposition to the motion and to draw attention to the fact that the essential purpose of Parliament and parliamentary sittings is to conduct the nation’s business and to conduct it in public so that the public can see and hear it being conducted. Parliament, in conducting the nation’s business, has a unique opportunity to express itself because debates in Parliament are privileged debates, and the public is provided with the opportunity to see and hear those privileged debates and to read reports of them. If Parliament is to perform its function of conducting the nation’s business it must meet and it must provide for meetings and for hours of sitting. It must provide a forum for discussion. It must provide for major speeches and major replies. It must provide for the examination of legislation, clause by clause and line by line, in Committee. It is inevitable that this procedure will take up time.
It is not a sufficient argument to say that if the Opposition agrees with a Bill which the Government has introduced it should not engage in debate on the Bill. If a matter is of some importance and if the Government thinks that it is of sufficient importance to be put into legislative effect, it becomes the concern not only of members of the Government but also of members of the Opposition. Each member of the Opposition knows that there are facets of each legislative measure in which he has some interest and in which his constituents have some interest. His constituents expect him, if possible, to express views and to bring forward arguments in relation to legislative measures. So it is important that provision be made for Parliament to sit and to sit for sufficient hours to enable all these things to be done, because it is essential that they be done.
We have heard argument this afternoon that the Government, only a short time ago, admitted that Parliament will have to sit for longer periods. We have heard argument in this place time and time again, and we have seen reports of it, that the Government has one of the most extensive, intensive and detailed legislative programs of any government for a long time. There is an enormous amount of legislation. There is a huge number of legislative measures and items. But this motion seeks to reduce sitting times. At the end of a session, particularly towards the end of a calendar year, there is always pressure on senators. This year, with the shortened sitting times, the pressure undoubtedly will be greater.
I am not persuaded by the argument that these new sitting times will provide better opportunity for committee meetings, for party meetings or for other activities of this kind. The Senate is one of the 2 chambers in which the business of Parliament is conducted. The committees are extremely important, but surely they are only auxiliary to Parliament. It is not right that we should provide time for committee meetings and what I will call other activities to the detriment of the time provided for the sittings of the Senate. Parliament is designed to allow the nation’s business to be conducted in public. It is true that many committees are public committees and are open to the public, but they meet in a committee room or somewhere else. The proceedings are a different style of proceedings. Therefore, the committees are not so well known to the public. The public does not have quite the same access to them. The committees provide only a limited opportunity for the media to report their public meetings. I support the principle that the business of the Senate should be conducted in the Senate. This is why senators were elected and why they sought election.
One of the reasons given in support of the motion is that the pressure of work upon senators is very heavy. That is true, but that is our business and we have to find ways and means of dealing with it. Another reason is that pressure of work upon Ministers has yielded some unfortunate results. We share the considerable regret at the absence of 2 Ministers from this place. I suggest that their absence is due partly to the highly unsatisfactory system of ministerial representation in the 2 Houses. There are 6 Ministers in the Senate. They represent the 2 1 in the other place. They are unable to represent adequately so many departments. It is placing an impossible burden upon them, especially at question time.
To me, question time in the Senate is highly unsatisfactory in terms of the information given. I am grateful for the information which is given. I acknowledge the grip which Ministers have upon the various portfolios which they represent. But they cannot be expected to have full command of all the facts and details. Some attention needs to be given to this system of representation so that the stress and strain upon Ministers who are endeavouring to represent other departments is lightened and lessened. The Senate should have some system under which questions are put on the notice paper, certain days are allocated to Ministers to obtain the information and the departments are able to furnish the Ministers with that information. Above all, Ministers should be relieved of the worry of trying to obtain information on subjects with which they do not normally deal.
In Canberra senators are called upon to meet deputations in what I will call the working hours of the community. Therefore we need to be available for a period each day when we can undertake this work. This may mean that the Senate will have to conduct its business in the evening. This is part of the business of Parliament. We have to meet when the public is available and when we have obtained for ourselves the information which we need for the various debates. I acknowledge that attention needs to be given to various aspects of the program of sitting, but I cannot see that the motion provides the answer. Therefore, I oppose it.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Wilkinson)- Before I call Senator Cavanagh, I point out that he is not closing the debate.
– I did not move the motion. Therefore, I am not closing the debate. It was suggested to me that I should consider moving ‘that the question be now put’ because there had been enough debate on the motion, but I rejected the suggestion. Anyone who wishes to speak to the motion will be given an opportunity to do so. I have been given the job of arranging the business of the Senate. It is not in a boastful way that I say that in this session this Government has introduced more Bills than any previous Government has introduced in a session. At present there are about 50 Bills on the notice paper. We have knowledge of about 70 Bills which are to be introduced some time before the Senate rises. Therefore, as the Minister responsible for getting this legislation through the Senate, I normally would be reluctant to agree to a reduction of hours; I would support an extension of hours.
As the Senate knows, this motion originated as the result of Senator McManus asking a question as to whether anything could be done about the sitting hours. Senator Murphy replied that there would be a meeting of leaders for the purpose of studying the question. I understand that such a meeting was held. I do not know what transpired at the meeting, but I know that following it this recommendation was put to Australian Labor Parry senators. Although the recommendation was contrary to what I would have liked, I had to face the fact that the question was asked because of the illness of 2 senators. One of them is one of the youngest senators, and he was in good health prior to his breakdown. The other, on appearances, was one of the most robust senators. Whilst it may be suggested that it was not the work load which caused the illnesses, I think the facts are overwhelming. There is no explanation other than that the work load contributed to the illnesses. It makes other Ministers very worried about the future when 2 have gone down with illnesses. I acknowledge that the 2 Ministers concerned will return to the Senate and will be still engaged in activities in the Senate.
So what is the alternative to killing the Ministers or at least, having them in hospital? The opinion of the Australian Labor Party was that it was far better to have these new sitting hours to protect the health of honourable senators. It was agreed that towards the lend of a session it might be necessary to extend the time of sitting of the Senate, either by an extension of hours or by an extension of days, or even weeks. The possibilities are that we will be sitting close to Christmas time dealing with legislation. I am informed that it will take approximately a week for the debate on the Trade Practices Bill and honourable senators have some idea of the time that will be taken on the debate of the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill. Although there are many Bills on which we can save time by having cognate debates, there are still quite a number on which there will be much discussion.
Speaking in reply to the remarks made by Senator Carrick, I recognise that he appreciates that my point of view has not changed. I would like every facility made available for any honourable senator to express what he wants to express. I would not like any restrictions of that grievance period which gives honourable senators an opportunity to speak, although I think there has been some abuse of this at times. I would not like any restriction placed on the period allotted for general business or on the debate that is allowed on the first reading of a money Bill, which is another period during which matters of grievance can be raised. I think that at all costs we must preserve those debates. But I am placed in the position of asking: What is the alternative? We have to face the facts. I think that in adopting these sitting hours my Party was influenced by the health of its members. The motion for the adoption of these sitting hours will be carried, but honourable senators must face the big possibility of a request being made for longer sitting hours or further sitting days at some period. If a solution can be offered which will indicate how to deal with the business, I would welcome it.
We know that today certain Senate committees are taking much of the time of honourable senators. I suggest that we should have a reconsideration of the values of those Senate committees and decide whether they are doing a service to the system of democracy or whether they are only time consuming. I think that aspect should be looked into. In view of the program, I think honourable senators should be influenced to speak because of their capabilities to contribute something to an argument rather than because the proceedings of the Senate are broadcast or because they want to tell someone else that they dislike him. I think that if that were done we would get through much more business. Looking at this debate from the point of view of someone who is responsible for the arrangement of the business in the Senate, the position is that we have spent the whole afternoon deciding the hours of meeting, knowing immediately after Senator McManus had spoken to the motion what the outcome of the vote would be. Yet, we have heard honourable senators asking about the purpose of the Parliament and what goes on. We all know this. I suppose that what they have said looks good in the record, but they have told us only what we all know.
– We are not voting by numbers.
- Senator Carrick was different. He wanted to attack the Government. He has got to the stage where he has to be attacking all the time. Whether or not Senator Murphy has shed tears, he is speaking all the time and his actions have not been time consuming. In any case, I do not know why we should object if he wants to shed tears. This is not the question. Let us get on with the business. I give the warning to honourable senators that at some time they will be asked to meet for longer hours, so let us cut out unnecessary talk and debate.
-I rise to speak in this debate for one or two particular purposes. The first purpose is because it has been suggested that what prompts the Government to present this proposed schedule of new sitting times is some intra-party consideration which is affecting Government members. As we of the Australian Democratic Labor Party are supporting this proposition, I want to make it quite clear that whether such a suggestion is founded or unfounded, that is not the consideration that is persuading us. I am sure that Government supporters would deny that it is the consideration prompting them. Certainly, it is not the con.sideraton prompting us. For some time we have been concerned at the intense burden and strain which is being imposed upon all members of the Senate, ministerial members and back bench members alike.
In our Party particularly, it being a small party with a significant role in the Senate, the stresses and strains have been due to the additional burden of the demands of committee work, the great mass of legislation coming before the Parliament and an increasing interest and involvement of the electorate in political affairs. That is one of the new manifestations in our community. I think that members of all parties would accept that there is greater political interest today in the operation of the Parliament than we have seen for years. That necessarily is reflected in personal approaches and in correspondence. Those things are reflected in the burden of work that has to be assumed by honourable senators. I cannot understand why there should be any major objection to the proposal now before the Senate.
We consider that the debates in the Senate should proceed with an availability of time that is adequate to handle the matters that properly come before the Senate. That is the first consideration. But we do not necessarily discharge that situation merely by extending the time or by having extended times of debate. The position may well depend upon the area of debate and the times within which the debate is permitted. If we start at 11 o’clock in the morning and work through until 1 1 o’clock at night and there is still business before the Senate, the chances are that from 10 o’clock onwards that night there will be all sorts of traumas and difficulties and that the placidity and relevance of argument may be lost completely in the sheer exacerbation that comes from exhaustion, from shortened tempers and other things that arise when the Senate sits very late at night. That is not the normal pattern of living of most Australians. The normal pattern is for a reasonably early retirement hour. That is contradicted completely in the traditional sitting hours df the Senate.
If we were being substantially denied the opportunities for debate by a very severe limitation and restriction on sitting hours I should be opposed to the new proposals. The reduction of hours is quite small compared with the compensation that we gain from the rationality of the proposed sitting hours. I would presume to say that the amount of work that might rationally and effectively be discharged in the proposed sitting hours would be greater in quantum, in proportion and in quality than is now performed within the present sitting hours as they are determined under the Standing Orders. If by any chance a debate had to continue- for example, if it were a matter of some moment and had to be disposed of- with the concurrence of the Senate that could be accepted. Alternatively, if an adjournment debate took place, as we all concede there is a proper right -
– It is more likely to take place when people are fresh at 7 o ‘clock.
– It may. But if there is to be an adjournment debate, I do not think it is a proper approach to it that we should hope that such debates can be circumscribed by the exhaustion of honourable senators. If it is a matter that is properly raised to be debated, then it should be debated at the right time, in the right atmosphere with the alertness of honourable senators and not in an atmosphere of mental and physical exhaustion. If an adjournment debate is to take place, it seems to me to be quite inappropriate that it should commence at 1 1 o’clock and go to 1 o’clock in the morning. It is very much more appropriate that it should commence at 7 o’clock and go until 9 o’clock. This is what will happen under this proposal, instead of us having these protracted debates which continue into the early hours of the morning if an adjournment debate should raise a matter of some controversy.
I agree that the Standing Orders need a complete overhaul. They are no longer tempered to the modern parliament or to the modern social and political climate. But if we were to wait and allow the present sitting hours to continue until the Standing Orders had the complete review that is necessary, the sitting hours would not be altered at all. We must accept this as a temporary provision until the whole structure of the functioning of the Senate is looked at in the greatest detail and completely new proposals are brought in. I think it is in that spirit that this experimentation in sitting hours should be adopted and supported by honourable senators. 1 express my personal concern at the illness of the 2 Ministers who have not been with us for some time. We must recognise that under the Westminster system of Government the burdens on the members of the Executive are immeasurably greater than the burdens borne by members of the Executive under the presidential system of government. If we were to compare the Secretary of the Treasury in the United States with the Federal Treasurer in Canberra we would find that the Secretary of the Treasury in the United States is not a member of Congress. He has no constituency to look after. He does not appear on the floor of the House. He administers a department. He attends international conferences appropriate to his office and he negotiates generally in the control of the finances and the economy of the nation. His vis-a-vis in Australia represents a constituency. He must be in the House when it meets. He is there for question time. He presents his own legislation. He presents the annual Budget. He defends his legislation. He is required to answer questions and to be there at night when the motion is put for the adjournment of the
House in case some matter appropriate to his Department arises. He administers his Department. He attends international conferences. I think that in the modern system we can expect that there will be constant health breakdowns of Ministers operating under the Westminster system unless some alternative method is found of relieving them of the multitude of duties and unless the pressure of their office is in some way eliminated.
For those reasons the Australian Democratic Labor Party supports the motion. We will always be prepared, if this experiment should not succeed and we discover that the hours are not appropriate, to adopt an alternative. We should, of course, be sufficiently elastic to accommodate ourselves to a new situation. We realise that in view of the legislative program of the Government it may be necessary at times to agree to extend the sitting hours by additional days within the sitting week or even by weeks. This is something the Senate has always been prepared to do. But I think the important consideration is: On the balance of advantages is this likely to enable legislation to go through this place more effectively considered, without any undue or protracted delay and without any undue physical demands on the energies and the bodies of honourable senators in this chamber? If these sitting hours effect those purposes then I think the experimentation is defensible and well worth while.
-I rise simply to underline the crude absurdity to which we are listening when the Government with a large program of legislation is proposing to abridge the hours and the Opposition is urging their extension. The only other thing I rise to do is to express my great appreciation of the valuable speech of Senator Carrick.
– I had intended to speak prior to the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Cavanagh) rising. I wish to refer to 2 matters which Senator Carrick mentioned. He has now left the chamber but possibly he is listening to the debate in his office. As Senator Brown pointed out I believe that this debate was on a very high level until Senator Carrick entered it. He immediately went out of his way to provoke government senators. He insinuated or accused the Ministers of wanting to change the hours of sittings only so that they could attend their commitments outside this chamber. I know that Senator Cavanagh is too modest to take up the accusation made by Senator Carrick. I profess to have a greater knowledge of the Ministers on the
Government side of the Senate than Senator Carrick has.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Prowse)- Order! In accordance with the resolution of the Senate, the sitting is suspended until 8 p.m.
Sitting suspended from 4.30 to 8 p.m.
-When Senator Carrick was referring to Ministers he implied that they wanted the hours altered for their convenience so that they would be able to attend functions outside the House. He believed that they had a prior obligation to attend the sittings of the Senate. I assume that he was referring only to the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Murphy), the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Cavanagh) and the Minister for Primary Industry (Senator Wriedt). Two other Ministers are convalescing after an illness and another is overseas. During the first session of this Parliament the 3 Ministers concerned were at all times while the Senate was sitting either in chamber or elsewhere in Parliament House itself. So there can be no suggestion that the intention of altering the hours is to suit the convenience of the Ministers.
The changing of sitting hours is nothing new. During the 4 years that I have been a member of the Senate the previous Government changed the hours on many occasions. It not only changed the hours but also changed the sitting days and the cycle that the Senate sat. It even tried sitting 4 days a week for 2 weeks and then have a week’s recess in lieu of the cycle of 3 weeks on and one week off. The purpose behind Senator Murphy’s moving for the new times of sitting for the Senate is to try a ,set of hours which has not been tried before. I have no doubt that if these hours are tried and it is found that the business of the Senate is not being disposed of there would be a reconsideration of the hours. I am certain that the Government will give full consideration to any change of hours which is in the best interests of the Senate ‘s getting through the legislation on the notice paper. The only other matter I wish to mention is that 2 senators on the Opposition side said that, by changing the hours to the hours proposed in the motion by Senator Murphy, the dinner break would last for only one hour. I cannot see anything unusual about having only one hour of a dinner break. After the dinner break on Tuesdays and Thursdays there would be no further sittings of the Senate and honourable senators would have the whole of the evening at their disposal.
– On committees?
– That is another good suggestion. The committees are getting well behind with some of the matters that have been referred to them by the Senate. I think time should be made available so that the committees can discuss and investigate matters that have been referred to them not only by petitions but also by decisions of the Senate.
A dinner break of one hour is a lot longer than some employees in industry have, particularly employees who are on continuous shift work. They have a dinner break of only 20 minutes. Should there be any problem about the dining room staff not being able to meet the demand for a late dinner adjournment, I am sure arrangements could be made so that there would be no disruption, that no senator would be deprived of the full period for the meal break, and that he would have an adequate meal. I do not intend to delay this motion any longer because it is obvious that it will be carried- and it is very important that we should carry it to give the proposed new hours a trial, to see how they work, and that we get on with the business which is now on the notice paper.
-I rise to reiterate the Opposition’s objection to this proposal. It is, I suppose, a curious feature in 2 respects that the Senate should be taking the length of time that it has taken to debate a motion for fixing the hours of sitting of the Senate. Firstly, it is a proposal for a reduction in the hours of sitting- and when one considers the many statements which have been made by Government speakers about the legislative program which is yet to appear before the Houses of Parliament it is almost incredible that in those circumstances the Government should be seeking to reduce the hours of sitting of the Senate. Secondly, it is curious in the other sense, that the Opposition should be opposing a motion for the reduction in the hours of sitting of the Senate, because it is not for the Opposition to determine how the Government runs the business of the chamber; it is really not for the Opposition to determine the hours during which this chamber should sit: That is part of the Government’s function. The Government has legislation and it expects, obviously, that the House of Representatives and the Senate will sit in order to facilitate the passage of that business. Nevertheless, the Opposition believes that it has a responsibility in this area to express its view and it is not reluctant to do so. We think that to reduce the present hours of sitting in this chamber, which are not unduly onerous, from 22 hours, with a few minutes added, to 1 9 hours a week is to limit the Senate ‘s ability to discharge the many functions which it has an obligation to discharge responsibly.
I find this proposition from the Government almost totally unbelievable. We were told in September of this year that because the Government had a very heavy legislative program we had to extend the hours of sitting. The Opposition accepted that the Government had a legislative program which was heavier than the program we had experienced in other years and the Opposition was therefore prepared to extend the hours of sitting. The Opposition made only one quibble- in which the majority of the Senate ultimately concurred- and that was that the Senate should not start its sitting on the Tuesday until 2 o’clock. There had been a suggestion that the Senate might have sat for an extra hour on the Tuesday morning. The Opposition proposed an amendment, which was carried, and in the result the Senate sits on Tuesday at 2 p.m. But apart from that the Opposition acceded to the Government’s suggestion that extended hours of sitting were necessary to enable the program to be achieved. The Opposition has taken the view that it has a responsibility to accommodate the Government in certain ways such as the hours of sitting, if the extended hours of sitting were necessary to meet the legislative program. All of this is history. We all know from our years of experience here that if there is to be a rush of legislation, then towards the end of the session the Bills that have passed the House of Representatives build up and we have an enormous program to meet in the Senate. If we can avoid that end of session rush by extending our hours of sitting in the early parts of the session, this is time well conceded. We may thereby facilitate our end of session program. All of this is part of the argument which was presented and to which the Opposition acceded. Now, for no reason which has become apparent and because of no problems of a particular exigency which have presented themselves, but out of the blue, the Government has introduced a motion which states quite specifically that the hours of sitting should be reduced and that the Senate will rise at 7 o’clock on Tuesday evenings and Thursday evenings.
I do not believe that, as a Senate, we are doing the right thing by the Government, by the program which the Government has or by the people of this country who have sent us here to do a job. I ask the Senate to reflect upon the hours of work which members of Parliament give to their function and, in particular, because I do not wish to advert to what members of the House of Representatives do, upon what members of the Senate give in terms of parliamentary function. Under the terms of the motion which has been moved, the Senate will sit at 2 o’clock on Tuesday afternoons and rise at 7 o’clock on Tuesday evenings. That is a sitting time of 5 hours. On Wednesdays- Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson in an earlier speech indicated that the reason for this proposal is probably the fact that the proceedings of the Senate are broadcast on Wednesdays- the Senate is to sit from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. and then from 8 p.m. to 1 1 p.m.; that is a total sitting time of 7 hours. On Thursdays, the Senate is to sit from 1 1 a.m. to 1 p.m. and from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m.; that is another 7 hours. So, in each sitting week the Senate will sit for 19 hours.
Do I need to emphasise the payment senators receive? Do I need to go into details of the allowances we receive to permit us to perform our functions? I feel that these aspects have not been given adequate consideration by members of the Government Party. At the moment- this is a pattern which has existed for many years- we are prepared to sit on Wednesdays and Thursdays before lunch, to sit through the afternoon and to sit until either 10.30 or 1 1 o’clock at night. Currently, the Senate is sitting at least 3 hours longer than it will be sitting under these proposed arrangements. I believe that this proposal is something which we ought not to present to the people of Australia as effective parliamentary operations. I leave aside the really pre-eminent question in all of this discussion- namely, that the Government’s business is of such dimensions that we need to sit longer hours- and put my case for present purposes on the basic argument that we are not giving a fair week’s work for the payment we are receiving. I think that this is a dreadful example for this Senate to be setting. Let it not be forgotten that this motion has been proposed by the Government.
Let me suggest some consequences which will flow from this decision, because I understand that the Australian Democratic Labor Party is prepared to support this motion.
– Obviously, you have never done any electoral work at all if what you are saying is true; you do nothing other than sit in this Senate.
-Senator Poyser talks about doing electoral work. I know and I am not challenging that senators and members of the House of Representatives do a great deal of work outside actual parliamentary sitting hours. But I do not believe that there has been such a great increase in the amount of work done outside sitting hours that this motion is required at this dme in order to reduce the hours of sitting of this chamber. If there was such an argument capable of being advanced, it would have been advanced and it has not been. I believe that the Government must have some ulterior motive in mind. Why, when we are told constantly there is this enormous legislative program, is the Government sponsoring a motion in this Senate to reduce the hours of sitting? It just does not make sense. The ulterior motive, I believe, is quite easy to detect, and one might even not be prepared to give credence to the type of argument which I am putting forward until one had seen some things which had happened and which had been sponsored by this Government in recent times.
I believe that what we are seeing is the first step in a program which ultimately will lead to the guillotining of the total mass of the Government’s legislative program in order to get it through, and to get it through without the proper parliamentary debate to which it is entitled. I think that the public should be made aware that at the end of the first session of this Parliament with a Labor Government in control, this Senate witnessed something it had never experienced in its 73 years of existence, and that was the guillotining of 43 Bills to be discussed in 7 hours, something which was achieved by, if I might say so without disrespect, a ruling of the President on one motion. That, I believe, can be the end of our whole parliamentary debating process.
If a government can introduce a resolution that a number of Bills should be given a limited period of time for debate and the resolution is carried- we have seen it happen once and it can happen again- and if we are right in assuming that there is to be something like 40 or 50 Bills, or even more waiting to be debated in the last 2 or 3 days of this session, then I would not put it past this Government to introduce a resolution which says that all of those Bills shall be debated and brought to finality in the space of 2 or 3 days.
In those circumstances, I just wonder if that is not the intention which this Government has. I do not hear any interjections from the Government benches suggesting that that would never be the tactic which this Government would adopt.
– Are you suggesting that it would be government by default?
– That is a curious interjection and it is not relevant. I believe that the silence of members on the Government benches because they realise that what I am putting forward is an eventuality which could well occur. It is an eventuality because it has occurred in the past. It could occur in the future.
I believe that we will be asked to consider a host of legislative measures- important measures such as the Trade Practices Bill 1973 which the Attorney-General (Senator Murphy) wants to sweep through this chamber without proper representation, the Seas and Submerged Lands Bill 1973 (No. 2) relating to our off-shore waters which has long been a contentious issue in this country, the Industries Assistance Commission Bill 1973 which has not yet reached this place, a Bill to amend the Australian Industries Development Corporation legislation as well as a host of Bills relating to electoral matters which have been foreshadowed and a number of other matters which we are assured will be included in the more than 100 Bills to be passed in this session. What we can see building up is a proposition that because these matters have not been debated they should all be subject to a guillotine and passed in the dying days of the session. That is not unreasonable because what we are doing at the moment is reducing the hours of sitting in this place and reducing the hours of consideration which we can give to measures. The consequence of that is that we will be debating fewer measures and the consequence of this is that when we get closer to the end of the session there will be more and more Bills not debated. A government which is concerned to put itself forward as a great Government introducing a record number of Bills in every session of the Parliament will be determined to get those Bills through. The way it will do it will be by the use of some tactic like the use of the guillotine. I think that would be a disgrace not only to the Government but to the institution of Parliament.
What we are concerned to do when speaking to this motion is to point out its implications. We would be doing less than our function as an Opposition if we were not prepared to point out these consequences at this stage. Why, I repeat, should a government with this enormous legislative program want to reduce the hours of sitting of this chamber by something like 3 hours a week? Why should it reduce the opportunity for debate? Again the silence that sweeps the Government benches is an indication that the Government has no answer to that basic proposition. I suggest that the reason is that the Government hopes that towards the end of this session everything will be rushed through under the guillotine. The suggestion has been made that to rise at 7 p.m. on Tuesday and Thursday nights will permit the Senate committees to function in the hours after that time. I suppose that opportunity will be available.
– They tell us that we are physically exhausted.
– I acknowledge Senator Marriott’s interjection. I pose the suggestion for reasonable men that the work of committees is unlikely to be effective if they start work after an exhausting day in the chamber and after a good dinner, which people would want after an exhausting day in the chamber. To sit down to committee work at 8 p.m., 8.30 p.m. or 9 p.m. would be just nonsense and I do not believe that that will happen. Those evenings will be occupied by honourable senators according to their inclinations and their acquired dispositions. I do not believe that a great deal of work will be done. I think therefore that passage of this motion would result in a serious waste of time.
A second point which I do not think has been stressed sufficiently is that if the Senate is to rise at 7 p.m. on Tuesday and Thursday nights there will be an opportunity at that time for debate on the motion for the adjournment. We know that honourable senators who have felt strongly about a particular issue or a general issue have adopted the practice of using the motion for the adjournment of the Senate as a forum in which they can raise a matter and debate it. Earlier this afternoon someone adverted specifically to Senator Mulvihill and the use which he has made over the years of the opportunity provided by the motion for the adjournment of the senate. I do not think that there is an honourable senator in this chamber who would not acknowledge that Senator Mulvihill has acquired or made for himself a reputation in areas of conservation and the environment, basically because he has used the adjourment debate as a forum in which to express his views. I acknowledge that Senator Mulvihill is a Government supporter. He is an example of how the motion for the adjournment can be used for debate. Other honourable senators have used the adjournment debate to raise issues without achieving the consequent acknowledgment which Senator Mulvihill has received.
I suggest that if the Senate is to rise at 7 p.m. a number of honourable senators will utilise that opportunity to raise matters for debate. They will do so because they know that if they have a point of substance to raise the evening news sessions may be interested in what they have to say. Furthermore, they will have the opportunity, which they do not have at present, of reaching the subsequent morning news sessions. I believe that the adjournment debate will become a very useful debate and that more and more people will use the forum for the purpose of raising issues which they think should be given a public hearing. I am quite prepared to acknowledge that I for one can visualise adjournment debates on Tuesdays and Thursdays in which I will be an active participant. I am sure that I am not alone in that thought. That may be one of the advantages of the Senate rising at 7 o’clock. It will give Opposition senators- all 26 of us- the independent senators- all 3 of them- and those Government senators who are occasionally exercise of independent thought an opportunity which they have never had previously. I do not think that the purposes which the Government has in mind will be served by passing this motion.
At the risk of what might seem a wearisome repetition, I repeat that this motion is a motion which ought not to have been moved. It reduces the hours of sitting of the Senate, which I think is not in the best interests of the Parliament. It is a dereliction of the responsibility which the Government has in the light of the legislative program for which it has claimed throughout the country it has a mandate to introduce. We of the Opposition oppose the motion because, firstly, we are prepared to sit longer hours, secondly, we recognise that there is an obligation to provide time for debating matters; and, thirdly, we will follow the pattern that we have always followed, which is that we will give a speedy passage to those matters to which we are not opposed and we will fight to the best of our ability and to the limits of our ability those matters to which we are opposed. I believe that the Government, by reducing the sitting hours, is engaging in the old practice of false pretences because it has in mind an ultimate resolution which will seek to put all the matters through this chamber by some guillotine motion thus denying the Opposition the right to express its opposition. We therefore oppose this motion.
– I have had to Listen to this debate in my room and in this chamber. We could have passed two or three Bills during the time we have had to listen to this hypocrisy. I have been here for 1 1 years, and when the Opposition was in government it did exactly the same thing.
– Part of.
– OK. At least my record is as good as Senator Young’s record, and if he wants to check it he can do so. The trouble is that Opposition senators do not realise that they are the Opposition; they will not give in. They know as well as I do that the moment the members of the Australian Democratic Labor Party have spoken, that is it, but Opposition senators keep on talking because they have got to talk. The 2 worst offenders in this chamber are invariably Senator Greenwood and Senator Webster. Not one subject is debated in this chamber without these 2 gentlemen getting up and talking as if they are the only heaven sent orators, sent by God to dispense their knowledge to this chamber. I believe they do not realise that this talking ad nauseam give them the characteristics of bores. They have become bores in this chamber. I am sorry to attack you personally, but you are the 2 members in this chamber who cause -
– I have hardly said a word all day.
-Senator Webster gets up and talks on every subject as though he knows everything about it. We have been debating this subject since 4 o’clock this afternoon. We could have passed two or three Bills in that time. If the Government wants these changes, let it have them. When the Opposition was in government we let it have its changes. It made changes as often as it wished. There is the hypocrisy about bringing in the guillotine for 41 Bills. What did the Oppostion do when it was in government? At the end of every session -
– We did nothing approaching that, and you know it. You cannot point to anything which suggests that we ever did anything in this chamber approaching that.
-Senator Greenwood bores us not only with his repetition, but also with his interjections. When in government the Opposition did exactly the same thing as this Government is doing. I have sat here for 11 years, and at the end of every session the present Opposition introduced 30 or 40 Bills. One of the most important Bills affecting this country was the oil Bill. The previous Government insisted that the Bill be passed in, I think, 6 hours. The Bill had to be passed that night so that the previous Government could sell our assets to a foreign-owned company. That is what the previous Government did. Now that it is in Opposition it forgets all about that occasion because it has a point which it thinks it can raise, and it keeps on raising the point. For God’s sake,
Senator Greenwood, stop all this stupid rot and this stupid repetition and instead talk on a subject about which you know something instead of being the know-all about every subject which is raised in the chamber. If those 2 gentlemen whom I have mentioned were to stop speaking so frequently, we could pass about 40 Bills in the time taken up by their speeches. One has only to check the Hansard to see how many hours they speak.
I do not quite agree with the proposed sitting times, but if that is the way the Government wants it, let the Government have it. I do not mind how the vote on the motion goes.
– You are never here.
– What rot! I am either here or in my room.
– You are doing a locum somewhere. Why not admit it?
– I have not done a locum in Canberra for 3 years. If the honourable senator wishes to check that statement he can do so quite easily, but I have not done a locum in Canberra in the last 3 years.
– I did not say that it was in Canberra. You were probably in Alice Springs or somewhere like that.
– I go to Alice Springs only when the Senate has risen. What I do in my time is my business. I do not have to canvass the electorate trying to get No. 2 position on the ticket in order to be elected to the Senate. I can get elected on my own, without having to worry about little political differences and where I am put on the ticket. Senator Webster is No. 3 on the ticket. I presume he thinks that by speaking on every subject the country will believe that he is the greatest orator in this chamber.
– Jealousy is a curse.
– I am not jealous. I am retiring of my own free will.
– You are known as the most jealous man here.
-Jealous of what? You? For heaven’s sake, why should I be jealous of the biggest bore in this Parliament? That is a title to which I do not aspire. I think the number of times I speak in this chamber can be counted on the fingers of one hand.
– You speak every time you come in, and that is almost never.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Prowse)- Order! The Senate will come to order, and the speaker will address the Chair.
– I am trying to address the Chair, but I seem to be getting so many interjections. If we are honest with ourselves we will realise that the opposition to the motion is just another hoo-ha by the Opposition. The Democratic Labor Party will support the motion. The Opposition keeps arguing about the motion and says that we have not the time to debate Bills. I think the Opposition accused the Government of wanting a full day session on Wednesday because that is the day on which the Senate proceedings are broadcast. Has that not been the position for years? Now the Opposition brings on urgency motions on Wednesdays when the proceedings are broadcast. All the time the Government and the Opposition are trying to score points off each other instead of realising that this is part of the political game which they have to play.
I wish to make a point about the 7 p.m. adjournment on Tuesdays and Thursdays. I am all for that in one respect. I think I have spoken twice during the debate on the motion for the adjournment of the Senate. The earlier adjournment will give me an opportunity to speak twice a week on that debate.
– You go home for tea at night and you do not come back.
– I am entitled to go home when I want to go home. Now that I have no home in Canberra I will remain in the Senate even longer. So I propose to support the motion.
– in reply- It is strange to hear all this talk that the public should be made aware that the new sitting times are the first step in some sinister program by the Government to undermine the Senate and the moral fibre of honourable senators and all sorts of other matters.
– Will you deny it?
– I listened to the previous speaker, Senator Turnbull, without interrupting him. Senator Greenwood asked me whether I would deny it. He should listen for a moment. He said all sorts of terrible things. He even spoke about the use of the guillotine in the autumn sittings. Unfortunately, it had to be used. I do not like using the guillotine. I do not think anyone in Parliament likes to use it, but the guillotine was used in the Senate because of the delaying tactics of some members of the Opposition. It is interesting to note that although the guillotine was used the time allotted for consideration of a considerable number of Bills was not taken up on those Bills.
As to what is happening now, a proposal has been advanced by me that the sitting times of the Senate ought to be altered. How did this come about? Suggestions have been made over the years that we ought to have more rational sitting times. There has been an increase in the work load, about which everyone knows. It has been spoken about and it is agreed on all hands that it has occurred. It has become necessary to do something about it. Last week, Senator McManus said to me: ‘Cannot something be done about it?’, and he suggested a meeting of the leaders of the various parties in the Senate. I accepted his suggestion and I called the meeting. Everyone knows that. We came together and arrived at a formula. Probably during the debate the formula that was arrived at has been disclosed. I did not disclose it. But as a result of that meeting, I went to the members of my party and put a proposal to them. I brought that proposal into the Senate. This is the proposal that we are debating this evening. It is as simple as that.
We have all this talk about some sinister initiative by the Governmnent. I do not know where Senator Greenwood has gone now. He wanted an answer to his suggestion and was asking: Will you deny it?’ I am telling honourable senators how this happened. This is how the proposal arose. The leaders of the 4 political parties met to discuss the matter and then went to their respective parties. I entered the Senate immediately after the meeting of my party and moved a motion in the Senate. Some agree with it and some do not agree with it. It is a matter for the Senate to decide what is a rational and efficient way of dealing with the business, taking into account the amount that we have to handle, the health of honourable senators. I think that the waste of time since 3 o’clock this afternoon in dealing with this matter is really disgraceful. The Senate ought to be able to arrive at a speedy determination of its affairs. I ask the Senate to concur with the motion that we have moved.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Cavanagh) read a first time.
– I move:
I seek leave to incorporate the second reading speech in Hansard.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The speech read as follows)-
The purpose of this Bill is to provide for an increase in the payment of fees in respect of licences for commercial broadcasting stations which have not been increased since 1964. It is not proposed to increase the fees in respect of licences ibr commercial television stations at this stage pending an examination of the effects on the financial position of stations of the costs involved in equipping them for colour transmissions and the increases in Austraiian content requirements. There are 1 18 commercial broadcasting stations presently operating in Australia and it is proposed that the fee payable in respect of the grant or renewal of a licence should be increased from $50 to $200 and that the following scale of rates on gross earnings from advertising receipts should be applied: 1 per cent of gross earnings up to $500,000; 1.5 per cent of gross earnings from $500,000 to Sim; 2 per cent of gross earnings from $lm to $1.5m; 2.5 per cent of gross earnings from $1.5m to $2m; 3 per cent of gross earnings from $2m to $2. 5m; 3.5 per cent of gross earnings from $2. 5m to $3m; 4 per cent of gross earnings from $3m to $3.5m; 4.5 per cent of gross earnings exceeding $3. 5m.
It is estimated that, taking into account the natural past growth rate in the assessable revenue for licence fee purposes of broadcasting stations, the revised scale is expected to raise additional revenue of some $120,000 in 1973-74. Revenue received from broadcasting stations’ licence fees for the year 1972-73 was $491,204. The new fees have been calculated so as to ensure that stations which are only marginally profitable will only need to pay the small increase of $150. The Bill proposes that the new scale of fees will operate from 22 August 1973, and therefore the licence fees in respect of the renewal of licences falling due after that date will be assessed on the new scale of fees. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Laucke) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Cavanagh) read a first time.
– I move:
I seek leave to have the second reading speech incorporated in Hansard.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Prowse)- Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows)-
This Banking Bill is one of four Australian bills required to transfer the responsibility for the control and supervision of banking in Papua New Guinea to the Papua New Guinea Government and its authorities and to pave the way for the establishment of a separate Papua New Guinea banking system and central bank.
At present the Australian Government’s legislation, namely, the Reserve Bank Act, the Banking Act and the Commonwealth Banks Act, extends to Papua New Guinea and, accordingly, the responsibility for control and supervision of banking in that country rests with the Australian Government and, in particular, with the Reserve Bank of Australia. The effect of these Bills will be to withdraw the application of this Australian legislation to Papua New Guinea at a date to be agreed with the Papua New Guinea Government and to facilitate the transfer of responsibilities.
The transfer of such responsibilities in this important area is essential for a country shortly to achieve self-government and moving towards independence. It will also open the way for the development of a banking and financial system appropriate to the particular needs and circumstances of Papua New Guinea and will ensure control by Papua New Guineans in the planning of future developments in these areas.
The development of a separate banking system for Papua New Guinea was the subject of a detailed examination by a committee of Australian and Papua New Guinea government officials established by the previous Australian Government. The report of that committee, which was tabled in the Australian Parliament on 29 August 1973, was accepted in principle by the Papua New Guinea Government as a suitable basis for action to establish a separate banking system in Papua New Guinea.
The principles on which the Papua New Guinea banking system is to be established were set out in a joint Press statement which was issued by the Treasurer (Mr Crean), the Minister for External Territories (Mr Morrison) and the Papua New Guinea Minister for Finance in April 1973. Those principles include: That responsibility for control of banks and financial institutions operating in Papua New Guinea be vested in the Papua New Guinea authorities as soon as practicable; that a central bank be established in Papua New Guinea on the basis of the Port Moresby office of the Reserve Bank of Australia and be endowed with a full range of powers to act as a central monetary authority for a separate banking system, even though some of these powers could not be used in the immediate future; that a national banking institution be established in Papua New Guinea through the setting up of a new Papua New Guinea Government Commercial Bank; and that except where certain accounts give rise to special contractual or financial problems the Papua New Guinea business of the Commonwealth Banking Corporation be transferred to the Papua New Guinea Government Commercial Bank.
These principles are embodied in two ordinances relating to banking which have recently been passed by the Papua New Guinea House of Assembly. The first of these ordinances is the Central Banking Ordinance which authorises the establishment of Papua New Guinea’s own central bank to be called the Bank of Papua New Guinea. The bank will take over the role at present carried out in Papua New Guinea by the Reserve Bank of Australia. The Australian Government included in its grant to Papua New Guinea this financial year financial assistance to help in the establishment of this new central bank.
The second ordinance is the Banks and Financial Institutions Ordinance which contains the detailed provision relating to the licensing and supervision of banks and financial institutions.
The Papua New Guinea Government has indicated its intentions, if possible, to bring these two ordinances into force on 1 November 1973. Since the Australian banking legislation extends at present to Papua New Guinea, the Papua New Guinea Government can bring these ordinances into operation only when the application of the Australian banking legislation to that country is withdrawn.
I commend to honourable senators this Banking Bill, designed to allow the withdrawal of the application of the Australian Banking Act to
Papua New Guinea, and the other associated Bills which I am introducing concurrently to facilitate the establishment of a separate banking system in Papua New Guinea.
Debate (on motion by Senator Laucke) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Cavanagh) read a first time.
– I move:
I seek leave to have the second reading speech incorporated in Hansard.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Prowse)- Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows)-
The Commonwealth Banks Act is the third of the Australian Acts relating to banking which extend to Papua New Guinea. This Act is being amended to provide that at a date to be determined, Papua New Guinea would be excluded from the operation of the Act.
This Bill is related to the agreement outlined in the joint ministerial Press statement in April 1973 that subject to further consideration of particular aspects, the greater part of the Papua New Guinea business of the Commonwealth Banking Corporation be transferred to a new Papua New Guinea Government commercial bank which is to be established.
As the Treasurer (Mr Crean) indicated in the paper ‘Australia’s External Aid 1973-74’ which he presented on the occasion of his 1 973-74 Budget Speech, a payment of $ 1 5m will be made to the Papua New Guinea Government in 1973-74 to facilitate the establishment of this proposed government commercial bank. Given the commercial nature of this activity, the financial assistance to be provided for this purpose will comprise a grant of $ 10m and a repayable advance (the exact terms of which have yet to be determined) which is currently estimated at $5m but could vary depending upon the level of and trends in deposits and advances, etc., when final settlement occurs. I commend the Bill to honourable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator Laucke) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Cavanagh) read a first time.
– I move:
I seek leave to have the second reading speech incorporated in Hansard.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Prowse)- Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows)-
This Bill provides for the withdrawal of the application of the Reserve Bank Act to Papua New Guinea.
As I indicated in introducing the Banking Bill, this Bill is to facilitate the establishment of a separate banking system in Papua New Guinea subject to local control and with its own central bank.
The Bill also provides for specific authority for the Rural Credits Department of the Reserve Bank of Australia to lend to associations of cooperative associations as well as individual cooperative associations engaged in primary production. This minor amendment, which would have retrospective application from March 1 97 1, removes any legal doubts there might be about the authority of the Rural Credits Department of the Bank to lend to these associations of cooperatives. I 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 first time.
– I move:
I seek leave to have the second reading speech incorporated in Hansard.
This Bill allows for the transfer of certain assets and liabilities from the Reserve Bank of Australia to the Bank of Papua New Guinea, the country’s proposed new central bank. It also provides for the transfer of certain assets and liabilities from the Commonwealth Banking Corporation to the proposed new Papua New Guinea Government-owned commercial bank.
The provision relating to the Reserve Bank comes in force from the date that the Reserve Bank Act ceases to apply to Papua New Guinea. On that date the Reserve Bank will hand over all the business which it conducts at its Port Moresby branch. The Bill makes provision for a financial settlement between the two banks arising from this transfer.
The provision relating to the Commonwealth Banking Corporation will come into force on the date the Commonwealth Banks Act ceases to apply to Papua New Guinea. The Bill provides for certain business of the Commonwealth Trading Bank and the Commonwealth Savings Bank in Papua New Guinea to be transferred to the proposed new Papua New Guinea Government commercial bank with any necessary settlement to be effected on terms agreed between the two governments. Certain accounts of the Commonwealth Trading Bank giving rise to special contractual or financial problems will not be transferred to the Papua New Guinea Bank and this business will be conducted at a special branch of the Commonwealth Trading Bank which will be opened for that purpose and which will be excluded from the transfer. I commend the Bill to honourable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator Cotton) adjourned.
Consideration resumed from 16 October (vide page 1242).
– Prior to the Senate adjourning last night we had debated this clause fully. The matter of public interest was raised and I was to reply to it. Many honourable senators participated in the debate. The only point I wish to refer to in Senator Greenwood’s speech during the debate on this clause last night is when he said:
Therefore the Opposition has moved the amendment to retain the phraseology which is known and which people can rely upon with some certainty as to its application.
We say that places restriction on industrial relations in this modern age of industrial development and it is not justified or necessary. I do not think this clause need be debated further and I leave my remarks at that.
-I think it should be pointed out, because the opportunity is available, that we had last night a most illuminating speech from the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Murphy) in which- whether it be by his inadvertence, which I suspect it was, or some other reason- he supported the proposition which was put forward by the Opposition. We feel our proposition is supported very much by what the Leader of the Government in the Senate then said. We recognise that there should not be this delving into questions of what constitutes a major detriment to the public interest which is what is involved in the Government’s amendment. We accept and adopt the arguments which were used by the Leader of the Government. His arguments are entirely in support of our proposition. I think the Leader of the Government misunderstood the amendment his own Government was putting forward and the proposal which the Opposition was putting forward. He at least argued as it appeared to him to be the proper argument. One can only refer to what was said last night by the Leader of the Government. He said:
Honourable senators opposite are going to put up a test that goes beyond that and say: ‘Even if it is in the public interest, it is not going to be accepted. We are going to put a higher test that has never been put before. We are going to say that a tribunal has to be satisfied that no major detriment to the public interest would result from certifying the memorandum or making the award or order’. Perhaps Senator Greenwood or those who sit behind him might say- I do not know- that even if an arbitral or other public body is satisfied that it is in the public interesttheir amendment is to this effect- that is not enough and you have to go beyond that and say: ‘To hell with the public interest. Because we are so reluctant to allow people to settle their differences and to get the peace we will not accept that. It is enough that it is in the public interest. We will not allow that; out with it’.
That is a curious argument coming from the Leader of the Government. I think we can accept most of what he said. The Opposition’s proposition which we are arguing for today as we argued for it last night is that a Commissioner, when faced with the need to approve an award or to certify an agreement, is entitled to say that if it is not in the public interest he will not certify. What the Government is putting forward is this proposition, upon which Senator Murphy poured so much scorn last night, that one determines whether there is major detriment to the public interest which would be occasioned by supporting an agreement. We think that is introducing a new and completely unreasonable concept to all of the arguments which the Leader of the Government advanced last night. We think we should adhere to that which has been in the legislation prior to the Government attempting to amend it. That is the purpose of the Opposition’s amendment- to keep the provision as it was. We think the arguments which were put forward were good arguments and we think that Senator Murphy showed this also.
– This is a most peculiar representation. We fully debated this clause last night and everyone was -
– You did, senator.
– Well, everyone was satisfied that we had thrashed the clause out as much as possible. Senator Murphy spoke last night but the interpretation which Senator Greenwood places upon the words he used should not be made. Senator Murphy was in support of the Government’s amendment to the Bill. I think that is beyond doubt if one reads the whole of the speech made by Senator Murphy. When replying Senator Greenwood dealt with all the matters which it was necessary to reply to at that stage. He had completely finished his speech. Unless something new had been raised there was no need for Senator Greenwood to speak further on the question. The only thing said in rebuttal of Senator Greenwood from this side of the chamber was said by me. I said:
It may be pleasing to have the amendment carried or defeated tonight, and I think that I should make one or two remarks, even at the sacrifice -
I said tonight that we had dealt with the clause. The only basis for a further reply by Senator Greenwood would be that it had not been considered desirous to conclude the debate on this clause last night or that it was desirous to debate it further tonight. Senator Greenwood did not bother about that. He referred to a speech made last night which he had an opportunity to reply to then. His legal mind has sorted through words and he has had all day to put some ulterior motive on the words that someone used in this chamber. I thought Senator Murphy very forcibly stated that the amendment provided that the
Commissioner shall not refuse to sign an agreement unless he is of the opinion that a major detriment to the public interest would result from certifying the memorandum. That is the very line which Senator Murphy used. The Opposition’s amendment puts an entirely different complexion on the matter. It would provide that if a small degree of public interest is affected, that is a reason to stop the settlement of a dispute and not to ratify an agreement.
-The Committee is dealing with clause 19. Clause 19 (b)(2) states:
The words that follow are the ones which are contended either to be correct or not by the Opposition. The words which the Government intends to put in are that unless the Commissioner were of the opinion that a major detriment to the public interest would result from certifying the memorandum or making the award or order, he should certify. It was the simple proposition of the Opposition that the wording should be:
A member of the Commission shall not refuse to certify a memorandum unless he is of the opinion that it is not in the public interest that he should certify the memorandum or make the award or order.
I believe that last evening we had spoken at some considerable length on this matter and found the Attorney-General in agreement with us.
– You are mistaken, Senator.
-Then, Senator Murphy, I hope that you will make the matter clear. I shall read what you said as reported at page 1241 of Hansard. You said:
I might be wrong in my reading of these documents -
And there Senator Durack interjected:
I think you are.
You then went on to say:
If I am, I am, but I have sought assistance from the learned gentleman and the learned lady beside him who advise us. It seems to me that what the Opposition is putting is that unless a member of the Commission is of the opinion that the terms are not in settlement of an industrial dispute, or any of the terms is a term that the Commission does not have power to include in an award, he will reject it if a major detriment to the public interest would result from certifying the memorandum or making the award or order. Why is it not sufficient to leave this out and leave the simple proposition that it will be certified unless an officer, whether of a tribunal or otherwise, is satisfied that it is not in the public interest?
If that is not a clear exposition, I do not know what is. I thank the Attorney-General (Senator Murphy), who is at the table, for agreeing with the Opposition in this matter when we were attempting to put a simple proposition. A clear direction was needed in this case, and that was that it should not be certified if it is not in the public interest that the officer should certify the memorandum. That was the simple case and I was delighted at the end of the night to realise that Senator Murphy acknowledged this point and that apparently it had been explained to him by the learned gentleman and the learned lady who sat beside him. If Senator Murphy disagrees with what I have said he will perhaps correct the Hansard record because it does appear to me that he had accepted the simple, straightforward proposition that had been put by the Opposition.
- Senator Webster appears to be searching for truth and understanding, and so am I, except that my search is directed at the pilot of this Opposition amendment- and I refer to Senator Greenwood. I want to deal with realities. Consider the developments after a national wage hearing in which the learned justices in their wisdom have decided that industry can carry, say, a 7.5 per cent wage increase. As I understand these numerous decisions or determinations of this sort, it is assumed that industry can meet such costs for some considerable time. But what has infuriated the trade union movement in the past is that within a couple of months we get a spate of price increases and therefore what they have gained from the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission is virtually immediately eroded. We do not dispute a situation which affects a manufacturer when one of his major ingredients or components is imported from a market that we do not control. Yet it is in this area where price increases commence.
The fact is that most Opposition speakers have indicated that they will not have a bar of price control in any case. Yet they are taking a sectional stance here tonight. In effect, they are applying the label or imprimatur of ‘in the public interest’ when dealing with a case involving, say, some miners at Gove or some painters and dockers on the Sydney waterfront. They then question the public interest. Probably, though not in this context, we could argue the respective merits of a private enterprise economy and a socialist economy. However, we live in a world which is a mixed one as far as this country is concerned. What annoys me is that one minute the Opposition talks about free bargaining between employer and employee and the next minute they talk about the public interest. As a matter of fact, Mr Malcolm Fraser, the Opposition spokesman on industrial matters, has eulogised collective bargaining. The surest way to destroy round table conferences is for the employers- and I know quite a number- to take certain action.
The classic case concerns the Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd. That company had been arguing about conditions with the Federated Ironworkers Association, the major union covering the company’s employees, assisted by the craft unions. As a matter of fact, I and people like me had accused the company of using a certain labour force on the cheap. I refer to certain migrant groups. As we know, BHP applied successfully to the Prices Justification Tribunal for a price increase. I did not hear any member of the Opposition say that that price rise was excessive; in fact, some of them said it was not high enough. The point I emphasise is that a conciliation commissioner, to meet Senator Greenwood’s argument, must use this term ‘in the public interest’, while BHP or some other firm has only to say: We will have to increase our prices’. Yet that is right out of the context of a national wage case, which would be a fair barometer of what an industry could pay. If we go beyond that argument- to get away from the painters and dockers and the miners- and talk about the large white collar sector of private enterprise, we know that its members get many fringe benefits. They get a car, they might get a holiday, cheap housing and so many such benefits. I do not begrudge them these benefits. But are we to shackle our economy- and this is what the Opposition is talking about- by using this broad stopper, which is all it is, of ‘in the public interest’ against people working in industry?
Some of my best friends happen to be conciliation commissioners but I know that if they read the ‘Financial Review’ regularly and the comments of Randerson and other economists, they may take a certain view. And if someone comes out with the gloomy prophecy: ‘We had better tighten our belts because this nation is almost on the verge of bankruptcy’, this can affect their viewpoint. If a conciliation commissioner goes into his court room one morning and has appearing before him, say, a vigilance officer from the Waterside Workers Federation who tells him: The waterside workers have been asked to handle a sulphide cargo and it is a noxious job’ and the shipping company representative says: We will settle for an extra payment of 10c’, the conciliation commissioner, recalling what he read in the ‘Financial Review’, will say: ‘It is not on*. He will then quote the magic amendment which the Opposition is sponsoring. This is an inhibition that I have about it.
If the Opposition persists with its amendment, and it is carried, we are going to find that we will have one set of values for the worker in heavy industry who is confined to the Arbitration Commission and another for the managing director or even those described by the golden term ‘young company executive’. They get all these extra benefits- not subject to arbitration scales. But it makes me think sometimes that the concept of collective bargaining in heavy industry compared with the fringe benefits which apply for others is out of focus. But whether it is right or wrong, the Opposition is making a sectional approach to it. If we are to tighten up on our economy, whether it be incomes or prices, let us determine it. Probably people like me will give an affirmative vote for both questions- but I suppose I should not canvass that proposition here.
The point I am getting at is that we are considering the question of wages and conditions in a biased and discriminatory way because the registered trade unions will be the only casualties of this magical term ‘in the public interest’. Vast sections of the community which are not part and parcel of the arbitration system- sections, by the way, which are a heavy component of the wage structure in their own industry- are composed of the people whom the Opposition talks about feartherbedding. But the Opposition should not simply use this phrase as a bludgeon- and that is all it is- to deny some worker a few cents extra or maybe a few dollars as a result of some collective agreement. When we talk about collective agreements we could consider some of those that have been negotiated for the Waterside Workers Federation by Charlie Fitzgibbons with some of the smaller stevedoring companies. They have proved their worth and their cost to shipping is infinitesimal. But even if they had increased shipping costs, the Opposition cannot argue from the 2 planes because if continuity of employment means anything- and most employers recognise that they must pay a bit above the award ratethen we know that it is usually in this area that these nagging disputes occur and that the employees affected are often employed by public utilities which are geared to the payment of the minimum wage. The concept of over award payments has been reluctantly accepted by the State railway system but we all know that in the Public Service, such as was exemplified by the recent civil aviation telecommunications dispute, it is irksome. People are told that their work is very valuable to the community. After all, the striking technicians in the course of the dispute which affected our airports proved that point. Yet, even in the concept adapted by the Public Service
Board, the wages of those persons are in shackles when compared with the over-award payments that can be paid in private enterprise. But, even in private enterprise, the wages of many people, particularly those working in heavy industry, will be limited by this amendment. In addition, big slabs of the work force will not be worried by this amendment at all. It reeks of discrimination.
– This is an interesting clause. It illustrates the difference between the previous Government and the present Government in the approach to industrial disputes. The most important change is the change in what might be called the onus of proof in regard to acceptance of agreements that have been arrived at between the parties to an industrial dispute. It is probably because of this that some confusion has occurred in relation to the amendments that have been proposed.
The most important difference in approach between the previous Government and this Government is that in the existing Act, which represents the viewpoint of the previous Government, there is an attitude that after parties have solved an industrial dispute by arriving at an agreement the commissioner shall refuse to certify, in effect, the acceptance of that agreement unless he is satisfied of certain matters. This Government’s approach is the reverse of that. We say- this is in the Bill as it arrived from the House of Representatives and this is where some of the difficulty may be arising in respect of this provision- that the member of the Commission shall not refuse to certify an agreement unless he is satisfied of certain matters. That is why we have this involution later on in the terms dealing with the public interest and the major detriment. It was thought so easily by honourable senators opposite that a mistake or a completely erroneous approach was being made here. I think that not enough attention was paid to the fact that there is a complete reversal of the onus of proof.
The critical point here is the difference in approach. We say that the commissioner shall not refuse to certify. Of course we accept the viewpoint which has been put from the opposite side of the chamber that unless the commissioner is satisfied that it is against the public interest he should certify at the very least. We would say that. That is what I stressed last night. I said: ‘Of course, at the very least’. Senator Webster was kind enough to read out some of my remarks. I said: ‘If it were in the public interest at least it should be certified ‘. Of course. Who would gainsay that? What the Government has put forward is a refinement of that requirement and what we think is a sensible view of the matter. We say that, unless the commissioner is satisfied that it is against the public interest, of course he should certify the agreement once the parties to the dispute have come together and agreed to a settlement of that dispute.
Everybody knows how damaging such disputes can be. We leave aside some instances in which there are monopoly positions, whether government or otherwise. I am talking of the generality of industrial disputes. We know how difficult it is to settle industrial disputes and how important it is that, when parties arrive at an agreement by some kind of” conciliation or arrangement between themselves, that agreement should be recognised. We say that the commissioner shall not refuse to certify that agreement unless there is some pretty strong reason why he should not. We say that certainly if he were satisfied that the agreement was against the public interest, that would be a consideration; but we say that the reason for that attitude should be something strong.
If a commissioner is satisfied that the agreement is in the public interest, as I said repeatedly last night, that is something that everyone would accept. There is nothing to be talked about if the commissioner is satisfied that it is in the public interest. But honourable senators opposite seem to think that there is some fine point because I said: ‘If the commissioner was satisfied that it is in the public interest, of course he would certify it’. Who would disagree with that? Of course he would. What we are talking about is the reverse situation. What are the circumstances in which he will refuse to certify? We say that he shall not refuse to certify unless there is some pretty strong reason for doing so.
– That is what we are saying, too.
-I thank Senator Webster for agreeing with me. The test that we have putit is a pretty reasonable test- is ‘a major detriment to the public interest would result from certifying the memorandum’. Does Senator Webster suggest that it should be a minor detriment to the public interest, that there should be something trivial about it; or is the test that the Government is putting not a reasonable one? We say that when the commissioner is faced with the settlement of an industrial dispute between the parties who come to him to certify their agreement, he shall not refuse to certify unless there is a detriment to the public interest, and we say that it must be a substantial or major detriment.
It would be laughable if one were not to accept that the reason for refusing had to be a major or substantial detriment to the public interest. It does not assist honourable senators opposite as I have explained. Everyone agrees that if the agreement is in the public interest, of course the commissioner will certify it. No one would question that statement at all. We are talking about the circumstances in which he will refuse to certify. The question then is whether there is some kind of detriment that is against the public interest. Here is a simple proposition, plainly stated, in the drafting emanating from the Minister for Labour (Mr Clyde Cameron): There has to be a detriment, which is a major detriment, to the public interest. In all reason, is the Committee to say that there is anything wrong with the test which is to be applied? It requires that a commissioner shall not refuse to certify unless there is a detriment to the public interest, and we say that it must be a major detriment, not a minor or trivial detriment. What we propose is as simple as that.
I ask the Committee, having this matter placed squarely before it, to agree to the proposal as it has come from the House of Representatives after proper examination there, after drafting by those who are skilled in these matters and after lengthy consideration by the Minister, assisted by his advisers in the Department and with great experience of industrial affairs. I ask the Committee to remember that he is the Minister responsible for achieving industrial peace. He says that this is the way to achieve it. He asks us to allow the rules to be framed in this sensible way. If the Opposition refuses to allow the Minister to have his ground rules as he has stated them in this legislation- they are reasonable rules; there is nothing wrong with what he has proposed- the responsibility will be on the Opposition. If the Opposition persists in opposing these sensible propositions which have come from the Minister for Labour who, after all, has to take the responsibility for achieving industrial peace in this community, it will prevent him- this is what the Opposition wants to do- from introducing rational industrial laws and then it will blame him if there is industrial disputation. By its action the Opposition will prevent the emergence of a rational industrial law which will permit the settlement of these disputes and prevent especially the encouragement of the settlement of these disputes between the participants in them.
– The Opposition rejects the whole approach of, and the words used by, the AttorneyGeneral. Maybe one day posterity will look at what he said last night and what he has just said. There is a total inconsistency between his arguments of last night and his arguments of today. Posterity will scratch its head as to what he really believes. But could I get this debate back to the essential issue.
The Government is proposing in clause 1 9 an amendment which, in effect, says that a commissioner is obliged to certify a memorandum or a consent award unless he is of the opinion that a major detriment to the public interest would result from certifying the memorandum or making the award or order; to which the Opposition has moved an amendment to revert the position, in effect, to what it was under the existing legislation.
– I regret to interrupt you, Senator, but you have misstated the position. The provision is that he shall not refuse to certify.
– I did not use the words: ‘shall not refuse’. I simply said, and it means precisely the same thing, that he is obliged not to certify if he is of the opinion. The important point- and this is where I think that Senator Murphy has in a sense misled himself by his concentration on one aspect of the clause which is not vital or germane to the amendment which has been moved- is that ultimately refusal or non-refusal shall occur depends upon an opinion which is formed.
The language of the amendment in the Government’s proposal is whether the commissioner is of the opinion that a major detriment to the public interest would result from certifying the memorandum or award. The Opposition’s proposal, which is consistent with what has been in the Act before, is that he should have an opinion that it is not in the public interest that he should certify the memorandum or make the award or order. The vital distinction between the Government and the Opposition is whether the opinion which the commissioner forms when he has this memorandum or award before him is: Should he be satisfied that a major detriment to the public interest would occur, or should he be satisfied that it is not in the public interest to make the award? That is the real distinction.
– He gives consideration to the weight of evidence he should accept as to how much it affects the public interest.
Seantor GREENWOOD- I think I would agree with what Senator Cavanagh says- that he has to look at the weight of evidence, he has to look at all the potential possibilities and consequences which would flow him his decision. Under the Government’s proposal, the decision which he has to make is whether there is to be a major detriment to the public interest or, under the Opposition’s proposal- that which has always been in the Act- the decision he has to make is: Is it not in the public interest or will it be against the public interest if I certify the award? We believe that the broader test, the test which permits him to make, we believe, a more sensible decision, should be preserved. We believe that the use of the words ‘the public interest’ is the desirable way of casting the language of the section and presenting the discretion to the commissioner. We have said that it is because it has always been a provision. We have said that it is because the commission from time to time has had the occasion to interpret those words and it has expressed its judgment. People who have to live under this system know the way in which the Commission interprets those words. There is some certainty of expression that is useful.
I do not want to get back into the politics of the argument but Senator Murphy last night very clearly said: ‘ Why bring in a new higher test than has ever been used before by introducing the words “a major detriment to the public interest?” ‘ With respect we do agree with him whatever might have been his intent or motive in using that expression last night. That gets to the kernel of the matter.
There has always been in this legislation this provision whereby a commissioner can refuse to certify an award if it is against the public interest. That is really the answer to the point that was made by Senator Mulvihill. The power has always been there. Occasionally the effort has been made to have either a commissioner or the commission refuse to certify an award or memorandum of agreement because it has been against the public interest. I agree that those efforts have not often been successful. But there is, in a particular area, a small union which has immense power and which can by force of the arguments, the activities or the tactics in which it engages persuade an employer to give a very significant benefit to it and the result is reached by agreement, it may be that that ought not to be regarded as in the public interest and ought not to be certified. What, for example, if a small union in a large factory in which there are other unions which have members performing much the same work, is able to persuade an employer to give, say, a 100 per cent wage increase or 7 weeks annual leave or a 30-hour week and that agreement then comes up for approval- for certification. Maybe a commissioner could say: Look, I am not going to certify that’. The reason why he would not certify it is that he is within the panel which the arbitration commission has developed to deal with all people in this area. He knows that as soon as he certifies such an agreement there will be a flow-on and a demand from other people in the same industry engaged in the same sort of activity who will say: ‘If one employer can afford it so can a host of other employers afford it’. Then there will be developed a demand for this flow-on which the commissioner is entitled to say it would not be in the public interest to allow. It is to give the commissioner some such opportunity that the Opposition is persisting with this amendment.
If the Government is going to use the words: ‘a major detriment to the public interest’, what it is imposing upon the commissioner is a question of great uncertainty. At the moment when he is faced with the question of certifying the award can he look at the facts as he has them and say: Well, I certify this; there will be a major detriment’? Probably he would not be able to say that. His fears would be as to a flow-on- as to consequences. He could say: ‘That is not something which I am obliged or entitled to look al because I have to look at a major detriment to the public interest’. I do not say that that is the way in which a commissioner would look at it; but looking at the matter from the viewpoint of observers we have to construe this position, and I think that the better view is to leave it to the commissioner to make his own judgment in terms of the broad concept of ‘is it or is it not in the publicinterest ‘? I repeat what I said earlier. That is the language of the section as we have known it and the language of the amendment which the Opposition is moving. We believe that certainty and familiarity with commonly understood expressions do more to facilitate the arriving at solutions than new expressions with uncertain meaning which is what is involved in the Government’s proposal. That is why we believe that the Committee should accept what the Opposition proposes.
– The Government’s attitude on this matter was stated last night and I do not want to take up the time of the Committee by restating it. I think that certain speeches have been made tonight for the benefit of the wider audience which is listening because the proceedings are being broadcast. I think it is necessary to put to that wider audience the Government’s case properly and not as Senator Greenwood put it.
The clause which we are now discussing relates to section 28 of the Act which is concerned with industrial disputes. The Government is concerned with the question of the settlement of industrial disputes. We have found that the Commissioner cannot or shall not certify an agreement that would settle a dispute if it is not in the public interest that he should do so. I think that is the interpretation if we leave aside the jargon. Over the years, in cases in which there would have been complete agreement between an employer and the unions or the employees, we find that there has been an inability on the part of a commissioner to certify an agreement because it would not have been in the public interest. There may come an occasion when the signing of an agreement would cause less inconvenience to the public and therefore it would be in the public interest to sign it.
In present day industrial relations and activities one can well imagine that any wage increase would affect some section of the public. Therefore signing an agreement would not be in the interests of a section of the public, there would be justification for refusing to sign and that particular dispute would continue. I think that Senator Greenwood and I agree that under the new clause it is sought to permit the Commissioner to give weight to how much an agreement affects the public interest. Consider the instance that I recited last night. If the increase for tramway employees increased fares by 2c for the journey to the city and return that would affect the public interest. But would an agreement which resulted in that effect be of such importance to the public interest that a commissioner should refuse to sign it for the purpose of getting tramway employees in New South Wales or some other State back to work in order to convey the working population to and from their places of employment each day? It may be, but that is one of the questions that a commissioner would have to consider.
The Government’s proposal is wider. It permits a commissioner to consider firstly whether an agreement is in the public interest. Secondly, if it is not in the public interest he has to consider how much it affects the public interest and he shall not refuse to certify unless it is a major detriment to the public interest. The wording proposed is not that the agreement affects the public interest but that it must be a major detriment to the public interest. If an agreement is going to be a big handicap to the people, if it is going to affect a great number of the public, a commissioner has the right to refuse to certify. He will not have that right if the agreement is not a major detriment. The commissioner has to determine what would be a major detriment. He has to consider each issue singly and decide whether there is a major detriment.
If Senator Greenwood’s amendment is accepted and the commissioner merely has to consider whether an agreement is not in the public interest there would be few disputes about which a commissioner would be permitted to certify under proposed paragraph (c) of proposed section 28 (2). That is the reason for changing the Act. We are seeking to provide systems which will prevent industrial disputes occuring. At the present time there are few disputes in relation to which a commissioner could make a certification because of the wording of the Act.
– Can you tell us from what your advisers say whether there are many agreements which the commissioners have refused to certify because they are against the public interest and which have caused trouble?
– Many agreements have been certified and many have not been certified. The point is that if in the opinion of a commissioner an agreement is against the public interest to any degree that agreement cannot be certified. We are trying to increase the latitude open to the commissioner. Senator Greenwood is trying to imply that not many agreements have been certified. Giving the Commission freedom to take into consideration the degree of public interest affected would not alter the position. This is not something which would injure industrial relations as they operate now and therefore we go along with it. That point must be considered. The Opposition is not prepared to give a commissioner the right to decide the question of the degree of public interest involved. The Opposition seeks to retain a situation in which a commissioner cannot certify if public interest is involved.
– I intervene briefly in this debate to indicate that the question of public interest is one that has been discussed at considerable length over the years. I believe that it has come into a number of cases in recent years, particularly under the system evolved in the last couple of years whereby the metal trades employers and the Amalgamated Metal Workers Union get together and make cosy agreements. The basis of those agreements is that they agree on certain very considerable increases in wages and conditions and the employers then recoup themselves at the expense of the community by putting up prices and using the tariff. I merely want to quote briefly a statement on this very question which was made by the late Mr Chifley on 20 February 1947. Nobody would accuse him of being anti-union or anti-labour yet he realised what effect there could be on the economy as a result of some of these cosy arrangements. I quote from Hansard what Mr Chifley said:
There are other circumstances that must be guarded against, namely, those that arise as the result of employers and employees engaged in industries which are almost monopolistic coming together and reaching an agreement . . with a certainty that they will be permitted to pass on to the consuming public the excessive costs arising from such agreements.
Mr Chifley went further and pointed out what the danger was because the metal awards had been used as a standard. He went on to say:
Agreements of that kind -
The kind that are being negotiated today by the metal employers and the metal trades union- have, in turn, a peculiar effect on other sections of industry which seek similar conditions.
In other words, there is a demand for a flow-on. I do not want to labour the point but that is a clear statement by one of whom the Australian Labor Party has a very high opinion. The clear statement is that in the case of agreements of the particular kind that he referred to there was a need to conserve the public interest.
That the words proposed to be left out (Senator Greenwood’s amendment) be left out.
The Committee divided. (The Chairman- Senator Prowse)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
That the words proposed to be inserted (Senator Greenwood’s amendment) be inserted.
The Committee divided. (The Chairman- Senator Prowse)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Omit proposed sub-sections (2a), (2b), (2c), (2d), and (2e), substitute the following proposed sub-section: “(2a) A member of the Commission shall not certify a memorandum in accordance with this section unless, in relation to each organisation that is a party to the agreement to which the memorandum relates, there is produced to him a statutory declaration by an officer authorised by the committee of management of the organisation declaring that the committee of management has approved the principal terms of the agreement. “
We have moved this amendment because we think that the proposed sub-sections will be unworkable and will be self-defeating. We appreciate that the Minister for Labour (Mr Clyde Cameron) has made a great claim, and he has sought to give expression to this claim in various ways in this Bill, that unions should provide for a form of participatory democracy. He has stressed that there should be rules and provisions under which the membership control shall be able to be asserted. To that concept the Opposition has no objection. To that concept the Opposition gives its support. We feel that that is what the Minister had in mind when seeking to amend section 28 of the principal Act. But we believe that an examination of clause 19 reveals it to be an unworkable proposition.
What the clause says is that there shall not be a certification by a member of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission of a consent award or a memorandum of agreement unless certain things are shown. The first is that a statutory declaration that the committee of management has approved the principal terms of the agreement must be produced. We do not have any objection to that. We feel that that is the limit to which the clause should go. But the clause goes further. The provision, as the Minister puts it forward, requires also that before the agreement is certified the member of the Commission shall be of the opinion that, after there has been consultation, as described in the declaration, with financial members of the organisation who are affected by the agreement those terms are acceptable to a majority of the members of the organisation. The member of the Commission has to be satisfied that there has been that consultation and that there has been a general consensus arrived at by the members of the organisation.
Also, the member of the Commission must be reasonably satisfied, when he considers the declaration or when he looks at the results of a ballot, that the principal terms of the agreement are acceptable to a majority of the financial members of the organisation. I pose some of the problems which will arise. Who will determine the principal terms of the agreement? Some members of the organisation might think that the principal terms of the agreement are the ones relating to wages and hours, but other members of the organisation, and indeed the member of the Commission, might think that the principal terms of the agreement are the ones related to wages and leave and that the term related to hours does not matter. There is great room for uncertainty and consequent disputation. Furthermore, the member of the Commission who has to satisfy himself whether he should certify the award or agreement may feel that he cannot be satisfied just by looking at the statutory declaration that it has the support of the members of the organisation. In those circumstances there has to be a ballot. If there is a ballot, the question which is to be asked of the members of the organisation has to be determined. The bigger question, on which interpretations can vary, as to what are and what are not the principal terms of the agreement has to be posed. That creates problems which I feel will, in the long run, be more productive of disputation than of resolution of conflict.
We are dealing with legislation which ought to be concerned with providing means by which agreement can be arrived at. Therefore, all these proposed sub-sections which impose burdens on the member of the Commission are, we believe, unnecessary and are more likely to be defeating than serving the purpose which the Minister has on various occasions expressed as his objective. We believe that the sensible thing is simply to say that all that should be required is that there should be a statutory declaration by an officer of the management body of the union that the agreements which are being arrived at or the terms of the award which are being consented to have been approved by the committee of management. We recognise that there is a need to ensure that what is certified has the general support of the members of an organisation. I think that committees of management of unions, knowing that they will have this responsibility, will act responsibly, and that is adequate for the purposes of the legislation. The amendment is an extension both of the Government’s viewpoint and of the Opposition’s approach to the clause. We see the point which is sought to be made, but we feel that the clause should not go as far as the Government has suggested, for the reasons which I advanced. I feel that the Opposition’s amendment is much more practicable.
– It is regrettable that the Opposition seeks to annihilate completely the Bill or to distort it so much that it will be ineffectual. It was introduced to try to settle industrial disputes.
– We have not done that.
-The Opposition has, and I will show the honourable senator how the Opposition has gone that far. While we have been condemned for all the industrial disputes in Australia at present, we have sought to amend the machinery to enable us to control the disputes in directions other than the directions which the previous Government took- that is, of enforcing penal provisions. The clause emphasises the sanctity of agreements. There have been some public statements by the former AttorneyGeneral that he would go so far as to agree to the enforcing of penal provisions for breaches of agreements. The Australian Labor Party’s policy does not go that far. We believe that agreements should be observed and carried out. We think that if an agreement is entered into, until the period of that agreement expires there should be no breach of the agreement. Unfortunately, there are breaches. In the opinion of the Minister, these breaches will continue because there can be no guarantee that the members of the organisations are parties to the agreement. A small management committee of one of the smaller unions- it could be half a dozen men- could reach an agreement which is basically unacceptable to the membership, and the members must abide by the agreement. They simply will not. Industrial disputes are re-occurring because members do not accept an agreement. Industrial agreements cannot be enforced. It is thought by the Department of Labour that if the agreement is an agreement between employers and employees- between employers and the unionit will be observed. That is all that the clause seeks. The words proposed to be added by the amendment are: a member of the Commission shall not certify a memorandum in accordance with this section unless, in relation to each organisation that is a party to the agreement to which the memorandum relates, there is produced to him a statutory declaration by an officer authorised by the committee of management of the organisation declaring that the committee of management has approved the principal terms of the agreement.’.”.
Even the committee of management does not have to approve the whole of the agreement. The court advocate could be the only one who approves it. But the committee of management has to approve the principal terms of the agreement. That is all it has to do. Perhaps not more than half a dozen men who comprise the committee of management approve of the principal terms of an agreement which is not acceptable to the men working in the industy. If this is the case it will be found that the agreement will be broken as soon as it is made. Surely, an agreement is not an agreement between the union and an employer; it is an agreement between employers and employees. The proposed new sub-section 2a which the Opposition proposes to introduce states: a member of the Commission shall not certify a memorandum in accordance with this section unless, in relation to each organisation that is a party to the agreement to which the memorandum relates. . . .
Honourable senators will notice the difference between what the Government proposes and what the Opposition proposes. Mention is made of each organisation. In cases in which multiplicity of organisations are concerned there is no requirement in the Opposition’s amendment for statutory declarations to be made by each organisation. There is such a requirement in the Government’s Bill. Under the Government’s proposed new sub-section there is to be produced to the Commissioner a statutory declaration by an officer authorised by the committee of management of the organisation declaring that the committee of management has approved the principal terms of the agreement. The Committee of Management must be of opinion: after there has been consultation, as described in the declaration, with financial members of the organisation who are affected by the agreement, that those terms are acceptable to the majority of those members;
Therefore, it involves a statutory declaration not only that the committee of management approves of the principle but also that the officer has discussed the matter with the financial member affected by the agreement and that a majority of those members approve of it. If doubt arises in the mind of the judge, he proceeds to the other proposed new sub-sections. He can order a ballot of the financial members affected by the agreement.
– It does not have to be a judge. It could be a commissioner.
-Yes, it could be a commissioner- whoever is the wage fixing tribunal. The ballot will be financed by the Government. This all emphasises the need to get the men involved, the employees themselves participating, to be part of the agreement. The De7 partment of Labour believes that such agreements will not be broken because they will be entered into solemnly and the members will know what they are all about and will have voted accordingly. They will be agreements prescribing the terms which the members have agreed to accept. They will not be agreements that have been reached between the employer and the delegate of an organisation, the contents of which the employees may not know. Having obtained an agreement in which the employees have participated it is unlikely that during the period of that agreement there will be breaches of it.
There is a firm belief implicit in the Government’s policy that by the system of agreementsit is a conciliation Act as well as an arbitration Act- we will do away with many of the disputes now occurring. But although we are criticised for the industrial disputes that occur the Opposition that criticises us will not assist us to create the machinery to prevent disputes. The Opposition wants to penalise after the disputes occur. Of course, this amendment is designed solely for the purpose of discrediting the Labor Government so that our machinery cannot be put into operation for the purpose of settling or preventing disputes.
– The Minister is not really meeting the arguments I put when he says things like that.
– What other reason has Senator Greenwood for putting an amendment which has quite the contrary effect to what he has been preaching and what he continues to preach in the Senate, namely, that we must do something about industrial disputes. The Opposition seeks to eliminate 5 proposed sub-sections and insert one sub-section in their place. The proposed sub-sections which it seeks to delete are (2a), (2b), (2c), (2d), and (2e). Proposed sub-section (2c) reads:
We have mention again of ‘major detriment’, which is an important consideration- he shall report to the President accordingly, and the President may, if he thinks lit, refer that question for consideration by a Full Bench, but otherwise shall direct the member of the Commission to determine the proceedings.
An agreement may cover such components as those relating to standard hours, national wage cases and annual and long service leave which have to be dealt with by the Full Bench. The Commission is unable to certify an agreement affecting such components. The case then has to go to the Full Bench for a full argument. When the question is decided it may establish a standard for the whole of industry in Australia.
On what the Government proposes, agreement can be reached. I cannot see anything wrong with the employees of an electricity commission in one State or the employees of oil companies reaching agreement with their employers to work a 3 5 -hour week, if both employees and employers are agreeable to it. In such cases, the commissioner or the judge would consider whether the agreement could result in major detriment to the public interest. That would be the criterion. If he thinks that the agreement will result in major detriment, he will refer it to the
Full Bench. But if he thinks it will not, he will simply certify the agreement, the dispute will be ended and profits will be made by the employer. The employees will go back to work and everything will be satisfactory. Under the Opposition ‘s proposals there will be frustration and a continuation of industrial disputes. The whole aim of the Minister for Labour and this Government is to try to obtain the machinery to prevent disputes. The previous Government had penal machinery which was not effective in settling disputes. This legislation represents an attempt to regulate employee-employer relations by agreements entered into by all involved. In the case of such agreements, the only limit imposed is detriment to the public interest. The Opposition is refusing the Government the right to achieve this. It makes inevitable the continuation of industrial chaos in Australia.
– Last night when we were discussing this clause of the Bill Senator Greenwood complained that I had introduced an irrelevant consideration when I compared his attitude on this Bill to the attitude that I anticipate he will take to the Trade Practices Bill which we expect will come before the Senate in the next week or so. If Senator Greenwood will bear with me, I think that I can prove to him that there is an inconsistency between the attitude that he takes on this clause of the Bill and the attitude that he is about to take to the amalgamation clauses in this Bill. In respect of the amalgamation clauses, I understand that Senator Greenwood and those who support him insist that a majority of members should vote in a ballot before the agreement can take place.
– But, Senator, we will come to that in due course.
– We are not up to that yet.
– In all seriousness, I cannot understand why the honourable senator should object to being asked to be consistent and to have some sort of theme and some sort of philosophy.
– I think the Temporary Chairman should bring this discussion to order.
– I think anything that Senator Webster contributes on a subject like this should be ignored completely.
– We know that you are brilliant, Senator.
-(Senator Lawrie)- Order! Senator James McClelland will address the Chair.
– I was doing that, I am talking about Senator Greenwood, a man who I believe has a logical -
– John Grey did not think so.
– I do not agree with ex-Senator Gorton on that. I have great respect for Senator Greenwood’s capacity and I am appealing to him now. I ask the honourable senator to examine this proposition. One must have a theme and a philosophy about these things. If he is espousing a proposition that democracy is everything in union affairs, that members of a union should be entitled to be consulted before anything happens to affect their destinies, that there should be a reasonable, fair and above the board carefully vetted ballot before any major decisions are made, he must apply that theme to everything that they do. On the subject of amalgamations I understand that Senator Greenwood, the Democratic Labor Party and Senator Webster- if he has really given his mind to a problem like this; I doubt that he has been able to do so, but perhaps he has- have adopted the attitude that there must be the greatest democratic safeguards. But when we come to the question that we are considering now I understand that Senator Greenwood objects to these democratic safeguards. He thinks that in a situation like this it should be enough for the committee of management to certify, yet when we come to a consideration of amalgamations he wants the entire membership not only to be consulted but also to have their vote vetted. If I understand him aright, he would like to have the police at the ballot box to watch every vote that is cast in favour of an amalgamation.
– Your argument does not require that extravagance. You know that is not suggested.
– Perhaps the honourable senator would forgive me a little hyperbole as I forgive him a little hyperbole. There is that contrast in Senator Greenwood’s attitude to these matters. In the matter that we are considering now in this clause he is content with a certification by the committee of management, but when it comes to an amalgamation he insists that there should be a most elaborate democratic process with all members of the union voting on it. With respect, I suggest that Senator Greenwood, who has a great regard for these matters, might be able to clear up this doubt that I have in my mind. I invite him to rise when I sit down to explain to me that there is no real conflict in his attitude in the matter of amalgamations and his attitude towards this clause.
– Perhaps I may be permitted to refer to the difficulty that will present itself in the matter of this amendment. If I read to the Committee the words of the amendment honourable senators will probably understand where it must fail under its own weight. The amendment reads:
A member of the Commission shall not certify a memorandum in accordance with this section unless, in relation to each organisation that is a party to the agreement to which the memorandum relates, there is produced to him a statutory declaration by an officer authorised by the Committee of management of the organisation declaring that the committee of management has approved the principal terms of the agreement.
That amendment envisages that there shall be more than one organisation party to the agreement. I do not know whether Senator Greenwood has that understanding of the amendment, but that is my view because it says in relation to each organisation that is a party to the agreement’. Consider the situation in a metal trades shop.
– In the oil industry.
– In the oil industry or any industry that you care to choose, there could be members of 6 separate unions working within that establishment. To put the situation at its worst, if there is an industrial dispute in that establishment and agreement is reached on some issue, each party to that agreement would, in accordance with the proposed amendment, be required to have the approval of the board of management of the union authorised by a responsible officer of that union.
– That is correct. That is in the Government ‘s proposal also.
-I wonder how long it would take in those circumstances to obtain that authorisation. It must take a long while to do anything of that nature.
– Apparently Senator Webster wants to say something. I shall wait to hear whether he has finished his conversation.
– I will keep talking if I wish to do so.
– Have you finished, Senator Webster?
– Then I shall wait.
-(Senator Lawrie)- Order! Senator Milliner has the call.
– All unions do not necessarily have the same rules. A union might have rules which provide for quarterly meetings of the board of management and the executive may meet between meetings of the board of management. The union might have a federal conference annually and a federal executive dealing with business between annual conferences. Another union might have an entirely different system. Consequently it might not be so easy as Senator Greenwood might think to secure the approval of the board of management when the various unions involved have different rules. Surely the first step in resolving a dispute is on the job rather than at the conference table. The dispute is resolved when members on the job decide whether they will accept some proposal coming from a conference. Settlement of a dispute starts on the job, not in the board room of the union or wherever the committee of management or executive of the union may meet. The industrial matter involved might relate to one shop only, perhaps involving a 10-minute rest point period in the morning. That would have no relationship to any other establishment in that industry. The workers on that job might say, because of certain circumstances- perhaps it is heat, perhaps it is cold, or it may be anythingthat they are entitled to a 10-minute rest period during the morning or afternoon. If a dispute arises it will be resolved on the job in that establishment. The men on the job can accept or reject whatever the negotiating committee brings before them by way of terms of settlement. If the approval of boards of management of such like has to be waited for I am afraid there will be difficult times and the dispute could break out again. They are the matters which I put before you, Mr Chairman. Has Senator Webster finished?
– I beg your pardon.
– Have you finished again?
– I beg your pardon.
– Have you finished magging? Have you finished interrupting?
– You picked the wrong person; it was not me. Will you tell him, Senator Mulvihill, that it was someone else?
THE TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN -(Senator Lawrie)- Order! The honourable senator should address the Chair.
– I had been addressing the Chair. I am trying to address the Chair but I am being interrupted by some stupid unintelligible remark. I believe that the wording of the proposal put forward by the Government has more merit than the proposal submitted by the Opposition.
– I repeat that the Opposition’s amendment has been moved because we think that what the Government’s proposal involves is a cumbersome, tedious, time-consuming, unworkable process which will be self defeating. It is curious that for the second time in the discussion of about 3 clauses of this Bill one can rely upon what a Government senator has said to back the Opposition’s argument to the hilt. I say with all respect to Senator Milliner, whose interest and experience in union matters is well known to us all, that the type of argument he was putting forward is more in support of what the Opposition is proposing than it is in support of the Government’s amendment. As I understood him, he was saying that if one has to go to a committee of management in order to have a certification of approval of terms of settlement, one is taking time and imposing burdens which ought not to be imposed because this may prevent a dispute being settled. Well, there is a degree of truth in what he said. But I think, nevertheless, that on a negotiating committee you have to have officers of a union who will negotiate with employers’ representatives on behalf of the union. If those people can satisfy the Commissioner that the terms they are agreeing to on behalf of their members have been as the amendment suggests- namely that the committee of management has approved the principal terms of the agreement- I think the Commissioner is entitled to rely upon that. That is all the Opposition is asking for, but the Government goes further. The Government would say that if the Commissioner is not satisfied after he reads that resolution he can have a ballot of all the members of the organisations affected, not just one organisation. I think that would be far more time consuming and far more self-defeating than the particular proposal which the Opposition is putting forward.
I regret that, as I have understood Senator Cavanagh ‘s argument, as the responsible Minister, he has not attempted to meet this point. The Opposition has moved this amendment because, looking at what is involved, we think it is more likely to prevent dispute settlement than to encourage dispute settlement. If a small group- it does not necessarily have to be a small groupwhich by a ballot can express its objections to terms of settlement which the union committee has agreed upon, it can play havoc with the whole industrial system. We believe there has to be- I think the Minister has expressed this view in times past- a responsibility within the union movement under which the union officers exercise a control which is vested in them from their membership over their membership. I do not think matters can be facilitated by saying that absolutely every matter in every dispute must go to a ballot of all the members.
It is at that point that I respond to Senator James McClelland. When we get to a fundamental matter like amalgamations or amendments to the constitution I think it is a fair thing to let everybody have a say. That is the way we do things in Australia. But we do not require that every decision shall be the subject of a referendum of the whole membership. I would have thought that even Senator James McClelland would baulk at putting all the 200 or so pieces of legislation which are to come into the Senate this session before the people of Australia for ballot decision. I feel that the analogy which he sought to draw is not one which on analysis even he would persist in posing to me. But I respond to him in the way I have done. We believe our amendment is one which is designed to make the provisions of the legislation workable. We fear that the Government’s proposals would be selfdefeating and unworkable.
– I have somehow failed to get what I was trying to express through to Senator Greenwood. I do not blame Senator Greenwood as possibly it could be due to my inability to put the argument properly. The first thing which Senator Greenwood says is that it would be unreasonable to expect every decision to be put to a ballot of members. We agree with that proposition. We are not referring to every decision; we refer to the making of agreements for working conditions and wages. Most agreements are made for 3 or 5 years. That is what we anticipate. We are not concerned about union regulations or how the unions operate; it is the making of agreements that we ask to be put to the members. The amendment moved by Senator Greenwood states:
A member of the Commission shall not certify a memorandum . . . unless, in relation to each organisation that is a party to the agreement to which the memorandum relates, there is produced to him a statutory declaration by an officer authorised by the committee of management declaring that the committee of management has approved the principal terms of the agreement.
Senator Greenwood says that the Commissioner is entitled to rely on the truth of what is stated in the statutory declaration. I think that is a reasonable basis of assumption. We should accept that the Commissioner is entitled to rely on what is in the statutory declaration and that what has been stated and sworn on oath actually did happen. Senator Greenwood ‘s amendment states that the statutory declaration which the Commissioner is entitled to rely on is the statutory declaration that the principal terms of agreement have been approved by the committee of management. This is a strong point in the whole question. The strong difference in the 2 proposals is that whereas Senator Greenwood is seeking to have agreements between the committee of management and the employers, the Minister for Labour (Mr Clyde Cameron) and this Government are seeking to have agreements between employers and employees. The propositions are entirely different. To obviate this delay which would occur if we had a ballot for every agreement the statutory declarations which the Commissioner is entitled to rely upon go further than the statutory declarations which Senator Greenwood would have. The statutory declaration has to declare that there has been consultation as described in the declaration with financial members of the organisation who are affected by the agreement and that these terms are acceptable to the majority of members. That is not contained in Senator Greenwood’s amendment. This is the whole difference.
– If you had unions like the Australian Metal Workers Union and the Australian Workers Union with between 150,000 and 180,000 members spread right around Australia how would you make that workable in any practical way?
– Possibly it cannot be made to work in such circumstances. Then the Commissioner would not certify the agreement and the matter could go to arbitration. If the agreement can be made to work what is wrong with members of the AWU scattered around Australia and the employers scattered around Australia operating in agreement. What Senator Greenwood is trying to say is that in such cases if the management committee is sitting in Sydney and is composed of a majority of brick makers with eligibility for membership of the Australian Workers Union, that management committee can enter into an agreement which binds stockmen and shearers throughout Australia- and the honourable senator would expect them to observe the conditions of that agreement. His own argument destroys his proposal. Satisfaction cannot be achieved and agreement to the proposed conditions cannot exist unless the men participate in the making of the agreement. It may be impossible to get agreement of the majority of members of the Australian Workers Union but agreement can be reached in certain other instances. Therefore the AWU must stick to arbitration whereas some industries can settle their questions by conciliation. Many industrial disputes do not spread throughout Australia but concern a relationship between one employer and his employees. This can be established. It is not time consuming and it does not require a ballot among the members. Senator Greenwood argues that the Commission is entitled to rely on a statutory declaration. But if the statutory declaration states also that the question in dispute has been discussed with financial members, then a ballot does not have to be held.
– But that is an unreal concept. The concept I am arguing is that when a union has 100,000 or more members spread throughout Australia, its officials really cannot discuss the question with them. It is impossible.
– You are citing an industry where it cannot apply, and an industry in which there is not a great number of industrial disputes. But an industrial dispute on the Sydney waterfront is decided by a stop work meeting of the men in Sydney, and their union takes up the demand made by the men. After discussing all the pros and cons the demand is made by a majority vote of the men assembled at the meeting. Therefore at one meeting we see the requirement that the men should be participants in the agreement fulfilled. An even better illustration can be found in, say, a rubber factory where the employees hold a stop work meeting at which they say: ‘We want a $5 a week increase’. The application for that increase is then made. The demand has been discussed and made by a majority decision, and the men are parties to that decision. Senator Greenwood has divorced himself from any strong argument by citing a scattered membership and a dispute which affects the whole industry. The honourable senator has said that the Commission is entitled to rely on a statutory declaration. But if for some reason a commissioner has doubts about the matter as a result of what is declared in the statutory declaration- that the issue may not have been discussed by a majority of the financial members concerned and that it may not have been arrived at by a majority decision- then, and only then, is he entitled to direct that a ballot be held. It is a normal condition of consideration. If Senator Greenwood says that this is time consuming, by his deletion of the other 14 clauses -
– Not fourteen.
-No, the other 3 or 4 clauses which we put to the Opposition. If Senator Greenwood insists that a full bench of the Arbitration Commission should hear argument on certain conditions, then he is not considering the aspect of time in that case. He is not considering whether easy agreement could be reached within an hour. He wants a hearing before a full bench because an ingredient of hours, leave or travelling time is involved. The honourable senator is not consistent in his argument. He does not consider the question of time in that case, which he used earlier in his argument. He may win in numbers and he may achieve his desire to refuse the Government the machinery for preventing industrial disputes. Possibly he will do so- and he must take the responsibility for it. But he does not win in logic.
-One of the advantages of the Westminister system is that the consideration of a question like this can have the benefit of the mind of men like Senator Cavanagh, men who have been experienced in trade union matters and who have actually been in the workshops and who know the realities of life and can bring these considerations to bear on such questions. I am not suggesting that a man like Senator Greenwood with his legal experience and his mental subtleties is not capable of contributing something to this question. But I suggest that he has missed the point when he says, as he did in answer to my proposition, that there was some sort of contradiction in his attitude towards union democracy on the question of amalgamations and union democracy on the question that we are considering. As I understand him he said amalgamation is a serious matter.
– ‘Fundamental’ is the word I used.
– Fundamental? Is Senator Greenwood suggesting that questions of wages and conditions are less fundamental than questions of amalgamation? In my experience- and I have had some- the ordinary man regards wages and conditions as more important than amalgamation with another union. If Senator Greenwood considers that on the matter of amalgamation we should have these rigorous standards of hearing the voice of the rank and file, I really do not see how he can refuse that sort of method of determining the will of the members of a union in what I think they regard as even more fundamental things. There is nothing more fundamental to the ordinary man than how much money a week he gets and how many hours a week he works. And if, as sometimes happens, the officials of his union presume to make agreements behind his back, I think he is more sorely wounded than he would be if an amalgamation were wrought without his being consulted. I suggest that Senator Greenwood is caught in a fundamental contradiction here; and if he insists that there should be this ultimate democracy in the matter of amalgamation, I think he is caught with the proposition that the members should also be consulted about what to them is a much more important thing: That is, an agreement about their wages and conditions. I invite him as a man of consummate logic to admit that this is the truth of the matter.
I notice that Senator Greenwood is chuckling, but I think he is caught in a logical dilemma. We will come to the question of amalgamation a little later. Senator Greenwood said earlier that he would prefer that we should not mention amalgamation; but we will come to that and he will be advocating then, according to amendments that have been circulated, that there should be the most rigorous democratic procedures involved in deciding whether members of one union should amalgamate with members of another union. In this matter- a matter which I suggest goes to the heart of unionism- is the query: ‘What are we going to get for our labour, under what sort of conditions are we going to work?’ He thinks it is enough that the committee of management should certify. With all respect to Senator Greenwood, I feel that he is caught in some sort of a contradiction there. I would like to hear him resolve that later in this debate.
That the words proposed to be left out (Senator Greenwood’s amendment) be left out.
The Committee divided. (The Chairman- Senator Prowse)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
That the words proposed to be inserted (Senator Greenwood’s amendment) be inserted.
The Committee divided. (The Chairman- Senator Prowse)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clauses 20 and 21- by leave- taken together, and agreed to.
Section 3 1 of the Principal Act is amended-
Omit paragraph (a)
Clause 22 as it is proposed in the Bill seeks to amend that section of the Act which lists certain matters which are required to be dealt with by the Full Bench of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. I think that all honourable senators are aware that matters such as the standard hours of work, the rates of wages on a general basis- that is the national wage and the minimum wage- and generally annual leave provisions are, shortly expressed, those matters which have to be determined by a Full Bench of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission.
The amendment which is proposed by the Government in the area where the Opposition is moving for an amendment seeks to limit the power of the Commission to consider all these matters to those areas where it is an arbitrated award which is being made and not the type of consent award or agreement which we have been discussing in our earlier debates and which are covered by the provisions of section 28 of the legislation.
The Opposition believes quite simply that the Commission in matters relating to such things as the standard wage, the minimum wage, the general range of wages for adults, standard hours and annual leave should have a power to examine whatever functions the Act gives to the Commission not only in regard to arbitrated awards but also with regard to consent awards and agreements. There is a provision in the legislation under which the Attorney-General has power to apply to the Commission whenever he deems it necessary to do so in the public interest. It is a power which Attorneys-General have exercised. It is a power which has been exercised where it has been felt that it is necessary to put matters of some broad Commonwealth concern and broad public interest concern to the Commission in relation to agreements which have been made between employer and employee organisations or between employers and employees. The Commission ought to have this overriding, supervisory function in the discharge of its obligations irrespective of whether the matter which comes before it comes before it by way of consent agreement or by arbitration requiring an award to be made.
The Government’s proposal seeks to limit the Arbitration Commission’s function only to those areas where there is an arbitration award. The
Opposition believes- and this is what the amendment is designed to secure- that the function of the Commission should be as it has been in the past, to exercise as it- the Commission- thinks appropriate a public interest jurisdiction in regard to consent agreements. We believe that the virtues of the amendment which has been proposed are not only self evident, we also believe that the amendment has the merit that it is consistent with practice, and practice in this area is a matter which should not be lightly discarded.
-The amendment moved by Senator Greenwood seeks to alter clause 22 which states that section 3 1 of the Principal Act is amended:
Of course this was an essential part of proposed amendments which were not carried. We shall oppose the amendment moved by Senator Greenwood but take it no further.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clauses 23 to 26- by leave- taken together.
– May I say simply as we deal with those clauses that the Opposition will move no amendment in that area, but I would like to say something on one clause. I refer specifically to clause 25 which seeks to substitute the word ‘Minister’ for the word ‘Attorney-General’ in section 36 of the legislation.
Section 36 of the legislation is a section under which the Attorney-General may on behalf of the Commonwealth give notice to the Registrar of his intention to intervene in any matter before the Commission. We have known from what we have read in the Press that the Government has decided to transfer all the functions which hitherto have been exercised by the Attorney-General to the Minister for Labour. This amendment, which is contained in the Bill, gives effect to that decision by substituting the Minister for Labour for the Attorney-General as the person who will intervene before the Commission.
The Opposition does not oppose that proposal, though that is not to say that the Opposition, if it were in Government, would have made the same decision. I mention it at this stage because the Opposition takes the view that before the Commission, which is not a judicial tribunal, we recognise the Government’s decision that it should be the Minister for Labour who has the carriage of matters on behalf of the Commonwealth; but in matters before the courts- and there are amendments subsequently to be moved seeking to make the Minister for Labour the appropriate person to intervene before the courtsthe Opposition takes the view that in all matters before the courts the Attorney-General is the appropriate person to intervene.
I make that statement at the moment because the first of these various clauses substituting the Minister for Labour for words ‘the AttorneyGeneral’ is clause 25. We do not oppose this clause on this occasion but there will be some subsequent amendments which we will be opposing.
Clauses agreed to.
After section 42 of (he Principal Act the following section is inserted: “42a. ( 1 ) An officer of an organisation authorised in writing by the secretary of the organisation or of a branch of the organisation to act under this sub-section may, at any time during working hours, enter any premises in which work to which an award binding on the organisation is applicable is being carried on, being premises specified in the authority, or premises occupied by an employer who is bound by the award and is specified in the authority, for the purpose of ensuring observance of the award, and may for that purpose inspect any work, books or documents and interview any employee on those premises.
– The Opposition proposes 2 amendments to clause 27. It seeks to insert a new section after section 42 of the Principal Act. The purpose of the amendment which the Government seeks to introduce is to enable there to be a section in the Act under which an officer of an organisation may enter premises in which work is being carried on with a view to ensuring that the award is being observed. There always has been in the legislation a provision under which inspectors may enter premises to ensure that awards are being observed and to do the various things which the legislation permits. This particular proposal of the Government is aimed at broadening the scope of the enforcement provisions by giving certain powers to officers of an organisation. Those powers are set out in clause 27.
Shortly expressed, the new clause will give to an officer of an organisation, who is authorised in writing by his secretary, the power at any time during working hours to enter any premises in which work is being carried out and where there is an award which is operative for the purpose of ensuring observance by the employer, the respondent to that award, of the provisions of the award. So, firstly, there is a right of entry. Secondly, there is a right after entry to inspect any work, books or documents and to interview any employee on the premises. The clause provides that if an officer of an organisation proposes to enter or is on the premises he shall be obliged to produce evidence of the authority to the occupier or person on the premises. If he cannot produce that authority he is not entitled either to enter or remain. The clause further provides that a person shall not hinder or obstruct an officer of an organisation who seeks to exercise a power under this section. A penalty of $100 is provided. The word ‘premises’ is widely defined and an officer of an organisation means a person holding an office or employed by the organisation.
I have set those things out at some length to illustrate the width of the power which the Government is seeking to confer upon officers of an organisation. The Opposition recognises, from discussions which our spokesmen have had with officers of the Minister’s Department, the general intent and purpose of this clause and how it is designed to ensure that there shall be a power in at least one party to an award to endeavour to have the award observed by the other party to it. This is a significant power but we recognise that it is one which has been exercised by persons authorised under the Act, under a section which has been in the Act for a long time. Therefore the important feature of this proposal is that it extends an existing provision. However the Opposition seeks an amendment and I move:
After ‘working hours’ insert ‘but subject to any conditions provided by the relevant award.’
The effect of adoption of this amendment would be that if the parties to an award- either a consent award or an arbitrated award- provide for a right of entry at some time or in certain conditions, that right will prevail over the statutory right contained in the clause which the Government proposes to insert. It follows that if there is an agreement made between the employer and employee organisation under which provision is made for entry onto premises that provision will prevail rather than the statutory right. If on the other hand the parties make no agreement the statutory right will exist in those circumstances. The amendment is not one of great substance but it enables the parties to make an agreement and, if made, it will prevail.
-Order! In conformity with the sessional order relating to the adjournment of the Senate, I formally put the question:
That the Chairman do now leave the Chair and report to the Senate.
Question resolved in the affirmative. (The Chairman having reported accordingly)
– 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 want to raise a matter of importance but will endeavour to be as brief as I can. However I feel that I should not apologise for raising this subject. I refer to the plight of the black people of this country. Anything I say will be in the nature of constructive criticism. I want to stay away from emotional issues and to ensure that anything that is said can be construed as being noninflammatory. For 200 years plus the indigenous people of this country have suffered the degradation, the poverty and all the other inconsistencies of their white masters. Today there was a demand in the lower House for a royal commission and quite frankly in my view that was a tragedy. It was made by people who over a long period of time had the opportunity to rectify many of the problems that this country faces. They are not problems which were initiated by the Aborigines or the Torres Strait Islanders but problems initiated by generations of white people, and the onus is on generations of white people to solve them. It has been said critically that the Aboriginal ‘embassy’ should not have been re-established in this city. Frankly I have nothing but approval for it. It was not meant to be an embarrassment to anybody. It was meant to be a focal point on which the requirements of blacks could be centred. If it embarrasses Her Majesty the Queen during her current visit to the national capital then that is unfortunate.
In the statement issued today by the Aborigines their first point is as follows:
Two hundred years ago this stolen land was proclaimed in the name of a British Monarch and the youngest colony began its glorious history of rape, theft and destruction. Today the British Monarch returns to our shores and it is fitting indeed that she should be here to open the Opera House at Bennelong Point.
Bennelong was the first of our people to be stripped of his culture and his very pride and placed in the cage of white society. On Saturday at the place that whites have called Bennelong Point, the Queen will rise amongst great pomp and ceremony to open a building which has cost $120m to build and Sim to open. All that money on one building and one ceremony while black babies continue to die and while black men and women continue to rot in their tin shanties and prison cells.
To me that is quite an appropriate statement and if the Queen is the gracious lady that we are told she is, I am sure that she is not going to suffer as a result of it. I know that I have come under criticism in the last few days because of some things I said about Prince Philip and his association with the Australian Conservation Foundation. I accept the rebuke, mild as it was, that he issued today. Nevertheless these things are not necessarily chosen because of a particular set of events that may be taking place at a particular time.
Today we saw a situation which could have become explosive. There were many people who helped to de-fuse it but there were some who helped to aggravate it. Whether some of those who tried to de-fuse it adopt paternalistic attitudes matters little. The fact was that they tried to overcome a very ugly situation that could have developed. I will not become involved in arguments as to whether or not there should be changes in Ministers. I belong to a responsible political party and I accept its policies. Nor will I come into criticism of the Department of Aboriginal Affairs for the sake of coming into criticism. But I will make some suggestions, and I hope that they will be taken as constructive criticism. I shall refer to a few other points on the manifesto issued by the Aborigines. I will not quote them all but there are some quite important ones.
One of the things that has been called for is a full-scale investigation into police activities, particularly in the inner city areas of Brisbane and Sydney, and an end to all police brutality and discrimination. Regardless of what many people in the white community may think, there is police brutality and misuse of authority by police in whole areas of Australia. Where does the fault lie? Is it because all sections of police are not given any instruction on what might happen? Quite frankly, I place the fault largely in this category. The police have no knowledge of Aboriginal culture or of Aboriginal requirements and they do not try to learn these things. As in all sections of the community, there is a minority of police who actually thrive on brutality and they do not always use it against black people.
– Order! If there are any more interjections from the gallery I will order the Usher of the Black Rod to remove the interjector. You are in the gallery only by permission of this place, and you will maintain order and decorum while you are in it.
An interjector- I would just like to say -
– Order! Remove the interjector from the gallery forthwith.
– I am sorry that incident occurred. I am trying to make a statement of facts. I refer again to the great necessity for the Commonwealth and State governments to set up a school of instruction, if one may so describe it, so that the police forces of this country are given some conception of the misery and degradation that has been suffered by black people for 200 years. If there are some who still carry on brutality, they should not be in the police force.
Another point that has been raised in the manifesto refers to the immediate abolition of the Queensland Acts which keep blacks in a subhuman position. This small document which I have in my hand is the type of permit that is used on Queensland reserves. It bears a space for the signature of the chairman of the Aboriginal council on the respective reserve. I have no quarrel as to whether a council, which is all black, has the right to issue or withdraw or withhold a permit of that nature, but I have a quarrel with the continuation of 2 Acts- one for Torres Strait Islanders and one for Aborigines- which should have been abolished many years ago. But it goes further than that because the relevant Act gives the white manager on these reserves the power of veto. So in fact any authority that Aborigines may have as members of a council is of an extremely limited nature. The manifesto calls also for the immediate introduction of antidiscriminatory legislation throughout Australia. A Commonwealth committee has now been set up for this purpose but I regret to say that no black consultants are on it. I respectfully suggest to the Attorney-General that in reviewing the activities of the committee- I understand that the drafting of its terms of reference is well under way- he should consider appointing black consultants to it. No white man, unless he has lived in an Aboriginal atmosphere for many years- it is doubtful even then whether he can fully comprehend the situation- can properly understand the wishes and aspirations of black people.
Item 6 of the manifesto calls for the immediate recognition of land rights and compensation for land and refers to the fact that any agreements with respect to land should be on the black man’s terms. On the election of the new Government the Aboriginal Land Rights Commission was established. It has produced a first report. To say the least, I am disappointed with some of the recommendations which were made in the initial report. At page 47 of that report the Commission suggests that matters requiring consideration will include:
Planned purchases or acquisitions of land on which to establish Aboriginal cattle ventures, or similar activities.
To my way of thinking, and I should imagine to the way of thinking of many members of my Government and certainly to the way of thinking of the black people of Australia, there was no suggestion that we should undertake planned purchases of tribal lands. The Aborigines seek restoration of tribal titles. If this is the way the Commission is operating it needs to be looked at too. I am not calling for wholesale inquiries into departmental affairs but I am saying this as a matter of constructive criticism and I hope that it will be taken to heart in the right places. The Commission in its report referred also to the excision from leases of areas of land for Aboriginal living purposes. If this land is returned in accordance with the aspirations of the black people I will have no quarrel with that proposal. The Commission reports that other matters to be considered are:
Rights of access of Aborigines to pastoral properties; the protection of sacred sites on pastoral leases, and the recognition of land rights by the diverting of lease payments or mining royalties from the Crown to appropriate Aboriginal groups.
Today I received a lengthy letter from a white man who has been closely associated with Aborigines over a long period of time. He refers to a white female academic who is carrying out research into some of these matters. She has no conception, no idea, that there are certain law places where white women may not walk or where black women may not walk. Until we can get a background organisation- I might say that it is at State level in Queensland- which understands the culture of black people in Australia, we will have these sort of crises continually.
I refer to the problems that arose in Canberra today. A group of Aborigines gathered on the lawns outside Parliament House, re-erected the Aboriginal embassy, and generally behaved in a most orderly manner. It wanted to make known its wishes, and hopes for the implementation of the policy which my Government espouses. I regret, Mr President- again I intend this to be constructive criticism- that you felt it necessary to take appropriate action to arrange for police to shift people from the steps leading into Parliament House. This was an orderly group. This arrangement was one of the things that created a tinder-like atmosphere that could have exploded at any moment. It was a peaceful group. A couple of persons in it were associated with the World Church but they were peaceful too. My only criticism of this group is that it had a white master. However the people generally wanted to discuss their problems. They found it difficult to meet the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam).
Approximately one year ago one of the great tragedies of Australia occurred in front of this House when police, on the instructions of the then Minister for the Interior, used batons and other forceful means to shift people from the old embassy area. If such an event had happened again today, it would not have been possible to shift the blood from the steps at the front of Parliament House before the Queen arrives tomorrow to climb them. When we were trying to do something to defuse the situation, when I, with the agreement of the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Cavanagh), was trying to contact the Prime Minister, the people of the switchboard staff at Government House and at The Lodge pulled out all stops in order that the contact could be made. I am pleased to be able to say that after a general discussion the Prime Minister has agreed to meet delegates from the black embassy tomorrow.
I wish to place on record a few comments. Firstly, let me refer to page 47 of the current annual report of the Auditor-General. This statement is made:
According to departmental records, 295 loans totalling $4,307,394 have been approved from the inception of the scheme to 30 June 1973 and, of these, 17 loans outstanding to the value of $128,883 were written off as irrecoverable over that period.
There is something wrong in the administration of the Department. I venture to suggest that the Commonwealth Department of Aboriginal Affairs ought to have established, a long time ago, not in the life of this Parliament or this Government but in the life of its predecessors, a system of experts associated with departments rather than call in outside consultants who, in the main, might have the academic knowledge but have no practical knowledge when it comes to an evaluation of a scheme. Certain honourable senators have had accountancy training and training in agriculture. Certain honourable senators have had training in the arts and the professions. There is no reason why we cannot take onto the staff of the Department such individuals. It would cut down the expenses of the Department considerably, and it would be much more satisfactory in the long term. There is no reason why the Department cannot also take on to its staff a whole number of black people throughout the country who have training and particular skills but who do not have academic qualifications.
Before the election my Party said that it would do a number of things. Its platform stated:
We have done two of those things. Firstly, the Office of Aboriginal Affairs has been upgraded to the Department of Aboriginal Affairs. It has been upgraded to ministerial level instead of being a minor part of a bits and pieces portfolio. In addition, we have set up an organisation to establish a consultative body. I hope that ultimately it will have statutory powers which will give it teeth and which will make it into an organisation which will work in complete co-operation with the Minister. The Labor Party also said:
This goal has not yet been achieved. I hope that we can speed up the process. The Labor Party’s Platform also stated:
We have carried out the latter part of that paragraph. We have made Commonwealth funds available for special purpose jobs. The standard rate of wages for the jobs has not yet been achieved. A training allowance is still paid in Queensland. In the Northern Territory, machinery is under way to raise the standard rate of wages. I am not going to quote all the items contained in our platform but there are some things that I feel I should point out. In another section we said:
Aborigines shall have the right to receive social services in the same way as all other Australians.
They now have this right to receive social services in the same way as all other Australians but there are people at the administrative level, particularly at the State government departmental level, who are not properly informing Aborigines on this and I would seriously suggest a training program for some of our white officers who ought to know better.
I mentioned a while ago a sum of money that had been written off as lost. I do not think that more than one-third of this would have been written off had we had proper supervision at the level to which I referred. I refer to a specific case of a man at Babinda who was under-capitalised, even with the aid of a Commonwealth loan, and he now finds himself in serious financial difficulties. Although I believe representations have been made to the Department to avert the crisis, it is unfortunate that he now is likely to be sold up. I suppose I can quote examples in relation to a number of other cases, too. Palm Island, one of the Queensland reserves, has become more notorious. The previous Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Mr Gordon Bryant, had a task force posted there to provide for the upgrading of services, employment opportunities and various other facilities. Two black nurses were appointed on the Commonwealth payroll but, unless the situation has been rectified in the last day or two, this appointment has been hamstrung by the fact that the Queensland Minister has not yet officially allowed them to start. This is a major point. In the Northern Territory there are people who practise the craft of medicine inside the tribal structure and in a couple of places experiments were conducted to attach these people to the ordinary administration hospitals, and it worked most effectively. There are people who distrust white doctors and nurses, with some justification, too, on many occasions. But if they had their own medical organisations they would seek the necessary medical help that they so often need.
I want to mention a few of the things that we have endeavoured to do. I hope that the pressure can be kept up inside the Department, at ministerial level, but most of all at the level at which I stand, that is, on the Government benches of this Parliament. One of the things that we have done- we have been able to do this because it is Commonwealth Territory- has been to freeze further leasing or exploration licences on Aboriginal reserves in the Northern Territory. We have altered the previously very cumbersome system of acquiring properties. There are now 2 levels. In the interim, of course, it must be necessary for properties to be acquired but I would respectfully suggest to the Minister and to the Department that we speed up the legal investigation of granting land rights to the Aborigines of this nation. The Gurindji people were the first to benefit. I will not go over the whole tragic history of this. Vestey ‘s actually agreed with a previous Administration, at Commonwealth level, to hand over part of their territory in that area to the Gurindji people. This information was suppressed and in fact it was not until the change of government that it was implemented. There is a program under which Aboriginal children at primary schools are taught in their own languages where possible. There are 5 such schools in the Northern Territory and one school in Queensland where bi-lingual language instruction is taking place.
Another area in which something has been done is in the area of Aboriginal secondary grants, which now include all Aborigines in secondary schools. Previously Aborigines had to reach the age of 14 years before they qualified. Yet another area in which there has been some expansion is the extension of Aboriginal legal services in various parts of Australia. Previously, there was one only, in Sydney. It was conducted largely on a voluntary basis with unpaid people doing the job. Under the present Government some grants have been made to extend this service to other parts of New South Wales and to other parts of Australia. A significant feature of this service is that in areas where it operates the number of convictions for petty crimes, if one can include drunkenness and petty thieving in this category, has dropped. As far as I am concerned, I do not think that drunkenness ought to be a crime, anyway. Unfortunately thousands of Aborigines fill the gaols in this country for periods ranging from 14 days to 3 months. This goes on and on.
Increasing emphasis is being placed on grants to Aboriginal organisations. Of course, these organisations can be multi-racial. This is particularly the case with organisations set up as housing associations and those established for the purchase and construction of homes. Probably a prime example of this, although I rather deplore some of the paternalistic attitudes associated with it, is the Mitakoodi Housing Association at Cloncurry in north-west Queensland. By Christmas of this year 12 homes will be completed and the persons who occupy them for about $12.50 a week- incidentally, this is an actuarially sound venture- will ultimately be able to own their homes. This is a self help sort of thing in which the Aborigines are actually participating in the construction of the homes.
I make this final plea: I hope that the situation we saw today never happens again while this Government is in power or while any other government administers the Australian Parliament. I hope that the sort of explosive situation that could have degenerated into physical injury to black people is never seen again anywhere in Australia. I hope that my criticisms of the Department of Aboriginal Affairs will be taken in the spirit in which they are meant. In other words, I hope that in those areas where the Department is deficient in organisation endeavours will be made to rectify this. If this means the employment of additional staff, I am certain that the Government, with the administration of the Minister, will take the appropriate steps to see that this additional staff is appointed. I hope that as far as possible black staff and not white staff will be employed. I hope that this country realises at long last its obligation to its Aboriginal people. I hope that in any education program the white people will absorb the things that ought to be absorbed so that they can see in their proper light the problems that they have inflicted on black people.
I am sorry to have taken up the time of the Senate but I felt that there were some things that ought to be read into the record. I have tried to be academic about it. But in whatever way we approach this question I would like to say here and now quite categorically that as far as I am concerned I am in sympathy with the black people of this country.
-The decision of the Australian Labor Party government in Canberra today to endorse the Cass Committee’s decision to drain Lake Pedder represents the extreme in irresponsibility. In the first place, this development of Lake Pedder and Lake Gordon for hydro-electric power in Tasmania is specifically within the jurisdiction of the State Government. This interference from Canberra is entirely without constitutional authority. I do not think that school children in a kindergarten would exercise the extreme irresponsibility that is represented by this decision. In 1967 the State Parliament of Tasmania actually authorised the scheme. It was introduced by a Labor Government, supported by the Opposition in the lower House. In the upper House, the scheme was referred to a select committee which heard evidence from 44 witnesses, including those from 10 conservation organisations. That Committee, as long ago as 1967, recommended the construction of the Lake Pedder scheme. The scheme is due for completion in 1976 and was authorised in 1967. Its total cost will be about $100m and the construction cost to date is between $50m and $60m. So, honourable senators can see that the construction is quite advanced.
The Pedder Dam- one of the 2 dams which constitute the scheme- is complete and has been filled with water over the last 2 years. The old lake, which has been submerged by the dam, was a small pond-like lake with an area of 4 square miles when it was in flood and 10 feet deep at its maximum depth. The new Lake Pedder has an area of 93 square miles and is 40 feet deep at present. The lake itself is within a few feet of capacity level and the construction has been completed. The total scheme, incorporating not only the new Lake Pedder but also Gordon Lake, which is in another section of the tributary system, will create the greatest water storage in
Australia. It will be 3 times the size of Lake Eucumbene and will have 27 times the water content of Sydney Harbour.
The Hydro-Electric Commission sought expert advice in this area before the scheme was decided on and before the Tasmanian Parliament authorised it. The Director of the Tasmanian Museum in Hobart and the Director of the Tasmanian Art Gallery in Launceston- both quite renowned scholars in their particular fieldsubmitted a report that the wildlife in the area was of no significance. The people who have been advocating the arrest of this scheme produced a report as to why Lake Pedder must be saved this year. All they could say was that the most common animal of the button grass is the land crayfish- the yabby. Two frogs endemic to Tasmania also find the conditions of the Southwest most to their liking. They are the large green climbing frog and the mountain loving frog. Both frequent the button grass and often make their homes in yabby holes.
– You have one in your throat
– For the benefit of the interjector, I state that the report goes on to reveal something that I hope will strike a chord of brotherhood within him. It states:
Native rats are quite common in the South- West and belong to a subclass of mammals … in which a pouch is absent and the young are born in an advanced state of development after a relatively long gestation period. Common rodent-like mammals in the South-West are: Velvet-furred rat, Broadtoothed rat, Long-tailed rat, Little Tasmanian mouse, Dusky marsupial mouse. All except the long-tailed rat prefer the button grass plains.
That is the wildlife that we are going to induce back to the Lake Pedder valley. With regard to the flora, a dull, monotonous, button grass plain on the valley floor has been superseded by a lake of spectacular beauty. I have with me some photographs which show in graphic form the magnificent reflections that were available on this lake many months ago. I show them to honourable senators. Those are reflections the like of which will not be seen often in any Tasmanian scenery. This new lake provides a beautiful environment that far surpasses anything that was in the old lake.
After the Cass Committee made its inquiry the Government commissioned the Snowy Mountains Engineering Corporation to assess the cost of the Cass Committee’s recommendations. The Snowy Mountains authority reported that this scheme is essential to the economic development of hydro-electric power, which is one of Tasmania’s chief competitive industrial resources.
The Snowy Mountains authority reported that it considered that the most probable rate of growth of the load or demand on the hydro-electric system in Tasmania would be 5 per cent or maybe higher. The authority, the advice of which is usually accepted by the Labor Government and which is an authority of undoubted competence, reported that the adoption of a moratorium, that is to say a delay, in the operation of the system would result in the inability of the Hydro-Electric Commission of Tasmania to meet the energy demand if the rate of load growth was S per cent per annum or greater.
Turning to the cost, the Snowy Mountains authority assessed the cost of three alternative schemes- four really but for simplicity I am going to refer to three only. Firstly, it considered the cost of the process of draining the lake that has filled over the last 2 years and exposing the valley floor again to the sun to see whether the vegetation of the valley would regenerate and to see whether the wildlife would return to it. The delay following drainage would require 3 to 5 years and the range of cost assessed by the Snowy Mountains authority for that operation, if discounted to the true present worth and not taking into account escalating costs, would be between $5. 7m and 10.7m.
– What does the State Government think about it?
– Just a minute. If that is projected to the cost escalation at the time the work is done and there is no discounting factor, as the Snowy Mountains authority said on page 29 of its report, the probable cost of that operation alone would be of the order of $8. 9m up to $ 12.4m. The decision that the Federal Government has undertaken is to underwrite the draining of the new Lake Pedder in the condition which I have mentioned. If the moratorium and the draining were successful- after the vegetation has been submerged for 2 years by a lake 40 feet deep- which nobody in his right senses would contemplate- it would be necessary to construct a canal in the area, lower the level of the new lake permanently below the level of the old lake and discard certain constructional features which have been already completed. The cost of that operation is estimated by the Snowy Mountains Authority to lie somewhere between $2 7.6m and $48.4m.
The third alternative, if this draining proves to be successful, is to abandon the whole of the Lake Pedder storage and the construction incurred to make the storage. The cost of that operation is estimated by the Snowy Mountains
Authority to lie between $28. lm and $63. lm. That estimate is given on a basis discounted to present day costs and the true present worth of future money. Taking the cost at the time of undertaking the work, without any discount, the Hydro-Electricity Commissioner in Tasmania is on record as saying that the alternative is more likely to cost about $ 100m.
It is a sad reflection upon the paucity of business acumen in the Government and a sad reflection upon the degree of responsibility of an outfit masquerading as a government in Canberra today that the Caucus of this Government votes to overturn the decision of a Cabinet and, quite contrary to the repeated declaration of the Reece Labor Government in Tasmania, seeks to drain Lake Pedder and regenerate the vegetation at a cost of up to $ 12m, followed by alternatives that will entail about $S0m in one case and $ 100m in the other.
Loopholes, turtles and Lake Pedder are the badge of responsibility of the Opposition. It is time that especially the mainland Press of Australia knew a few of the basic facts with regard to this insane delusion that by draining the new Lake Pedder the environment will be improved while a lake of infinite beauty and with a terrific expanse of 93 square miles- as against 10 square miles of the old lake- will be destroyed, and the economic development of hydro-electric power in Tasmania will be impeded. That is the sole responsibility of the Tasmanian Government. The Tasmanian Government, with its decision endorsed by a parliamentary vote there, considers that this scheme is essential for the continued economic development of hydroelectricity in Tasmania. If either of the last two alternatives that were considered by the Snowy Mountains Authority were to be put in order, that Authority vouches for the fact that the pumping scheme forming part of those two alternatives could not be completed before 1 98 1 . In order to have continuous development of our hydro-electricity this scheme is required to commence operation as planned in 1976. The decision of the Australian Labor Party Caucus today to endorse the Cass Committee findings, notwithstanding the figures I have quoted from the Snowy Mountains Authority, is, I would think, the most insane and irresponsible decision that ever came from a group of people masquerading as a government.
– I want to say a few words on both of the matters that have been raised because one comes under my portfolio of Aboriginal Affairs and the other comes under the portfolio of the Minister for the Environment and Conservation (Dr Cass) whom I represent in this place. Let me deal, firstly, with the demonstration by the Aborigines in front of Parliament House this morning. I had seen about 30 of them. I met them in one of the committee rooms yesterday afternoon. In relation to the problems which they expressed, I thought that I had either satisfied them that this Government was doing something for them or that at least I would get a report and give them a reply to those matters on which I could not satisfy them. There were several requests for information. It was very difficult to interpret what really were the demands. Among them was a desire to see the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam), and in fact I tried to assist them to see him by putting some arrangements in train yesterday. But the Prime Minister had one of his exceptionally busy days today because of the arrival of Royalty in Australia and things were very torrid for him for a time. The Labor Government has a long list of the things it has done for the Aborigines. I would say that it has done more than any previous Government.
Concerning the question raised by Senator Keeffe, we know of allegations of police bashings. I think on some occasions the action taken by the police in handling this section of our community could leave something to be desired. This has concerned my Department for some time. We have appointed a Mr Shilton who was for 26 years in the Victorian Police Force. It will be his task to try to develop some liaison between the police and the Aboriginal community. He is on the Department’s pay roll now. He is conducting a survey which will need a further 5 months to complete. He has had some success, particularly with the new Commissioner of Police in South Australia. I believe that as a result of his discussions with the Commissioner of Police in Queensland the proper treatment of Aborigines will be included in the course of training undertaken by police cadets.
In relation to the present Acts in Queensland, the Department and I are doing everything possible to try to reach agreement between the States and the Commonwealth. This is the first time that any attempt has been made to bring under Commonwealth control the treatment of Aborigines. In the past this has been in the hands of the States. We have reached a fair amount of agreement with some of the States but it seems to be easier to reach agreement in the States where the Aboriginal problem is not as great as it is in other States. One of the difficult States, of course, is Queensland. As a result of the referendum which was conducted we have the power to legislate to make ineffective some State laws. But if it is possible it is more desirable to try to reach agreement on this matter between the States and the Commonwealth. We hope that we are having some success and hope that we can achieve even more in the future.
A final decision on land rights in the light of the limitations of the Woodward Commission will be left until we get the complete report of that Commission. Criticism was made that loans advanced to Aborigines are not recoverable. When the Department makes loans to Aborigines it tries to get security for them. However, its charter provides that it may make loans with or without security if there is some prospect of developing an Aboriginal project into a viable proposition. Such loans are funded from the Minister’s trust fund. The Minister ultimately makes the decision on the advice of his Department whether to advance a loan and despite all care being taken, many projects prove to be unsuccessful. It could well be, as Senator Keeffe says, that greater liaison between the Department and the Aboriginal community is needed to try to assist Aborigines in management control for development of their projects. The present system of advancing loans will be changed in the near future, we hope, to a system whereby a committee will recommend which projects should be helped and which should not.
We are not neglectful of the employment of Aborigines. The Department of Aboriginal Affairs employes 600 persons of whom ISO are Aborigines. The Department is working under extreme difficulties: It is short-staffed and has not recruited its full complement of staff. In Canberra the Department’s officers are working in 6 different locations as a result of a shortage of adequate office space, but we think this problem will be overcome in the near future. They are some of the difficulties. It has come to my notice that the Department of Education employs some 600 Aborigines. The employment of any Aborigine in the Public Service is subject to the Public Service Act, which imposes some limitations. However, to stretch this as much as possible, a recent advertisement for employees included among the qualifications required the capability of mixing with the Aboriginal people. It was thought that this would result in an important preference being extended to Aborigines for the particular position. However, Aborigines have not applied for staff positions which were notified in many recent advertisements. This was brought up at the meeting yesterday. A possible reason for Aborigines not applying for such positions was stated to be that they do not read newspapers; and since advertisements are placed in newspapers it could well be that many Aborigines do not know of the vacancies.
We are looking into this question and hope to decide on some method of conveying information to the Aboriginal communities other than by Press advertisements. We think that this problem can be overcome if we get the establishment of the National Aboriginal Consultative Council to which 41 persons will be elected by the Aborigines themselves and that they, we hope, will achieve liaison between the people, the Department and the Minister. We regret that people find it necessary to do what occurred today. We hope that we can bring justice to meet the difficulties under which they are working so that they will not find it necessary to take action as they took today.
Senator Wright does not have full knowledge on the decision taken today by Labor Caucus. I thought I answered this matter adequately during question time. However, before the last election the honourable member for Reid (Mr Uren) who was speaking in Tasmania with the authority of the present Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) said that if a Labor government gained office it was his view that he would be the Minister for Environment and Conservation, and he gave an assurance to the people of Tasmania that a feasibility study would be carried out on the restoration of Lake Pedder. Under that obligation a feasibility study was carried out. Senator Wright quoted tonight from 2 reports relating to the study. We agree with the figures which he gave. But the figures in those reports on the cost of a moratorium differed to some extent. They varied between $5m and $8m. The question of what other action may be taken depends on what happens when the level of the water in the lake is reduced to ascertain whether native life returns to the lake and then to work out alternatives if it is desired to do so. We accept that the Tasmanian Government has the sole responsibility for this matter because it has the constitutional powers. The Commonwealth cannot stop the filling of the lake or build another power house. All that today’s decision of the Caucus means is that we will make it known that if the Tasmanian Government is prepared to hold a moratorium for the purpose of further inquiry into alternatives the Commonwealth will finance the moratorium. This is an acknowledgement of responsibility to the wave of environmentalists who are so very concerned about the question of Lake Pedder. They again demonstrated today on the lawns outside Parliament House.
Many members of Parliament have received letters about Lake Pedder from all over Australia. It is something that has caused concern to many people in Australia. Whether Lake Pedder can be restored or whether it should be restored is a decision for the future. Possibly it is a decision for the Tasmanian Government to take. All that we have said as a first step is that if the Tasmanian Government desires to carry out the proposal in what has been termed the Cass Committee report the Commonwealth will finance it. In view of the concern which has been expressed in regard to Lake Pedder I think that Caucus this morning took a commendable decision.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 11.58 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated:
asked the AttorneyGeneral, upon notice:
Will the Minister intercede with the New South Wales Government to make certain that that State co-operates with the Commonwealth Government to ensure that a unified code of gun control applies throughout the Commonwealth.
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
I regard the proper control of firearms as an important aspect of law enforcement. I shall do what I can to achieve uniform legislation in Australia.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Education, upon notice:
Is it the intention of the Government to phase out direct per capita grants to independent schools.
– The Minister for Education has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The Government’s intention is to bring all Australian schools, both government and non-government, up to acceptable standards. It will look to the Australian Schools Commission to assess the situation and make recommendations for meeting the requirements of all schools on the basis of needs and priorities. As a first step the Government appointed the Interim Committee for the Australian Schools Commission to consider the immediate financial needs of schools during 1974 and 1975. In the area of recurrent expenditure by nongovernment schools the Government has accepted the Committee’s recommendation for bulk payments in respect of the Catholic systemic schools in each State and per capita grants at varying rates according to the assessed needs of other non-government schools, including some Catholic schools. The only qualification is that the Government is not prepared to make grants for recurrent expenditure to Category A schools in the latter group. It cannot justify priority in expenditure for the continuation of recurrent assistance to those schools which the Interim Committee has stated do not warrant assistance.
In the biennium 1971-72 the previous Government made recurrent grants of $58,522 million to non-government schools only. In 1974 and 1975 the recurrent grants to government schools will be about $ 1 75.890 million and to non-government schools about $136,150 million, a total of $312,040 million. Both government and non-government schools will receive grants weighted according to need. In the case of government schools special grants will be made to disadvantaged schools and schools for the handicapped. In the case of nongovernment schools they have been placed in categories according to need if they are non-systemic schools. The categorization of schools has been subject to appeal, and their situation is presently being studied.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Health, upon notice:
What was the cost of providing free milk to school children in Tasmania during the last financial year.
– The Minister for Health has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
asked the Attorney-General, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
Force to cope with a general increase in the volume of other work handled, for example, cheque and fraud offences, process serving and location of debtors.
Taxation Allowances: Residents of West Coast of Tasmania
-On 26 September 1973, Senator Townley asked a question without notice concerning taxation allowances for residents of the West Coast of Tasmania. The Treasurer has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Residents of the West Coast areas of Tasmania are already entitled, under present law, to income tax zone allowances granted in recognition of the climate, isolation and high cost of living of the areas concerned.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 17 October 1973, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1973/19731017_senate_28_s57/>.