28th Parliament · 2nd Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Magnus Cormack) took the chair at 2 p.m., and read prayers.
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The Petition of the undersigned respectfully sheweth:
That whereas our constitutional parliamentary democracy was clearly developed as a Federation to preserve for all time to the Australian people their cherished right to live as free men and women, enjoying complete liberty of worship, assembly, speech, movement and the communication of knowledge and information.
And whereas our existing Australian Flag and our national anthem, ‘God Save The Queen’, are perpetual reminders of these hard-won freedoms and of the wise British principle of the division of power, so well reflected in our own Australian Constitution with its careful separation of powers as between the Crown and Commonwealth Parliament, the Senate, the State Parliaments, the GovernorGeneral and State Governors, and the Independent Courts of Justice.
And whereas all such rights, liberties, heritage, advancement and prosperity, etc., are of no avail if our Armed Forces are unprepared or incapable of repelling invasion of our shores or withstanding other military threats.
So therefore must all these things be accorded the highest national concern and priority.
Your Petitioners most humbly pray that the Senate, in Parliament assembled, will take the most urgent steps to ensure-
The most rapid, efficient and largest possible expansion of all branches of our Defence Forces, and greatest possible strengthening and extending of defence treaties and security arrangements with our traditional friends and allies.
The right of every Australian citizen to vote at a National Referendum or Senate or Federal Elections for the retention of our present Australian Flag and equally of our national anthem, ‘God Save The Queen’, before any government or other body can attempt to substitute either a new flag or anthem, and a similar voting right for the choice of any official National Song to play on international occasions.
And your Petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
– I present the following petition from 163 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:
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.
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.
Petitions in identical terms from 24 citizens and 48 citizens of the Commonwealth were presented by Senator Cavanagh and Senator McLaren respectively.
– I have a notice of motion relating to sessional orders for the times of sittings. It reads as follows:
Senate and, as such, shall take precedence of other business set down for such day;
The consideration of the reports shall take precedence on the notice paper pursuant to their date of presentation to the Senate;
The maximum period each Thursday for the consideration of reports of committees, in accordance with this order, shall be 2 hours, but in any event shall conclude 3 hours after the time fixed for the meeting of the Senate;
No Senator shall speak for more than 30 minutes in such a debate, unless otherwise ordered; and
The foregoing provisions of this order, so far as they are inconsistent with the Standing Orders, shall have effect notwithstanding anything contained in the Standing Orders and shall take effect on and from Tuesday, 12 March, 1974.
– I give notice that on the next day of sitting I shall move motions for the appointment of standing and select committees of the Senate and references thereto.
– In directing my question to the Attorney-General I refer to his statement in the Senate last night that an investigation was in progress into various aspects relating to the incident at the premises of the Department of Aboriginal Affairs last week. Will the AttorneyGeneral advise the Senate when the investigation commenced and at whose instigation? Who is carrying out the investigation? What aspects are being investigated?
– The investigation to which I referred is separate from anything that may have been done previously by the police. It is into all aspects of the incident at the Department of Aboriginal Affairs offices on Thursday last and the court proceedings which followed on the Friday morning. The investigation is to be conducted by the Department, and I suppose that the Crown Solicitor of Australia will effectively direct the inquiries. No doubt the particular investigations will be done by the Commissioner of Police and other officers assigned to the task. The Crown Solicitor has been instructed to give all assistance and to seek the advice of the Solicitor-General on any aspects that might arise and any charges which might possibly be laid. I have indicated the width of the investigation; that is, into all aspects of the incident and the court proceedings
It might be said that the investigation was initiated yesterday by me. Directions in some specific terms were framed today and instructions given to the particular persons. It could be said that the investigation had already commenced yesterday before I came in here as instructions in general terms had been given for such an investigation. But they have been, if you like, specified and put in writing and the particular persons informed by the Permanent Head of the Department today.
– I call Senator Greenwood.
– Will the report be made public or presented to Parliament?
-Mr President, if I may -
– Order! I have not given permission for any supplementary questions to be asked. I have already called Senator Greenwood.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. I refer to his statement in the Senate last night that he knew last Thursday night that the pistol used in the incident at the Department of Aboriginal Affairs on the Thursday afternoon was loaded. From what source did the Minister learn last Thursday night that the pistol was loaded?
– It may be more appropriate to say that I was told, and I was told by the Head of my Department.
-What action did the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs take to protect the officers of his Department when information was conveyed to his ministerial staff on Wednesday evening that an incident was planned by agitators at the Department offices on the Thursday? Was the Minister aware that all but five of his departmental officers took leave as a form of protest in support of Mr Perkins against the Permanent Head of the Department, Mr Dexter? Would the Minister agree that those who chose to remain at their desks should have received police protection at the direction of the Minister in view of the warning given to his office?
-A number of staff and possibly officers of my Department took leave on the Thursday to join in a protest against any restriction, which they claim exists, on the right of public servants to free speech. I do not know how many officers remained on duty but quite a number did remain on duty. Rumours were current on Wednesday evening that there would be a sit-in by Aborigines at the Department’s offices on the Thursday. I contacted the Permanent Head of the Department on Thursday. He informed me that this had been discussed with Mr Moy who was acting in the capacity of Permanent Head during Mr Dexter’s absence in Hobart. Of course, this would not have been the first sit-in. The possibility of a sit-in was anticipated but they decided not to seek police protection as it had an upsetting effect upon the staff and because they have always been able to reason with Aborigines who came there in protest. They did not anticipate any serious consequences.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. What, according to Commonwealth law, is the definition of an Aboriginal? Does the Commonwealth accept that definition for all purposes?
– I suppose that what is the definition under Commonwealth law is a question for Senator Murphy. I have not the capabilities to answer legal questions. I know of no Commonwealth law that defines an Aborigine. The accepted definition- the definition accepted by the McMahon Governmentwas a person of Aboriginal or Torres Strait descent who accepts himself as an Aborigine or Torres Strait Islander and is accepted as such by the community in which he lives. This Government has accepted that definition which, as I have said, was the one accepted by a previous government.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Customs and Excise. By way of preface, I state that the International Narcotics Control Board claims that heroin demand is levelling off and even declining in Western countries, particularly in the United States of America and Canada. The Board gave as one of the reasons for the reduced demand a crackdown on the sources of supply. Can the Minister inform the Senate whether similar efforts have been made against the supply sources in Australia?
– I have some information on this matter. I can say that there is no evidence of a decline in the demand for hard drugs in Australia. In fact, seizure statistics suggest a serious increase in the quantities of hard drugs, especially heroin, reaching the Australian market. I support the statement made by the International Narcotics Control Board that concerted efforts against supply sources do effectively reduce the demand. Consequently Customs officers and others are concentrating their efforts in this direction, especially in those areas in which hard drugs are involved. Some 60 major investigations into the illicit importation and distribution of drugs are now being pursued. Of those the majority relate to hard narcoticseither heroin, cocaine or opium. In some instances all 3 types are involved in the one shipment.
Seven of those investigations clearly have international implications directed towards either a specific source of supply or a supply route to Australia. In those instances the investigators are working closely with their counterparts overseas. The hard drug problem is a growing and serious one. The indications are that it is likely to become more serious within the next 12 months. Consequently I have directed additional enforcement activity against it. While I am obviously unable to disclose details of what this activity might be, the Senate can rest assured that a concentrated and concerted effort is being made and will be made especially over the next few months.
- Senator Byrne, I was going to address myself to you in the context of the question you sought to ask of Senator Murphy in order to make clear that I wished to maintain decorum in the asking of questions. My ruling had been, and I repeat it, that within reasonable limits supplementary questions are allowed in order to elucidate an answer. The Chair recognises the original questioner as having the first opportunity to seek the call for the asking of a supplementary question but, within the discretion of the Chair, other supplementary questions may be allowed. If you, Senator Byrne, wanted further elucidation and you had asked me for permission to ask a supplementary question I would probably have allowed you to ask it. I now call Senator Byrne.
-Thank you, Mr President. Actually I essayed by interpolation to ask something that would be explainable by the AttorneyGeneral. I now ask it by way of a formal question. I refer to the investigation which has been initiated by the Attorney-General and which will, apparently, be conducted under the direction of the Crown Solicitor of Australia and ask:
Is the Attorney-General able to say whether any report that is prepared will be presented to this Parliament or otherwise made public?
-The inquiry which I have instituted will be conducted under the general direction of the Secretary of the Department. It falls into the area of the Crown Solicitor. The particular inquiries will no doubt be conducted by those best suited to make them who come within the jurisdiction of the Commissioner of Police. The results of the inquiries will be reported back through the Permanent Head, the Secretary of the Department, to myself. Any charges which might be able to be laid as a result of those inquiries would be considered. I think it is undesirable to say where the results of the inquiry may go until it has been held. I think the honourable senator would agree that if charges were to be laid arising out of the inquiry they would be laid and proceeded with in the courts. Therefore it might be undesirable to bring the matter back here. But, depending upon what arises out of the inquiries, I will give the sufficient and full report which the Senate would expect as a result of them. If it is a matter of proceedings in court, that will be done. If it is otherwise, I understand the concern which has been expressed here and which has been felt by myself and others. The investigation has been ordered. It will be pursued. We will see what happens.
-Can the Minister for the Media say when the public inquiry into applications for commercial radio station licences for the Port Hedland, Dampier-Karratha and Roebourne areas will be held? Has the date for a public inquiry into the applications for the establishment of a commercial television service to the Mawson and Geraldton areas of Western Australia been announced yet?
-The Australian Broadcasting Control Board will be holding a public inquiry at its Perth office next week into an application that has been received by it for a licence for a commercial broadcasting station in the Port Hedland area. The matter relating to a television station for the Mawson and Geraldton areas has been taken up with me in the last 12 months certainly by my colleague, Mr Collard, by Senator Wilkinson and by others. The Board has now invited applications for the grant of a licence for commercial stations to service the Mawson and Geraldton areas. The Board told me that the matter had been deferred some 4 years ago because of the doubtful economic viability of the proposition. But experience since that time has proved that low powered stations in sparsely populated areas managed effectively can be operated economically and viably. Therefore, the Australian Broadcasting Control Board has called applications for stations in the Mawson and Geraldton areas. When the applications have been received I will be able to announce the date of the hearing of the inquiry.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Health a question. I preface it by saying that no doubt the Minister is aware that life or death may depend upon rapid and accurate evaluation of heart trouble by the use of electrocardiograph. Therefore, it is of value to the whole community to encourage general practitioners to have these units and to use them. Is the Minister able to confirm that it is the intention of the Government not to refund to patients fees paid for electrocardiographs unless they are done by a specialist- an action which seems contrary to common sense?
– The question is a technical one. Is it within your province to answer that question, Mr Minister?
-The matter is not within my immediate knowledge. On behalf of the Minister for Health, I ask that the question be placed on the notice paper.
– I direct a question to the Attorney-General. I ask: Who made the decision that the only charge against Robert McLeod in respect of the incident which occurred at the Department of Aboriginal Affairs last Thursday would be a charge of possessing an unlicensed pistol? Why were no charges for more substantial offences then laid?
-The question asked by the honourable senator is one which obviously will be covered by the inquiry which is taking place. It is undesirable for me to start to answer bits and pieces of the matter in respect of which a full inquiry has been instituted. It would be in everyone’s interest that I await the results of the inquiry which has been instituted.
– I direct my question to the Minister for Repatriation. Since the Whitlam Government recently introduced free artificial limbs for civilians who are in need of such assistance, which limbs were to be supplied through the Repatriation Artificial Limb Appliance Centre, I ask: ( 1 ) How many limbs have so far been supplied to civilians; and (2) has the service to civilians created delays in the provision of artificial limbs for ex-servicemen?
– Since the decision by the Government in September to provide such limbs -it was an arrangement agreed to by the Minister for Social Security- about 700 limbs have been manufactured and fitted to civilians. Most of them have been manufactured at the Repatriation Artificial Limb and Appliance Centre, but about 150 or 160 limbs have been manufactured by outside specialists. I have not seen any reports of any difficulty in supplying artificial limbs. There is a list of priorities. Generally speaking, I understand that all those who need them are getting services, within the arrangements which I have mentioned. If RALAC cannot supply them, there will be arrangements with the commercial manufacturers to supply them.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. How many people from the Department of Aboriginal Affairs were present at the demonstration outside Parliament House? Did they apply for leave? Who granted them leave? Were they paid during the time that they were at the demonstration?
– I am not sure, but I believe that 96 asked for leave. They were granted leave, I believe, by the Secretary of the Department of Aboriginal Affairs. As the leave was part of their leave entitlements, they would have been paid for such leave.
– My question is directed to the Minister for the Media. Was the Australian Broadcasting Commission recently offered a film on the events of the coup d d ‘etat in Chile last September? If so, can the Minister say why this film has not been shown?
– I was approached recently by the Australian President of Amnesty International, a former moderator of the Presbyterian Church of Western Australia, the Reverend Keith Dowding, about endeavouring to obtain a film of the events that took place in Chile. I discussed the matter with the Chairman of the Australian Broadcasting Commission who advised me that the Swedish
Broadcasting Corporation had made a film entitled ‘Chile, September 1973’ which could be supplied only in the original Swedish version. No English dubbing of that film was available; therefore, the film was unsuitable for Australian audiences. Another distributor had a film of the same events that took place in Santiago in September of last year. That film was also unsuitable because it was in Spanish. The Chairman of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, Professor Downing, has indicated to me that if a suitable film in the English language can be found, the Commission will be interested in acquiring it and showing it to Australian audiences.
-I ask the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs whether, to his knowledge, any officer of his Department made a statement in writing about the events of last Thursday and whether any statement in writing was handed to the police as a record of the events upon which the police should consider prosecution.
– To my knowledge, no statement was made in writing.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Labour. Will the Minister agree that the recent industrial action by the Australian Bank Officials Association, which caused widespread disruption throughout the community, showed clearly how ineffective the arbitration system has become under the present Government? Did not Mr Justice Isaacs find that he had no power to order the parties to arbitration? Therefore, was he not compelled to preside helplessly over fruitless conciliation talks? Did not this situation cause several additional days of commercial disruption to the public, without any compensating advantage to either party? Will the Minister agree that the present Government is promoting industrial unrest by its continuing attempts to remove wholly all penal provisions from the Conciliation and Arbitration Act? How does the Minister reconcile his dramatic intervention in the banking dispute with his total inaction during the 9 weeks of last year’s costly and futile communist directed strike at the Ford Motor Co. of Australia?
- Senator Kane is really developing what seems to me to be an argument about the present Conciliation and Arbitration
Act. I have told the honourable senator beforeand the answer still stands- that if the Labor Party’s reforms to the Conciliation and Arbitration Act had been made possible and if honourable senators, including Senator Kane, had’ not resisted them there would have been more chance of solving the sorts of disputes to which he referred. There is no question that we rely on penal powers. The Labor Party and the Labor Government have made it clear that they support what the united trade union movement wants, that is, fewer penal powers and more collective arrangements. To say that under the Act which now applies- after all, it was introduced by the previous Government- there are more strikes is in my opinion a false statement. I think more strikes occur because we do not have more facilities and more powers under the law to negotiate with the aggrieved parties.
As the honourable senator knows, I have been a trade union official since 1 was 2 1 years old. I was a shop steward and later secretary of various councils and, even in my present position, I am convinced that negotiation is the best way in which to settle disputes. In a situation of full employment and with an escalating and expansive economy we will have renewed labour disputes. The only way in which to settle them and to improve the position between the 2 parties is to establish a feeling of confidence. I think the present Minister for Labour is trying to do that. He has not accomplished all he has set out to do, but he has made a number of very important reforms and I would have hoped that these reforms had been passed by the Senate.
-Can the Minister for the Media say what has been done to overcome the deadlock between the Victorian Football League and television stations over the televising of Australian Rules league football this season? This is a matter of great concern to Victorian television viewers.
– I saw a report on this matter in one of the Melbourne newspapers this morning and I pursued it with inquiries to the Australian Broadcasting Commission. I am given to understand that talks are still progressing over the fees to be paid to the Victorian Football League for the television rights to show the programs. There is still one month to go before the football season starts and the television stations are hopeful of negotiating a successful agreement. I understand that Channel 9 has now opted out of the negotiations and intends to transmit soccer matches. Channel 7 and ABC Channel 2 are still in the course of negotiations with the Victorian Football League. I understand a very substantial fee is being sought by the VFL. Certainly I would expect the ABC to be looking at the matter from a very practical and common sense point of view.
– I call Senator Dame Nancy Buttfield. First, may I say that the Standing Orders give the Presiding Officer licence to call upon any senator who wishes to speak or to ask a question while seated. So you may remain seated.
Senator Dame NANCY BUTTFIELDThank you, Mr President. I am already on my feet. My question, which is directed to the AttorneyGeneral, relates to the police inquiries into the incident at the Department of Aboriginal Affairs last Thursday. Can the Minister tell the Senate how many people were asked by the police to give statements? What are the names of those people? Will he be tabling the statements in the Senate?
-A11 these matters will be the subject of inquiry. As I indicated before, I think that to wait until the inquiries are made and the results are certain is preferable to endeavouring to answer these matters now.
– I direct my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Labour. I ask: What plans does the Minister have to give the large rural population of Muswellbrook, Scone and Denman better Commonwealth employment facilities, in view of the large number of high schools and increased rural activity in vineyards and other rural operations?
– The present position is that the 3 areas mentioned are serviced by the Commonwealth Employment Office at Maitland. In addition, there are Commonwealth Employment Service agents at Muswellbrook and Scone. Last year the Minister for Labour authorised the establishment of 10 new CES offices for the financial year. There is, of course, a limit to the funds available for the opening of new offices in any one year. It is not proposed that any further offices be established in this financial year, but the Department believes that it will be necessary to establish some new offices next financial year and its recommendation will be put to the Minister early in that period. The New South Wales office of the Department of Labour is now reviewing the number of areas in that State in terms of priorities for the forthcoming financial year, and Muswellbrook is one of those areas.
– The honourable senator knows my attitude to the forms of some questions. He might have afforded the Senate the courtesy of saying ‘I mentioned this to the Minister before asking the question’.
– I direct my question to the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs as a result of an answer he gave to a question asked by Senator Greenwood. Did the Minister ascertain last Thursday night how his departmental head knew that the pistol was loaded?
-No, I did not ascertain that.
– I direct a question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate in his capacity as representative of the Minister for Foreign Affairs. Has the Government, in conformity with its record of protesting against inhumanity wherever it may occur, protested to the Spanish Government over the executions recently of 2 prisoners? If it has not done so will the Minister express the abhorrence of the Australian people at the method by which these executions were carried out, a method which involves placing a spiked collar around the prisoner’s neck and then tightening the instrument -
– Ask the question, Senator. We do not want a description of la garotte.
– If I may say so, Mr President, the purpose of the question is to describe the method by which these people -
– Order! A senator is entitled to use only expressions that will make his question clear. You are surrounded by honourable senators who have as much general knowledge as yourself. Confine yourself to the question.
– I think I have made the point.
-Seriously, will the Government protest strongly to the Spanish Government concerning these executions and so place itself aligned with protests that have come from other nations?
-The Australian Government deplores the use of capital punishment and equally deplores the brutality of the resort to garotting as a method of execution. The Australian Government has made no official protest to the Spanish Government as the matter would appear to lie within the domestic jurisdiction of the Spanish authorities. Nevertheless, what I have said about the attitude of the Australian Government represents, I think, the overwhelming attitude of the Australian people.
– I ask a question of the Minister for the Media relating to an answer given by the Minister yesterday in response to a question by Senator Milliner concerning the completion of the seventh stage of television development in south-western Queensland. The Minister mentioned in his reply that the matter had been raised by Mr Katter, the Federal member for Kennedy. Is it not a fact that the matter has been raised also by Mr Jim Corbett, the member for Maranoa, as the stations mentioned fall within his electorate?
– It is true that yesterday I mentioned that not only had Senator Milliner been raising this matter with me but- in my answer I think I used the term ‘in fairness’ that the member for Kennedy also had raised the matter with me. I certainly should have added the member for Maranoa, Mr Corbett, and I apologise to him for not having done so. Mr Corbett had been most assiduous in raising these matters.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Primary Industry. Hasthe Minister seen a Press report that Commonwealth Police have impounded the boats and equipment of Pacific Seaweed Pty Ltd off Jervis Bay because the company was harvesting seaweed without a fishing licence? Is it a fact that the company disputes that it is fishing and claims that it faces the loss of a $30,000 investment and that 14 workers face unemployment.
– I saw reference to this newspaper report. It was drawn to my attention because it involved the issuing of fishing licences for which I am responsible. A request was made last year by this company for a licence to be issued through the Department of the Capital
Territory. That licence was not granted. Consequently the company has been operating without a licence. I understand that the boats have not been impounded and that currently the AttorneyGeneral’s Department is looking at the legal question involved in this matter.
-As I understand the position, from memory- it has been discussed within Government circles- the flying boats used have come to the end of their economic life and there now is a difficulty in getting replacement parts. The question of safety could well come into consideration if their use is continued. The private company running the flying boat service made the decision to discontinue their operation. I suppose that this decision was made on the basis of the suitability of the aircraft to continue in use. In the meantime I understand that the Department of the Army now is building an airstrip on Lord Howe Island to take the reasonably sized planes which will be used by tourists in the future.
– My understanding is that the airstrip will be suitable only for aircraft carrying 6 people.
-Yes, I am told that an environmental question also is involved in the construction of the airstrip. There are many considerations that have to be taken into account. If what I have said is not quite the accurate position
I will refer the matter to the Minister and get further details.
– My question, addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Air, relates to the VIP fleet. Has there been a resolution of the question of the availability of seats on VIP aircraft, in special circumstances, to senators as is already the case with members of the House of Representatives and members of the general public in particular instances of necessity?
– At various times when manifests have been put before the chamber references have been made to this aspect by a number of senators on both sides of the chamber. I think the Minister has considered them. I take it that what the honourable senator is saying is that there ought to be some consideration to allowing ordinary members of the Senate to use any spare seating capacity. I will put the matter to the Minister and let the honourable senator and the Senate know.
– I direct my question to the Minister representing the Treasurer. In view of world concern about future sources and supplies of energy fuels, has the Government given attention to introducing new incentives for exploration of energy resources within Australia?
– The answer to that question is yes. The whole subject matter of incentives for exploration and development has been under consideration by the Government. The Minister for Minerals and Energy has been paying special attention to this subject matter. I think it is recognised all round that he has moved in advance of the energy crisis. He is working with all concerned to see that there is the best and the most efficient development of the energy resources of Australia.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Transport whether he will request the Minister for Transport to examine thoroughly the freight system operating in New Zealand by which, as a decentralisation measure, the freight on certain categories of goods from the South Island to the North Island is subsidised by 25 per cent. Will the Minister agree that Tasmania is in an even worse position in its trading relations with the other States because of high freight costs? Will the Government follow the example of the New Zealand Government, and the suggestion of some members of the Senate Select Committee on Industry and Trade which inquired into Tasmanian freight rates, by examining the possibility of subsidising freight costs out of Tasmania?
-I think the inquiry is already under way. As the honourable senator will know, the Bureau of Transport Economics last year prepared a report when it assessed Tasmania ‘s transport cost disabilities relative to the other States. Arising out of that report the Commonwealth Government has granted Sim per annum for the next 3 years to ensure that the passenger vessel ‘Empress of Australia’ continues its service. The Government has announced the appointment of Mr J. F. Nimmo to undertake an inquiry into whether there is a need for special assistance to Tasmania in relation to the difficulties and disabilities it suffers in freight rates compared with the mainland States. When this report is received by the Government consideration will be given to it. I am of the opinion that what is done in other countries will be one of the matters taken into consideration by Mr Nimmo.
-I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Transport whether he is aware that Commonwealth car drivers frequently spend up to 12 hours a day in hot black official cars which, except for the Ford LTDs and, I understand, one Mercedes Benz, are without air conditioning. Is the Minister aware that this causes great discomfort to the drivers in our hot Australian summer?
– The previous Government did it for 23 years.
– Does not the honourable senator care about the workers? Is the Minister also aware that the lack of air conditioning has an adverse and repressive effect on the drivers’ social life and that it reduces their efficiency? In view of the negligible cost of the Government will the Minister arrange to have all Commonwealth cars fitted with efficient air conditioning forthwith? If he is short of money he could sell Blue Poles’.
-This matter does not come within the portfolio of the Minister for Transport. It is the responsibility of the Minister for Supply who is represented here by the Minister for Primary Industry. The whole question of Commonwealth transport has been receiving consideration. I believe that there is an arrangement whereby new cars will be white rather than black in the future as this colour is considered not so hot.
– There is no racial discrimination in that. To my knowledge the matter of air conditioning has not been taken up. Whether it is for the convenience of the driver or the passengers I do not know. Senator Wriedt will pass the question on to the appropriate Minister.
– In directing my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Transport I refer to a recent statement by the South Australian Minister for Transport that he was completing an agreement with the Federal Minister for Transport on the Tarcoola-Alice Springs rail link. Can the Minister give me any information on the state of the agreement? Is the South Australian Minister correct in saying that the rail link will be commenced soon?
-To my knowledge the 2 Ministers are still negotiating and the railway will be commenced later this year.
– I ask the Minister representing the Acting Minister for Foreign Affairs: Is the report correct that the Chinese Government has protested about the reporting by Australian journalists based in China concerning the interesting events now developing in China? If the report is correct, what form did the protest take? If a protest was made, has the Australian Government informed the Chinese Government that it defends the right of Australian journalists to report events free from coercion or threats?
– I ask the honourable senator to place his question on the notice paper.
-My question, which I direct to the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, refers to his statement yesterday that he did not reveal the facts of the siege of his Department and the armed threatening of his officers because the matter was sub judice. Since the matter was dealt with on Friday morning in the courts, why did the Minister maintain his silence in the ensuing 3 days in the clear knowledge that the public and the court had been gravely misinformed?
When did the Minister inform the Prime Minister of the events of the siege, and particularly of the information relating to the loaded pistol?
– Whilst I said that I had information of this on Thursday, I also had information that McLeod was detained and simply took it for granted that it was all in the hands of the Commonwealth Police. It was not my duty to interfere in that situation. On the Friday as a result of a report I learned that McLeod was charged with a lesser offence. It did not occur to me that the information I had was not conveyed to the Commonwealth Police. I simply thought that it was common knowledge, or that it was knowledge possessed by the police. From the talk around the Parliament I thought that it was common knowledge. It was not until an interview with my officers, as I said yesterday, that I was acquainted with the fact that the information was not known to the Commonwealth Police.
– Did you convey it to the Attorney-General?
– There was some conversation, but not about whether he was armednot until yesterday.
– I direct my question to the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. As a result of a capitulation and subsequent paternalistic handling by the Prime Minister, the Minister and the Secretary of the Department of Aboriginal Affairs in the recent situation concerning an Aboriginal senior public servant, does he feel that a grave disservice has been rendered to my fellow Aborigines? If so, does he see a flow-on bringing violence amongst the young and more frustrated members of my race?
– I do not know why the word ‘capitulation’ is used in respect of a senior public servant and myself. The best was done in the circumstances by all concerned. I do not see a surge of violence resulting from anything that has happened. I can see that violence can be generated and I say that questions could be damaging in this regard. I think we should be careful on a very delicate subject.
– Will the AttorneyGeneral confirm whether the Commissioner of the Commonwealth Police or the Commissioner of the Australian Capital Territory Police is to conduct with the Crown Solicitor the inquiry which he announced to the Senate this afternoon? Will he also say whether it was the Commonwealth Police or the Australian Capital Territory Police which was involved in the incidents of last Thursday afternoon?
– I would imagine that the Commissioner of the Australian Capital Territory Police would be conducting the inquiry, but it is a matter for those who have the general direction of it. As for which of the police forces was concerned, I think that both of them were. The honourable senator will recall that on the Thursday there was a large number of police involved in rather stringent precautions around Parliament House during the visit of Her Majesty to these premises and elsewhere in Canberra. In fact, I know that some information was conveyed through the Commonwealth Police and that in other areas the Australian Capital Territory Police were involved. It is regrettable that one still has to answer these questions about which of 2 federal police forces should be concerned. It illustrates the nonsense of the division which has persisted for too long. There ought to be one Australian police force with appropriate divisions and appropriate commissioners. But there is the position.
I think that both police forces were involved in the general events of the Thursday. I think that the Australian Capital Territory Police were particularly involved with the incident at the Department of Aboriginal Affairs. My understanding is that it would be the Commissioner of the Australian Capital Territory Police who would be involved, but for the sake of convenience it could well have been the other Commissioner, the Commissioner of the Commonwealth Police. As I have said the sooner both police forces are integrated the better.
– I direct a question to the Minister Assisting the Minister for Defence. Can the Minister indicate to the Senate the present position concerning the completion of the Royal Australian Air Force base at Learmonth? Where is it proposed to post the members of the construction unit on completion of this project? When is it anticipated that the base will become operational by the RAAF? What role is the base to play in the immediate defence structure?
-I think that I should obtain the up to date position, but from memory completion will be sometime at the end of this year. The honourable senator probably will remember that the Minister for Defence decided to investigate whether 5 Airfield Construction Squadron might be used for work overseas. I understand that investigation has been made and that there has been a recommendation that while this was possible it probably would not be the most effective form of aid because it could be that financial aid might be a better form of aid by the donor country. But I understand that that situation has been finalised. Presently an offer has been made to the members of 5 ACS that they will be allowed to remuster. They have been offered the chance of occupying other musterings and other classifications. The Royal Australian Air Force will give them every opportunity to arrange to re-muster so that in future they will not be redundant. As the honourable senator will recall, in other cases the offer was made that anyone who wanted a posting or a mustering to another area would have his application sympathically considered. I think that I should confirm the dates that I have mentioned. I think that the information 1 have given about the Squadron itself is accurate, but I think that I should confirm what I have said and let the honourable senator know the position.
-Mr President, might I supplement and clarify the answer which I gave to Senator Greenwood a few moments ago and also amplify the answer that I gave to the first question asked by the Leader of the Opposition this afternoon?
– I do not want it to be in lieu of the making of a statement for which leave has not been sought.
-I have with me the formal memorandum which was sent by Mr Harders, the Secretary of the Attorney-General’s Department, to the Commissioner of the Australian Capital Territory Police. It reads:
The Attorney-General has directed that a full investigation be made into the circumstances or the incident at the office of the Department of Aboriginal Affairs in Canberra on 28 February 1974 following which Mr Robert McLeod appeared before the Australian Capital Territory Court of Petty Sessions on a charge of carrying an unlicensed pistol contrary to the provisions of the Gun Licence Ordinance.
The investigation you are to make should cover the question whether any further charges should be laid against any person.
1 wish you to involve yourself personally in the further investigation with, of course, such assistance from your officers as you consider appropriate. I have asked the Crown Solicitor to assist you in determining whether any additional charges should be laid and 1 have given the Crown Solicitor a copy of this minute to you.
A further memorandum to the Crown Solicitor from Mr Harders, also dated with today’s date, reads:
I attach a copy of a minute I have given this morning to the Commissioner, A.C.T. Police, concerning the incident at the office of the Department of Aboriginal Affairs on 28 February 1974. As indicated in the minute to Mr Wilson I wish you to give him every assistance in determining whether an additional charge or additional charges should be laid against any person.
1 wish you also to examine the transcript ofthe proceedings before Mr Nicholl, S.M., in the Canberra Court of Petty Sessions on 1 March 1974 for the purpose of determining whether any breach of the law was committed by any person arising out of evidence given before the Court. We should confer with the Solicitor-General before any further charges are laid.
Could you please discuss further with me as the matter proceeds.
– Has the AttorneyGeneral seen reports suggesting that processed and tinned pet foods are badly lacking in nourishment and belie the promotional data shown on the labels. Is the Attorney-General aware that the contents are alleged to contain between 63 per cent and 79 per cent of water, are too low in carbohydrates and lack sufficient salt and calcium and that the essential vitamins in the can are lost in the sterilisation processes? As these food products, which are manufactured in various States and are marketed all over Australia, are claimed to represent a complete diet for dogs and cats, can the Attorney-General say what steps the Australian Government can take to see that they meet the requirements of a full diet, as suggested on the labelled article?
– I think the last part ofthe honourable senator’s question is the only part which comes within the province of the AttorneyGeneral.
-This matter involves the question of product standards. The honourable senator may recall that in the legislation dealing with consumer protection which was put before the Senate last year, and which will shortly be put before it again, there was provision for the making of regulations covering consumer product standards. Such legislation would, I think, amply cover the matter raised in the honourable senator’s question. There is also in it the provision for consumer product information, which would cover the question of possibly erroneous statements as to the contents. There are certain regulations which cover foods or such products in the Australian Capital Territory, but until such provisions as are contained in the trade practices legislation are passed there is no general provision under which the Australian Government can take proceedings to prevent any such practice occurring throughout Australia.
– I ask a question of the Minister for Primary Industry. I understand that the sugar agreement between Queensland and the Commonwealth expires on 30 June next. Can the Minister inform the Senate what action is being taken by his Department and the Commonwealth Government to renew this agreement?
-The matter of sugar comes within the Department of Northern Development. My colleague, Dr Patterson, is the responsible Minister. I shall refer the question to him.
-Did the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs inform the Prime Minister of the possibility of trouble at the Department of Aboriginal Affairs last Thursday after the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs had been alerted on Wednesday night of such a possibility?
– The answer is in the negative.
-I ask that further questions go on notice.
– Pursuant to Standing Order 28a I lay on the table my warrant nominating Senators Brown, Byrne, Cant, Davidson, Durack, Lawrie, McAuliffe, Marriott, Poke, Wilkinson and Wood to act as Temporary Chairmen of Committees when requested to do so by the Chairman of Committees or when the Chairman of Committees is absent. My warrant nominating senators to act as Temporary Chairmen of Committees, dated 27 February 1973, is therefore revoked.
– I turn to the discovery of formal business. Senator Withers, is General Business notice of motion No. 1 formal or not formal?
– Not formal.
- Senator Milliner, is General Business notice of motion No. 2 formal or not formal?
– Not formal.
- Senator Devitt, is General Business notice of motion No. 3 formal or not formal?
– Not formal.
- Senator Kane, is General Business notice of motion No. 4, formal or not formal?
– You are not seeking priority over the other business?
Estate Duty (Termination) Bill 1973
Motion (by Senator Kane) agreed to:
That the Estate Duty (Termination) Bill 1973 be restored to the Notice Paper and consideration resumed at the stage it had reached in the last Session.
- Senator Withers, is General Business notice of motion No. 5 formal or not formal?
– Not formal.
- Senator Wilkinson, is General Business notice of motion No. 6 formal or not formal?
– Not formal.
- Senator Byrne, is General Business notice of motion No. 1 formal or not formal?
– Not formal.
- Senator Little, is General Business notice of motion No. 8 formal or not formal?
- Mr President -
– Order! Senator Little has claimed that the motion is formal. Any senator can claim that it is not.
– I wish to ask a question concerning procedure in relation to this matter.
– On the Standing Orders?
– I presume that this motion proposes to put the legislation back on the Notice Paper at the same stage that it had reached before prorogation and this is being done on the basis of a Standing Order. Following prorogation, I do not understand that business can be put back in that order.
– There is room in the Standing Orders of the Senate for matters which were on the Notice Paper before prorogation to be restored to the Notice Paper following prorogation. The arranging of the business of the Senate is a question for the leaders of the Senatethe Government Leader and the Leader of the Opposition. The order of business is their business.
– On the point of order, I would think that traditionally we have taken the view that a senator should have the opportunity to put his matters forward. On behalf of the Government, I think we certainly would agree to facilitate the restoration of a matter to the Notice Paper. But we do not want this to be done, as I have indicated in relation to the other matters, without having regard to the question of priorities. That is, by acceding at this stage to this action, we do not want automatically matters proposed by the Australian Democratic Labor Party to come on first, second and so on in the order of Senate business.
– That is understood.
– On that understanding, I do not object.
– The whole matter of the restoration of business to the Notice Paper comes under Senate standing order 243 which has the general heading ‘Lapsed Bills’. I had a good look at that Standing Order before we met this week. It states quite conclusively that a Bill can be restored to the notice paper by the will of the Senate. But in the context in which we are at the moment, if an honourable senator claims that a matter is formal and another honourable senator says that it is not formal, it cannot be brought forward as a substantive motion. In effect Senator Little has asked that the notice of motion standing in his name be restored to the notice paper. Unless there is an objection, I would like him to move formally that it be restored.
– Notice of motion No. 8 is in the name of Senator Byrne.
– There is an error in today’s notice paper. I have had it corrected manuscriptly on my copy. I now take the opportunity to state that there is an error in the notice paper, and it is a fault on the Presidential level.
– Without attempting to canvass your ruling, Mr President, I wish to make it clear that I am not just challenging the formality of the matter. I wish it to be clearly understood that the procedure is consistent with prorogation. Mr President, as you have drawn my attention to standing order 243 I have nothing more to say. The Bill originates in this place, it does not come from the other place.
-Standing order 243 quite clearly allows the Senate to restore business to the notice paper.
National Health Bill (No. 3) 1973
-The formalities having been cleared up, I move:
Question resolved in the affirmative.
- Senator Gair, is notice of motion No. 9 formal or not formal?
– Not formal.
- Senator Withers, is notice of motion No. 10 formal or not formal?
– Not formal.
- Senator Kane, is notice of motion No. 1 1 formal or not formal?
– Not formal.
- Senator Little, is the notice of motion No. 12 formal or not formal?
– Not formal.
– I come now to the last notice of motion. Senator Hannan, is notice of motion No. 13 formal or not formal?
– Not formal.
– I move:
I indicate that if the Senate agrees, the question relating to the adjournment of the Senate will be put at 1 1 o’clock tonight. The suspension of the sitting for dinner will be between 6 p.m. and 8 p.m.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
That the following Address-in-Reply to the Speech of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II be agreed to:
We, Your Majesty’s loyal subjects, the members of the Senate, in Parliament assembled, desire to thank you for the gracious Speech which you have been pleased to address to Parliament.
The presence in Australia of Your Majesty and of His Royal Highness the Prince Philip has once again brought the greatest pleasure to your Australian people. We, their representatives in this Senate, are grateful for this opportunity to re-affirm our allegiance to you as our Queen.
-Not only does Senator McManus say ‘Hear, hear’ to the motion, but also says ‘Hear, hear’ when I advocate a united Irish Republic. The Speech which Her Majesty made was an outline of the policies which the Australian Labor Party Government wishes to carry out during this session of the Parliament. It follows from the policies that were established by the Labor Party before it was elected on 2 December of last year and which it has carried out since its election. The policies of the Australian Labor Party and this Government are dependent upon and are integrally related to world peace. First of all we have a policy which is committed to the securing to world peace and friendly relations between this country and other countries. Secondly we know, as everyone should know, that the the carrying out of our domestic policies and of the reforms which we hope to institute within this country are just as dependent upon the maintenance of world peace as are any of our aims and our objectives in foreign policies. I believe that we need to look once again at the record of the Government in its relations with other countries and in its efforts for world peace and to look at what it is that we hope to do to attain further securing of world peace.
Since this Government was elected it has taken certain major steps to see that we in Australia have sensible, logical and amicable relations with other countries. We have rejected the policy of the previous Government that the recognition of governments of foreign countries should be dependent upon our approval of the ideologies of those governments. The policy of the Australian Labor Party is that the effective governments of all countries should be recognised and that the effective governments of all countries should take their role in international assemblies such as the United Nations. For that reason, despite many years of opposition by the conservative parties in Australia, one of the first actions which we took upon election was to establish diplomatic relations with the People’s Republic of China. This is a course which the Australian Labor Party has advocated since 1955 and which in the past has led to the Party being subjected to the most scurrilous accusations of disloyalty. But it is a course with which we persevered and which we have now brought to fruition by the establishment of diplomatic relations with the People ‘s Republic of China.
We have shown in that policy that far from being out of step with world opinion we were leading world opinion. All other countries cither have taken or are in the process of taking precisely the same step which we took in recognising the People ‘s Republic of China in saying that the government of China was the government in Peking and not the government on an offshore island, and that if there was to be peace in our area and in the whole world, however much some may agree or disagree with the policies of the Chinese Government, we needed to have friendly relations with that country. For the same reason we have recognised the Government of North Vietnam- the Government of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam, the effective government of at least half of divided Vietnam. We have recognised the Government of the German Democratic Republic in East Germany, a sovereign government which has now entered into diplomatic relations with West Germany, a country with which we have had diplomatic relations for many years.
Apart from these steps we have taken other positive measures to secure world peace. This Government, immediately after its election, withdrew Australian armed forces and military support for the war of aggression against the Vietnamese people. No longer can Australia be accused of engaging in any form of aggression in Indo-China. We have withdrawn our forces and we have established diplomatic relations with North Vietnam. One of the most horrible chapters in the whole of Australian history has been put to an end by this Government and put to an end by the Australian people, one of whose major reasons for voting for the Australian Labor Party was the realisation that for years they had been misled and that a completely incorrect and immoral course had been taken in regard to Vietnam.
Despite the possibilities of a settlement in Indo-China, particularly in Vietnam, the problems are by no means finished. A conflict is still waging in Cambodia and the Australian Government believes that the best contribution it can make to the settlement of that conflict is not to intervene at all. Whatever may be the merits of the Government in Phnom Penh and the Government of Prince Sihanouk, Australia does not believe that we have any role in sending young Australians to fight and to be killed or maimed in a war which does not concern our people. What we intend to do, and what we have done, is to work within the United Nations, to work with our friends and with those countries with which we have diplomatic relations, to see that there is a secure peace in Vietnam and in Cambodia and in the whole of Indo-China.
Apart from this there are many major international problems in which Australia can play perhaps only a marginal role in seeking a solution. Regarding the Middle East problem the Australian Government has said- with the support of the majority of the Australian people, I believe- that it will take up an even-handed position towards the Middle East conflict, that we shall not from the beginning as it were identify ourselves with either of the parties to this dispute. The Australian Labor Party has said very clearly in its federal policy- and this has been said very clearly also by members of the Government and by the Government itself- that there can be no settlement of the present crisis in the Middle East without, first, some justice being done to the Palestinian refugees. But, above all, there cannot be any settlement of the Middle East problem unless the Arab countries recognise that the state of Israel is a sovereign nation entitled to its sovereignty and to continued existence. I do not believe that there can be the slightest dispute that so long as spokesmen for certain Arab nations continue to say that their goal is the destruction of the state of Israel and the driving of the people of Israel into the sea we can expect that the Government of Israel, whichever government may be in power, or the people of Israel cannot do anything but take very strong and vigorous measures to preserve their independence. Only when the Arab countries recognise that Israel exists in its own right as a sovereign nation can there be peace in that area. Fortunately it does seem that at least some of the Arab nations have come to that realisation. Certainly, the Arab Republic of Egypt has done so, if not formally then informally by the negotiations between it and the Government of Israel. It appears at least to be moving in the direction of giving some recognition to the permanency and sovereignty of the state of Israel.
It is much too late now to be arguing whether Israel ought to have been established in 1948, just as it is too late to argue whether Captain Phillip should have settled in New South Wales or the Pilgrim Fathers should have settled in Massachusetts. The fact is that Israel is established and that the majority of the people of Israel, whether bom there or not, were born since the establishment of the state of Israel, and it would be a most immoral and abominable thing if that nation were to be destroyed. That is not to say that the conduct of the Government of Israel on every issue has been perfect or that the Palestinian Arab people have not suffered many injustices and that there should not be strong efforts to secure some redress for the wrongs which doubtless they have suffered.
It also has to be remembered when one considers the state of Israel that it is one of the very few democracies in the whole of the Middle East, although both Lebanon and Bahrain have quite strong democratic elements within them. But it is a most remarkable achievement that Israel, in the height of the present serious troubles in which it finds itself, was able to hold free democratic elections, or at least as free and democratic as any elections can be; that all parties were able to contest that election and that the group from the Israeli Communist Party which is very largely sympathetic with the Arabs won 4 seats in the Israeli Parliament. Right through the height of Israel’s conflict with its, I would say, aggressive neighbours, it placed no bar on emigration from or migration to the State of Israel. I think that some countries which impose these bars on the immigration and emigration of their citizens and claim that there is some specially dangerous position in which they find themselves which forces them to impose these bars on the free egress and access of their citizens, ought to look at Israel which they criticise so much. There we find a country which, despite the horrible situation in which it found itself, allowed its citizens to move freely into and out of the borders of Israel.
The role which we can play naturally is a limited one. One thing which we have to do, and which we have done, is to insist on all occasions that we are not prepared to see the destruction of Israel, and at the same time we are prepared to do what we can to work for justice to be done to the Palestinian Arabs, the former population, or descendants of the former population, of those areas which now constitute the State of Israel.
Another major conflict, one in regard to which it seems probable that very little can be done by Australia, is the conflict which has developed between the People’s Republic of China and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. This is a conflict which cannot be explained in most of the traditional terms used for explaining world conflict. Many of the features found in past conflicts are not to be found in the existing conflict between those 2 countries. However I think we have to recognise that in the case of China and in the case of the Soviet Union they are countries which, with whatever favourable aspects they may present, and indeed have presented, are dictatorships and that there are disputes as to which of them should have hegemony, if not throughout the whole world, at least in part of the world between the leaders of those 2 countries. Certainly I think it has to be said that a contributing factor- I would not suggest that it is a major factor because I think there are other more important factors involved over which we never did have any influence- involved in the present intransigence of the Soviet Union and China is the many years of isolation in which both countries were placed after their revolutions. I do not think it should be any wonder that both the Soviet Union and China should be extraordinarily suspicious countries, that both of them should be countries with which it is very hard for the other nations of the world to have sensible and sane dealings in view of the treatment which was meted out to both of them. Both of them suffered international boycotts, and both of them suffered intervention.
We have heard only recently serious complaints about the use of resources diplomacy, as it has been called, by the Arab nations in endeavouring to cut off oil supplies from Western countries in order to strengthen their foreign policy as far as Israel is concerned. This has been deplored. But at the same time, that action has been very mild compared with the campaigns of economic boycotts and sanctions which were carried out for almost 2 decades against the Soviet Union and against the People’s Republic of China, largely at the behest of the United States of America. If there is one country which should not be in a position to complain about resources diplomacy, or about boycotts or sanctions against other countries, it is the United States of America which in fact is still carrying on sanctions against its neighbour Cuba. By saying that, I am not saying that I believe that these are good policies. I believe they are both wrong, but I think that while we are looking at the situation of China and the Soviet Union we have to give some recognition to the historical reasons which have given rise to the difficulties which we now find in dealing with them and to see, insofar as we can, that these policies are not continued in the future because these are things to which the Australian Labor Party is opposed. It is our view that there ought to be recognition of the effective governments of all countries and that we ought to approach our trading relations and our diplomatic relations with other countries irrespective of ideology.
To a large extent the major difficulties between the United States of America and the Soviet Union, and perhaps to a lesser extent between the United States of America and China, have been resolved as a result of some of the initiatives taken by the major powers. Certainly the expression ‘detente’, or relaxation, has become very widely used. Now it seems to be generally accepted that the U.S.A. and the Soviet Union, and on the other hand the U.S.A. and China, are taking all sorts of measures to prevent a conflict breaking out between those nations or any nations closely associated with them. Although on the one hand this certainly is something which is to be welcomed- only a most negative, destructive, homicidal if not suicidal person would be opposed to the relaxation of tensions between the Soviet Union and the U.S.A.- I believe at the same time that all democratic people need to have some thoughts for the future, and perhaps some fears, as to what might be the consequence of this type of detente.
George Orwell, who quite often is quoted as one of the more prophetic writers of this century, is sometimes misquoted as being merely an anticommunist ideologist. He was not by any means merely an anti-communist ideologist. He was a left wing social democrat closely associated with the Independent Labor Party in Great Britain. His most famous book, ‘1984’, was not merely an attack on the sort of future which could be created under some sort of Stalinist regime similar to that which was existing in the Soviet Union. If honourable senators remember’ 1984’, what he spoke of was a division of the world into 2 huge areas in each of which a dominant power was able to control the destinies and the lives of the people who were living under the suzerainty of those 2 super powers. I believe that while all of us welcome the relaxation in tension between the Soviet Union and the U.S.A., we should be very cautious lest a consequence of such a relaxation could be a division of spoils between 2 super powers with neither of which democratic people have a great deal in common. Although obviously the most serious and most disastrous thing that could happen to the world would be a third world war, particularly a nuclear war, at the same time it would be a rather grim prospect for the people of the world if the consequence of the relaxation were to mean that the Soviet Union was free to send its tanks into Czechoslovakia and the United States of America was free to send its marines into the Dominican Republic. We must see that while we support the relaxation between those 2 major powers- those 2 super powers- we do not fall into the weakness of saying: ‘Well, everything is fixed up between these 2 countries and we will just leave it to them’. We have to see that we have our own independent policy, our own desire to assist our own people by an independent national policy, and that we work to see that there is no foreign intervention in any country either by the Soviet Union, the United States of America or anybody else.
Both the Soviet Union and the United States have a rather dismal record over the past 20 years of interventions and invasions in other peoples’ countries and of efforts to impose their form of economic system and their domination on other countries- the United States of America in South East Asia and Latin America, and the Soviet Union in Eastern Europe. To both is the Australian Labor Party and this Government opposed. When we look at the 2 major powers I believe that again we have reason for reservations as to what our future may be. The position in the U.S.A. at the present time is that a VicePresident, elected on a policy of law and order, now has not only lost his Vice-Presidency but has been disbarred from legal practice. We find that a number of senior ministers in the United States Government, a number of people very close to the Presidency, including, as Senator Mulvihill reminds me, the Attorney-General, the principal law enforcement officer of the United States, the holder of an office which has been held by some of the most distinguished men in Western history, are under indictment. At many levels of American life we find serious corruption. We find very great problems within that country despite its colossal wealth, and despite the disproportionate share of the world ‘s resources which it holds. We find the society of that country incapable of providing an adequate living, adequate housing, adequate social services and a decent way of life for many millions of its people. We find a steadily increasing rate of crime within that country. We find steadily increasing pollution and destruction of the environment despite all the wealth and the many admirable and desirable features in the United States- and there are many admirable and desirable features.
The fact that there has been this free discussion about the alleged improprieties of President Nixon and the behaviour of Mr Agnew, Mr Mitchell and the others reflects very great credit on the United States. I do not in any way attempt to deprecate that. I believe that there are many positive things to be learnt from the United States. Despite the fact that I am strongly critical of America in many ways, I certainly hope that I do not give the impression of being antiAmerican. There are many features about the United States which, in some respects, to any democratic person make it one of the most attractive countries in the whole world. But having said that I point out that there are still very great, major weaknesses, growing weaknesses and an increasing breakdown of law enforcement in that country. This breakdown applies not only to law enforcement but also to respect for the law and respect for the rights of other people. This is reflected in the growing homicide rate. These are reflections of a society. These are not just accidents. There could be many twists and turns in future American history. Some of them could be very dangerous to the whole world. We have to bear that in mind.
At the same time, when we come to the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics there cannot be any question but that the position of the ordinary person in the Soviet Union is much better than it was under the Czars. But what a terrible price has been paid to create that situation. Unlike Israel, Russia is a country where citizens are not allowed to freely come and go. There is no freedom of assembly or freedom of speech. Certainly, the party which corresponds to the Australian Labor Party is illegal. It is illegal not only in the Soviet Union but also in those countries where the supporters and friends of the Soviet Union exert dominance. Such countries are East Germany- a country for which in many other respects I have a high regard- Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Rumania and Bulgaria. These are countries with long social democratic traditions. But our fraternal party is illegal in those countries. I think that something which has always to be borne in mind by members of the Australian Labor Party is that however friendly we may be with many of the countries associated with the Soviet Union, our counterparts in those countries are in gaol or have been executed. Our corresponding party, the Social Democratic Party, in Hungary, Czechoslovakia and other countries of Eastern Europe, is an illegal party.
At the same time we find that it is now almost 57 years since the Russian revolution. I do not want to deprecate in any way the tremendous sacrifices which have been made, the tremendous injustices and the tremendous loss of life and devastation which was suffered by the people of the Soviet Union during the second World War. It has hardly been equalled anywhere else in the world. But it is still a very long time since that war ceased. I cannot see how anybody can justify the position- I do not mention it only because it is fashionable but because it is something which has happened recently- where a man is not able to write and have books published in the country in which he lives and where he can have the citizenship of the country in which he was born cancelled, not by a court process but by executive action. This is something to which any democrat must be opposed. I think that the Australian Labor Party is entitled to oppose this because we take a consistent position on such matters. Not only are we opposed to what happened to Solzhenitsyn but also we are opposed to what was done in this country when a passport was denied to an Australian citizen, Wilfred Burchett. We are opposed to that.
I would be interested to hear from some of the people in this Parliament who so often in the past have spoken of the persecution of the Church. What have they to say about what is happening in Spain at the present time, when the Catholic Bishop of Bilbao is about to suffer precisely the same treatment as that meted out to Solzhenitsyn. The Bishop is about to be expelled from his own country. So far I have not heard any protest from some of those people- including people who belong to the same church as the Catholic Bishop of Bilbao- who have so rightly been vocal about what happened to Solzhenitsyn protesting about the Catholic Bishop who is being expelled from Spain. But I believe that those people who accept the dictatorship in Spain, who accept the genocide in Vietnam, who accept American intervention in Cuba and Dominica, and who are happy about the coups d’etat and the military juntas in Greece and Chile have no right to protest about civil liberties in the Soviet Union. I believe they show only hypocrisy when they talk about Solzhenitsyn but have not a word to say about the treatment of the African National Congress in South Africa, the South African Congress of Trade Unions or about the Socialist Party or Christian Democrats in Spain or about Wilfred Burchett. In fact, they even want to pursue their vendettas years later. They are not entitled to talk about civil liberties because they have disqualified themselves; so too it is impossible for any of us to say that we support civil liberties in Chile, South Africa, Rhodesia or Greece unless we also say that we are uniform in our support of civil liberties.
I think that this is one of the most inexplicable things which has been done by the Soviet Union. It almost seems as if we are being given living evidence of the Orwellian prophecy about the division of the world into 2 major power blocs in which leading power juntas in each of those power blocs does not care about what happens in the other. What has been one of the effects of the
Soviet action in relation to Solzhenitsyn? It has placed in jeopardy the future of the Italian Communist Party. People are now asking the Italian Communist Party- in many respects a very reasonable, sensible and national Communist Party- whether, if elected, it would ban writers and books in the same way as its Soviet friends. This action of the Soviet Union has placed in jeopardy the very painfully and carefully constructed alliance between the Socialist Party, the Communist Party and the left wing radicals in France which showed very great prospects of defeating the conservative Government which has been in power for many years. Now the Democratic Socialists in France are forced to ask the Communists: ‘What is your position on Solzhenitsyn? Are you in favour of what the Soviet Government has done? In which case, will you deal with French newspapers and French writers in the same way as the Soviet Government has? Are you opposed to it? If you are opposed to it, say that you are opposed to it.’ These are some of the absurdities which have resulted from the policy which the Soviet Government has adopted.
We in the Australian Labor Party reject the actions which have been taken by the Soviet Government. We oppose the actions which have been taken by anybody who has suppressed freedom and who has engaged in war against smaller countries. Ours is a difficult path. It is the Democratic Socialist path. It is a hard one. It is not an easy one but knowing that it is hard and knowing that it is difficult these are the policies which the Australian Labor Party supports. These are the policies which this Government intends to carry out.
-I second the motion so ably moved today by my colleague Senator Wheeldon. In doing so I sincerely congratulate Her Majesty on the presentation personally of the opening Speech to our Parliament. I believe that all Australians appreciate the fact that Her Majesty was given the opportunity to open our national Parliament. Consequently this gives the lie direct to those members of the Opposition who try to besmirch members of the Australian Labor Party and suggest all types of terrible things about them. I believe that it was an epoch making event. The people of Australia roundly applaud the fact that Her Majesty was given the opportunity to present Her Speech in this national Parliament. It is recorded in Hansard. What an amazing document it is.
– Yes, it is astonishing.
– It shows precisely what has gone on since the Australian Labor Party took office and what is proposed for the future. Senator Hannan has just interjected. He is one of those members of the Opposition who insulted fraternal people from other countries by remaining seated in their places although the President invited senators to stand as a mark of respect. He is always saying everything bad about races other than our own. He has not the slightest conception of fraternal feelings for other people throughout the world. He would dearly love to see Australia continue in the role of aggressor in any war that he believed justified. We have heard him time and again. Only yesterday he raised the question of Mr Alexander Solzhenitsyn. The Australian people know that Senator Willesee as Minister for Foreign Affairs on 2 occasions condemned the Government of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics for banishing that colleague. Immediately that happened Mr Grassby, the Minister for Immigration, said that Solzhenitsyn and his family could come to Australia to live. What have honourable senators opposite to say about that? We have not heard one word of congratulation to the Australian Government for its stand. On the contrary, we continue to get condemnation and irresponsible remarks from rude people. Her Majesty told the people of Australia of our progress. She said that the Government would continue with policies of reform and innovation. She went on:
It will use its constitutional power resolutely to press its program to fulfilment.
She was referring to a program marked by remarkable reform in legislation after 23 years of the dead hand of the previous Government being laid upon the people of Australia, aided and abetted by members of the Nationalist Party, as they now call it, and the Democratic Labor Party. Last year was a year of reform and innovation and we are proud of our efforts in that direction. Her Majesty referred to the economy as basically strong and buoyant and that prevails today. Go amongst country people and they will tell you that they have never known prices to be as good as those they are receiving for their products today. Twice recently I have visited country areas and on each occasion the people there told me that they were more than satisfied with the prices they were getting for their products. How has this come about? It has not come about through handing out everything asked for, as occurred in the past. It came about through the progressive development of the Australian
Government seeking sales most successfully in other countries.
We will continue to seek the greatest possible measure of Australian ownership of our industries and resources. The previous Government continued to sell our resources to overseas ownership. Immediately this Government came to power and tried to reverse that situation it was attacked by the friends of monopolists and big business. We will continue to be attacked but we will continue to press forward in that direction. Her Majesty said that we would introduce legislation to fill constitutional responsibilities with respect to banking, insurance and financial corporations. How many times have we heard from the other side of the chamber bitter complaints about banking institutions. Now that we are proposing to do something about it, let us see the colour of the money of our critics. I wager that they will find it impossible to frustrate the work of the Government.
I remind the people of Australia that members of the Opposition continue to try to frustrate the work of the Government, although some of them deny that they are doing so. However, Senator Withers, Leader of the Opposition in the Senate, is on record as saying: ‘We shall frustrate the Government in its policies. ‘ He made no attempt to conceal it. Perhaps he was indiscreet, but it is on record as the attitude of the Opposition to legislation that has been introduced for the advancement of the Australian people. A very important new Ministry of Minerals and Energy has been created. Its importance has been confirmed by the events of 1973. Some people would have us go to war with every nation in the world but our view has prevailed and as a fair government we have continued to receive cooperation. Senator Wood has come into the chamber. Last night he criticised the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam). Just have a look at him. If a secret ballot were conducted amongst the members of his own Party he would not receive one vote for anything he has said. Time out of number he has let down members of his own Party. He came in here supporting a policy but immediately ratted on that policy. That is the type of person who tries to criticise our Prime Minister.
– You would be expelled if you did it.
-Of course, and I would expect to be expelled if I ratted on my own Party. I make no apology for saying it. The honourable senator smiles but his colleagues would love to put a knife into him on any occasion that presented itself. Her Majesty said that Australia was in a more fortunate position than most comparable nations in the energy crisis but the Government would not be complacent in planning for the future energy needs of the Australian nation. The Government has done much in that direction even though it has been in power only about 1 5 months. It has been trying to protect the interests of the Australian people. I move on to deal with national responsibilities and priorities, including interstate highways and export roads. Surely anybody with any sense at all would acknowledge that the Australian Government has been pre-eminent in submitting proposals for the advancement of the people of Australia.
– But you -
– What did the previous Government do in 23 years to set up a new road safety and standards authority? It did absolutely nothing, just as it did nothing in other areas. My colleague opposite from Queensland, Senator Lawrie, has attempted to interject. What did the previous Government do to provide financial assistance for the Ross River dam? He is very quiet now. The present Australian Government has done more for Queensland than has been done by any other government/for a long time. Legislation is proposed for national parks and wildlife commission. Again, I ask: Was this ever thought of by the previous Government? It was never thought of. At this point I pay tribute to Senator Mulvihill for his advocacy of” matters in the environmental field long before any honourable senators opposite ever thought about the subject.
There are many other things to which I wish to refer. Her Majesty’s Speech refers to legislation to enable the Australian Tourist Commission to enter into domestic tourist promotion. In that connection, might I say that only last weekend I was in the company of the Mayor of the Gold Coast, Alderman Newman, the honourable member for Maranoa in another place, Mr Corbett, and people from the Stanthorpe tourist promotion area. They are very keen to establish what they believe to be a magnificent concept for tourism.
– What about the position -
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Webster)-Order!
-He yaps all the time, Mr Deputy President. Nobody takes any notice of him. The people to whom I have referred propose that overseas tourists who come to Australia should go to the Gold Coast for two or three days and then be transported by bus -
– When it is not raining and there are no floods.
– Anyway, they will not be reading pornographic literature from your shop. They will then be transported by bus to Beaudesert, Stanthorpe and other areas in Queensland where they will see something of rural Queensland. I know that the Hon. F. Stewart, Minister for Tourism and Recreation, will be very pleased to hear the view of members of that committee.
While on the subject of Stanthorpe, I repeat that I was fortunate to be a guest at the apple and grape festival held at Stanthorpe last weekend. I pay tribute to the organising ability of those who were responsible for that function. Principally, I pay tribute to Mr Neil Sullivan, president of the organisation responsible, who was assisted by all sections of the community. A population of under 3,000 people in Stanthorpe was able to put on such a display that it attracted well nigh 20,000 people from the surrounding areas.
– The honourable senator would never be invited. On the Friday night there was a ball attended by approximately 1200 people. As I have said, on Saturday there were 20,000 people in the streets. There were 28 bands, a massed pipe band of 400 pipers and a massed brass band of 500 musicians. Consequently, all sections of the community were catered for. It was a very fine pageant showing what goes on in that area. I congratulate Mr Neil Sullivan, and his committee on their organisation of this event. I also congratulate Councillor Fred Rogers and the councillors of the Stanthorpe Shire Council for the way in which they combined to assist.
Honourable senators will recall that Her Majesty referred to the tragic circumstances associated with the people of Queensland and of New South Wales in the loss of life and property they suffered in the recent floods in those States. I want to address myself to that aspect of the floods which concerns Queensland. It has been reported and stated quite emphatically that Queensland suffered the worst national disaster since the white man occupied Australia. I believe that anybody who saw the difficulties under which the people of Queensland lived for those few days would agree. It is to the credit of Mr Crean and Mr Barnard that they travelled to Queensland with no fanfare of trumpets and with no suggestion that they were coming in any political atmosphere. They went immediately to the Premier of Queensland who subsequently said that he was more than satisfied with the generous treatment that he and Queensland had received from the Federal Government. It appears that the Federal Government will provide in the vicinity of $ 1 50m for the people of Queensland.
But what happened? Mr Crean and Mr Barnard came to Queensland. They negotiated with Sir Gordon Chalk, the Treasurer of Queensland, and with the Premier of Queensland on what financial arrangements would be made to assist the people of Queensland. It was agreed that an amount of approximately $50m would be made available immediately. The Premier of the State prepared a statement for release to the Press. Mr Barnard and Mr Crean objected to three or four paragraphs of the statement and it was agreed that those paragraphs would be altered. Notwithstanding the fact that this was an honourable agreement between the head of the Queensland Government and the representatives of the Australian Government, the Premier of Queensland caused to be circulated the original statement. This is a most dishonourable action and it should never have happened.
I go further. The Premier of Queensland, on the Sunday night after the disastrous rains of Friday and Saturday, was asked to sponsor a national appeal for financial assistance for the people of Queensland. He declined to do so. The principal newspapers in Australia were responsible for the request. They then contacted the Lord Mayor of Brisbane, Alderman Clem Jones, and he in turn tried to prevail on the Premier to sponsor this national appeal. Again the Premier declined on the score that he had tried this once before when an area in Queensland had been devastated by a cyclone and he was not going to try it again. So the Lord Mayor said to him: ‘If you are not prepared to do it, do you object if I do it? ‘ The Premier said: ‘No, you can do it if you accept the responsibility’. The Lord Mayor accepted the responsibility. Thank goodness that he did. He immediately set about obtaining money to help the distressed people in Brisbane. The Ipswich City Council did a similar job. The fact is that there could have been a uniform national appeal but the Premier of Queensland opposed that proposition and it was left to individuals to sponsor their appeals. The Premier saw that the Lord Mayor’s appeal was becoming so successful that he felt he had to come into it but his appeal received nowhere near the same proportion of support that was accorded to the Lord Mayor’s appeal. I believe that the people of Brisbane, and indeed the people of Queensland, would congratulate the Lord Mayor of Brisbane for what he did in that direction.
– To what political Party does he belong?
– The membership of your Party is so small that it could hold a meeting in a telephone box. In what other manner did the Premier of Queensland react to the difficulties being experienced by the people of Queensland? What happened when the Australian Government indicated that it would be prepared to finance without restriction the overcoming of the difficulties being experienced by the people of Queensland? What did the old Government do? It put absolutely nothing into any such fund. I hope that Senator Withers would not grin so much if such difficulties were ever experienced by the people of Western Australia; but I believe that he would because he has no feelings whatsoever for people. I show to the Senate an advertisement on this subject which appeared in the Courier-Mail’ of Friday, 8 February. It is headed with the crest of the Queensland Government. The line under the crest reads: Queensland Government Flood Relief. The advertisement goes on to state: ‘Brisbane and Ipswich householders: If you need help or advice following the flood, this is where to get it from the Queensland Government’. It is a most despicable advertisement. There is no reference in it to the Australian Government. Anyone who believes that he is an Australian would condemn it. As the advertisement is not about pornographic literature Senator Little, who is continually interjecting, would not understand it. Advertisements of that nature appeared indicating that the Queensland Government was the organisation from which to obtain relief although it had not put one cent towards assisting the people of Queensland. An advertisement of practically the same wording also appeared in the Brisbane Telegraph’, which is the evening newspaper. Senator Little objects to what I am saying because he is one of those who support Mr BjelkePetersen, the Premier of Queensland.
The Deputy Prime Minister, Mr Barnard, had occasion to complain to the Premier of Queensland that the wording of the advertisement was completely wrong. The Premier of Queensland said: ‘ Yes, I think it is a bit hot. I will alter the advertisement’. He did so the following Saturday morning but instead of the amended advertisement appearing in the ‘Courier Mail’, which has a circulation of 300,000, it appeared in the ‘Australian’, which has a circulation in Queensland of 40,000. That is what was done by the Premier of Queensland, who claims to be so democratic in all his actions. He did that notwithstanding the fact that he promised the Deputy Prime Minister that he would amend the advertisement. The Premier of Queensland again used the crest of the Queensland Government in the advertisement in the ‘Australian’. It states: ‘Your State Government in co-operation with the Commonwealth Government, is providing every assistance possible to help flood victims throughout the State’. Those words are attributed to Mr Bjelke-Petersen, the Premier of Queensland. After promising the Deputy Prime Minister, as he did, that he would amend the advertisement to show the correct picture, that was Mr BjelkePetersen ‘s idea of fairness and that was his idea of democracy.
The Australian Government also said to the Queensland Government: ‘We will provide up to $25,000 for any business which has experienced financial difficulties as a result of the flood’. Let us bear in mind that the Queensland Government did not put in one cent. I will read the advertisement that appeared in relation to that offer. Again the Queensland Government’s crest was at the top of the advertisement above the heading: ‘Flood Relief for Industry and Small Businesses’. It reads:
A special loan fund has been established to assist in the recovery and restoration of flood-affected industry and small businesses in Queensland.
This fund, established by the Queensland Government in conjunction with the Commonwealth Government, under the supervision of-
And so it goes on. That is the only reference to the Australian Government. It will be noted that the praise goes to the Queensland Government, in conjunction with the Commonwealth Government. Any member of the national Parliament who supports advertisements of this deceitful nature has no credibility whatsoever and no regard for the national Parliament. The situation in Queensland was most serious indeed. I have refrained from making any statements in Queensland in any circumstances about the situation, notwithstanding the fact that I knew that political bias was being shown on the part of the Queensland Government. This is the first opportunity that I have had to raise these matters and I have done so believing that all fair dinkum Australians will condemn the Queensland Government for trying to make political capital out of the difficulties being experienced by the people of Queensland.
– I move:
Before elucidating the reasons for this motion, I would like, on behalf of the Liberal Party, to thank Her Majesty for so graciously opening the Second Session of the 28th Parliament. Her presence in our Parliament gave dignity and distinction to our opening. In moving this amendment I do not intend any discourtesy to Her Majesty. However, it is a well known and publicised fact that the Queen’s Speech was a statement of the intent of the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam), prepared by the Prime Minister. To give to it any aura of mystique or the attributes of a Royal command would be to distort the truth.
With this in mind Liberal Party senators noted with pleasure the Queen’s statement for the Prime Minister that his Government intends to pursue its policies to the utmost by using its constitutional powers resolutely. Let us hope this means that there will be no more back door sallies on the Constitution by the Australian Labor Party. Political commentators would have us believe that this statement about using constitutional powers constituted a threat by the Prime Minister of a double dissolution. If so, we welcome it. Perhaps it shows a new determination by the Prime Minister. Unfortunately it is a trifle hard to take as a genuine threat. After all, despite our repeated suggestions to the Prime Minister over the past months that he should test his alleged mandate by putting it to the vote, despite our willingness to facilitate this course and despite the ability to hold a double dissolution, the fact remains that we have lived with this dire threat since the day the Prime Minister took office. The words would make more sense if directed by the Prime Minister to his Caucus, for I would imagine that if Caucus makes the Prime Minister back down on many more issues he just might use his constitutional powers to take them all back to the electorate, even if some of them would be left swinging. There is no doubt, of course, that the Prime Minister would prefer to govern alone. He would rather not have a Ministry and a Caucus, and for that we can excuse him.
But there can be no excusing his wish to denigrate the Parliament and to by-pass the parliamentary system. The Prime Minister does not believe in a federation. He wants to govern this nation as a republican president. He detests the constraints or checks on his thirst for power.
The most effective constraint the nation has on the Prime Minister is the Senate, which was set up as a deliberate act, by those who drew up the Constitution, to make the federation more than an ideal. The Senate was required to make the federation a reality. The Prime Minister speaks of his mandate. I claim that this term in Australia has no relevance. It might have had some applicability in the late 19th century and even the early 20th century in Great Britain when there was a struggle between an elected House of Commons and an hereditary House of Lords. But this is not the case in Australia. Both federal houses of parliament in this country are elected on a nation-wide franchise- the same franchise. So, just where does this present Prime Minister get his mandate? Let us examine the election of December 1972 State by State. I will concede that he won in New South Wales and Tasmania, but he did not win in Western Australia, where he holds only 4 of the 9 seats. He did not win in Queensland, where he won only 8 out of 1 8 seats. He did not win in Victoria where he holds only 14 out of 34 seats. And even in South Australia, where he holds 7 out of 12 seats, he lost a seat in the 1972 elections. So on a State by State basis, where does he gain his mandate? I say again, there is no mandate.
Does he claim that everybody knows the precise details of his policy speech and the Australian Labor Party’s platform and therefore voted for him? If so, of course, they have been misled- misled in many circumstances- and, as a simple example, I cite the provision of fertiliser bounties. The provision of the bounty is confirmed by the Labor Party’s platform. Another example is that Australian public servants would have been sorely disappointed but for the Senate in the granting of 4 weeks annual leave. We all recall that in his policy speech the Prime Minister promised it to all public servants but, when he won, he wanted to give it to unionists only. It was the Senate which ensured that all public servants gained that leave entitlement, and not just a section of the Public Service. Our very Constitution is a negation of the mandate theory. I suggest to the Prime Minister that he should cease trying to import ideas and political theories which are not applicable to this country.
If a government has any doubt about the lightness of its cause, those who drew up the Constitution in the last part of the century put in section 57, which allows a government to test whether the people support it or its opponents. We all know that section 57 provides for a double dissolution. The founding fathers realised that even after a double dissolution there could still be difficulties and therefore made provision for a joint sitting. The simple fact is that the Prime Minister has no mandate to do as he wishes. He cannot disregard the legislature. We all know that he would like to govern without Parliament, but the Prime Minister and his Government can only do as Parliament will allow them to do. The Constitution does not state that the legislative power of the Commonwealth shall be vested in the Australian Labor Party or some egomaniac. It states that this power is ‘vested in the Queen, a Senate and a House of Representatives’. I repeat: The Constitution states that the legislative power shall be vested in the Queen, a Senate and a House of Representatives. It is the Prime Minister who is at fault, and we can only appeal to him that, if he believes he has been unduly hindered by part of the legislature, he already has the means at his disposal to test whom the Australian people support. It is the Australian people who are our masters in the Senate inasmuch as they are also the Prime Minister’s masters.
In the Liberal Party’s opinion, the true position in Australia is set out in my amendment. We believe it to be true because, neither by direct policies nor by example, has this Labor Government moved to control inflation. The latest unemployment figures, the December quarter consumer price index and recent conflicting statements by the Minister for Labour (Mr Clyde Cameron) and the Treasurer (Mr Crean), indicate the prevailing confusion in the Labor Government and the failure of the Government’s economic policies. In fact while some of his Ministers have been most voluble the Prime Minister himself has been silent on the deteriorating econonic situation. This is further evidence of his well-known incompetence in this field and his total inability to provide effective leadership- or perhaps it could be excused on the basis that he is terribly busy planning for his various tours overseas which seem to occupy most of his time.
During 1973 as a whole, prices rose by 13.6 per cent, almost three times the 4.5 per cent increase in the final year of the last LiberalCountry Party Government. The present annual rate of inflation is still in excess of 14 per cent. No other government has subjected Australia to such economic mismanagement. Government spending has increased enormously. The Government expected it to increase by 19 per cent. In fact the increase will be nearer 25 per cent. It includes an increase of over 150 new branches and divisions of the Commonwealth Public Service in one year. These extra public servants- just the extra public servants- will cost Australia $ 1 50m in salary alone.
A cutback in Government spending does not mean that progressive pension rises have to be or can be slowed. It is important in these times of great inflation that those on fixed incomes should be protected. A cutback in government spending, however, does mean a halt to the unrestricted growth of the Public Service beyond what the country can afford. The Government has exacerbated the rate of inflation by this unprecedented population explosion in the Public Service. It has done so by increasing interest rates, by refusing to seek the co-operation of all sections of the community- be they Commonwealth institutions, State governments, employers, unions and consumers- and it has shown itself totally incapable of responsibly managing the economy.
The Government’s desire to change the federal system of government in Australia and its ultimate execution of the Senate are well known. The ALP has had the abolition of the Senate as a policy since 1919. That will be the policy that the Government will be taking to the people at the next Senate election. It will be asking for control of the chamber it desires to abolish. But fortunately for the less populous States, the Labor Party has not been able to carry out its sentence on the Senate. The Prime Minister’s plethora of referenda, which we are told will be put to the people on the same day as the Senate election, contains a few more barbs aimed in this direction. One of the inconsistencies of the Australian Labor Party is that while its own constitution provides for equal State representation in its Party councils, presumably so that State divisions of the ALP are fully protected, it has decided that this is not desirable or necessary in the national Parliament. The ALP hopes to facilitate procedures to alter the Constitution. Its reasons for this desire are not hard to imagine.
The Government’s vicious attack on rural industries, and consequently on the communities they support, began in earnest with the reading of the Budget, despite previous claims by the Prime Minister- and I quote his words: ‘We come to Government with malice towards none. We will co-operate whole-heartedly with all sections of this nation.’ Its latest move in this attack was the Prime Minister’s cancellation of superphosphate bounties. This move was taken against ALP policy as enunciated last year and without consultation even with the rural committee set up by the Labor Caucus. The move was taken against the advice of the Coombs Task Force- advice which the Prime Minister has personally sought. It is an ill advised move which will cost rural communities many thousands of dollars and which will ultimately lead to lower production and shortages of supplies of rural products, resulting eventually and very quickly in higher prices to the long suffering consumer.
The Government’s negative defence policy is fast producing a negative defence force. Whenever the fast escalating list of resignations from any of the 3 Services is produced, we are told that the resignations are because the Labor Government has made retirement benefits so attractive that officers and men just cannot resist the temptation to resign. I put it to the Senate that the object of improving benefits to the Services is surely to encourage men to stay in the profession which they have chosen, not to encourage them to resign. Morale in the defence forces is so low at the moment- it does not show any signs of improvement- that many servicemen, seeing no prospects of job satisfaction or advancement, are resigning their commissions or failing to re-enlist. The west coast of our continent is almost totally defenceless. The east coast is now and, if the Government continues its present policies, will continue to be protected by a small force with antiquated equipment.
We on this side of the chamber regret that the Government has not, through the Queen’s Speech, put forward any new or specific proposals to meet the vast problems confronting our nation- a nation once sound and confident, a nation which this Government is relentlessly pounding into the ground. We on this side call upon the Government to stop posturing and grandstanding. We call upon it to put its own house in order, and we call upon it to tackle the real problems which are besetting our country. Liberal Party senators intend to carry out Her Majesty’s expressed desire, that is to fulfil to the utmost of our abilities the deep responsibility which the Australian people have placed upon us.
-I am surprised that no Government senator rose to defend the Government’s program after the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Withers) had been heard. But they are the ways of the Australian Labor Party in government, and we must adapt ourselves to its idiosyncrasies. I address myself to the Address-in-Reply to Her Majesty’s Speech with a deep sense of the honour which she bestowed upon our country by her presence in this chamber and by her address to the nation. We in the political institutions of the country realise that her Speech was the expression of her ministerial advisers. Nevertheless, it was a gracious performance on the part of Her Majesty which inspired all those who were in the chamber and those who had audience outside. It was an occasion for which we were extremely grateful. The content of the speech which the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) delivered was a dull recitation of his previous programs and a regurgitation of some of the legislation which he put before the Parliament last session. He is now taking the tack of emphasising that his program for the next 6 months is directed towards constitutional reform. That tack has 2 purposes. Firstly, he seeks to alter the basis of the federal structure of Australia. Being conscious that he cannot achieve unification by direct constitutional means, he is setting out to achieve unification little by little, in the hope that he will disintegrate the State forces and will have substituted for them regional areas which will become dependent upon his direct largess. Secondly, he is indulging in that constitutional process to avoid the obvious criticism which comes from not taking up a challenge of a double dissolution on matters of high priority.
I do not intend to devote my time, brief as it will be, on this occasion to generalities because I do not find in the content of the Speech any subject which I would debate specifically. All those subjects, which will take expression by way of Bills, will come up for specific debate. But in this economy there are things which are extremely disturbing to the average citizen. Who would have ever dreamed that a political party which professes to believe in low interest rates would be presiding over a Treasury which has forced upon the country the highest interest rates in its history 8.5 per cent for Commonwealth bonds and 9.5 per cent for overdrafts? Anybody who is dependent upon borrowed money for the continuing operation of his business or for the acquisition of a house knows the grievous burden which a high interest rate is upon the small man, the young man, the man who is dependent upon borrowed money to get a home or to secure a business. This Government- a government which pretends to represent the lower earning section of the community especially- bolsters the price of money and increases the rate of interest to a Shylock degree. This step, together with the Government’s extravagant expenditure of public funds, has had the consequence of creating a rate of inflation and an upsurge of prices. If one builds or buys a home today one realises the extent to which prices have been urged upwards in the last 12 months by the mismanagement of this Government, and one sees how the ordinary individual has become a victim of the Government’s mismanagement. I shall come back to that subject if time permits, as I think it will.
This occasion is not one for the Opposition to be wholly critical or wholly negative. There are things in this country which so obviously need legislative attention that I wish to take the opportunity to point out one or two of them. The ‘Sydney Morning Herald’ this morning told of the Sydney wharves chocked with goods, of containers which cannot be moved and of multiple containers in disarray. The whole matter of sea transport is in a mess and is extremely costly. I mention that because Tasmania, the State that I represent, is subject to special disabilities with regard to the sea carriage of goods. We have been bedevilled by our special shipping problems, having been the only island State of the federation since Federation. The service has been gradually deteriorating. I put forward a positive proposal. So many interests are contributing to the high cost and disorganisation of those shipping services that we have to get some really responsible government into the coastal shipping trade particularly in Tasmania.
A committee of the Senate looked into this matter 2 years ago. It brought forward a valuable report and focussed attention upon the difficulties involved. The Committee expected to get some help through the Bureau of Transport Economics. A year ago the Bureau brought out a report which, taken on one basis, said that our cargo was sustaining a freight differential of between $5 and $25 a ton compared with land freights on the mainland. On another basis it was less. Nothing came of that report. Now the Government has referred the problem to one of the heads of a department, Mr Nimmo, who has been given a special assignment. We cannot get relief by a series of committees and reports. The job is one for the Senate. The Senate represents the States and therefore has a peculiar responsibility concerning shipping around the coastline, particularly of Tasmania. I suggest that a remedy lies in the reconstitution of the Inter-State Commission. Section 101 of the Constitution provides that there shall be an Inter-State Commission to administer not only the provisions of the Constitution dealing with interstate trade but also to administer the laws made under the Constitution relating to interstate trade of which shipping, of course, is an important integer.
Between 1912 and 1920 the Commission was in operation. It functioned for the purpose of supervising some tariffs, some freights and some costs in industry. By inquiry and administration it was beginning to take effect when the High Court, in a technical decision, somewhat left it with only one arm. But from the point of view of commercial efficacy that matters not a whit. The Commission is required by the Constitution to be set up to administer- let us forget about adjudication- the laws of the Constitution and the laws made under the Constitution relating to interstate trade.
This problem has occupied my mind ever since I began in the legal profession, because it was then a prominent subject for discussion in Tasmania. The Honourable Joseph Lyons, a Tasmanian who was Prime Minister of Australia, thought he was contributing to this problem when he set up the State Grants Commission, but as we know that Commission has gone along a line whereby it simply compares budgets of different States and does not concern itself with commercial problems that create disadvantages for one particular State. That Commission has taken an entirely different focus in our affairs since uniform taxation was introduced. The present Government is bent upon destroying, subverting and overloading it so that we cannot place any reliance upon that Grants Commission to give us the relief that is appropriate in the shipping problems. 1 wish to show now how the shipping complex in Tasmania is made up. The Australian National Line is by far the most important shipping operator. The other operator on Bass Strait, William Holyman and Sons Pty Ltd, has notified crew members that they will be paid off in about 8 weeks. The other 2 vessels, which are substantially operating to southern ports and which belong to the Union Steam Ship Co., are carrying quite a significant trade. But my point is that the shipping operators are dwindling. The next thing is that enormous monopolies are constituted on the waterfront. Under the aegis of the Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority we have the Waterside Workers Federation. The cost which that union’s operations impose on the industry is unbelievable. The strikes that continue to occur and bedevil the industry from day to day are of great impact and disadvantage.
I received in my mail today a letter from Mayne Nickless Ltd saying that industrial troubles and general congestion on the Melbourne wharves about 3 days ago left it with 100 containers in its depot in Melbourne which it could not expect to move to Tasmania within the next few weeks. That position corresponds with the difficulties in Sydney to which I referred. We should remember that the Waterside Workers Federation draws out of the industry no less than $9m a year for idle time. The people who lay down the conditions of payment of the waterside workers must co-ordinate their efforts with some overall administrator or controller. I envisage that the Inter-State Commission could do so. I refer now to the Seamen’s Union. We have got to the fantastic situation where an able bodied seaman on the coastal trade of Australia receives $8,500 plus his keep for 30 weeks work. If anyone can convince me that those rates are justified by any reasonable comparison with seamen’s rates anywhere else in the world I am a Dutchman. I should like to see a co-ordination on the part of the bodies which are responsible for those rates and waterside workers’ rates, under the supervision and administration of an overall administrator such as the Inter-State Commission.
Lastly, and probably most importantly of all, there is an essential need for the Inter-State Commission, the one and only fair CommonwealthState agency that is created in the Constitution, if only because of the operations interstate, and particularly in Tasmania, on the sea road by the freight forwarders. Ever since section 92 of the Constitution freed the interstate transporter on the mainland and to Tasmania from any other regulatory control a degree of cost has been developed by the freight forwarders that is an extraordinary burden. That industry needs to come under the scrutiny of an interstate commission. Then the ship operators, the waterside workers, the Seamen’s Union, the freight forwarders and all other elements that combine to make up the industry would be under the supervision and scrutiny of this body. I believe that by establishing a body to publish annual reports, issue orders and examine the reasonableness of freight rates and the excuses for discontinuous service this Parliament would be creating a body of real merit for solving some of the problems that are bedevilling our interstate shipping. My mind has been particularly focused on this over the last 9 months as a result of a survey of the northern ports and discussions with merchants who tell me that the arrival of cargo is completely unreliable. For example, most of the brass products of the brass foundry at Launceston are sent by air because of the unreliability of shipping. I was told that one heavy industry brought in any plant weighing less than half a ton by air transport. That shows the paralysis that exists regarding shipping. So my proposition is that there must be an early re-activation of the Inter-State Commission with a special responsibility to solve the problems of the coastal trade and particularly the Tasmanian shipping difficulties within an early period.
– Did not this Government indicate in its first statement that it would do that?
-Yes, that is my recollection. Of course, this proposal came out of the deliberations of the Constitutional Review Committee in 1959 of which, I think, the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) and I are the only remaining members in the Parliament. But notwithstanding the neglect of that time I am here to try to create interest in this positive proposal to solve the shipping difficulties. I have referred to the tremendous extravagance which this Government has displayed since it came into office. We had delivered to us yesterday a special report by the Auditor-General upon the Department of Aboriginal Affairs. I want to make brief reference to just 2 parts of that report merely to illustrate the absolute irresponsibility of the Minister in charge at the time that these transactions took place and for which of course the Government must take responsibility. The department took possession of an ex-Taiwanese trawler, the ‘Yung Yuan’, and without proper authority she was purchased. There was no approval for absence of tenders. The Department decided to incur an expenditure. It used the advances from the Treasury for the purpose of a cash sale and then when it put the advances into the bank account it ignored Treasury regulations. Then when the accounts started to come in to the Canberra office, that office had no knowledge of the transaction. A consultant to the then Minister for Aboriginal Affairs had entered into the commitments and the Department had no knowledge of them.
After an expenditure of more than $40,000 on this vessel to equip her for some purpose of Aboriginal experience she is now lying at Maryborough, declared unfit and no longer feasible for the use for which she was purchased. I have not referred to her cost. She became, I believe- although this is not shown in the report- the property of the Commonwealth Government when government officers confiscated her for illegal fishing. So the Government obtained her by way of forfeit and then proceeded to spend more than $40,000 equipping a ship that was not fit for the purposes for which she was equipped.
I want to make just one other reference, under the heading of travel. I do not stay to consider the diseased turtles and the huge expenditure of $343,000 on turtle farms. Instead, I go to the simple example of a regional matter in Alice Springs in August 1973. A sum of $13,500 was sent to an officer in Alice Springs. The cheques were cashed and $3,000 was paid out to him; then $2,500 was credited to an unauthorised bank account and on 12 December the credit balance remaining was $1,239. The advance of $13,500 had not been acquitted, which is an audit term for ‘justified ‘, by 25 October, the date of the audit examination, nor by 18 February 1 974 when further inquiries were made. I am not saying that anybody has embezzled any of this money. But the absolute irresponsibility with regard to those 2 items of expenditure illustrates how recreant to its trust is this Government. It is taking an appropriation in general expenditure of 20 per cent to 25 per cent up on last year, involving, as my Leader said, an additional $150m in Public Service expenditure alone. That is creating the avalanche of high costs and high expenses that the community is suffering. I have no time to deal now, but will do so during the session, with the particular injustices which the Government has visited on the Tasmanian fruit industry, or the particular ineptitude of its decision recently to withdraw the superphosphate bounty right at the time when world prices are increasing and when the cost of superphosphate even with the bounty is to take a great upsurge. These matters are of grievous concern to the man on the land. In some respects meat, sugar, wheat and wool producers are enjoying better timesbut after a decade of very low incomes. In that respect the onslaught that the Minister for Primary Industry (Senator Wriedt) is making on the rural industries is causing very great damage to Australia.
– I rise to support the motion that has been sponsored by Senator Wheeldon and Senator Milliner. The keynote of the opening speech made by Her Majesty the Queen dealt with what could be called a rekindling of Australian nationalism. This incorporates no idea to annex any other country’s territory but rather refers to the economic field. It means that we will not be dominated by the multi-national corporationsand that attitude has been paralled more or less throughout Latin America. There is an awakening in Asia. In commencing my speech I could do no better than to contrast some of the oil agreements made by countries like Indonesia with the multi-national corporations. In fact the terms of the agreement with Indonesia are far superior to those in agreements made with other countries, including Australia. The point is that the vigorous attitude of our Minister for Minerals and Energy, Mr Connor, at least has gained respect in the world boardrooms and no longer do we grovel in front of these people. As time goes on it will be proved that they will be much more loyal to the wants of Australia than they were before. So far as the fuel crisis and the bunkering policy is concerned, there is no doubt that but for the firmness ofthe Minister for Minerals and Energy we would have been well back in the queue.
Referring to what I term genuine Australian nationalism, this can succeed only if we get partnerships with the States and local government authorities. I listened a moment ago to Senator Wright speaking about shipping problems. We appreciate that there are shipping problems, but I could not help thinking that many of the faults in the port of Sydney possibly are due to the dilatoriness of the Maritime Services Board in Sydney. I do not say that in a combative manner, but I suppose that the activisation of the New South Wales Maritime Services Board and its counterpart in Victoria largely depends on how much punch they get from their respective State governments. It could well be said that if there had been more benevolence on the part of governments in Canberra in the last decade, possibly the expansion of Botany Bay as a major shipping port may have eased the congestion that Senator Wright mentioned. I appreciate his enthusiasm about his own State and its shipping problems but the fact of the matter may well be that if we sacrificed the federal system, which the Opposition says is in danger, a shipping czar would get quicker action that the tripartite arrangement to which we have to adhere. This is something that no Australian Government can do on its own. It is a question of how much assistance is forthcoming in the partnership.
That brings me to one or two other social problems for which I believe the faults of federalism are to blame. Consider the question of crime in the cities and the unfettered use of various types of shotguns. For the last 12 months the Leader of the Government Senate, Senator Murphy, has pleaded with and cajoled State Ministers responsible for law and order to get a uniform gun code. Only a few days ago in Western Australia bikies were roaming around carrying crossbows and shotguns. The State police were left to handle a very delicate situation.
Honourable senators talk about the society in which we live. I believe that we must have a uniform gun code. People like Mr Willis in my own State talk about law and order but there is no action because the States feel that they are going to be subservient to the Commonwealth. On the same day as the incident in Western Australia, I saw in the motoring column of the ‘Sydney Morning Herald’ that the Volvo people are introducing a much improved reinforced bumper bar that will withstand the impact of cars travelling at about 5 kilometers an hour. For well over 2 years a number of senators, including myself and my illustrious colleague from Victoria, Senator Primmer, have been advocating what the motoring industry should do. I do not think there is a senator in this chamber who is not aware of these minor prangs that people suffer, even in parking lots. I blame all State Ministers for Transport for their inability to get together and accept the standards that the Commonwealth wants. This is another case in which the Australian Minister for Transport, Mr Jones, is accused of being autocratic. Why should he not be autocratic, and why should not the AttorneyGeneral (Senator Murphy) also be clamouring for action by the States? The Opposition cannot have it both ways. Honourable members opposite tell us that the federal system is the bastion of freedom. I say that it is the graveyard of reform.
– Quite right.
– I agree with Senator O’Byrne that in those 2 particular areas, road safety and gun control, the Australian Government’s efforts have been almost sabotaged by State Ministers not getting off their backsides to work a little longer. If someone wants to get nothing done about a matter one refers it to a conference of State Ministers. I have looked at some of the minutes of these meetings and have noted that they argue about whether they will meet again in 3 months or 6 months time. We boast of being in a push-button age yet we find that we do not get the tempo of activity that we should get. It is against that background that the Government announced in the Queen’s Speech last week, without apology, that it is determined that the day has gone when people can circumvent the law of the land so far as control of economic excesses is concerned.
In the last session of Parliament some criticism was voiced about the lack of compensation coverage and of a national disaster organisation. I am sure that my Queensland colleagues went into detail about how the existing private enterprise insurance companies proved to be completely inefficient in meeting cost of the devastation in Queensland. After all, it was a private enterprise economy and honourable senators opposite when in office laid down the ground rules. When I had the temerity at the suggestion of a number of ethnic groups to name the Pheonix Insurance Co. in Sydney for its dilatory attitude and for exploiting female ethnic groups in the clothing industry and the office cleaning industry, I got action through Senator Murphy. It was remarkable that that firm then wrote a scurrilous letter to the Treasurer (Mr Crean) and claimed that I had over-reacted. I over-reacted to the extent that major trade unions in New South Wales and Victoria indicated that pressure being put on these insurance companies had resulted in overdue payments of outstanding claims. Due to the initiative of the Australian Government a very progressive jurist was brought from New Zealand in the person of Mr Justice Woodhouse to write a new chapter of compensation and disaster coverage. I might add, in case any director of the Phoenix Insurance Co. is listening, that I did not worry about answering the company’s scurrilous letter to the Treasurer but I did present a pretty substantial submission to Mr Justice Woodhouse which answered very effectively, that company as well as its counterparts who have tried to ignore their responsibilities.
I want to refer to another matter now so far as national responsibilities are concerned. It is the question of our attitude to the States. I suppose that no Premier has been more discourteous to the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) than has the present Queensland Premier. I have waited in vain for earlier Opposition speakers to pay tribute to the legislation that provides adequate finance for the Ross River dam. People talk about political partisanship. It was significant that Queensland was bracketed with Western Australia so it is not a question of playing one State against another because we on the Government side recognise national demands. That is what we did in regard to that situation.
– A State election is coming.
-Senator Withers, I do not envey you your job. You have to prove yourself as Leader of the Opposition in the Senate and in your eyes nothing we do is any good. That is your job. You have to earn your salary on that basis so we do not take much notice of what you say. In the economic field nobody denies that there are external pressures that obviously can affect our own financial equilibrium. However it is remarkable that a lot of the suggestions made by the Opposition about controlling the economy were tried for the last couple of years by the Opposition’s wonder boy, the former Prime Minister of Great Britain. He got his way and it did not work. The Treasurer is a very humane and honest man and we do not question for one moment that in a democracy there has to be a certain degree of trial and error. However I can say to the Opposition that whatever innovations we introduce, we certainly are not going to turn the screw back to the era of deflation. We all know about the horror budgets which were introduced by the Opposition parties. Far be it from me to speak ill of the dead. I remember a budget which was brought in by the then Treasurer, the late Harold Holt. I have had prominent Liberals say to me: ‘Senator, we will never do that again. ‘ I accept the fact that there has been criticism from sections of the trade union movement over some of the industrial things which we have done. I am prepared to grapple with these differences and to listen to different views. But I say this to honourable senators: ‘If we have to choose between what we are doing and a deflationary era, there is only one decision to be made. ‘ As a matter of fact let us look at the United States and most of Europe. I include West Germany because that country has been held up to us as a country to follow. I am not talking of the Willy Brandt era. I am going back to Erhard and all these people. This idea of unfettered operations and no controls, all these bonanzas must end.
This brings me to another aspect and that is our attitude to aid for overseas countries. There was a lot of talk about the Prime Minister and his visit to Asian countries. I shall relate that to our defence expenditure. It is true that at the moment we have a number of important decisions to make about the purchase of new aircraft. Some people have been a bit restive. They have asked how we can rationalise an adequate defence purchase with aviation manpower requirements. This is something which requires a lot of decisions. I heard Senator Wright talking about what was right and what was wrong in relation to Aboriginal expenditure. When I think of what the Opposition when in government wasted on the Fill aircraft I think that honourable senators of the Opposition ought to hang their heads in shame. At least in defence procurement we will not be conned by the Dynamics Corporation of America as the then Government was. I would indict the then Minister for Defence, now Athol Townley, who went overseas to do a job on the eve of an election. The Australian people were conned. Then, years afterward, we picked up the bill. We are not doing that. I go a little bit further as far as our defence is concerned. It is quite true that wherever our defence logistics are at the moment, they are geared to the general, peaceful attitude of our neighbours in the Pacific.
Senator Wheeldon has already pointed out the de-escalation of war in one section of South-East Asia. I am not one of those who will object if our Prime Minister shows the flag in Thailand or in any other Asian country such as Indonesia or the Philippines and we get better relations with those places. Let us be quite clear about the matter. Our attitude to these countries is not a matter of ideology. When the Prime Minister was in Indonesia he raised the question of political prisoners. He raised that question with President Marcos in the Philippines. I sympathise with Senator Withers and his Party’s problems. It has this ideological conflict at the moment. A section of his Party sees the facts of life one way and it says: ‘Well, the cold war era is over, but the right wing of his party does not accept this point of policy. We have to have an agreement, a working understanding with the other super powers, whether it be China or the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.’ That is a fact of life. Nobody wants to rock the boat. If the price of this is the spending of less on armaments, that is a fair price. The Labor Party has never said that it will strip our defence bare. But we have said that we want to obtain value for every dollar that we spend. I repeat that there has never been a bungle comparable with the purchase of the Fill aircraft. Honourable senators opposite can talk until they are blue in the face. No doubt they will have their moment of excitment when they deal with the Joint Committee of Public Accounts in relation to Aboriginal expenditure. But whatever honourable senators opposite say about the money, at least it was spent here. It did not go to multi-national corporations to boost their dividends. The honourable senators are silent about the matter because they know that they cannot defend it. All I hope is that when the defence experts on the Opposition side in batting order come into the debate later on they will answer this question in detail.
I always pay Senator Wright the compliment of attempting to answer in detail what he has said. I am sure that if he has read today’s ‘Australian Financial Review’ he will have noticed the gallery of prominent people who, over the years, have had a share in Aboriginal administration right from the time of Prime Minister Holt. He will find that we have inherited some of the officers. We have used them. I will not go into names. I know the ethics of this sort of thing. If honourable senators opposite are going to go on a fishing expedition they will find that there is a bipartisan approach on this subject. If they are not careful they will find that they will get into the same jam as they got into in relation to immigration. Before the last election honourable senators opposite- not all of them- were going to make a great deal about racism. Then they took another sounding and found that they were wrong. As far as we the Government are concerned, we are a party of innovation. We do not question the fact that there will be some errors. But at least we take the people into our confidence. We are prepared to listen to anybody. This is exemplified by my colleague on my left, Senator Cavanagh. He has always been approachable. He is ready to listen to people. He has never run away from criticism.
– Even from Senator Wright.
– Exactly. The Minister has answered for me. The attitude of Ministers has been to listen. In fact, we have not isolated ourselves. I know that the Minister for Primary Industry, Senator Wriedt, has gone into the hard land of the Australian Country Party. Even the Prime Minister has gone along. We have spoken there. But I shall go on to one or two other matters because Senator Milliner was kind enough to mention me in his speech in relation to the proposed national parks and wildlife commission. I know that in relation to this matter there is sincere conservation feeling through all political parties. I know that this is something where we obviously have to have a partnership. One thing that worries me at the moment is this talk about the release of some Commonwealth land. I do not want to see happen what is happening in my own State. At Bantry Bay which is in the electorate of Warringah. We are finding, in relation to a transfer of land, that a fairly sizable segment of it will be given to developers. Surely to goodness in any of these areas of land we will get a better deal and this will not happen. At the risk of having Senator Poyser castigate me I must say- and sometimes I have been hostile on Victoriansthat I wish the New South Wales Liberals -
– The honourable senator was on Melbourne one night.
-Now, wait a moment, Senator. Do not upset me on this. I say, particularly to Senator Poyser, that the Government of Victoria paid a much finer tribute to the Minister for Urban and Regional Development, Mr Uren, on his recent visit- honourable senators know the subject about which I am talking -in relation to a national estate project. The Victorian Government gave him a much better go than do the New South Wales Liberals. I do not know what the moral of the story is, but I want to pay tribute where I can. Senator McManus is looking at me. He will talk after me. I want to make another point which is directed at Senator McManus and Senator Little. I said that the key note of this Labor Government has been innovation. We were elected on a mandate which included a better health system. I know that Senator Carrick and I had a stormy scene at Senate Estimates Committee C. Being the chairman I had the drop on him, but I do not think I abused my position. However, Senator McManus wrote a letter to the ‘Sydney Morning Herald ‘ in relation to the national health scheme. He referred to the Hayden Health Bill. Senator Little had already spoken solely on the relationship with doctors and nothing else. I heard Senator Little put this scheme into orbit yesterday.
I say to the Senate that it is of no use trying to deal with this matter piecemeal. I would have thought that honourable senators would have said that the Nimmo report might be worth having a look at. Mr Hayden is pretty open to new ideas. During the recess I have had numerous letters from Australian citizens who have had the misfortune to become ill overseas. We know that the vast majority of the private enterprise health schemes provide no coverage in this case. I simply say to the Australian Democratic Labor Party and other Opposition senators: We talk about this Senate being the House of compromise and the House where ideas are filtered out. I have waited in vain for honourable senators to come up with some idea to improve our national health scheme, because it is not working. There is inadequate coverage. There is a secondary problem now. More and more Australians are going overseas. A vast number of post-war migrants, now in their 40s, are going overseas to visit their folks. The fact of the matter is- much as honourable senators opposite might find it abhorrent or distasteful- in relation to national health that there are agreements between Italy and Yugoslavia and Norway and Britain. But if a poor Australian is overseas and he is bowled over by a motor car he finds that he has no coverage.
– That is wrong. He can bring his bills back here.
-Senator, I have not finished yet. You say that he can bring the bills back. It is remarkable that I had 5 cases where the Hospital Contribution Fund said: ‘It is not on’. I wrote to the Minister for Social Security, Mr Hayden. He leant on the organisation and it paid. People should not have to go to a member of Parliament to obtain a coverage. It should be worthwhile. Senator Turnbull has interjected that I am incorrect. I will not give details but I have cases in my files. In one case the name started with a B. The claim was rejected by the Hospitals Contribution Fund but when I took it up with Mr Hayden, the Minister for Social Security, the money was paid, although it did take 6 months. My point is that the national health scheme at present is not sufficiently comprehensive. My battle as a member of the ALP is not with the Australian Medical Association but with the funds. Senator Gietzelt has argued in the past for rank and file democracy in the unions. We want rank and file democracy in funds. I know that Senator Murphy agrees that we cannot get the number control that is needed.
I am sure that when Senator Greenwood writes his memoirs he will tell of the big days when he was Minister for Health. He became exasperated with the private enterprise funds in New South Wales because when they were arguing about how many millions of dollars of their reserves they would feed back to meet increased costs they did not consult their rank and file members. Honourable senators opposite are critical of the trade unions. Senator Hannan has complained that union leaders do not consult members enough. The Hospitals Contribution Fund and the Medical Benefits Fund never consult their members in any way. The Speech of Her Majesty the Queen is a further instalment in creative federalism. Senator Hannan thought that I was about to use a different expression. I hope that before the Senate rises in May we will have a better national health scheme. I indict the Opposition parties for filibustering to prevent progress. I hope that when Senator Little enters this debate or introduces his Bill he will do more than worry about the Australian Medical Association. Some of my best friends with whom I play golf are members of the AMA, so I am not biased. However, I cannot stand for injustice for rank and file subscribers in the funds. People such as Mr Turner and Mr Cade who head the HCF and MBF must face up to their responsibilities.
– I join with other honourable senators in the loyal sentiments that have been expressed in regard to Her Majesty the Queen. I and members of my Party feel that the manner in which she carries out her duties honours us and is most creditable to herself. On this occasion when she opened the Parliament she had to make on behalf of the Government a much longer speech than usual. It was a speech that in many senses was rather tiring, but I think we have to admire the dignity with which she carried out her task. Even the sturdy republicans in the Australian Labor Party were favourably impressed and I have heard some of them express their admiration for the manner in which she carried out her task. I have no doubt that others will express similar admiration. When the Queen attended public functions during her last 2 visits I as a monarchist was quite prepared to stand back behind the serried ranks of Labor republicans who surrounded her on each occasion because I felt that they were indicating that whatever their republican sentiments might be they made an exception in her case.
The Speech made by the Queen on behalf of the Government contains references to what I can describe only as an appalling avalanche of proposed legislation. I complained more than once last year that Parliament was afflicted with legislative indigestion because of the manner in which starry-eyed new Ministers felt that they had to bring in Bill after Bill in order to justify themselves. We are now informed that a great deal of this legislation will need to be held over so that it can be properly examined, but we are to be faced with an even greater avalanche of additional legislation. It is quite obvious that it will be impossible for Parliament to deal with more than half of the proposed legislation in the time that will be available to us. I may be wrong but I suspect that there is electoral strategy in the proposals which the Government says will be put forward. Its supporters know of the approaching Senate election and one argument they propose to use is that the Senate is obstructing the legislation of the Government. In the past week the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) has said in Tasmania and Victoria that one of the objects of the Government in the Senate election must be to destroy the small parties, and in particular the Democratic Labor Party. I do not think he will be able to do it. I am sure that he will not be able to get control of the Senate in the next election.
There is much speculation about whether there will be a double dissolution. I am quite sure that there will not because the Prime Minister has announced that he will tour Europe for 4 or 5 weeks during the recess. I am sure that he has no intention of laying his leadership on the line in a way which might prevent him from achieving that delectable prospect. We will be accused of obstruction in the same way that we were accused of obstruction last year. Let me point out that the Government which accuses us of having obstructed its legislation last year is issuing propaganda claiming great credit to itself because last year the Parliament sat for longer than any Parliament since 1919, and last year a record number of Bills were passed.
– It cannot have it both ways.
– That is so. The Government says that its legislation is being obstructed and at the same time it claims credit for creating records for the passage of legislation. It is typical phoney propaganda for election purposes. The Prime Minister has made the blackmailing assertion in Tasmania and Victoria that the Government will brand the DLP as one of the parties obstructing legislation and that it will be the prime target for attack. All that will have no affect on us. It will not prevent us in any way from acting to ensure that when legislation of an almost revolutionary character comes before this Parliament as it has, when it could affect the whole economy of the country at a time of inflation and involving great risks and dangers, we will not be prevented by the threats of the Prime Minister of action against us from ensuring that that legislation is held up until it can be properly examined and people who have objections to it can place their cases before the Ministers concerned. It will be held up until we have ensured by adequate debate that any dangers have been eliminated and that the legislation if passed will be good for the future of Australia.
I give that guarantee. We will act to ensure that legislation of a revolutionary character is properly examined and we will enable persons who will be affected by such legislation to make their representations to the Government in adequate time. We will also allow for adequate debate, which is not allowed in another place where the Government has the numbers. It is disgraceful that week after week far-reaching legislation involving on occasions hundreds of clauses is brought before the House of Representatives where the Leader of the House tells members that the measure will be guillotined as it must be passed within a few hours. Honourable senators are aware of the effect of the guillotine. A few hours are allocated for debate and when after only a few clauses have been debated and time is up, the rest of the legislation is passed on one vote without proper or adequate examination. I think that the Australian people are fortunate that in the Senate the Government cannot take action such as that. It cannot force through hastilyconceived and ill-conceived legislation purely on a numbers vote. I am glad that in the Senate we have adopted the stand that such legislation will be carefully debated and, on occasions, referred to select committees. In other words, we have adopted a responsible attitude, the attitude that one would expect of a House of review.
I want to come now to what will be, after all, the main issue of this Senate election. Mr Big says that he will eliminate the Australian Democratic Labor Party. I read recently in propaganda about the British election that Mr Wilson declared publicly on the platform and through the media that Mr Heath must be removed as Prime Minister of Britain because food and clothing prices had gone up by 20 per cent. Then, I took up my local newspaper in Melbourne and I found that under Mr Whitlam food and clothing prices had gone up by 22.2 per cent. In this instance I accept Mr Wilson as a good judge. I think that he had the right idea. He said that Mr Heath had to go because he had allowed food and clothing prices to go up by 20 per cent. When Mr Whitlam has allowed them to go up by even more than that, I think that even Mr Wilson would say that what applies to Mr Heath has to apply to Mr Whitlam.
What has the Government done about prices? It introduced the Prices Justification Tribunal which has no real power. It made an attempt to obtain powers with the referenda conducted last December. The Federal President of the Australian Labor Party opposed one of the referenda. I noticed that when some of the left wingers of the Party, trying to get control of the young Labor organisation, were expelled from the Party the other day the charge against them was that they opposed one of the referendum proposals of the Whitlam Government. If they are expelled for that, why is not Bob Hawke expelled from the Party because he did exactly the same thing? I know members of the Australian Labor Party in this House who said that they voted against the Whitlam proposals on the referendum. If they voted against them, why are the left wingers in the young Labor organisation expelled for doing it and these other members of the Australian Labor Party remain in the Party?
I ask one question: Why is it that in the legislation for a Prices Justification Tribunal, which I suppose gives some publicity to the question of whether prices should be raised, food and clothing were excluded? Were there some big donations from merchant princes in Melbourne and other places? Why is it that food and clothing, which comprise the major price increases affecting the community, are excluded from the ambit of the Prices Justification Tribunal? Would honourable senators expect a working class organisation, in trying to deal with prices, to refuse even the slight powers that it has to make an examination of food and clothing prices? Are not those the price increases that must affect the ordinary worker and his family? Yet this Government brings in legislation for the purpose of causing an examination to be made of increases in prices and says: ‘We will not allow the judges or the persons on that Tribunal to deal with the prices of clothing and food’. I suppose the ordinary worker who can see the prices of those commodities going up every day and who finds that they are the biggest charge on his personal economy, would say to himself: ‘Is this a Labor government?’
The trouble with this Government is that when it entered office all starry eyed, it believed that the coffers of the Government were bottomless. Look at the expenditure that has taken place. We heard all the talk from members of the Government when they were in Opposition about misuse of VIP aircraft, and we saw all the action they took to ensure that undesirable expenditure was not incurred in the use of VIP aircraft. Now they are in power, they are going to buy Boeing 707 aircraft for the VIP flights. You do not buy those aircraft for peanuts. I would say that despite all the talk about the Fill’s the Prime Minister’s VIP 707 ‘s may well take the place of the FI 1 1 aircraft as the greatest catastrophe in Australian history. I would class the purchase of these aircraft with the purchase of the painting ‘Blue Poles’. If anything demands an examination, it is not only the money spent on the turtle farms but also the money spent on ‘Blue Poles’. I think that the allegation that one of the advisers of the Government who recommended the purchase of Blue Poles’ had a personal interest- a profit making interest- in the advice that he gave, should also be examined by this Government.
The trouble today is that we are also involved in the same wages and prices spiral that has caused the trouble in Great Britain. Unless this Government representing the national interest can induce the unions and the employers to get together to determine a system which will give the ordinary worker justice from a wage point of view, and ensure that the general interests of the community are preserved, within 8 months we will be in the same position as is Great Britain. One of the troubles today, in the union field, is that the arbitration system and the rule of law have been smashed. I believe that unless we can restore an arbitration system which will give wage justice we have no hope of getting out of the same kind of morass as that in which Britain finds herself. I have noticed with alarm a member of this Government who has duties in the union field stating that he strongly supports collective bargaining of the kind that goes on today in the metal trades industry between the employers and the Amalgamated Metal Workers Union which is largely communist influenced. Honourable senators know what happened. In an endeavour to smash the arbitration system the unions concerned jacked up. They refused to accept the discipline of the arbitration system. The employers concerned said that if the Government would not fight to maintain the rule of law, why should they. They have entered into discussions and negotiations with this great big union, and they are making determinations and giving concessions. The employers are saying amongst themselves that the union can have these things. They say: ‘We will make up for it. We will recompense ourselves out of profits and out of tariff protection’. Years ago in 1947 the late Mr Chifley warned that this would happen. He said:
There are other circumstances that must be guarded against, namely those that arise as a 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. Agreements of this kind have a peculiar effect on the other sections of industry which seek similar conditions.
In other words, when we have these determinations for which this Government has expressed support, Mr Chifley warned that monopolistic organisations on both sides would take the national interest for a ride. They would make agreements without regard to the national interest and without regard to the interests of those on fixed incomes, the pensioners and the others. He said that what would happen would be that when they made those agreements and obtained those concessions, other unions which regard the metal industry award as the yardstick would seek similar flow on agreements. In effect the whole arbitration system of this country is thrown into chaos. I doubt very much whether it will be possible ever to restore arbitration, in this country. If the Labor Party did the right thing it would get back to first principles and return to the Act which was passed by Mr Chifley in 1947. It was the best attempt to deal with the whole question of arbitration, but it has been fiddled with and ruined by succeeding governments. I hope that this Government will give consideration to going back to the Chifley Act.
Militant, or so-called militant, union officials today tell their workers that they have to go for an increase of $10, $20, $30 or $40 a week, but everybody knows that the granting of such an increase to a worker is not of benefit to him to the extent that often he believes it is because it invariably puts him into a higher tax bracket in which the taxation scale is a little more savage. In those cases he also finds, if he contributes to a superannuation scheme, that he goes up into the areas in which the contributions are very considerable. The other day I read a letter from a worker in a government department about a $ 10 a week wage increase he received. He found that after the increased superannuation contribution that resulted from his being placed into a higher bracket was taken out and after the increased taxation and the increase in the price of a certain number of commodities had been taken into account the increase in his wage was 66c. I think that the trade union movement will have to look at whether it is to the benefit of the ordinary worker to demand very large increases. Years ago Chifley said that it is not how many dollars one has in one’s pay packet which is important but what one can buy with them.
I want to say a word about the people who are forgotten nowadays, that is, those on fixed incomes- the man who saved his money and the man who commenced paying into an insurance plan 30 or 40 years ago and who has paid into it ever since in the belief that eventually he will get out of the insurance plan enough to keep him in reasonable comfort in the latter days of his life. What has happened to the people on fixed incomes? Those people who thought that they were making sure that they would be able to live in reasonable comfort for the rest of their lives are now finding that the dollars they are getting are worth about a third to a quarter of the value of the money that they actually paid in. I believe that the Government has to consider some method of ensuring that people who endeavour by their own efforts and by their own saving to provide for their later life get a reasonable return and that the value of what they have planned for cannot be taken away by inflation, particularly the galloping inflation that exists under the administration of the present Government. Pensioners are being left behind. I am glad that the Government is going to give them an increase, but I agree with the leaders of the pensioner organisations that the increase is not going to make up for what they have lost in the last couple of years because of the inflation that has occurred under the administration of the Government. I believe that all those people have to be considered.
I believe that there is need for restoration of the rule of law in the field of employer-employee relations. Sadly, the rule of law is being breached by communists such as Jack Mundey who glory in the fact that their unions are holding up building projects. Jack Mundey has said that his union is holding up building projects to the value of $300m. Why should a union official have the right to say that a building cannot be erected because it offends his personal view of the economy, ecology, or whatever else it may be? If anybody is entitled to say that a building ought to be retained or that a particular residential area should be retained it ought to be a tribunal appointed by the Government. I accuse the Government of gross cowardice in not taking action to prevent one union official from constituting himself as a tribunal above the law. Jack Mundey has done that by saying that his union, without any recourse to a public tribunal, will hold up building projects to the value of $300m.
One of the most disgraceful examples of cowardice I think I have ever seen is the attitude of the Government to the decision of the postal workers not to work on Saturdays and to their demand that the Government pay them extra wages for the hours they do not propose to work. Any government worth its salt would have stood up and fought against that decision and demand. If the Government accedes to the request of the postal workers it will mean that railwaymen and members of other unions will have the right to decide their hours of work. If the Government concedes to the postal workers the right to decide their own working hours it will have to concede that other unions also have the right. Experience has shown that when a government gives way to one union on a matter like that other unions will enter the field and say: ‘If it is good enough for the postal workers to decide their own hours of work it is good enough for us’.
Today I pointed to what has happened and is happening to the postal services. Four years ago the supporters of the present Government were in opposition. At that time they called on my Party to join them in going to the barricades to fight the proposed postal charge increases. The members of my Party did join them. They then said that if the Government reinstated the charges they would call the Parliament back and fight them. The Government did reinstate them. They called the Parliament back. The members of my Party voted against the proposed increased charges and the supporters of the present Government- the Australian Labor Partywalked out. In those days they were against increased postal charges. Today they are in favour of them. It now costs 7c to post a letter. We were told the other day by a postal union official that he had heard from the PostmasterGeneral (Mr Lionel Bowen) that the charge for a letter was going to go up to 9c. What is the position today? Only a few years ago we had to pay twopence or threepence to post a letter and we had 2 deliveries a day. We also had a Saturday morning service. The service provided was a better one. I cannot help feeling that nowadays the first class mail is sorted one day and the second class mail the next. The whole service has deteriorated. At the same time the charges have gone up hand over fist. I once heard a member of the Australian Labor Party say that if the Australian Labor Party were ever elected to office it would fix up the postal service. It has been in office for about 1 8 months now and the service is worse than it has ever been. All that is going to happen is that the service is going to get worse.
I turn now to the subject of defence. I know that many listeners to the broadcasting of these proceedings are anxious about the subject of defence, particularly those who have served their country. In his policy speech the Prime Minister, Mr Whitlam, pledged that the Australian Labor Party would not reduce the defences of Australia if it were elected to office. He made a definite promise. It was like the promise he made that he would not take away grants from category A schools. In spite of the fact that Mr Whitlam promised not to reduce the defences of Australia he has done so to such an extent that today we do not have a worthwhile Army, Navy or Air Force. I have moved for a Senate inquiry into the Army. Our Army has now been cut to 30,000 men, 25,000 of whom are engaged in logistics, transport, clerical duties and manufacturing. That means that if there were trouble in New Guinea today Australia would have only 5,000 soldiers who were able to bear arms.
Whenever our Government says, as it often does and as it told Mr Nixon, that it is nonisolationist I say that it must be isolationist because in view of the miserable Army, Navy and Air Force we have today we dare not be anything else but isolationist. The other day Admiral Peek, who has just retired from the Royal Australian Navy, made a statement in regard to the present situation. He said that before Mr Barnard became the Minister for Defence he told the cadets at a naval college that it is inevitable that the Navy will be the cornerstone of our defences for the rest of this century and that it is now the Navy’s turn to be a focal point of the defence policies for the next 10 years. All Mr Barnard has done since he has been the Deputy Prime Minister has been to reduce the Navy to the point where it is little more than a laughing stock.
What else have we found out about the actions of the Government? The Indian Ocean is vital to us today. It is certainly vital to Western Australia. Forty-six per cent of our trade goes across the Indian Ocean and around the Cape of Good Hope. Much of our oil comes over the Indian Ocean. The Government has adopted the attitude that we should not be worried about the Russians sending naval vessels into the Indian Ocean. The Russians already have, as we all know, atomic submarines in the area. So have the Americans. But when Britain and America, alarmed at the effect of perhaps Russian dominance on the world’s oil supplies, decided the other day that they would spend money on reenforcing the atoll of Diego Garcia, what did the Australian Government do? It said that it deplored the decision. If there ever is any trouble in the Indian Ocean the first step the Australian Government will take will be to ask the British and the Americans to allow Australia to use Diego Garcia and also it will ask the South Africans, whom at present it refuses to recognise, to let Australia use Simonstown. As 46 per cent of our trade goes around the Cape of Good Hope, we could not do without Simonstown.
This Government promised, before being elected, that it would not reduce the size of the Army, the Navy or the Air Force. It has taken measure after measure to reduce the Army, the Navy and the Air Force; yet we live in a world of violence. I have found that many officers in the Army, the Navy and the Air Force have an attitude of complete hopelessness in the present situation. They have said that the position of our defence forces today is one of complete hopelessness. As Vice-Admiral Peek, a retired Chief of the Naval Staff pointed out not so long ago, the Army, Navy and Air Force are losing their irreplaceable trained officers at a rate that has never been known before in Australian history. The reason that those men are leaving the Army, the Navy and the Air Force is that they know the position is hopeless and that nothing will ever be achieved in the defence area with this Government. They feel that they are wasting their time. The result is that in a period when violence reigns throughout the world the Australian Government is reducing every form of defence that we have and is placing Australia in a situation where we are worse off in defence than we were in 1939.
– Order! The honourable senator’s time has expired.
- Mr President, I propose to move that this debate be now adjourned. I ask for leave to give to the Senate the reasons for that proposed motion.
– Order! Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– Two messages have been received from the House of Representatives. They are concerned with Bills for constitutional alteration purposes in which the concurrence of the Senate is requested.
– You have some information that I do not possess, but proceed.
– It would be a rare occasion on which I was in possession of information concerning the affairs of this place which was not previously known to you. But I understand that what I have said is so. In order to introduce that legislation I propose to move a motion to adjourn this debate. I will then move that the resumption of the debate be made an order of the day for a later hour this evening. I propose then to proceed with the introduction of those Bills. Therefore, I move:
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I now move:
That the resumption of the debate be an order ofthe day for a later hour today.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Suspension of Standing Orders: Call of the Senate
– Pursuant to contingent notice of motion, I move:
– I think that this motion is open to debate.
– Yes, it is. I call Senator Withers.
– Motions similiar to the motion now before the Senate were moved on a number of occasions last session in relation to a series of Bills which were introduced into this chamber. Each and every time that happened the Opposition in this place opposed the motion. The motion proposes that on the third reading of the Bill the call of the Senate be suspended. In a recent experience in the House of Representatives in relation to these Bills we saw a brilliant example of the Government’s incompetence where, I take it, a Bill was read for a fourth time. Now we are being asked in this place also to rush the procedures.
The reasons for our opposition to the suspension of standing order 242 were ably stated and canvassed by my colleagues, Senator Wright and Senator Wood, on the last occasion when a similiar motion was put before us. Those arguments have been put to the Senate by those 2 of my colleagues over a number of years. The arguments put forward by my colleagues in the past are as valid today as when they were first put forward by them. My colleagues and I have been arguing for a long time that the whole of the Federal system of government in Australia is under attack. We believe that the motion seeking the suspension of this standing order is but another example of how the Federal system is under attack. This House was not called into being by the founding fathers to be a spongy rubber stamp of another place. It was set up as part of the Federal compact. Members of the other place and the Ministers there ought to realise that if there had been no Senate there would have been no Federation, and if it had not been for the creation of this House there would be no such person as the Prime Minister of Australia.
Standing order 242 was designed to keep the Senate as part of the Federal compact between the States and the New Commonwealth of Australia. Why was standing order 242 originally written into the Standing Orders? It is all very well to put forward a ‘funny ha ha’ argument by saying that the standing order was introduced because senators then travelled by horse and buggy or sailing ships. I regard that as a ‘ha ha’ argument. I believe it was written into the Standing Orders of this place shortly after the Senate first met for the deliberate purpose of ensuring that senators representing their States could ascertain the views and the will of their electors.
What must always be remembered about alterations to the Constitution is that they deal with the transfer of power. I suppose, quite tragically, they have always dealt with the transfer of power from the States to the Commonwealth. What referendum proposals are generally all about is the transfer of further and other powers to the Federal Government, powers which the State governments previously had as part of their residual powers. This is why senators are entitled to consult their constituents in the States. I put it to you, Mr President, though it may sound an old-fashioned view these days, that one is entitled also to consult with one’s colleagues in one’s State Parliament. It seems to be overlooked that there is some sort of comity between members of this Parliament and members of State Parliaments. It was for all these reasons that the Senate, in its original wisdom, said that in this chamber following the second reading of a constitution alteration Bill which senators perhaps supported and voted for there would be a 3-week delay before the third reading was taken. It is a great pity that the House of Representatives does not have that rule because if that rule had been in force today it may not have been necessary for that House to indulge in the fourth reading of a Bill. What happened in the House of Representtives today demonstrates what can occur. People do not know what they are voting on. Honourable members in another place said that they did not hear the bells and that they did not reach the chamber in time for a division.
– It was a fault in the bells.
-Oh, senator, always blame the system, never blame the people- and never blame your own supporters. I am surprised that although the guillotine was proposed to be applied in that place at 4 o’clock nobody heard the bells. I would have thought that all the keen supporters of the Labor Party would have been sitting anxiously in their seats before the guillotine fell so that they could vote to bring about the new Utopia.
– It was too quick, even for them.
-I cannot understand it. They did not hear the bells. It is a bit like the Aboriginal episode last Thursday- they did not know the gun was loaded.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
-Prior to the suspension of the sitting I was putting, I hope accurately and forcibly, the view of the Opposition on the suspension of standing order 242. If the standing order is suspended, a call of the Senate on the third reading of the 5 proposed referenda Bills would not be necessary. I put the view then, and I put the decision of the Opposition parties now. We are opposed to this motion. We will divide the Senate, and we will vote on the motion.
– We have had a similar debate from time to time in this place. I do not wish to detain the Senate. For the same reasons that have been put by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Withers), I indicate to the Senate that the Australian Country Party will be opposed to the motion.
– I wish to indicate that we will also be opposed to the motion. 1 do not intend to speak at length. I indicated the general principles on which we base our attitude to this kind of request to rush through legislation, when I spoke earlier in the day. We believe that there may be a case to rush through legislation when it is a matter, for example, of increasing the pensions, but we do not see any reason to rush through legislation which deals with a number of different referenda, when all honourable senators know that there is no real necessity to take this action. Our Party’s attitude is that we will co-operate with the Government when urgent legislation such as a Bill to increase pensions should be rushed through. In a case such as this, the Bills contain a number of propositions which ought to be inquired into and dealt with at a time which will not be so very far away, whatever we do in respect of this motion. Therefore, our attitude is that this legislation on the coming referenda should be deferred until we have had a good look at the Bills, and then we can debate them in the normal way in which the Senate debates Bills, which justifies it as a House of review.
– I will be brief. The only point which I wish to make is that we have heard previously these remarks about rushing through legislation. Five Bills are to come before the Senate. They deal with referenda that are proposed to be put to the people in conjunction with the Senate election. It is dishonest to say that we are rushing through legislation, because these matters were debated in the Senate in the last session. They were debated -
– That is not true.
– The Bills came before the Senate. Some of them were rejected. Honourable senators opposite are saying, in effect, that they do not want democratic elections and that they do not want local government to be in the democratic position of having the right to go before the Loan Council. These matters have been aired publicly for well over 12 months. They were aired by the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) in his campaign speech when he indicated the type of legislation which he wished to introduce and the type of referenda which he wished to put to the people to ensure a better system of government. It is hypocrisy, this kind of thought that we are rushing through legislation, when it is the second time round.
– I would not have risen but for the intervention of Senator Poyser. He put a proposition which was rather regrettable in its simplicity. The Government, with no experience whatsoever, except the experience which is revealed by its financial handling of the Department of Aboriginal Affairs, which is woeful, has propositions to amend the Constitution. All that honourable senators on this side are suggesting is that the constitutional processes laid down be observed and that they should not be dented or perverted to suit the whim or the convenience of an impulsive government which, in another place this afternoon, was so unenthusiastic about another constitutional proposal that it could not whip up the required constitutional majority. I want it to be understood by the country that the Senate stands by the Constitution, from the point of view of presenting alterations to the Constitution for the people’s vote. Nothing that Senator Poyser can say about any debate last year or any ideas that this Government has about these proposals can justify our departing from the laid down rules by which propositions such as this one should be formulated for the country’s consideration. This country will not die if the Australian Labor Party fails in its referenda in May 1974.
– You will die if we win.
-Senator Poyser said that I will die if he wins. That will be the day. That interjection increases my vigour for life tenfold. I have more confidence in the judgment of the people of Australia than to contemplate, with any trouble, the thought that the Government will win on these proposals. What are they? Senator Poyser has referred to them briefly. He said that one is to ensure democratic elections in the House of Representatives, but the Government presumes to alter the Constitution to provide the rules for the election of members of the State Houses of Parliament. I would have thought that it was a piece of unparalleled presumption that the Government should put forward proposals to alter the method by which members of the State Houses of Parliament should be elected. I shall indicate the presumption and the degree to which this Labor- Whitlam
Government, when it gets an idea, is allimpulsive for it. It cannot see the other person’s point of view. It does not want the country to understand that point of view. So it gets the idea: ‘We will make very affectionate local governing bodies if we give them finance directly’. These 943 local governing bodies expect to be loaded with riches by the Whitlam promises, whereas the poor 6 States, which have depended upon similar promises, plead in vain for the money to sustain those 943 local governing bodies, 500 of which are small, insignificant and never heard of. A public servant in Canberra would sneeze when he heard their names. They think that they will come to the devil with whom they have not yet supped and that it will be better than supping with the Premier of their own State. I hope that the Senate will insist upon constitutional methods, patient and objective reasoning, and will thoughtfully put these matters to the people. I hope that we can rely, as we did in December, if the matter is properly and patiently presented, on the people giving a response which will be in accordance with the Constitution.
– I was peacefully enjoying a cigar in my room when I heard Senator Wright’s speech on the broadcasting system. The hypocrisy stank as it passed my cigar. Senator Wright is obviously in the wrong profession. He would have won an Oscar for the demonstration he has just put on in front of the House. I congratulate him on it. It was magnificent acting and he knows it. Look at the smile on the tiger. He can see himself going up before the glamorous people and getting a little Oscar for doing this little thing. For heaven’s sake, let us have some common sense. All that is being asked is that these matters be put to the people, not to the Senate or the House of Representatives. If the Liberal Party wishes to defeat these referenda the sooner they are put to the people the better. Liberal Party members say that the people are confused. If they are confused they will vote against the referenda.
Let me say quite clearly that I am a supporter of all 5 of these proposals. But that is not the issue at present. Senator Wright claims to be considering the local government bodies which he is so enamoured with and is so worried about. Has he been to the local government bodies to ask them what they want and whether they require Federal assistance? If he had, he may have found that the local government bodies do not require assistance. Why then does he wish to deprive them of it if they do not want it.
– Oh yes, one minute the honourable senator says the Government will not listen to any opposition, but he will not even listen to me because I am opposing him. The honourable senator should keep himself calm and collected and he will get still another Oscar.
Let us for heaven’s sake put these matters to the people as soon as possible. Senator Wright can still get up and make grand, eloquent speeches that bore most of the populace, but that is his right. We could then have a decision on these referenda. Senator Wright should stop this hypocrisy about considering these matters. The Liberal Party considered the matters long ago and decided to oppose them. I watched the Leader of the Opposition last night on television. I have never heard more drivel coming from him in regard to the first item. He said that there was no need to pass the matter by referendum or to alter the Constitution because Mr Whitlam has every right to go to the people now to have a double dissolution, and then he could synchronise the elections for the two Houses. That is all very well for this next election, but it would not necessarily synchronise any other elections. As the Liberal Party well knows, when it suited it it disregarded the tie between the elections for the 2 Houses and changed the times. Whenever something suits the Liberal Party, it changes the arrangement. Let us stop this hypocrisy and let us get on with the job and put these referenda to the people.
– in reply- It is well that the Senate proceedings are being broadcast because some of the people of Australia will be able to hear what happens in the Senate and what has been said by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Withers), Senator Wright, Senator Turnbull and others. We are considering procedure relating to a Bill which has gone through the House of Representatives last year. The Bill is designed to enable the people to vote on whether they will have an alteration of their own Constitution to provide for democratic elections for the House of Representatives and democratic elections for each House of Parliament of the States. The proposal is to let the people vote on whether they will alter the Constitution in that way. The proposal may or may not be acceptable, but the Government of this country wants the people to have the opportunity to vote so that they may decide.
What happened last year? The Bill passed the House of Representatives by an absolute majority. It came into this House and was subjected to the procedural rule that on the third reading of such a Bill we must have a call of the Senate. The proposal to suspend that rule was put forward and was carried in the Senate on 4 December without any trouble. Then the Senate- the Opposition and the other parties in here- voted down the proposal to put the measure to the people. Those members of the Senate rejected it. They voted not to allow the measure to be put to the people.
So, in accordance with the Constitution, after 3 months the House of Representatives again by an absolute majority has passed the proposition and has sent it to the Senate. What is happening in the Senate? Not only are members on the other side of the House prepared, as obviously they will be, to reject the proposition, but also they now start saying that they are not even going to suspend the call of the Senate. They say that they will go through the nonsense that there will have to be a call of the Senate on the third reading of the Bill knowing that the Bill will never reach the third reading if they have their way. They say: ‘We will not pass that procedural proposition’. But those who voted for it on the last occasion apparently are going to join and agree that there will not even be a suspension of that obstacle before they reject the Bill.
The Leader of the Opposition said something very sensible tonight. He said that mostly when proposals for alteration of the Constitution are put forward they involve a transfer of power. This Bill involves a transfer of power. The transfer of power involved is a transfer of power to the people- that there will be democratic elections for each of the Houses of Parliament of the States, that there will be a democratic election for the House of Representatives, that there will not be the possibility of gerrymander, that the oversight -
– That is what the game is all about.
-I know what Senator Young said. He said: ‘That is what the game is all about’. If this proposal is adopted by the people that game will be over and the oversight of these constitutional alterations will be taken by the High Court. There are effective remedies in the measure in order to enable the High Court to see that no government of any political colour in the future will be entitled to and able to engage in any gerrymander.
We have the absurdity of an Opposition which simply wants to reject the Bill. The Opposition is not prepared to say straightforwardly: ‘Look, we will reject the Bill’. I even heard the Leader of the Opposition say tonight that he wanted time to consult his constituents and his people in regard to the Bill which his Party rejected out of hand in the last session of the Parliament. The Government has now waited 3 months before reintroducing the Bill and the Leader of the Opposition now says that he must have time. He says: ‘Let us not suspend this rule. We are not going to have a bar of this Bill. We threw it out of the place towards the end of last year, slightly over 3 months ago, and now we want to go back to consult somebody to see what our attitude is’.
It is quite plain what the position is. The Government of this country wants to put this measure to the people at the time of the Senate election. The tactics which are being played on the Opposition side of the House are clearly designed to thwart this. The Opposition goes through games. It does not matter what is done in respect of this Bill or the other measures. The Opposition can endeavour to stand this Bill over for a few weeks in order to prevent the matter being brought on because a lapse of 2 months is needed before the matter can be put to the people. It is desirable in the public interest that it be put to the people at the Senate election. The Opposition may intend to stall it in some way by putting the Bill over. The Opposition may go through the farce of sending it off to some committee when it is not intended at all that members of the Opposition will alter their minds. You have made up your minds, as you did before, to reject or fail to pass these Bills. Everyone knows it and there ought to be no nonsense about it. At least you ought to have the decency to say: ‘Here is the Bill. We rejected it last time. Let us sweep aside this nonsense and farce and say that we will reject it and that we are not prepared even to let the people have a vote on the measure’. Why do you not stand up and say this since there is no doubt what your attitude is? If this Bill or the other Bills are not passed by Thursday evening it will be quite clear that this Senate has rejected and failed to pass these Bills.
– You are threatening the Senate.
– I am indicating to you just exactly what your attitude is. (Opposition senators interjecting).
– Order! The Leader of the Government in the Senate is closing the debate.
He is entitled to be heard in silence. I ask honourable senators to allow the Leader of the Government to develop his case and arguments in silence.
– It is obvious that if these tactics were to succeed it would mean there would have to be some referendum separate from the Senate election, which would cost the people almost $3m extra and cause great public inconvenience. That would be an absurdity. The Opposition has made clear that in respect of this particular Bill, as well as the other Bills- but we are dealing with this particular Bill- it rejects the Bill. It voted previously to reject the Bill. The Leader of the Opposition (Senator Withers) has made clear that the Opposition rejects the Bill, that it rejects the whole concept of democratic elections by the people for the House of Representatives and for the upper and lower Houses in the States. I suggest that if the farce is to be avoided and the Senate is to adopt a rational attitude it would be far better for the Opposition to disclose its obstruction in a straightforward manner rather than endeavour to develop it circuitously. I ask the Senate to support the suspension of this standing order.
That the motion (Senator Murphy’s) be agreed to:
The Senate divided. (The President- Senator Sir Magnus Cormack)
Question so resolved in the negative.
Bill (on motion by Senator Murphy) read a first time.
– I move:
In November last, the House of Representatives passed by absolute majorities the following 4 Constitution Alteration Bills: Constitution Alteration (Simultaneous Elections) Bill 1974- passed on 14 November; Constitution Alteration (Democratic Elections) Bill 1974- passed on 15 November; Constitution Alteration (Local Government Bodies) Bill 1974- passed on 15 November; Constitution Alteration (Mode of Altering the Constitution) Bill 1974- passed on 21 November. On 4 December 1973 the Senate referred to the Senate Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs, the Constitution Alteration (Simultaneous Elections) Bill; rejected the Constitution Alteration (Democratic Elections) Bill; rejected the Constitution Alteration (Local Government Bodies) Bill; amended the Constitution Alteration (Mode of Altering the Constitution) Bill, amendments which were rejected by the House of Representatives.
In accordance with the provisions of section 128 of the Constitution in respect of Constitution Alteration Bills passed in one House- in this instance, the House of Representatives- by an absolute majority on 2 occasions and which already have been rejected, have failed to pass or have been unacceptably amended in the Senate, the Government re-introduces the Constitution Alteration (Democratic Elections) Bill in the Senate so that it can proceed towards a referendum on the matter, a referendum that the Government intends be held concurrently with the next Senate election. I shall not take the time of the Senate to put forward again the reasons that have led the Government to initiate this alteration. They are sound and reasoned. They were spelt out by me in my second reading speech in this chamber, and honourable senators have them recorded in Hansard at pages 1 908 to 1910 of 20 November 1973. 1 commend to the Senate the Constitution Alteration (Democratic Elections) Bill 1974. In so doing I point out that I expect the Senate to deal promptly with this and other Constitution alteration Bills that will follow.
It is clear that the Opposition parties in the Senate joined together to reject this Bill on 4 December 1973. They made clear that they are utterly opposed to this Bill. I expect that some device or other will be tried by the Opposition to delay this Bill, to conceal the Bill from the people or to put up some show of saying that it needs to consult somebody or other about the Bill when it has simply rejected it and is totally opposed to it. There is no doubt about this. The Government is invoking the constitutional provisions. Section 128 of the Constitution provides for a situation like this. When the House of Representatives has passed a Bill by an absolute majority and the Senate rejects or fails to pass that Bill- in December 1973 it rejected this Constitution Alteration Bill- the House of Representatives is entitled to pass the Bill again. It has done that. It passed the Bill again today by an absolute majority. It has sent the Bill to this chamber and the Government is going to take advantage of the constitutional provision which allows the Government, which has the majority in the House of Representatives, to see to it that such a measure gets to the people. We want to invoke those provisions and be able to say that after 3 months the Opposition here has again rejected the provisions. That is what the Opposition is going to do.
The House of Representatives and the Government of this nation are going to see to it that the people have a chance to vote. We are talking about democracy and federalism. The people of this country are entitled to deal with their Constitution as they see fit. Any man who opposes or endeavours to delay and obstruct the people having a vote on their own Constitution cannot pretend to call himself democratic. Opposition members rejected this Bill and have had 3 months to consider it. They will not have a bar of it. They are going through the pretence of saying: Let us put it over until next week; let us send it off to some committee; let us do some other thing with it’. They are saying: ‘Let us pretend that we are doing anything else but rejecting this Bill and preventing the proposition being put to the people’.
Fortunately the Constitution enables us to get past that position. The Opposition can do what it likes. It can reject the Bill. It can send the Bill away to be buried in some committee. It can stand the Bill over. It can do whatever it likes. The authors of the Constitution foresaw that there might be obstructionists such as those in the Opposition here, and they dealt also with rejection of or failure to pass a Bill. The attitude of the Opposition here is clear and beyond any doubt. The Opposition parties here will not pass this Bill. I defy anyone to honestly pretend that there is any chance whatever of this Opposition changing its mind. It is determined not to pass this Bill. If the Bill is not passed by tomorrow evening the Government will treat this as a failure to pass the Bill.
Motion (by Senator Withers) proposed:
That the debate be now adjourned.
The Senate divided. (The President- Senator Sir Magnus Cormack)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Senator Murphy) proposed:
That the resumption of the debate be made an order of the day for the next day of sitting.
– The Opposition would not object to this motion if I could obtain an assurance from the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Murphy) that he does not intend to bring this debate on tomorrow. I take it from the remarks he made earlier this evening when he was replying to the previous matter that the Government wants this matter dealt with tomorrow. I take it that that is correct, senator?
– That is right.
-1 am therefore put in the position that I must move an amendment to Senator Murphy’s motion. I move:
I will put my reasons, I hope concisely and quickly. I know that when the Leader of the Government in the Senate replies to what I have said he will make all sorts of accusations about frustrations, delays and all the rest of it. As I said this afternoon, we have heard this song for some 15 months. But there is a time and a place for parliamentary democracy to work. I know that we in this Senate occasionally say that Standing Orders are a bit funny and that some of the practices of the Senate might be a bit old fashioned. Despite the fact that occasionally we might feel that way basically the Standing Orders and the practices of this Parliament are laid down for the protection of the Parliament and for the protection of the people we represent.
One of the first Standing Orders of this Senate is standing order 14. 1 do not purport to quote it in its exact terms but basically it states that until the Address-in-Reply is disposed of the Senate will deal only with formal business. That has not been put down merely as part of the mystique of Parliament over the last couple of hundred years. It is put there for a deliberate reason. It is put there so that there will be an Address-in-Reply debate before the Parliament gets on to its legislative program, in which honourable senators will have an opportunity to state a variety of views on a variety of subjects in the AddressinReply debate. That standing order was not put there for fun. I know- and, Mr President, you know too because you have been here a lot longer than I have- that that standing order has been suspended over the years to allow the introduction of urgent Government business. We on this side would not object to the suspension of standing order 14 to allow the introduction of any sort of benefit Bill such as one paying the pensioners the increase which is long overdue to them. It is an increase which they ought to get and which they thoroughly deserve due to the Government’s mismanagement of the economy. We would not object to the suspension if there were some national crisis on our hands and the Government had to have some legislation passed quickly.
But in the last session of Parliament last year we saw what a farce the Address-in-Reply developed into. It was a farce and a disgrace to this chamber. Parliament opened on 22 February and the Address-in-Reply debate commenced on 8 March. That is fair enough and quite reasonable. On 1 5 March it continued. On 1 May we started again. On 17 May we had another piece of it. Then it was all put aside. We came back on 23 August and we were not able to complete the Address-in-Reply debate until 30 August in another sitting of the Parliament. I do not pretend to know all the statistics of the Parliament but I understand that there has been a general sort of procedure in this place that we dispose of the Address-in-Reply debate within a reasonable time. Why are we having an AddressinReply debate anyway? It is for a very simple reason. The Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) for reasons best known to himself prorogued the Parliament and had a further opening. So by his very act of prorogation he knew he would have an Address-in-Reply debate. He well knew that when he prorogued Parliament. Maybe I have a suspicious mind, but I am quite convinced that he had a prorogation for one reason and one reason only. That was so that he could deceive the Australian people by putting his words into the mouth of the Queen and by giving the Speech from the Throne the imprimatur of the Queen’s own action. That was the whole exercise.
The moment the Prime Minister prorogued Parliament he was involved in an AddressinReply debate, and well he knew it. If he had not prorogued Parliament we could have come back here- we could have been back here midFebruary and we could have started to deal with the normal processes of Parliament. But the Government, having opted to prorogue the Parliament and have an official opening, is stuck with an Address-in-Reply debate. Under standing order 14 that debate ought to be concluded unless something urgent intervenes. We on this side are not saying that this Constitution Alteration (Democratic Elections) Bill ought to be delayed indefinitely. We are saying that the debate ought to resume next Wednesday whenand I speak personally- I anticipate that the Address-in-Reply debate ought to be disposed of. These referenda Bills should not take a very long time to dispose of either. If the Prime Minister is talking about running to a timetable in order to have a Senate election some time in May, coupled with a referendum, he ought to be able to meet the date. In any event, if he cannot meet the date why should the Senate procedures be raped merely to satisfy the desires of the Government? This afternoon I said that this Senate was not called into being to be a spongy rubber stamp for executive decisions. It is as simple as that.
Because in the other place an Act of Parliament is passed with an absolute majority by vicious use of the guillotine, are we to sit here and be cowed? Is the Senate to be nothing but a useless echo of the other place? The Leader of the Government in the Senate has made a threat. He said: ‘Failure to complete consideration by tomorrow evening will be regarded by the Government as failure to pass’. Quite frankly, I do not give 2 hoots how the Government regards it. The $64 question is: How does the GovernorGeneral regard it? Is the Government laying on the line that this is the advice it is going to tender? 1 said this afternoon that obviously the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) does not like a federal system. Clearly he does not like a bicameral system. They are checks and balances on the exercise of arbitrary power. Now the basic threat to the Senate is: ‘You will do a certain thing by a certain time or we will go to tell the GovernorGeneral and you will be up for a whipping’. That is no way for one House of Parliament or the Executive Government to treat the other. If the bicameral system is to survive in this country there must be mutual respect between the Houses of Parliament and the Executive must realise that the legislative power in this country is vested in the Queen, the Senate and the House of Representives. Legislative power in this country is not vested in the Executive Government and the sooner the Executive Government realises that, the better off it will be.
We are saying: Let us dispose as far as possible with the Address-in-Reply debate by Tuesday. Today the Leader of the Government gave notice of a motion in respect of certain hours of sitting. Perhaps I should not advert to a debate which may be coming on, but I will say that the Opposition is willing to sit tomorrow night to carry on with the Address-in-Reply debate. We will sit Tuesday night and do the same thing. We are prepared to sit longer hours. We will sit an extra 5 hours a week to dispose of the business. We are not afraid to sit here, but the Government does not want to do that. Yesterday the Senate sat for 3 hours. Had it not been for Senator Greenwood we would all have gone off to dinner at 10 to 6 last night. In saying that I do not reflect on my colleague.
– It sat for 2 hours last Thursday at a cost of $50,000.
– One is not allowed to raise that matter. When Prime Minister Gorton did that in 1969 there were front page headlines in the newspapers for days about the wasteful extravagance of having a 1-day sitting, but now that the Prime Minister has his orchestrated sycophants sitting in the Press Gallery that sort of thing no longer gets into the public Press. Okay, you can buy them off by giving them a party on a Thursday night. The Opposition believes that a delay until next Wednesday to discuss the Bills is not unreasonable. The normal procedure in the Senate is that after a second reading speech is made the usual courtesies apply except in an emergency situation; that is, the Opposition is entitled to the adjournment. That was opposed. Normally in this chamber the adjournment is to the first sitting day of the following week. We do not believe it unreasonable to ask that this debate be not called on until Wednesday next. It is annoying to the Government not to have its own way. All governments object to not getting their own way. It is true not only of the Government of Senator Murphy’s Party.
When Senator Murphy was Leader of the Opposition he used to promote himself as Mr Senate. I give him credit for that. He established himself in this country as the great defender of the Senate, its rights, privileges and duties and for that he is entitled to a lot of credit. But now he has joined with what one might term the enemy- the Executive Government. He now thinks he can come into this place and say that the Senate must do his will, because ‘failure to complete consideration by tomorrow evening will be regarded by the Government as failure to pass.’ That is the last sort of threat that he ought to offer to the Senate. I have given the reasons for moving my motion that the words ‘for the next day of sitting’ be omitted and the words ‘for Wednesday, 13 March 1974’ be inserted. That is a reasonable and sensible procedure and the Government ought to have enough wisdom to accept it in the interests of parliamentary democracy.
– I want to make clear to the Senate the position of the Country Party. In doing so I want to say firstly that I support the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate (Senator Withers). I have been quite surprised tonight at the attitude taken by the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Murphy). I well recall that when he was Leader of the Opposition in the Senate he always contended that when a Bill was introduced here the adjournment should be taken to allow him and members of his Party sufficient time to study it. He would also contend that if there were senators on his side of the chamber who wished to speak on a Bill they should be given that opportunity. When Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson was Leader of the Government in the Senate he always ensured that opportunities were given. One has only to look back through Hansard to see that.
– Such as the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill?
– I could cite innumerable cases, including that which the Leader of the Government in the Senate has just stated. I read it tonight. At that time the Leader of the Opposition made the point that the debate should be continued until all senators on his side who wanted to speak had been given the opportunity.
– Was that Senator Murphy?
– Yes. Let us have a look at this situation. When Senator Murphy as Leader of the Opposition made that statement the Government of the day dealt with fewer than 100 Bills in that sessional period. Last year the Government introduced into the Senate and dealt with 253 Bills. On 20 November last it introduced into the Senate the Bills to which Senator Murphy referred tonight in his second reading speech. Yet on 14 December we were gone from this place. We dealt with those measures in a mass of Bills, yet Senator Murphy indicates to us now that we had plenty of time to study them. When Senator Murphy was Leader of the Opposition, dealing with fewer than half the number of Bills we dealt with last year, he said that the Government was going too quickly and should give the Opposition better opportunities to study the Bills and should allow every Opposition senator who wanted to speak on a Bill an opportunity to do so.
Tonight Senator Murphy has introduced Bills into the Senate and wants to get them through here only a few hours after they were steamrolled through the House of Representatives. When debate on a Bill is gagged in the House of Representatives just before dinner and the Bill is introduced into the Senate at 8 p.m., the Opposition Parties should have a better opportunity to look at it. They should be given sufficient time particularly in view of the situation which pertained last December. The Country Party has 5 representatives in the Senate. We cannot refer matters to be studied by great committees which can make recommendations.
– And to Australian National University experts by the ton- lawyers and constitutional advisers.
– I believe that the interjection of Senator McManus is correct. We have not been given sufficient time to study these Bills and to make up our minds as to what we are going to do.
– You have made up your minds. You have indicated that.
– We indicated that at a time when Bills were going through this place like hay through a chaffcutter. Now, the Leader of the Government in the Senate wants us to let the Bills pass through the Senate tonight. I want to indicate also that my Party is adamant that we will not have the fiasco that we had last year when the Address-in-Reply was presented to the Governor-General some time at the latter end of the year.
– It was not the Government’s fault.
-Senator McLaren says that it was not the Government’s fault. I would not know whose fault it was if it was not the Government’s fault. We are adamant, because of the economic position and because of the situation in the rural industries, that we will have our say on the Address-in-Reply and that we will have it now, this week. Because of what is provided in the Standing Orders, we believe that we have that right to do that. Therefore, as soon as we have completed the AddressinReply debate- we will assist the Government to facilitate that- then we will get on to the Bills that it wants to bring before the Senate. But the members of my Party say that we will not do anything until we have concluded the AddressinReply debate. If we are to stay here all night arguing this situation, I say to the Leader of the Government that we will not finish the AddressinReply debate, as we believe we could finish it, by next Tuesday. It will be next Wednesday or next Thursday, depending on how long we spend now arguing this matter. I believe that we should get this situation over and done with. We promise the Government that if we can conclude the Address-in-Reply debate we will get on with these Bills next week.
– Like the other honourable senators on this side of the Senate who have spoken, I do not intend to be high-pressured by the Government; neither does the Australian Democratic Labor Party. It has been the custom- almost the normal custom- of the Senate during the 14 or 15 years that I have been a member of it that when Bills are introduced the debate on them is adjourned. Generally, the Government does quite well if they come on for debate a week later. Nobody would have been more determined to enforce that rule than Senator Murphy. He always stood up for the rights of the Opposition very strongly until he ceased to be the Leader of the Opposition. The Address-in-Reply debate can be completed by next Tuesday and in the normal way we can go on and dispose of these Bills very quickly by the Wednesday. I see nothing wrong in that. What I see as wrong is that apparently we will spend this session with the guillotine being used in another place to put through vital Bills with about only one-quarter of the clauses having even been looked at or discussed, and the remaining three-quarters of the clauses being passed without any consideration. We will be in the position that the same Bills will be rushed to the Senate and we will be accused of delaying tactics if we do not accept what was done in the other place. I say without hesitation that what is happening in another place at the present time, and the manner in which highly contentious Bills of a revolutionary character affecting the whole economy of this country are being forced through in a couple of hours without any proper consideration, is a disgrace to the Australian Parliament. The people over there who are doing this know it. They know that it is a disgrace to the Australian Parliament that highly contentious Bills, sometimes containing a couple of hundred clauses, are being forced through within a couple of hours. They allow only enough time to debate perhaps 10 per cent of the clauses in a Bill. If that is democratic government, all I can say is God help Australia.
In this case I want to lay it on the line now that my Party is not prepared to be high-pressured into rushing Bills through without proper consideration, without proper opportunity for members of the public even to express their views and without proper consideration in the normal method of our democratic procedure. The other thing I want to say is this: I want all the threats cut out- the threats and the suggestion that the Government will take a stern view of this, or that the Government will take a tough view of this. I am prepared to move for the adjournment of this debate if the Government wants me to do so, so that Mr Whitlam can go over to Government House, see Sir Paul Hasluck and obtain approval for the double dissolution with which the Government has threatened us for so long that it has now become a bad joke. I challenge the Government. If it is going to threaten the Senate that if it cannot get its Bills rushed through the Parliament, the only thing for it to do, if it says that it is being frustrated, is to take advantage of what we in the Opposition did last year a number of times, that is, we voted in such a way that the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) would have cause to go and see the GovernorGeneral in order to get a double dissolution. Wild horses will not drag the Government to a double dissolution. Do honourable senators know why there will not be a double dissolution in May? It is because the Prime Minister has arranged to tour Europe for 5 weeks in June. There cannot be a double dissolution because of the possibility that he might not have a job and the trip would have to be cancelled. So there will not be a double dissolution. I say to our friends opposite: ‘Forget all the threats, forget the highpressuring and forget rushing Bills into one House and then into another. If you feel that the people are with you, go to the people’. I think that Senator Murphy was right when he said that the people should decide. Nobody agrees with that statement more than I do, but I say to Senator Murphy: ‘Let the people decide’, and the way to let them decide is for the Prime Minister to go immediately to Sir Paul Hasluck and seek a double dissolution.
– It was very interesting to hear what was said by Senator McManus and the other speakers, but unfortunately it is beside the point. There is in the community a constitution and there is a proposal put forward by the Government which has twice gained the acceptance of the House of Representatives by an absolute majority, and in December last year was rejected by the Opposition parties in the Senate, that the people of Australia have a say in the alteration of their own Constitution. The people of Australia are the only ones who can do it, and no amount of going to the Governor-General and getting a double dissolution will in any way give the people the opportunity to speak on the alteration of their own Constitution. There is only one way in which it can be done, and that is if the referendum Bill passes through both Houses of the Parliament and is put to the people. Alternatively, it can pass through one House of Parliament twice with a 3-months interval and even if the other House rejects it, as the Senate did last time, it can still be put to the people. All the talk about high pressuring is beside the point.
All that the Government is doing is endeavouring to enable the people of Australia at the next Senate election to have a say also on whether they want to alter their own Constitution to provide for democratic elections to be overseen in the ultimate by the High Court of Australia. But the Opposition in the Senate is determined to do everything it can to prevent the people having that say on their own Constitution. Senator McManus has said do not let us be highpressured into rejecting this Bill, as we will do. Let us try to manoeuvre. Let us try to delay this Bill or another Bill until next Wednesday. Let us send it off to a committee or do some trickery or use some device so that we can prevent the people having their say on these constitutional questions at the next Senate election. Why should the Opposition not be high-pressured into doing what it ought to have done last December, that is, simply agree to the people having a say on the Constitution?
The Leader of the Australian Country Party in the Senate (Senator Drake-Brockman), as I understand he still is although one might be excused for having some doubts about whether he will be the Leader of the Alliance Party in Western Australia or whatever it calls itself, said: We want the matter adjourned for sufficient time to enable us to consider the Bill. Please give us until next Wednesday to make up our minds on this Bill’. But what did he say about this matter on 4 December last? His closing words were: The Bill should be rejected in its entirety and the Country Party intends to see that that is what happens’. That is what he said on 4 December. An identical Bill to the one debated on that occasion has since been passed by an absolute majority of the House of Representatives and we now have the Leader of the Australian Country Party in the Senate saying: ‘Let us have sufficient time to consider the Bill. Please give us until next Wednesday to make up our minds’. Honourable senators opposite should not pretend that they have not made up their minds about this matter. They have already rejected a similar Bill. Honourable senators opposite are going to play games with this Bill. They are going to send it off to a committee for examination or adjourn further debate on it in order to fracture the timetable which has to be met if this matter is to be put to the people at the time of the Senate election. If it were convenient for the Government to devote more time to the consideration of this matter it would be happy to do so. Honourable senators opposite are just playing a game. They already know what they are going to do about this measure. They are just pretending to the people of Australia that they need more time in which to make up their minds about and to consider a Bill that they have already rejected.
The Leader of the Opposition (Senator Withers) said: ‘We must have time to consider this Bill before it is passed and becomes law’. It is not a Bill which will become law. Even if honourable senators opposite were to vote in favour of it tonight their action would have no effect except to enable the people of Australia to vote on the matter to which it refers. It is only the people of Australia who can change the Constitution. Fortunately, as I have said, those who framed the Constitution provided for meeting obstruction such as honourable senators opposite are putting up tonight and will put up in the future in relation to other measures which they have already rejected by providing that it is enough if one House passes such a Bill. If the time limitations were met the people would be allowed to have their say. The members of the Opposition are going to vote against this Bill- they are going to endeavour to manoeuvre for its rejection- but the people are still going to have a say on it despite what is done. I suppose you could not get much lower than to have a chamber refusing a vote to the people.
– I rise to a point of order, Mr President. I would take no exception to the Leader of the Government saying that one would not find a Leader of the Opposition who could get lower, but I do take objection to the Leader of the Government saying that the chamber could not get lower because I believe that we are here to protect the institution. The fact that the Leader of the Government has said that the chamber could not get lower is but another example of how the Government is trying to denigrate this place. Sir, I ask that you request the Leader of the Government to withdraw the remark he made about this chamber.
– Order! I think the Leader of the Government has used an ill-chosen phrase because it would be physically impossible for the Senate to change its dimensions.
-Thank you, Mr President. I had not finished. Let me say that it is completely undemocratic to do what the Opposition is doing. It is entirely consistent, may I say, with the principles which have been consistently pursued by the members of the Opposition that they should in December reject the proposal that the people be allowed to vote on a proposition concerning the altering of the Constitution to provide for the democratic election of their own House of Representatives and the Houses of Parliament in their own States. They rejected it then. The House of Representatives has again, by an absolute majority, provided in a Bill for the people of Australia to have a chance to votewhether they vote for it or against it does not matter as long as they have a choice- and again the members of the Opposition in this chamber, having said that they would reject such a proposition and having said that they will not have a bar of it, are not, if they can possibly prevent it, going to permit the people to have a vote. One device they have used to do so is to say: ‘Do not let us do what we have made up our minds to do tonight or tomorrow but let us see whether we can work out some other manoeuvre that will prevent the people being given the opportunity to vote on this matter’. Tonight, tomorrow and during next week they will get together and try to work out how by some kind of trickery, some manoeuvre, such as sending the Bill off to a committee, they can prevent the people from having a say on this matter.
Honourable senators opposite have said the debate on the Address-in-Reply to the Speech of Her Majesty the Queen must not be interrupted. Last year it took some 6 or 8 months to debate the Address-in-Reply to the Governor-General’s Speech. The debate on it was interrupted about 50 times. The Government has pointed out that a timetable has to be observed if the people of Australia are to be allowed to vote on this measure and that this and the other relevant Bills will need to be passed this week. Suddenly we find that the most important debate that is not to be interrupted at any price is the debate on the Address-in-Reply to the Speech of Her Majesty the Queen. Last year honourable senators opposite were not the slightest bit interested in the debate on the Address-in-Reply to the GovernorGeneral’s Speech. I repeat that it went on for some 6 or 8 months. I imagine that it was interrupted about 50 or 60 times. Honourable senators opposite have descended to the level of adopting such a miserable manoeuvre tonight. We will have the pleasure of seeing in the future the kind of manoeuvres they will get up to on the other Constitution Bills.
– What is wrong with a delay of one week?
– There is no point in the matter being delayed for one week, ls it contended by Senator Wood that there is the slightest possibility of him or any of his colleagues who rejected a similar Bill after a debate of 1 hour last year- that is all it took to debate it last yearhaving a change of heart? Senator Wood is an honourable man and an honourable senator. He knows that without any doubt whatever he is going to vote in favour of the rejection of this Bill and that each of his colleagues is going to vote in the same manner. The honourable senator knows that the delaying tactics are designed to defeat the program which the Government thinks will have to be met if the proposition is to be put before the people at the time of the Senate election.
– There should be a debate for the public benefit.
– There has been a debate on this matter. Senator Wood and his colleagues rejected a similar Bill. The Leaders ofthe Opposition parties have made it clear that they will not have a bar of this Bill. If I understood him correctly over the noise, Senator Wood is conceding that the Opposition has no intention whatever of agreeing to the passage of this Bill. That ought to be recognised. Let us get on with the question of giving the people a chance to vote on whether they want the Constitution altered. I ask honourable senators opposite to reject the proposal which has been put forward by the Leader of the Opposition and to allow the measure to be brought to a vote.
– Order! The Bill before the Senate is the Constitution Alteration (Democratic Elections) Bill. The Leader of the Government in the Senate had moved that the resumption of the debate on the Bill be made an order of the day for the next day of sitting. The Leader of the Opposition has moved an amendment to the motion to the effect that the resumption of the debate be made an order of the day on Wednesday, 13 March. The question therefore is: ‘That the words proposed to be left out be left out’. Those of that opinion say ‘aye’; to the contrary no ‘. I think the ‘ ayes ‘ have it.
– The ‘noes’ have it. A division is required.
– Ring the bells.
The Senate divided. (The President- Senator Sir Magnus Cormack)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
The Senate divided. (The President- Senator Sir Magnus Cormack)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Suspension of Standing Orders: Call of the Senate
– Pursuant to contingent notice of motion, I move:
That standing order 242 be suspended to enable the third reading of the Bill to be passed without a call of the Senate.
– The Opposition will oppose this motion. It is identical with the procedure which was proposed by the Government when the previous Constitution Alteration Bill was before the Senate today. The Opposition then opposed a similar motion. It will oppose the motion this time. From the arguments which have been advanced in the debate on the first Constitution Alteration Bill today, I appreciate that a great deal of point taking is being engaged in prior to a Senate election. I suppose it is inevitable that that sort of point taking will be engaged in. I believe that it is very important, in this environment, for attitudes to be clearly explained and for positions and approaches which have been adopted in the past to be adhered to consistently. As Senator Withers said on an earlier occasion when these Bills were before the Senate in 1973, when this proposal was put forward the Opposition opposed it. Accordingly, we continue our opposition. We are being consistent in the approach which we are following. I think that that is the test, and that ought to be the standard of judgment which is followed when we examine this proposition.
I heard a lot from Senator Murphy when he castigated the Opposition for the course which it followed in the earlier debate this evening. He said that the Opposition’s attitude lacked decency and that it was a farce. He did not address any argument to his proposition either on the previous occasion last year or on the occasion earlier today. He waits to hear the Opposition’s arguments, then he replies. I refer Senator Murphy to his statement in 1967 when the matter was last before the Senate prior to the series of Constitution Alteration Bills last year. On that occasion Senator Murphy agreed to the suspension of standing order 242. He said that he agreed expressly because there had been a lengthy consideration of the matter- a lengthy consideration extending over 2 years. That is certainly not the case with these precipitate measures which are no peremptorily brought before this place. Senator Murphy expressed general views to which I draw his attention. The debate was on standing order 242 which he now wishes to suspend. He was speaking then for the Labor Party. He said:
We think that it is unusual, and ought not to be adopted as a practice. The provision that a certain period of time should elapse before a call of the Senate is made is intended for the protection of senators.
That viewpoint is expressed by the Opposition on this occasion. Senator Murphy continued:
This is a deliberative chamber.
Before the Labor Party came into power, it was a deliberative chamber. We in the Opposition are endeavouring to retain its character as a deliberative chamber. He continued:
A call of the Senate is one ofthe solemn acts of the Senate. It is intended to be used in connection with such great matters as an alteration of the Constitution.
Although it is being done in a manner which does not befit alterations ofthe Constitution, this Bill must, as a matter of character, be styled an alteration of the Constitution. He said:
These matters should not be dealt with in haste. We do not think that what has been proposed on this occasion is a correct procedure. The Government should have proceeded a long time ago, in the proper way and without haste.
He also said that because there had already been a lengthy delay he was prepared to accept the proposition on that occasion. I invite Senator Murphy to have regard to the words which he used then. He castigated the Opposition today. There was no reason the Government could not have brought this Parliament back a month earlier than it did. In recent years the Parliament has sat during the early or middle part of February. It did not sit during that period this year. For some reason the Government is determined to have an election on 4, 1 1 or 1 8 May, or so we are led to believe. Why should it be one of those days? Why should not the Government be prepared to allow the Senate time for consideration and the presentation of its argument for public consumption, and have the Senate election at any time before 29 June? The whole approach of the Government epitomises the Opposition’s constant statement, and I believe that the people of Australia are slowly but surely realising this fact.
This Government is a government which must get its own way, and anything and anybody who stands in the way of the wishes of a Prime Minister, his Cabinet and his Caucus are obstructionists who put forward arguments which ought not to be considered. What the Government wants, the Government must get. In our country, in our system, in this deliberative chamber, so long as there is an ability to speak, we in the Opposition will maintain that we do not exist just to give the imprimatur of approval to the decisions of the people who know best in the other place. On each occasion that these Bills have come before the Parliament, they have been guillotined ruthlessly through the House of Representatives. They were introduced only yesterday afternoon. A guillotine was applied to the Bills. It virtually allowed only one speaker to speak. Now the Bills are coming into the Senate as though they have come out of the veritable sausage machine which the House of Representatives has become under this Government. In those circumstances the Senate, as a deliberative chamber, as a place where the people can hear and read the arguments which can be put against Government proposals, will put them. That is why we will resist the Government in these matters, and that is why we will resist the Government on the basic, clear and simple proportion that the views of the people, the views of an Opposition, should be given an opportunity to be heard and an opportunity to be expressed. We will fight this authoritarian Government all along the line.
-I am concerned and very disturbed at the propositions which have been placed before this chamber by the Attorney-General (Senator Murphy). He seems to contemplate, in the course of his arguments, a situation that when a proposal for a referendum is under consideration it should go to the people and their decision should be allowed to emerge immediately. That is a complete misreading of the Constitution. Under our system the Constitution does not provide that there shall be any referendum by way of petition originating with the people. The procedure is that there shall be initially a legislative process which is the passage of a Bill through both Houses.
That is what is provided in the Constitution. There is no other method.
The honourable senator seems to think that the Parliament is departing from its responsibilities if in any way that process is not insisted upon. We insist upon it. We insist that the legislative processes contemplated in the Constitution be strictly observed. After all, section 128 of the Constitution endows this chamber with tremendous power of authority in relation to referenda. The honourable senator puts the proposition that when a government decides to present a proposal for a referendum and it passes the House of Representatives then this chamber should willynilly and whatever happens acknowledge the decision of that House and let the people be heard.
This chamber has its own right of initiating referenda proposals. The Australian Democratic Labor Party introduced its own referendum proposal in relation to incomes control. That Bill stood on the Senate notice paper. It was open to this chamber to pass that Bill. Had it done so, had the Bill gone to the House of Representatives, and had that House rejected it and it came back to the Senate and we passed it again, it would have been available to the sponsor of that Bill to go to the Governor-General and request him to put the proposal before the people. In other words this chamber has a tremendously powerful position as the initiating body in relation to a referendum. A fortiori- much more strongly- the Senate has, as part of the legislative process, a tremendously significant and important role which was contemplated by the Federation founders when they insisted that a referendum must be proceeded by the legislative process in which a Bill shall be presented in one House or the other and then pass both Houses.
The Attorney-General is one who has protested day after day and year after year as to the importance of this chamber, the importance of the deliberative function of this chamber, the importance of the constitution of committees of investigation of this chamber and in a large measure took the initiative in having some of these committees established. It would be a very bad proposition if these situations were to be contemplated in theory and when the practical implications of them became apparent and they became an impediment to the will of the Government, they were to be cast aside. We insist upon the role of the Senate. We say that the Constitution has contemplated that a proposal for a referendum shall get the legislative attention of the Parliament before it is placed before the people. In other words the Parliament itself is to ensure that the propositions that go to the people shall be propositions that properly and correctly should be presented to them, and not willy-nilly should any proposition time and again go before the people by way of referendum. That is provided in the Constitution. As we insist on that, we insist on strict compliance with the constitutional Act.
The call of the Senate is part of that solemn process which is the term which Senator Murphy used. This process is surrounded by all the circumscriptions and all the defences that it should have, because the amending of the Constitutionof the written document, the contract and compact of Federation- is a sacred arrangement and not likely to be disturbed and certainly not likely to be disturbed by a government electing through control in one House to by-pass the complete legislative process by compelling legislation through the Upper House and then saying to the people that the decision is theirs. In other words the Parliament is expected to give a proper parliamentary scrutiny and inspection of the proposed referendum before it goes to the people. That is contemplated in the Constitution. If we did less than that we should be recreant to the responsibilities that are ours under that document. For those reasons, as we did with other Bills, we take this stand in relation to the motion now before the House. We shall oppose it.
– I rise to indicate, for exactly the same reasons that I stated when I last spoke, that the Country Party opposes this motion. The only other comment I wish to make is that it is quite obvious that the passages that Senator Greenwood read out of Hansard of what Senator Murphy said on a previous occasion show the fiasco of what is going on now that that same gentleman has become the Leader of the Government in the Senate.
-I wish to say a few words. It has been suggested that the purpose of delaying these referendum questions is one possibly of obstruction. I take the view that the Senate is one of the two Houses of Parliament through which this legislation passes. Therefore I think it is the right of the parliamentarians to have the opportunity to debate this legislation. In the other place the legislation was unfortunately put through by using the guillotine, which means that it was rammed through the House without proper and extensive debate. Therefore I feel that there should be a debate on these questions in this chamber if anybody wishes to consider them further. I know that some debate did take place previously before the
Senate but no doubt there could be others who may have different or further thoughts. Therefore the matter should be debated.
In this system of democracy one of the purposes of debate is to enlighten the people. The other purpose is argument. I feel that if the debate is properly carried out and if there is some time for it, there is no reason why people cannot research through the avenues of Hansard and the radio- we do not get much coverage by the Press of course- and find out what has been said and the arguments that have been used. I feel that this is a very important matter because when the people have to go to the poll they have to decide whether or not it is right to alter the Constitution. I have my mind made up. I am quite frank about that. But I think that the right of debate is very important, especially from the standpoint of the people of this country considering their decision when these referendum proposals are put forward. That is why I am supporting the line that has been taken this evening.
– in reply- It is again interesting to hear what has been said by the Opposition. Let us deal with the major arguments which were put forward on behalf of the Opposition in its endeavours to justify the rejection of a simple motion to suspend standing order 242 in regard to the third reading, if it were ever to eventuate, of this referendum Bill. Standing order 242 states:
Before the Third reading of any Bill by which an alteration of the Constitution is proposed there shall be a Call of the Senate. If the Third Reading of any such Bill shall not have been carried by an absolute majority of the Senate the Bill shall be forthwith laid aside . . .
Senator Greenwood puts forward a proposition. He said: ‘What you decide should be consistently adhered to’. Let us analyse that statement and let us see what it amounts to. The Senate on 4 December last voted on an identical proposition to suspend standing order 242 in relation to this very Bill. It carried the motion. Who voted for it? Certainly the Government voted for it. We had in the ranks of those who voted with the Government to suspend standing order 242 the distinguished Senator Byrne from Queensland who spoke so eloquently against the suspension of the standing order this evening. His colleagues voted with him and the Senate carried the proposition. Of course, it was common sense that it be carried.
– It was the one mistake he made.
– The honourable senator says it was the one mistake he made. It was obvious that we should get to a vote on a measure which the Opposition Parties were determined to reject. Senator Greenwood has said: ‘Look, maybe we will accede’- I think that was the burden of his remarks- ‘if only we can understand why the Government says it wants to put these measures through. Why did you not bring Parliament back a month earlier?’ or something like that. I do not think that those acquainted with the Constitution would be deceived by that, because they understand that on 4 December the measure was put to this Senate and rejected. The Opposition party made no bones about it- they were not going to have a bar of this measure. What was the measure? The measure was simply to put to the people of Australia the question whether they wanted to vote to alter their own Constitution to enable the Federal Parliament to provide finance directly to local government. I shall not go into the merits of a proposal which has been canvassed for many years and requested by local government bodies all over Australia. But the proposition was simply to let the people vote on whether they should enable the Australian Parliament to do this- and it was rejected. The Constitution provides for a period of 3 months to elapse in such circumstances- and 3 months elapsed between 4 December and 4 March. The proposal was resubmitted yesterday 5 March- in the House of Representatives. That was the earliest possible time it could have been done. We could not have done it before then. It goes through as quickly as possible because at the other end the machinery has to be carried on. We have to submit it to the people. The Government put it through the House of Representatives- yet one hears this nonsense about the guillotine.
The issue had been decided. The Opposition parties, whether in the other House or here, made up their minds that they would reject this Bill or fail to pass it- but yet we hear all this nonsense that the voice of the Opposition must be heard. The voice of the Opposition must be heard so that it can prevent the voice of the people being heard. The Government is not pushing anything through this Parliament. This proposition cannot go through the Parliament. All the Government is asking for are the requisite resolutions of the Houses of the Parliament to enable the voice of the people to be heard. If we cannot get the approval of the Senate on it, the Constitution provides that 3 months after it is rejected or the Senate fails to pass it, it can nevertheless be put to the people. So the device of the
Opposition now is: ‘How can we manoeuvre, do something to try to prevent it being put to the people?’
I tell the Opposition this about this manoeuvre: The Democratic Labor Party senators have erred in foolishly changing their minds because this device of defeating this proposal will not attain their needs. I suggest it would be better for them to try to concentrate on some tricky manoeuvre. Instead of doing as you did last time in rejecting the Bill outright, why not devise some other device so that you can disguise the fact that you are rejecting the Bill? I suppose you will try to delay it or in some way try to cover up the fact that you want to deny the people of Australia a vote on the proposition so that in their wisdom or unwisdom, whatever it may be, they can decide how they want to shape their Constitution. But honourable senators on those benches say: ‘We insist upon the Constitution, we insist upon all this’. Well, so does the Government- and we insist that the voice of the people will be heard on this issue. I would suggest that it is not a very good day for democracy when the Opposition parties, after having so decisively rejected this measure, which was simply a measure to put the proposition to the people, now, again, in March- when the Government is proceeding as expeditiously as it can to fulfil the constitutional requirements- are pretending that they need time to make up their minds or to debate the issue.
What kind of issue are you debating? The only issue to be debated is what kind of manoeuvre you can put up to cover up the fact that you do not want to vote to let the people decide this issue. I defy any honourable senator opposite to say that there is any notion, any possibility, that he would change his mind and vote now for a measure which he rejected on 4 December last. It is a reflection upon the Opposition. What Opposition senators are saying about the Government is true, that the Government has made up its mind to do something. The Government wants to do it. In this instance what the Government has made up its mind to do is to let the people vote on this issue. And what the Opposition senators have made up their minds to do, if they can possibly achieve it, is to prevent people voting on the issue. I think that the people of Australia are starting to see through what is happening in this chamber, all the manoeuvres, the shabby tricks and the nonsense put over about this proposition, which is simply a democratic one. Let us put it to the people. Let us argue with the people. Let the people make up their minds about whether they want to alter their own Constitution. Here all that the Liberal Party, the Country Party or its alliance Party, the Democratic Labor Party, will do is combine, as they did before, to do everything they possibly can to prevent the people of Australia from having their say as soon as can be arranged.
That the motion (Senator Murphy’s) be agreed to.
The Senate divided. (The President- Senator Sir Magnus Cormack)
Question so resolved in the negative.
Bill (on motion by Senator Murphy) read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
I invite the attention of honourable senators to the second reading speech I delivered earlier today in presenting the Constitution Alteration (Democratic Elections) Bill 1974, and my second reading speech when I introduced this Bill previously on 20 November 1973. It is clear that the Bill was thoroughly canvassed then. It deals with a subject matter of very great importance to the people, namely the provision, directly by the
Australian Parliament, of finance to local government bodies throughout Australia. The proposal now is that the Constitution be altered to enable that to be done if the people vote for it. The proposal is not to pass some law through this Parliament. Last year the House of Representatives passed the proposal to put this alteration to the people by way of referendum. That proposal was rejected in the Senate on 4 December by the vote of the Opposition parties. The Constitution provides that such a proposal, if put through the House of Representatives again after 3 months and again rejected by the Senate, or if the Senate fails to pass it, can be put to the people even if the Senate has tried to prevent its being put to them. After 3 months that is, from 4 December to 5 March, the earliest possible time, the House of Representatives again has passed the Bill.
The Bill has been presented here and now we are about to indulge in the further manoeuvres by which the Opposition will endeavour to prevent this proposal being put to the prople. The Opposition having rejected it once, it will now endeavour to delay it or to send it to some committee, or will indulge in some other device. There is to be an election in May this year. It has to be held before 30 June. There has to be time after the election and before 30 June to enable votes to be counted and matters to be sorted out. There is a tight schedule. It is pan of the Government’s program that this Bill be dealt witheither that it be passed, although we know that that is not possible, or for honourable senators of the Opposition honestly to let the people know their attitude. We know the attitude of the Opposition. It intends to refuse, if it can, to let the people have a vote but it is not going to succeed because the Constitution provides for the people to have a say even though there is a majority of senators here who try to prevent their having a say in the alteration of their own Constitution.
The Government of Australia makes no apology for wanting to put the matter to the people at the earliest possible opportunity so that they can make the decision. Opposition senators here will try to find some way or another of preventing that happening. It will be interesting to hear how they justify their endeavours to manoeuvre and switch. They will talk about the rights of the Opposition and so forth. This matter has been debated and no one could have been clearer than the Opposition was on the last occasion in showing its decisive rejection of the proposal to let the people have a say. Let us see what the manoeuvre will be tonight. Is it to be adjourning the matter and not having a vote on a measure that has been debated already? Is it going to be some other device? Let us see what Opposition senators can think up and let us hear their rationalisations as they justify their endeavours to prevent the matter being put to the people at the next Senate election, which is the most convenient and most inexpensive way of allowing the people of Australia to execise their democratic rights.
Motion (by Senator Greenwood) proposed:
That the debate be now adjourned.
The Senate divided. (The President- Senator Sir Magnus Cormack)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Senator Murphy) proposed:
That the resumption of the debate be made an order of the day for the next day of sitting.
– To the motion which has been moved by the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Murphy) and which states:
That the resumption of the debate be made an order of the day for the next day of sitting.
I move the following amendment:
Leave out ‘for the next day of sitting’, insert ‘for Wednesday, 13 March 1974’.
This follows the procedure which the Opposition suggested and which the Senate acceded to on the occasion when the last Constitutional Alteration Bill was discussed. What we are asking is that there be a week before we resume the debate on this Constitution Alteration (Local Government Bodies) Bill. As all honourable senators know this has been a time honoured procedure which is regularly observed when Bills come into this chamber from the House of Representatives. We are asking for nothing more than and nothing less than the acknowledgement that an Opposition has a right to have a short period of delay before debate on the Bill is resumed. In suggesting that the period of delay should be only one week I think the Opposition is being eminently reasonable. So often a period in excess of a week elapses before debate is resumed.
Tonight from Senator Murphy we have heard all sorts of allegations about the reasons for the conduct of the Opposition. I say that what he has said is a mixture of casuistry, spurious reasoning and misrepresentation. The last statement Senator Murphy made was that the Opposition in this place was determined to prevent the people having their say on a matter in relation to which they should be allowed to have their say. With all respect to Senator Murphy, he knows that that cannot be the position. When he imputes that sort of attitude to the Opposition he is doing himself an injustice, not the Opposition. We in the Opposition know that under the Constitution it does not matter whether we in this chamber defeat this measure or whether we support it. The Government has the right in the event of defeat to go to the Governor-General and to ask that the question be put to a referendum. So let us have no more nonsense or this diatribe which has been put over the air to the hosts of people who are listening, that the Opposition is seeking to prevent the people from having their say. We know that the people will have their say. What we are asking for by this amendment is time to present arguments. It is very significant that we ought to have this time. The way in which the Government is resisting the opportunity for the Opposition to have its say is also very significant.
It is a long time since we have come into the chamber and had a second reading speech delivered to us with the casual air which Senator Murphy exhibited on this occasion. We did not even have a second reading speech circulated. I ask members of the Government to recall when that last happened in this Senate. In the case of this Constitution Alteration (Local Government Bodies) Bill I ask honourable senators to think of the time schedule. When this measure was introduced into this Senate last November and defeated here in December it had scarcely had an opportunity to get out of the hands of the Government Printer and be circulated to the 900 or more local government bodies throughout this country. In the intervening 3 months it has got into their hands. It has got into the hands of the State governments, into the hands of the local government departments and into the hands of the hosts of people in the local councils who are interested in the implementation of this measure. They have put forward representations. A number of authoritative statements have been made as to what could be the implications of this measure if it were carried. I suggest that when this debate is resumed there will be an opportunity for all the arguments which have been raised over the intervening period to be canvassed. Certainly, the Opposition wants to have them canvassed. The Opposition wants to use those arguments in the course of the presentation of its argument against these proposals- because we are against them. But we want to use this forum as the place in which the arguments can be raised so that the Hansard record will contain them and through that record we can communicate those arguments to a community which otherwise would not be informed as to what the pros and cons of this measure may be.
The Government does not appear to be concerned to present an argument. To almost paraphrase exactly what Senator Murphy said before, when this Government decides upon something it is determined that what it has decided upon will be put into effect. To that sort of authoritarian approach one can readily rejoin. Of course the legislative processes and activities of the Senate are quite inconsequential. Indeed, the Government’s attitude is that if the Senate suggests any contrary course at all it is being obstructionist. Of course we are not. We are performing a function which under the Constitution we are charged to perform. We have constantly said that we are prepared to be accountable to the electorate for the manner of the discharge of our responsibility. We will continue to do what we believe is in the interests of the people of this country, that is, to resist measures to which we are opposed and to explain the grounds of our resistance and opposition. Last year we showed that we were prepared to give our support to over 200 measures. That is our record, but we think it is reasonable to ask the Government to give to us what it is not prepared to give except by a vote of this chamber, that is, a week in which to have the matters studied.
Senator DRAKE-BROCKMAN (Western Australia- Leader of the Australian Country
Party in the Senate) ( 10.2 1 )-The Country Parry will support the amendment moved by Senator Greenwood, Deputy Leader of the Opposition in the Senate. I say quite emphatically that since 8 o’clock tonight I have witnessed the greatest put-on that I have ever seen in the Senate. It has come from a man who has been an advocate of the rights and procedures of the Senate for many years. He has come into the Senate as Leader of the Government in the Senate with a request from the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) that he bulldoze through the Senate tonight a series of Constitution alteration Bills, debate on which was gagged in another place. This afternoon we started the Address-in-Reply debate. That was the business of this chamber for this week. At ten to six this evening the Leader of the Government in the Senate adjourned that debate and Opposition senators said ‘OK’. We gave him the right to interrupt a very important debate to which each Opposition senator wants to contribute. We thought that Senator Murphy would deliver his second reading speech and then follow the normal practice that he demanded when he was in Opposition.
– He gave it when the Bill was before the House previously.
-Senator McAuliffe knows and I know- I hope the people who are listening will not forget it- that a great put-on is proceeding here tonight.
– Radio has not yet reached the West.
– I just wonder how a lot of you blokes got over that side.
– Order! The honourable senator will address the Chair and disregard disorderly interjections.
-Having extended a courtesy to the Government to allow it to introduce its legislation the Opposition expected to return to the Address-in-Reply debate.
– You have a break in the railway line in your head.
-The honourable senator should keep quiet. We wanted to complete the Address-in-Reply debate in the time available this week plus one sitting day next week. Only one sitting day is left this week so we were asking for only 2 sitting days, a privilege which the previous Government granted the Opposition at all times.
– I think the honourable senator would have to go back a long way into the Senate Hansard to find that a Bill was introduced, a second reading speech made and the debate proceeded with on legislation as important as that we are now discussing. Senator Murphy said that we were looking for ways to wriggle out of voting on this legislation, that we were looking for ways in which we could postpone it. All I am saying is that the Opposition senators have a legitimate case for the practice they are supporting and Government senators admit that to themselves although they will not do so publicly.
We in the Country Party want to complete the Address-in-Reply debate and then the Government can have the debate on its Constitution alteration Bills irrespective of whether we are opposed to them. Senator Greenwood made the point that Senator Murphy and other Government senators know that even if we oppose the Bills the Government can still proceed to present its proposals to the people. Why make a great fuss and say that Opposition senators are preventing the people from expressing a view of the legislation? That is a lot of rot. It has been said tonight because the Senate proceedings are being broadcast. The Government wants to present a fictitious argument to the people to build up its own case. The Country Party supports the amendment moved by the Opposition.
-The Australian Democratic Labor Party will support the amendment moved by the Opposition, perhaps for reasons different from those which have been given. We are not particularly concerned that the Address-in-Reply debate has been put aside. That happens quite often to Address-in-Reply debates for important parliamentary reasons. The DLP has occupied a situation of great responsibility in the Senate for a long time. It has been part of our responsibility to see that governments, whatever their political complexion, made up of majority parties do not become arrogant in the application of the power that is unquestionably and rightfully theirs to the point that they exercise that power unwisely, not in accordance with the Constitution or against the interests of the people. Whenever in the past we have seen signs of arrogance creeping in we have not worried about the political complexion of the government. We have stopped it. That is the reason why the public has supported us and has sent us here in growing numbers after each successive election to carry out that particular task.
I have seen nothing more unconvincing in my life than the performance tonight of the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Murphy). With the manner of a small boy he has put forward propositions to the Senate. He has referred to discussions which took place before Christmas on similar legislation and has suggested that our Party took an attitude then that it must consistently adopt forever. He knows the reason why we were prepared to suspend Standing Orders on that occasion. There was a very good parliamentary reason. There is no parliamentary reason on this occasion because, as has been pointed out, these propositions can be put before the people irrespective of the view in the final analysis of this House. He does not even know what our final views will be on these Bills, in spite of efforts he may make to divert our attention into directions that he prefers. A Government supporter said a moment ago: Why have repetition, because these matters were discussed here some months ago?’ He now nods his head. But there has been repetition because the matter was hotly contested and discussed within the Government’s own Party before the legislation was brought back here.
There was the greatest doubt that these Bills would ever see the light of day here again because the Government itself was not convinced that the public should have the right to decide. The Government was not too sure that it would help its chances in the Senate election campaign. Indeed, it was published freely in the newspapers of this country that had been so much in support of the Government that these expressions of opinion within the Australian Labor Party were so numerous and so strong that the Prime Minister was in a very decided minority in believing that the people should have a say on this matter. It was only when he was prepared to put it on the line that they might not have him as a Prime Minister that they agreed that the matter should even come back to the Parliament so that it could be put before the people again. Yet we are the ones who are charged with trying to frustrate the people in having their say.
Of course, we are quite wrongly charged because that is not our intention at all. If the Government wants to guillotine legislation through the other House, it has the numbers there to do so. Government supporters in this House talk about the rights of the people to express their point of view. Until these propositions are passed by this House of the Parliament, in which the people are now at this moment expressing their point of view through their elected representatives who are in the majority, Government senators cannot complain. Whilst it is true that, under the rules laid down in the Constitution, in a referendum the people will express their point of view, I must point out that until that stage is reached we, the senators in this place and the members in another place, are the people who express their point of view. If the Government does not have the numbers in this place, it cannot demand that this chamber behave in a manner that Senator Murphy, as the Leader of the Government Party, thinks that it should behave. He will accept here the will of the people expressed by the majority vote of this chamber by the elected representatives of the people. Of course, if on this occasion in its wisdom the Senate should reject the proposition that these proposals should even go to the people, we know that they nevertheless will go to the people. It would be then for the people to say whether those who gave the opinion that the proposals were not matters worthy of being put before them at this time were right or wrong.
I know the view that is expressed by many of the Government’s Party officials,’ supporters, members of Parliament and leading people about what the people will say when they receive these propositions presented in conjunction with the confusion of a huge Senate ticket, as will be the case in many States where the people might have to vote for up to 40 or 45 positions on the ballot paper. It is the Government, or rather the Prime Minister, who is being stubborn about the matter in spite of the advice he has received from his electoral experts. But the representatives of the people in the Senate cannot be bludgeoned into silence. We must express our point of view on behalf of the people. If by a majority the representatives of the people say that it is foolish to put these matters to the people at this time, they have a right to say that and the people may very well support that contention when it is put to them. If the people reject it, those honourable senators who have expressed the point of view would be the first to accept the will of the people on the question.
We are operating here as a democratic parliamentary institution. All these slurs about the Senate and its members, and the claim that democracy will be denied are a red herring drawn across the trail that is being laid by this legislation. This motion that consideration of the Bills be adjourned for this specific period- until next Wednesday- is the ordinary common procedure of this Parliament. When there are signs that a government will take the bit in its teeth and force its views- its minority views- on the majority in this chamber by threats, by bludgeon tactics or by any other method, the Australian Democratic Labor Party in this corner knows where its vote has always been cast in the past with the approval of the people. That is where its vote will be cast on this occasion.
– I take up the phrase, ‘the ordinary, normal, common procedures of the Parliament’, used by Senator Little. It is amazing how the so-called stalwarts, the self-styled fighters for the freedom of speech in this Parliament- the members of the Australian Labor Party- have short memories and change their attitude to and support for the normal procedures and traditions of the Parliament and the traditions of freedom of speech. For as many years as I can remember, when we were in Government the Parliament would be opened in this chamber on a Tuesday afternoon at 3 o’clock either by Her Majesty, as was the case at the first opening I attended in 1954, or by the Governor-General or his deputy. Normally, when the motion for the Address-in-Reply had been moved and seconded the Senate would adjourn, not for a day, not for 48 hours and not only for an afternoon tea party and a $50,000 banquet. The Senate would adjourn until the following week.
The supporters and the demanders of the freedom of speech and the traditions of Parliamentthe Australian Labor Party- firstly that great statesman Senator McKenna and those who have followed him, would not rise to speak in the Address-in-Reply debate until 8 o’clock on the second Wednesday after Parliament had been opened. This was done for 2 reasons: Firstly, the Leader ofthe Australian Labor Party in the Senate was never allowed to speak his mind in the Address-in-Reply debate until his Leader in another place had done so. Little Sir Echo had to wait. What a difference there is in the Senate now with the freedom of the Liberal Party. I am not sure what happened in another place tonight, but our Leader (Senator Withers) was prepared and free to state his views in the Address-in-Reply debate the first moment the Government gave him the opportunity to do so when the Senate met after Her Majesty’s Speech.
The second reason the Senate delayed the start of the Address-in-Reply debate was that the Australian Labor Party demanded that it have broadcast time in the Senate at 8 o’clock on a Wednesday night to start its campaign in that debate. For many a year after the opening of a Parliament the Address-in-Reply debate has continued until the following Thursday week with little or no interruption. But what are members of the Opposition doing in this Senate election year when we have been promised or threatened with a heavy concentration of legislation? We said to the Government: ‘We will show you a little organisation and co-operation if you will stop acting. We will get through the Address-in-Reply debate by the Wednesday night following the commencement of the debate or by some time on Wednesday’. So the Government would be at least a fortnight ahead on the time that it demanded for the Address-in-Reply debate when it was in Opposition. But now Government members are theoretically drunk with the taste of power. It has the numbers in another place and the bulldozer is in action. But I believe that the people of Australia, outside of a few media commentators, are saying: ‘Thank God for the combined Opposition of the Senate that is putting a brake and is showing restraint on a Government that is trying to push through legislation before one of the principal jobs of the Parliament is carried out’. I have said before today and I will go on saying as long as I am privileged to be a senator, that one of the great powers of the Parliament and one of the reasons for the second chamber is that it gives time for the people of Australia to be informed by the media and by other means of what has transpired in another place and what is coming up to the Senate for decision. I believe that we have been recreant to our duty many a time when we have agreed to the suspension of so much of the Standing Orders as would have prevented a Bill passing through all its stages without delay. Those who drew up our Standing Orders wanted at least 48 hours of parliamentary sitting time to pass before legislation was dealt with in this chamber after having been passed by the other chamber so that the public could be informed and become vocal about such legislation if necessary.
In respect of the referendums, as Mr Whitlam calls them- I prefer to use the word ‘referenda’, although I have never been a Latin scholar- I can tell any member of the Australian Labor Party that I have not had one letter or telephone call from any elector wanting any of the referenda to be put to the people or passed. But if honourable senators opposite would like to see it, I would be prepared to show them the correspondence of dismay and despair I have received about the actions of the Government in turning the well favoured Postmaster-General’s Department and its services into a shambles. The people are more concerned about inflation, the Government’s attacks upon rural industry and many other facets of government than about referenda.
They would not give a bumper for the Government’s referenda proposals. If only the Labor Government would wake up to the facts of political life. I believe quite sincerely- I should not give honourable senators opposite helpful advice- that the Labor Government should respect the wishes of the State branches of the Australian Labor Party and decide not to go on with the referenda proposals. Let us have a straightout Senate election. Honourable senators opposite are frightened about that because they know that in matters of government they will be defeated. In matters of referenda they will also be defeated. At least the Opposition is cooperating with the Government by giving it extra time to devote to its legislation.
– I rise to say a few words on some of the comments that have been made by members of the Opposition in regard to the bulldozing of the legislation through the other place. During the last few months I have come to know Senator Marriott, who has just resumed his seat, quite well. I was of the opinion that he was a man who did a lot of research and who did not make statements without being able to verify them. Senator Marriott has just stated that bulldozing tactics are being used in the other place. I want to quote from a statement which was made in the other place last night by a colleague of mine, Mr Paul Keating, who is the honourable member for Blaxland. Mr Keating has done his homework, whereas Senator Marriott has not done his. Mr Keating is on record in yesterday’s Hansard of the other place as saying:
The record of the last Parliament shows that 19 Bills were put through in 1 7 hours.
Nineteen Bills were put through the Parliament in 17 hours by the McMahon Government; yet the Whitlam Government has been accused of bulldozing tactics. Mr Keating went on to say:
That record has never been surpassed. In the lifetime of the 27th Parliament members of the present Opposition moved the gag 322 times.
Today, because the proceedings of this chamber are being broadcast, we have had the experience of Senator Withers and other members of the Opposition getting up and accusing the present Government of applying the gag to debates on legislation and of bulldozing measures through the Parliament.
The Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Murphy) has repeatedly pointed out during the debates tonight that all the matters we are now discussing were discussed in this Parliament 3 months ago. Yet, because the proceedings of this chamber are being broadcast today, we find members of the Opposition trying to hoodwink the electors of this country by saying that the Government is doing something that they would never stoop to. It is on record that they have done far worse than the present Government will ever do. Senator Marriott, who has said to me that he never says things unless he can prove what he says, has gone down in my estimation because tonight I have proved that he has not done so on this occasion. He has fallen into the same trap as his colleagues. I am very disappointed with what Senator Marriott had to say tonight.
– It is a pity that the proceedings of the Senate are not heard more on the air and it is a pity that the arguments of the Opposition have not been spread more widely. I think it would be helpful to the people of Australia if they were to know and understand quite fully what the members of the Opposition are doing in this place. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Senator Greenwood) said that the Opposition wants time to be able to present its arguments on this matter. He said that we should not deal with it now. Despite the fact that the Government has moved as expeditiously as it could to re-present this Bill after its decisive rejection by the Opposition parties last December, he said: ‘We want time to use this place to present arguments. We want to use it as a forum’. But what was said by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Withers)- his own Leader- on 4 December last? He said:
All these referendum Bills deal with matters which properly should await the recommendations of committees established by the Constitutional Convention.
He went on to refer to that. Then he said:
They are not matters which should be thrashed out in an overheated political atmosphere. For those reasons the Liberal Party will vote against the motion for the second reading of the Bill.
Senator Greenwood has said: ‘Let us have time to present arguments. Let us use this forum’. As the reason for the rejection of the Bill last time Senator Withers said that it should not be dealt with here. He said: ‘We will not even give the Bill a second reading. We will not even go into Committee and examine the clauses to see whether what is being proposed is sensible and so forth’. The Opposition did not even allow the Bill to be discussed in the Committee stage last year.
In the debate on 4 December in this chamber the Opposition rejected even the motion for the second reading of the Bill. The Bill was brought in on, I think, 20 November and was debated on 4 December. It was dealt with pretty smartly by the Opposition. I remember that the Opposition resumed debate on the motion for the second reading of the Bill at 5.12 p.m. and the debate concluded less than an hour later. It was all over and done with in less than an hour. According to the record the Senate had got past dealing with this Bill and was already dealing with another measure at 5.50 p.m. That included the time taken up by the vote. I think it took 38 minutes for the Opposition to put its arguments. The Opposition said that this Bill was not even worth giving a second reading. It said: ‘Let us not even go into Committee. Let us throw it out without a second reading’. By doing that it prevented the people from having a say on it.
The Government has come back and said that the Constitution nevertheless provides that if the House of Representatives passes such a measure for the second time after an interval of 3 months and this place rejects or fails to pass it the people can have their say. Now the members of the Opposition are saying: ‘We see that the Government has got the 3 months period up. It wants to put it to the people at the time of a Senate election. We know that it is talking about dates like 1 1 May. We know that there is a tight program’. The Government has said: ‘Let us have your vote on this matter. We know what your attitude is. ‘ Every single member of the Opposition knows that he is going to reject this Bill or, by some tricky manoeuvre, to throw it out or in some shabby way to disguise what the Opposition is doing. The honest thing for the members of the Opposition to do would be to do what they did before, that is, knock it back. We could have had a vote on this Bill tonight. Members of the Opposition know what their attitude is to it. On the last occasion they did not even want to give it a second reading. They did not want to discuss any of the clauses of the Bill. They did not want to improve the Bill in any way. But they are now saying that they want time to enable them to present their arguments. As Senator DrakeBrockman said before, the members of the Australian Country Party have to make up their minds as to what they think about the Bill and they would like to consult other people to see what they think the Country Party should do about it.
– There has to be a discussion between the National Alliance and the Country Party.
-That is right, there needs to be a discussion between the National Alliance and the Country Party, the Bill has to be taken back to the Liberal Party, or there is a need to ascertain what somebody in the Australian Democratic Labor Party thinks about it. In view of what the members of the Opposition did on 4 December are the people of Australia really going to be deceived by this nonsense? Senator Drake-Brockman, I think it was, referred to the promise which the Government had given to the people that they would be given the chance to vote on these measures. I think that promise was given during the last election campaign. The Government has had the necessary legislation prepared. The relevant Bills were passed by the chamber which the people elected at that election but were thrown out by this chamber in a contemptuous fashion on 4 December without even being given an second reading. Opposition members now say that it is this Government which is bulldozing legislation through the Parliament. This is nonsense. How can this Government do that? Here is a government, elected by the people of Australia, which is in a minority position in this chamber. It has had to suffer that minority position here since 2 December 1972. This situation will soon be corrected at the next Senate election.
The Government has had to put up day after day with submitting to the whims of the Opposition Parties which have a majority here. Members of those Parties have the impudence to rise when the proceedings of the Senate are being broadcast and to talk about the Government bulldozing measures through the Senate. The Opposition Parties have hamstrung this Government. In the period of 14 months or so that we have been in government, they have allowed certain measures through, but any legislation which was of importance or which affected their policies has been rejected, notwithstanding that the Government had a mandate for its action as it had put these matters to the people at the last election. Important measures affecting health, education, and consumer protection have been either rejected, delayed or put aside by these people who have bulldozed the Australian people by their decision to oppose the implementation of the policies which the people adopted.
Now, Opposition members are going through a pretence. Here is the pretence: They say to the people: ‘We want time to present our arguments’. They say that when a Bill is going through the chamber to become a law by enactment of the 2 Houses of the Parliament, or in relation to other measures, it is usual, although, they concede, it is not invariably the practice, to have a few day’s delay between the introduction of and the debate on that measure or matter.
There is no need for this nonsense. The Opposition Parties refused, but now they come forward with this nonsense: ‘Oh, we have not made up our minds; we want to go off and consider our arguments; what we would like to do is find some reason to justify the action that we took on the last occasion of refusing to allow the people to vote on a very simple but very important proposition’. That proposal is whether the Australian Parliament ought to be able to give direct aid to local government bodies. Is it the Opposition’s idea of democracy to endeavour to delay the Government’s program? That is what this debate is all about. The Opposition seeks by its amendment to delay until Wednesday, 13 March resumption of debate on this measure. The Opposition thinks that in some way this action will sprag the Government’s program, because of the constitutional reference to the 2 months requirement with respect to this legislation. The Opposition’s intention from the time that these Bills were first introduced last session has been to attempt to obstruct or delay the passage of legislation. It has tried to find some reason for upsetting the Government’s program. If there was any thought at all - (Opposition senators interjecting)-
-Senator Withers and Senator Greenwood are interjecting. There is not the slightest doubt in anyone’s mind that the Opposition Parties will refuse to agree to this proposition being put to the people. There is absolutely no point in endeavouring to carry on with this kind of manoeuvre. The Government can do nothing about it because the Opposition Parties have the numbers to control this Senate. It has been exercising that control wilfully and obstructively in order to defeat the mandate which the people gave to this Government. I hope that honourable senators opposite will soon get the lesson they deserve.
– Order! Senator Murphy has moved a motion that the resumption of the debate be made an order of the day for another day of sitting, to which Senator Greenwood has moved an amendment proposing that the debate be deferred until Wednesday, 13 March. The question now is: ‘That the words proposed to be left out be left out’.
The Senate divided. (The President- Senator Sir Magnus Cormack)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
That the motion, as amended, be agreed to.
The Senate divided. (The President- Senator Sir Magnus Cormack)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Motion (by Senator Murphy) agreed to:
That the Bill be made an order of the day for the next day of sitting.
Motion (by Senator Murphy) proposed:
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– I desire to raise a matter related to a petition which I presented today and to which I was prevented from drawing the attention of the Senate under Standing Orders. I received this petition early in January in my office. It was sent to me in a plain envelope with no covering letter. As is my usual practice when I receive a petition, I contacted the first person who had signed the petition to notify that person that I had received the petition. I asked the first person whose name was on the petition whether that person would accept responsibility for mailing it to me as there was no covering letter. But the person concerned said that he would not accept responsibility for the petition. I contacted by telephone every person on the petition who had a telephone number.
But none of the people to whom I spoke were prepared to accept responsibility for forwarding this petition to me as a senator to present to this Senate. When I asked where the petition had originated I was told by all that it had come from the Florey Clinic of 3 Pulsford Road, Prospect, South Australia.
I was most concerned at the way in which the petition was worded. The first paragraph of the petition stated:
That Australian citizens place great value on their freedom to choose their own doctor in all aspects of medical care.
I asked each person I spoke to on the telephone whether he had a choice of doctor at this clinic and without exception all told me that they did not. They said that if they wanted a choice of doctor they had to wait for at least 4 days before they could see the doctor of their choice. So in fact these people signed a petition which outlined a practice which they did not receive when they went to their own clinic. The second paragraph of the petition stated:
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.
These people have signed a petition of protest which they have asked me as a senator to present to the Parliament. But they are not getting the type of service that is set out in the petition from the clinic that in fact prepared the petition and collected signatures to be presented to the Parliament. So in effect these people have been conned by the doctors of this clinic into signing a petition.
I then rang the surgery. I spoke to the receptionist and said that out of courtesy I would like a covering letter as someone ought to accept responsibility for forwarding a petition to a senator. I pointed out that the people I had contacted would not accept this responsibility. The receptionist asked me whether I would like a letter from the doctor. I said that most certainly I would. So, 5 weeks went by and no letter arrived. On 2 1 February I again rang and I spoke to a Dr Brock who admitted that he had organised the petition. I asked him whether he would send me a letter. I will read the letter. It is headed 3 Pulsford Road, Prospect, South Australia 5082. It is dated 22 February 1974 and it is addressed to Senator McLaren, 6 Third Street, Murray Bridge, South Australia, 5253. It states:
Dear Senator McLaren,
Further to our ‘phone conversation of this morning, I am forwarding covering letter requested by you covering petition which was forwarded to you in January from this surgery
I had to wait for 5 weeks before I received any confirmation as to where this particular petition originated. I am disturbed about the desire of the doctors of this country to oppose legislation which has been brought forward by this Government. This Government has a mandate from the people to bring in a medical scheme. The doctors are using the patients. I am not saying that they are threatening them, but this petition is put on the table in the waiting rooms of doctors for people to sign. lama little concerned about what the repercussions would be if a patient did not sign the petition.
I pointed out the 2 clauses of this particular petition to the doctor. He said: ‘Senator, you have a point there, They have not really got a choice. But we have rectified that because as from next week 1 will have 6 doctors operating in my clinic’. The fact of the matter is that even then if people wish to see a doctor of their choice they will not be able to do so. I have no argument about the doctor as far as I am personally concerned. If ever I go to a doctor- fortunately it is not very often- I am never able to see the doctor of my choice. But I am not very worried about that because I believe that all doctors ought to be skilled in their trade, otherwise they ought not to be in practice. One of the things that disturbs me when doctors set up these clinics is that the most recent addition to their staff is usually a young doctor who is just out of medical school. What happens? The doctors who set up the clinics farm all the neurotic cases and the people whom they do not wish to see onto the young new doctor who has not had any personal experience and private contact with patients. Yet the doctors try to fool the community, the electors- they tried to fool me- by getting people to sign a petition. When I brought this to their attention they said to me: ‘We have sent out dozens of these petitions to members of Parliament and you are the only one who has queried them.’ I said: ‘Well, I am a bit different from the others. I always like to have some proof of something that I do ‘.
I raise the matter in this Parliament tonight to acquaint the electors of South Australia, and all over Australia as a matter of fact, that the patients of these doctors in this clinic have signed a petition relating to something to which they themselves are objecting. But they do not have the right in their own clinic to receive the attention which they are frightened they will not receive under the legislation which this Government is introducing. I went a little further than ringing the people who had signed the petition. I wrote to each and every one of the 48 people who signed it. I set out some of the points of our policy on the national health scheme. I offered to send them a copy of the White Paper dealing with our proposed national health scheme to further acquaint them with our legislation. I have never received one reply. Not one person was interested enough to write back and say that he would like to read the White Paper which sets out the scheme. One of the women I rang emphatically denied that she ever signed the petition. I am not saying that somebody else signed it. I am saying that she, along with many other people, blindly signed this petition without knowing what she was signing. This is the type of rubbish that people are bringing into this Parliament particularly from doctors, organised by the Australian Medical Association, who use scare tactics on the patients of this country. I think it ought to be stopped.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 11.14 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 6 March 1974, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1974/19740306_senate_28_s59/>.