28th Parliament · 2nd Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Magnus Cormack) took the chair at 1 1 a.m., and read prayers.
– I present the following petition from 1 1 citizens of Victoria:
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.
Notice of Motion
– I give notice that on the next day of sitting I shall move:
That a message be sent to the House of Representatives requesting that House to resume consideration of a Bill entitled ‘Bill for an Act to establish a legislative drafting institute’ which was transmitted to the House of Representatives for its concurrence during the last session of the Parliament.
Notice of Motion
– I give notice that on the next day of sitting I shall move:
That leave be given to introduce a Bill for an Act to create a Court to be known as the Superior Court of Australia and to make provision with respect to the Jurisdiction of, and other matters in relation to that Court.
Notice of Motion
– I give notice that on the next day of sitting I shall move:
That leave be given to introduce a Bill for an Act relating to Marriage and to Divorce and Matrimonial Causes and, in relation thereto, Parental Rights and the Custody and Guardianship of Infants, and certain other Matters.
Notice of Motion
-I give notice that tomorrow I shall move:
That a message be sent to the House of Representatives requesting the House of Representatives to resume consideration of a Bill intitled ‘A Bill for an Act to determine the site of the new and permanent Parliament House, and to provide for the grounds in the vicinity of the Parliament to be controlled by the Parliament’ which was transmitted to the House of Representatives for its concurrence during the last session of the Parliament.
– That will be for the next day of sitting. We will not be sitting tomorrow, I assume.
-‘ Tomorrow’ in the parliamentary sense.
-My question is directed to the Attorney-General. In view of the Prime Minister’s statement that he first heard of the events which were taking place in the Department of Aboriginal Affairs last Thursday when he was at a reception in the afternoon and that he heard of them from the AttorneyGeneral, and in view of the fact that the Prime Minister, as we know, continued with his participation in the festivities of the afternoon at a time when people were being held at gunpoint in the Department, I ask: what were the steps or actions that the Attorney-General took with respect to that incident which he related to the Prime Minister and advice of which the Prime Minister received with such satisfaction that he continued with the arrangements which had been prepared?
– I received a note when I was in your room, Mr President, when a function was taking place. I spoke to or, I think, showed the note to the Prime Minister, and I think he has indicated in the House of Representatives that he said words to the effect that the main thing was to make certain that no one’s life was jeopardised or that there was no loss of life. It was a very brief word as I was leaving the room. I made certain that the Commissioner of Police was attending to the matter and fully in charge of it. Having given instructions to that effect, 1 went immediately- I think it was within a few minutes- to the office of the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs and spoke to him about the matter. As I recall it, I ascertained from him what he knew. He seemed to think that the affair was being handled properly at that stage. I also offered any other assistance. The matter then went on.
The suggestion that the Prime Minister or anybody else should have abandoned the function that was taking place I think is not to be accepted as reasonable behaviour on such an occasion. If that were to be done I think it would only encourage such incidents. We in this country want to see the avoidance of any kind of intimidation or violence. I have already indicated to the Senate what my attitude is to any such us of violence or terrorism in order to achieve political or, for that matter, any other ends. The Government is determined to see that those methods are not tolerated in Australia. To suggest that every time an incident occurs in which someone is being held up, whether it be in an office or anywhere else, the Prime Minister should immediately abandon everything he is doing, or other Ministers should abandon what they are doing, is not, I think, a real approach to these matters.
In these affairs, whether it is an incident such as that which occurred at the Department of Aboriginal Affairs, a hijacking or some other affair, the important thing is to have procedures to deal with them and to have persons who know what needs to be done with a course to follow. Accepted procedures need to be understood and followed by people with authority to carry them out. That is what ought to be expected and that is what we have. I do not think it is real to expect that suddenly on some such occasion the Prime Minister or any other Minister should abandon what he is doing because of an endeavour by someone to get publicity through some violence or intimidation.
-Does the Minister for Primary Industry agree that the Australian farming community is confused by the situation which has developed over the future of the superphosphate bounty? Has the confusion been caused by the Prime Minister’s announcement of a major policy decision which subsequently may be reversed by Labor Caucus? Has the matter been further aggravated by the fact that neither the full Labor Caucus nor the Caucus rural committee was consulted before the decision was announced and because an interdepartmental committee which examined the proposal recommended, by an eight to one majority, that the bounty issue be referred to the Industries Assistance Commission?
– It must be a matter of concern to me, to honourable senators and to the Parliament to think that someone in Opposition has access to Cabinet documents because, in fact, the last part of Senator Drake-Brockman’s question says just that. I said yesterday that the decision by the Government was taken by Cabinet. It is a Government decision which stands as such. How we arrive at such decisions in this Government is the concern of the Government and nobody else. We will stand by those decisions until such time as we, as a government, may vary them.
– I desire to ask a question of the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. It concerns my endeavours to obtain a definition of an Aboriginal. Yesterday the Minister appeared to indicate that there was no precise definition but that it was accepted that an Aboriginal was a person of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islands descent who accepted the status of an Aboriginal. I now ask: Does this mean, for example that if there are 2 brothers of one-quarter Aboriginal descent and three-quarters white descent, one of whom says he is an Aboriginal and the other says he is not, one is an Aboriginal and one is a white man?
– I call Senator Cavanagh who seems to be cast in the role of Solomon.
– Yes, of course what the honourable senator says is correct. If someone has sufficient antecedents of a European race and does not want to be recognised as an Aboriginal- despite the fact that he may be of
Aboriginal descent- he has that right to choose. And the Government has to accept him as a European. He is given the right to disown his Aboriginal descent.
– Not only European but also Asian, I presume?
– Yes, Asian or anyone else. Most Aboriginal people are proud of their Aboriginal status. We do not want to take away the right of somebody to opt out of that race if he so desires. If the other brother is proud of the fact that he is an Aboriginal we would accept that in our determination. Of course, not only is the decision up to him but also there has to be a recognition and acceptance by the Aboriginal community in which he may live. The honourable senator will notice that the Commonwealth has been given powers in relation to Aborigines. This is not just a matter of Aborigines accepting an Aboriginal.
-I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Defence. What professional advice did the Government receive on the decision to scrap the destroyer project known as the DDL project? Was the decision to scrap the project opposed by the committee which was charged with advising the Minister on the development of the defence forces as a whole because such a decision to scrap the project would lead to a weakening of Australia’s defence capacity?
-I think that the question calls for an answer which I cannot give in the full detail in which the honourable senator wants it. The generalities are well known and have been canvassed previously by Vice-Admiral Sir Richard Peek. But Mr Barnard has made some statements. I think that the proper thing for me to do is to refer the honourable senator’s question to the Minister and get an answer that is specific in all details.
-I ask the Minister for the Media: Is it a fact that individuals and groups are making their voices heard in protest at the fact that some television programs seem to be spearheading the decline in moral standards which can undermine the very fabric of individual, family and national life? I point out that one example is the current controversy over the television program ‘The Box’ shown on the Channel 0-10 network. Does this show and others which cause concern contravene the standards which are laid down by the Australian Broadcasting Control Board?
– If my colleague looks at sections 16, 99 and 101 of the Broadcasting and Television Act he will see that these matters are principally the responsibility of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board. I can tell the honourable senator that acting under these sections and in compliance with the standards of the Board, the Board has taken action in regard to 2 sequences which it considered contravened its standards. It had those sequences excised from recent episodes.
– Was that in relation to the program ‘The Box”?
– It was related to episodes of ‘The Box’. Mr Bakker of the Festival of Light organisation wrote a letter, which was marked ‘personal’ to the Chairman of the Broadcasting Control Board on 13 February. The chairman of the Board replied to Mr Bakker on 21 February. I have noted that Mr Bakker wrote a letter to all members of the Parliament dated 1 March and attached to his letter a copy of his letter to Mr Wright, the Chairman of the Board. However, for some unexplained reason he did not attach a copy of the letter written by Mr Wright in reply to him.
It has been suggested by certain people that I should exercise my Ministerial discretion under section 99 of the Act to ban the program ‘The Box’. In my opinion, that Ministerial discretion should be exercised only in very extreme cases. In view of the Government’s policy, I certainly do not intend to indulge in political censorship nor to set myself up as an adjudicator of morals. In addition, I can tell the honourable senator that Senator Murphy and I will be meeting a deputation from the Festival of Light organisation this afternoon.
-Has the Minister representing the Minister for Defence seen a report by the Australian Federation of Air Pilots concerning the conflict of military and civil aircraft in which the Federation points out that there is a real danger of a collision between civil aircraft and some training military aircraft? Does the Minister realise that there have already been some near misses and that the pilots feel it is only a matter of time before there is a mid-air collision? Does the Minister also realise that the radios of the civil and military aircraft are not suitable for direct communication and that the radar of military aircraft is not accurate at low altitudes? Finally, what action is being taken by the Department of Defence to correct this situation so that we will not have an air disaster with perhaps over 100 people being killed?
– There have been reports in the Press about this matter. Senator Townley indicated to me that he wanted some information. I have a report which I think ought to be given in the face of the Press controversy because it is an important matter. Unless there is any objection I intend to read the 5 paragraphs.
– You may seek leave to make a ministerial statement later on.
– My question is directed to the Attorney-General. I refer to the recent appointment to a vacancy on the High Court of Australia of the President of the New South Wales Court of Appeal. I preface my question by saying that I make no reflection whatsoever on the suitability of Mr Justice Jacobs or on his high competence in the legal field. I am concerned to ask whether the Attorney-General or the Government gave consideration to suitably qualified lawyers from Western Australia, South Australia or Tasmania in regard to the filling of this vacancy.
– How many West Australians did the previous Government appoint?
– None have been appointed to the High Court. I ask: Does the Attorney-General consider it to be desirable, after 74 years of federation, that the High Court continues to be virtually a preserve of the New South Wales and Victorian Bars?
-That is a difficult question to answer, because I do not think that the High Court should be regarded as a preserve of any kind of Bar at all. I think the attitude of this Government has been to select persons of eminence and suitability for the Bench. As the honourable senator has said, he is not making any criticism of the appointment. No one would make any criticism of an absolutely outstanding appointment of a very eminent jurist who was appointed, I think, originally by a Labor Government to the New South Wales Supreme Court. He was later appointed by the Liberal Government to the Court of Appeal and then appointed as President of the Court of Appeal. He was then appointed by the Whitlam Government to the High Court of Australia. In other spheres selection has been made of those who were deemed to be the most suitable.
It is unfortunate that other States, particularly Western Australia, have not had the satisfaction of having a judge appointed to the High Court. I can assure the honourable senator that attention has been given to these matters. We hope that when the Superior Court Bill is approved of in both chambers there will be a new federal tribunal with wide jurisdication and that the question, at least to some extent, of federal judges will be met because, there will be some necessity for having resident judges. One would expect that there would be representatives from all of the States on such a tribunal. I assure the honourable senator that consideration has been and will be given at the time of appointment to the matter he has raised. I suppose the practical fact is that there are far more lawyers in New South Wales and Victoria than in Western Australia. That may be the reason why over the 74 years there has been this undoubted preponderance of appointments from those States. I am conscious of the problem which the honourable senator raises and I assure him I will give attention to it.
– My question is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate in his capacity as Minister for Customs and Excise. Because the majority of the people of Australia decided not to give the Australian Government power to counter inflation by approving consititutional power over prices, will the Minister say whether there are any facilities through his Department that would assist in ensuring that reduction in import prices following exchange variations and tariff reductions are in fact passed on to consumers?
– Yes, there are. There is, first of all, a comprehensive computer system which is used to deal with all imports into Australia. That computer system is also used for the storage of details on imports into Australia. A good deal of information in that respect is now being analysed in order to track the changes in the prices of imported goods. This, taken together with the sale prices domestically of goods, can be used to see what effect the tariff cuts and other changes are having on costs. May I say that there has been some indication in some areas that the cuts in tariffs have not been passed on. I think I indicated last year that there was some indication that there had been an automatic response of an increase in the price from the country of manufacture. I am not suggesting that this goes across the board, but there has been indication of that. May I also say that there is a responsibility in the Department in some areas of bounty for ensuring before approval is given for the continuance of the payment of a bounty that the benefit is passed on to the consumer.
– I wish to ask a question of the Minister for Primary Industry. Will the Minister give consideration to making a recommendation for the relaxation of the eligibility criteria for the reconstruction scheme- the tree-pull schemefor export apples because of the failure of the scheme in the past? Is he also aware that growers of export apples, because of Government revaluations and the floating of the pound sterling, face a reduction in gross returns of 33 1/3 per cent or up to $2 per bushel on the main UK market this year compared with a similar period last year?
– I would have to disagree with the honourable senator’s contention that the tree-pull scheme has been a failure. As I have said before in this place, it was introduced by the previous administration- and it was a correct decision. Many fruit growers have benefited from the fruit growing reconstruction scheme. It is true that it has been argued that the scheme is too restrictive, which has meant that some growers have not been eligible for the benefits provided by the scheme. But the great bulk of the growers are eligible. The scheme was designed to help those who really needed help most. That was the thought behind the scheme when it was instituted. Some relaxations have been applied. For example, certain varieties which were not permitted to be planted under the previous 5 years of the scheme are now permitted to be planted.
All in all I think the scheme has worked well, despite the fact that there may be certain deficiencies in it. I intend to review one or two aspects of the reconstruction scheme this year. It is possible that one or two alterations could still be effected which would help some growers. As to the honourable senator’s comments concerning compensation, after the revaluation of the Australian dollar in December 1972 the Government recognised that the industry would be confronted with difficulties. Consequently all growers throughout Australia were eligible for a payment of $1,500. To the middle of last month just over 5,000 growers have been paid the $1,500 and 74 applications remain to be dealt with. They have not been dealt with because of problems associated with partnerships and so on in orchards. After the further revaluation of the dollar last year, the Government again invited those industry groups which were adversely affected to make application for assistance. At this stage we have not received any further application for assistance. Such an application would receive the same favourable consideration as the previous application after the December 1972 revaluation received.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Health. In the face of continued disputes involving overseas airlines and their passengers because of obligations under Australian vaccination requirements, what was the outcome of the recent Darwin confrontation involving the British Overseas Airways Corporation, as it was then called, and a passenger, Mrs Haynes?
-The Minister for Health has advised me that on 4 February last a claim for reimbursement of the quarantine expenses for the detention of Mrs Haynes in Darwin was rendered on Qantas Airways Ltd- Qantas being the agent in Darwin for the British Overseas Airways Corporation, as it was then called. Because Qantas has raised no objection to the claim, it is assumed by the Department of Health that Qantas has accepted liability in the usual way on behalf of BOAC, which is now called British Airways Ltd.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Social Security. Is it a fact that not one child care centre has been established or even commenced in South Australia in the last 15 months, although many applications have been received? Is it also a fact that approval in principle only has been given to some of the applications which have been continually held up due to minor technicalities, resulting in as many as 4 sketch drafts being submitted without success? Is not the reason for this disturbing delay a conflict of opinion between 2 Ministers and their departments? Will the Minister treat this situation as most urgent and overcome these wrangles so that the Government can meet its obligations in this very important area of social welfare?
– I ask the honourable senator to place the question on the notice paper.
– Has the attention of the Minister assisting the Minister for Defence been drawn to the fact that 2 members of the Citizen Military Forces were electrocuted while assisting the citizens of Brisbane during the recent disastrous floods in that city? Will the Minister ascertain whether financial assistance can be provided to the respective widows and children as it appears that nothing is required to be paid because the deceased had volunteered for civil defence duties?
– Four servicemen lost their lives during the floods. I am quite sure that all honourable senators are very proud of the way in which the servicemen worked and performed courageous deeds during the floods. Not much mention has been made of their work, but they did a wonderful job. It is very sad to know that 4 servicemen lost their lives. Their dependants are entitled to compensation under the Commonwealth Employees Compensation Act and also under the Repatriation Act. I understand that the applications of the widows of the 2 Army personnel have been processed already and that cheques have been paid. I am not sure of the position in relation to the dependants of the 2 deceased Royal Australian Air Force members. The dependants will be entitled to various payments such as repatriation and dependants’ allowances under the Compensation Act. I will obtain further details for the honourable senator so that he can tell the person who asked him the question.
– My question, which is directed to the Attorney-General, refers to persons of Yugoslav birth who migrated to Australia, who are naturalised citizens and who now desire to visit Yugoslavia. Is the Minister aware that such persons- I stress that they are naturalised Australians- according to my information, are required by the Consul-General for Yugoslavia in New South Wales to obtain a Yugoslav passport as a condition precedent to visiting Yugoslavia? Does the forced acceptance of a Yugoslav passport place such Australian citizens under the civil and military laws of Yugoslavia, including the right of the Yugoslav Government to withdraw the passports and actually to hold the people in the country? Does the
Minister realise the real dangers to life and liberty of Australian citizens arising out of such coercion? Will the Government, in order to assert the full civil liberties of all Australian citizens, take steps to ensure that an Australian passport alone is necessary for the protection of Australian citizens when travelling abroad?
-This involves the vexed question of dual nationality. The honourable senator may or may nor be aware that studies have been made of this problem over recent years and quite recently by the Australian Government. I think that the question has come before at least one parliamentary committee. It is a problem everywhere in the world. Speaking off the cuff to Senator Carrick, I do not think that the requirement of taking out a Yugoslav passport is the important ingredient. Where there is a problem of dual nationality- whether it be with, say Greece or some other country- in general the essence of the problem is that each country claims that the person concerned is its national, and when that person is in either of the countries involved that country, in effect, claims dominion over him and also claims his allegiance and so forth. It is a deeper problem than the question of requiring a passport. That is as I understand it.
– It is explicit in the application.
-But the problem is that when a person takes out Australian citizenshipand it applies to other countries as well- this does not mean that in the eyes of the country from which he came he has abandoned that country’s citizenship. So, in a sense, the person remains claimed by 2 countries. Whenever he is in one of those countries that country claims that he is its citizen. It is a very complicated problem and a lot of attention has been given to it not only in Australia but also internationally. It bristles with difficulties. I think everyone would like to find some resolution of this problem which affects persons throughout the world.
– I desire to ask a question about the Literature Board. I am not sure whether the question should be addressed to the Minister for the Media or to the Minister representing the Prime Minister. What is the role of the Literature Board? Is the Minister able to indicate what Commonwealth funds have been made available to the Board? Is he aware of the number of novels approved by the Board in 1974? Are these novels to be published by the usual commercial printing and publishing houses, or will the Board give preference to nonprofit making publishing bodies? Will the Minister take steps to make available the names of the recipients of moneys allocated by the Literature Board?
-I take it that the honourable senator is referring to the Literature Board of Review which is attached to the Australian Council for the Arts?
– I am unable to answer these detailed questions, but I will obtain answers for the honourable senator and bring them into the Senate.
– My question which is addressed to the Minister for the Media refers to the question by Senator Drury and to the answer given by the Minister a little while ago. It concerns the correspondence between the Australian Broadcasting Control Board and the Victorian Festival of Light and also an earlier letter, of which the Minister received a copy, from the Dean of Sydney, indicating a mounting body of opinion expressing concern at the deterioration in the quality of programs that sometimes are described as adult drama. Will the Minister take steps to give encouragement to and incentives for new productions which, whilst they endeavour to reflect life situations, also focus attention on the development and improvement of entertainment and intellectual qualities as well as community responsibility?
-The Government took steps along the lines suggested by the honourable senator at about this time last year when it decided to introduce a new system for the categorising of programming and the allocation of points for programs of different types rather than a blanket overall percentage quota. The points system has achieved 2 things. First, it has achieved continuity of employment for people engaged in the television industry in particular; so much so that there is now a dearth of good quality Australian writers in Australia. Secondly, the diversity of programming in the generality among the 4 stations in each of the capital cities -
– There is still disquiet over quality.
-The honourable senator apparently sets himself up as the arbiter of tastes. I certainly do not intend to do that. What is one man’s meat is another man’s poison, so it is a matter of what the public chooses to watch. I can assure the honourable senator that as a result of this Government making available to the Australian Broadcasting Commission an additional $ 10m in this financial year for, amongst other things, improvement of programming, there has been a substantial improvement in the quality of programming by the Commission; so much so that a number of its productions have been sucessfully sold on the export market.
– I ask the Leader of the Government in this Senate: Is it a fact that 3 Soviet Russian trade or presidium delegates were visiting Canberra on Tuesday last? Is it a fact that one of them was Lieutenant-General Evgeni Petovronov, formerly a top-ranking KGB officer and therefore a leader in the world ‘s worst terrorist police organisation? At a time when the rest of the civilised world is expressing its condemnation of the treatment of Solzhensitsyn by the KGB, can the Minister explain why his Government chose this moment to allow an entry visa to this man and in fact seemed to welcome him with flags and an official luncheon? Will the Minister give an assurance that known KGB or Gestapo men will not be allowed into Australia in future?
-The other night in the adjournment debate Senator McManus adverted to this matter and I gave him then some information which had been supplied to me about what had been done here. There was some meeting which was attended in relation to intellectual property, as I recall it, and the gentleman in question was the representative- I think the president- of the national group from the Union of Soviet Socialist Republic attending that meeting. The information I had supplied to me was that he had been present at other meetings of this international body in France, Switzerland and Mexico as representative of that national group. I indicated then that if there was anything further to add to the matter it would be done by the Minister for Foreign Affairs.
-I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Labour whether it has come to his notice that combined action by 1 1 unions has caused a complete shutdown of the manufacturing works at Risdon of the Electrolytic Zinc Co. of Australasia at a time when the demand for zinc is strong and the demand for fertilizer is urgent. Does the Minister appreciate that the wage bill of that undertaking is running at present at the order of $1 lm a year and that the bonuses paid by the undertaking last year at Risdon and Rosebery amounted to $2.1m? Can he give any explanation as to why the conciliation processes have not been able to prevent such a disastrous shutdown? Further, insofar as federal unions are concerned and as the matter affects interstate and foreign transport- ships have left the port half loaded since the shutdownwill he give an assurance that every effort will be made by the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission to get that dispute resolved at once?
-I can undertake only to refer immediately to the Minister for Labour the request that every effort should be made to provide facilities for the satisfactory settlement of the dispute. I do not know the claims of the unions. I am interested in what the honourable senator says about the bonuses paid and I can assure him that whatever can be done, I will at least make the request direct to the Minister for Labour as soon as question time has concluded.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Primary Industry. Can the Minister inform the Senate whether the Government intends to allocate special funds for restocking purposes for those who suffered losses during the recent disastrous floods? If no special funds are to be allocated, will the Minister give consideration to the special needs of those landholders, particularly in the Gulf country of Queensland, who lost all their cattle and are unable to obtain finance through normal channels?
– As the honourable senator would know, the Australian Government has entered into an agreement with the Queensland Government regarding flood damage suffered in Queensland. This is not directly within my portfolio, but my understanding is that the Queensland Government is required to contribute an amount of $2m and that the Australian Government will stand the amount of other substantiated losses. The latest figures I have seen suggest stock losses in excess of 100,000 cattle in Queensland but I would assume that those losses would be covered as part of the payments made by the Australian Government to the State of Queensland when these matters are finally assessed. I am not able to be more specific than that. I would imagine that these losses to which the honourable senator refers would have to be taken into account in the overall settlement between the 2 Governments.
– I direct my question to the Attorney-General. In view of the Prime Minister’s statement yesterday that the circumstances surrounding the McLeod incident last Thursday might involve a conspiracy to pervert the course of justice or result in a miscarriage of justice, and in view of the concern generated in the public’s mind by information thus far elicited in this and in another place, will the Attorney-General make every effort to have the findings of the inquiry which has been instituted made available to the Senate early next week?
– The inquiry is being pursued vigorously. I imagine that the factual pan of it- the ascertainment of the facts as far as they can be ascertained- should not take more than a few days; indeed, I understand that a good deal of it- I will not go into percentages but I imagine the greater part of it- has already been done and that some remains to be done. When that is completed, it would need to be looked at. I would hope to be able to make at least some statement on the matter next week.
– I direct a question to the Attorney-General. Is it a fact that the Commissioner of the Australian Capital Territory Police is about to leave for an overseas conference? If so, will the inquiry which he is conducting in accordance with the instructions given to him on 6 March about the events in the Department of Aboriginal Affairs be completed before he leaves for overseas?
-I will look into that matter but it seems to me that the inquiry is of greater importance than any overseas trip which might be in contemplation.
– My question is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Will he seek information and inform the Senate if anything is being done or could be done to give financial help to overcome the problems caused by inflation for those retired Australian Government public servants who received Provident Fund payments on retirement? I refer particularly to those ex-service men and women who were not accepted for superannuation entitlements because of war-caused disabilities but who have soldiered on and now, in retirement, are in great financial difficulties which they would not have suffered had they not enlisted for war service.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Education: Is it a fact that the average per pupil cost in government schools in Australia has been calculated for the last year at $378 per primary school pupil and $639 per secondary school pupil? Is it a fact that this means that the schools in the Australian Capital Territory are receiving this year per capita grants of $76 for primary pupils and $128 for secondary pupils?
-I ask the honourable senator to place the question on the notice paper.
– Can the Minister representing the Minister for Housing and Construction explain how the proposed national housing insurance scheme could operate at one-quarter or one-eighth of the current rates? Does he envisage (a) the proposed scheme paying fire brigade charges, (b) the proposed scheme having the same type of cover as is currently available, or (c) that the existing home insurance companies are making exorbitant profits? Is he aware that thousands of country people today pay up to 30 per cent of their premiums in fire brigade charges for a service they can never obtain?
-I ask that the question be placed on the notice paper.
– Has the Minister for the Media seen the report from the agency George Patterson Pty Ltd warning that people who now get poor television reception will find it worse when colour television is introduced? What is being done to ensure that the colour signal which people receive will be of the highest technical quality?
– I have seen the report of the advertising agency George Patterson Pty Ltd. It is one of a number of critical reports that agency has put out on this subject. The Australian Broadcasting Control Board at present is conducting extensive investigations in difficult reception areas of Sydney, and hopefully it will be introducing improvements before colour television starts in March 1975. I have asked the Control Board to make available all the information it has on the quality of colour reception so that the public will be aware of what it can expect when colour television comes into being in March 1975.I think it is fair to say that many people are putting up with poor reception at this stage either because of the obsolescent nature of their antenna or because of the weathered nature of the cable connecting the antenna to the set. But I can tell the honourable senator that for some time the Control Board has had a number of trucks going around Sydney testing the field strength of signals in various parts of the city. Interim results show that in many cases the poor quality of reception is caused by either the antenna or the insulation of the building. Admittedly, though, there are low lying areas in which reception is affected. The Board is looking closely at this and certainly we will be taking steps to improve the reception before March 1975.
– In the absence of the Minister representing the Treasurer, I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Minerals and Energy. The Minister will be reminded that for more than 5 months I have been making representations on behalf of a small group of tin miners on low turnovers in northern Tasmania in relation to the payment of revaluation compensation which the Government promised. I have had replies over that period to the effect that the matter is under consideration and it is being assessed by the Treasurer. What is the reason for the inordinate delay? Will the Minister ensure that a decision is reached justly and promptly for the benefit of the small miners in north-eastern Tasmania?
– To clarify the position I indicate that no undertaking was given that compensation would be paid. The Government clearly stated that any industry disadvantaged by revaluation had to put a case before the Government for consideration. I know it is quite right that the application referred to by the honourable senator was submitted some time last year. In view of the fact that no decision has been taken- I presume it has not, and the honourable senator’s question is correctly based- I shall make inquiries this afternoon and advise the honourable senator as to the current position.
– I ask the AttorneyGeneral: Why have the police not taken any action at all over the last 6 months to remove the unsightly collection of tents still standing on Commonwealth land opposite Parliament House? Will the Attorney-General explain the reason for police inaction? In the light of the fact that 5 tents are now there, will the AttorneyGeneral state whether any future action is for the police or for the Attorney-General to determine?
– I suppose the police have not taken action because they have not been told to do so. My understanding is that it is open to others to take action if they think that some law is being broken. If the honourable senator feels so strongly about the matter he may care to initiate some action himself.
-My question is addressed to the Minister assisting the Minister for Defence. Has the Government decided to proceed with an Army proposal to establish a major field training base near Derby in Western Australia? As such a base would require adequate air transport facilities, is it planned to construct an airstrip on the site or will the present airport at Derby be upgraded to handle the new requirement and the increased usage?
-I shall have to get some more information on the question. The only information I have is that investigations were carried out in the area of Yampi Sound. I understand that specialists from each of the Services were satisfied with the area. I do not think there is a proposal along the lines the honourable senator is suggesting but perhaps the best idea is for me to get the information from the Services.
– Does the Minister want the question placed on notice?
– I direct a question to the Minister for the Media. What is the present position in relation to the future of the third commercial television channels in Adelaide, Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane? Can the Minister dispel the concern and uncertainty now prevailing within the television industry in relation to these stations?
– I think I told the honourable senator last year that shortly after I became the Minister for the Media I was approached by the commercial licensees, some of whom advocated the abolition of one commercial licence in each of the 4 capital cities; that is Adelaide, Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane. Some of the licensees objected to the proposal and said that the industry could operate economically and viably. I told them I would have a look at the matter, investigate it and report back to them. I had the matter investigated by my Department and by the Australian Broadcasting Control Board. Subsequently, having seen the figures, I called the licensees in and told all of them that in my opinion the industry, economically and viably, could certainly at that stage carry 3 commercial stations in Melbourne and Sydney and probably also in Brisbane. There may be some difficulties in Adelaide. It was decided there to continue with the present arrangement. Recently some consideration was given by the licencees in Adelaide to perhaps reducing the number of stations in Adelaide by one. After further consideration I understand they decided not to proceed. Bearing in mind the figures that I have seen coming from the stations, I would think that there is no doubt that at the present time the economics of the industry make 4 stations in each of the cities commercially viable. The honourable senator may be interested to know that one of the stations, QTQ in Brisbane in the last 6 months, had a net increase in profit of some 238 per cent.
-The honourable senator would know from his vast experience that a senator should not ask questions which are hypothetical.
– It could be true.
– I am not worrying so much about the form of the question. But I think that the honourable senator would know himself what would be the answer to a question asking what might happen in some event. We face the problems as they arise. I think that what is being done by this Government is more sensible than what was done by the last Government in relation to the various problems in this area.
Mr President, I ask that further questions be placed on the notice paper.
– For the information of honourable senators I present the report on the development of the national archives together with a statement by the Hon. Lionel Bowen, Special Minister of State.
– (New South WalesAttorneyGeneral and Minister for Customs and Excise)- For the information of honourable senators I present the second interim report of the Committee of Inquiry into the protection of privacy.
- Mr President, I present the following reports by the Tariff Board:
Agricultural Machinery, etc.; Lawn Sprinklers;
Domestic Appliances, Heating and Cooling Equipment, etc.;
Earthmoving, Construction and Materials Handling Equipment, etc.;
Fibre board Containers, Paper and Textile Bags;
Film Processing Industry; Advertising Film (Value for Duty);
Products of the Printing Industry; and Textile Bags.
I also present the following reports by the Tariff Board which do not call for any legislative action:
Acrylic Polymers and Copolymers (Dumping and Subsidies Act);
Hydraulic Cranes (Dumping and Subsidies Act);
Petrol ( Dumping and Subsidies Act); and
Tyers and Tyre Cases Size 29.5 inch x 29 inch (By-law).
– Pursuant to Section 41 of the Commonwealth Railways Act 1917-1968,I present the annual report of the operations of the Commonwealth Railways for the year ended 30 June 1973. The financial statements of the Commonwealth Railways operations for the year ended 30 June 1973 were tabled in the Senate on 27 September 1973.
– I present the seventeenth annual report on the operation of the Fishing
Industry Act 1956 during the year ended 30 June 1973.
– I present the eighteenth annual report on the operation of the Tobacco Industry Act 1955-1965 for the year ended 30 June 1973.
– For the information of honourable senators I present the fourth annual report on the operation of the Fishing Industry Research Act 1969, during the year ended 30 June 1973.
– I seek leave to make a statement relating to the question raised by Senator Townley this morning.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
-I make the following statement in response to the question raised by Senator Townley earlier. A written report has been received from the Federation of Air Pilots expressing concern as to the possibility of a midair collision between a civil domestic airline aircraft and a military aircraft. Coincident with the receipt of that report, the Air Co-Ordinating Committee had set up a working group to examine possible improvement in procedures to ensure the possibility of aircraft collisions in uncontrolled airspace was reduced to an absolute minimum.
The improvements already implemented are the provision of increased tolerances around unattended airfields, and the widening of separation standards between aircraft. Steps are in train to improve the availability of information relating to military jet routes and to ensure that general aviation aircraft have better briefing material available.
A meeting was held yesterday- Wednesday, 6 March 1974- between representatives of the Royal Australian Air Force, the Department of Transport, general aviation interests, and the Australian Federation of Airline Pilots to discuss the procedures already introduced and proposed for introduction which will minimise the risk of an aircraft collison in uncontrolled airspace. The meeting agreed with new procedures as a result of the Air Co-ordinating Committee’s decisions and as a result fears earlier expressed have been alleviated. The Senate can rest assured that this matter will continue to be monitored by the Air Co-ordinating Committee to ensure that all necessary steps are taken to avoid the possibility of mid-air collison.
Motion (by Senator Murphy) agreed to:
That the Senate at its rising adjourn until Tuesday next at 1 1 a.m.
– I propose to move that the Senate suspend as usual at 6 o’clock and resume at 8 o’clock, and that the adjournment be moved at 10.30 this evening.
– There is agreement between the leaders on that. Can you give me any indication of that?
– It requires no formal motion.
-I indicate for the convenience of honourable senators that it is proposed to deal with the Constitutional Alteration Bills. They will be introduced and I will endeavour to have them dealt with. What is done with them is a matter for the Senate. I envisage that we will then move on to debate the AddressinReply to the Speech of Her Majesty the Queen and it is expected that that debate will continue throughout the day. It would not be concluded, we think, this evening. If it were, that would be the only business dealt with today. We really would not bring it to a vote. A vote will not be taken tonight on the Address-in-Reply to the Speech of Her Majesty the Queen. The intention, unless the Senate is otherwise informed, is to proceed with the Address-in-Reply debate but not to have a vote on it this evening.
– And for the Senate to adjourn at 10.30 p.m.?
-Yes. It is not expected that any matters will be raised on the adjournment. It would be helpful if anyone who intends to do so would give early notice of his intentions.
- Mr President, I seek leave to make a statement on the same subject.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– I know it is normally accepted that this is a matter on which the leaders of the political parties in this chamber confer and reach agreement. I wish to make it clear that I have not been informed of any intention of the Government to meet this evening. If the leaders of the other parties have met and reached agreement on this matter, I can only say that I am very sorry indeed that I and my Party have been completely ignored. The same thing has happened on other occasions and I have always received apologies afterwards for what has happened. I have always been co-operative in these matters. I can only say that I hope that I will be included in any future discussions between the leaders of the other political parties in this chamber. I and my Party were completely left out of the discussions last session concerning the postal legislation. I would like it to be made clear whether all leaders are to be involved in discussions which are to be held or whether certain leaders are to be excluded.
- Mr President, I seek leave to make a statement on the same subject.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
-I think I should accept some responsiblity for what has happened. I apologise to Senator McManus. Senator Murphy and I discussed this matter across the table and I discussed it with Senator Drake-Brockman. Senator McManus may recall that he left the chamber while I was talking to Senator DrakeBrockman. I meant to go after Senator McManus and let him know what had happened between Senator Murphy and me, but, quite frankly, I became involved in something else and the thought went clean out of my head. For that I make an apology. I do not know whether it is my responsibility to talk to Senator McManus, but it was my intention to inform him of what Senator Murphy and I had been talking about. It was absolute inadvertence on my behalf. As I recall it Senator McManus was walking out of the chamber as I was talking to Senator DrakeBrockman. I really intended to chase after Senator McManus as soon as I had finished talking to Senator Drake-Brockman and tell him what had happened but something intervened and I forgot to do so. It went clean out of my head. I apologise.
Senator MURPHY (New South WalesLeader of the Government in the Senate)- Mr President, I seek leave to make a statement in connection with the matter which has been raised by Senator McManus.
– Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
-May I say that it was not the original intention to sit this evening. The decision to do so may have been unexpected. Senator McManus was not the only one who was not informed about it. The Government Whip also received a surprise when it was decided to sit this evening. That is why in relation to the placing of business, the suggestion having been made and acceded to across the table, I put the proposition in the terms in which it was put to the Senate. I say to Senator McManus that I regret that this matter has arisen in this way. All of us have difficulties in getting together and sorting out these things. There are changes sometimes because of the decisions that are made from time to time in one party or another. It is probable that lots of people might not have expected the Senate to sit tonight. That is why I have in effect indicated that if the debate on the Address-in-Reply to the Speech of Her Majesty the Queen went on tonight no vote would be taken on it. I hope no quorums will be called. I also hope that there will be no adjournment speeches. All of those matters are entirely within the control of the Senate. Perhaps that is an optimistic expectation.
– Before I report to the Senate a matter which concerns the appointment of a senator to a committee, I wish to make this observation: Not a large part but a substantial and sometimes important part of the Senate’s business takes place in conversations across the table between the Leader of the Government in the Senate and the Leader of the Opposition. This is traditional. To try to expedite the business I sometimes intervene because I have noticed this conversation going on and I know roughly what it is about, and I ask the leaders of other parties to indicate to me whether they are in agreement. Therefore, the obligation is on the leaders of other parties to indicate to me whether they are in agreement.
– If they do not know, they cannot indicate whether they are in agreement.
– If we do not know, we cannot indicate our agreement.
– Before the question is put I invariably ask the leaders of the other parties whether they are in agreement.
– We cannot hear what goes on across the table.
– I announce the basis of the agreement.
– I inform the Senate that I have received a letter from the Leader of the Australian Country Party in the Senate (Senator Drake-Brockman) nominating Senator Reid as a member of the Joint Committee on Prices, in place of Senator Prowse who has retired.
Motion (by Senator Murphy) agreed to:
That Senator Reid, having been duly nominated in accordance with the resolution of the Senate, be appointed a member of the Committee.
Suspension of Standing Orders: Call of the Senate
– Pursuant to contingent notice of motion, I move:
– I indicate that, for the reasons which were elaborated at great length yesterday, the Opposition will oppose this motion.
Senator MURPHY New South WalesLeader of the Government in the Senate) (12.18)- in reply- I point out that on 4 December, last an identical motion in regard to the same Bill was carried by the Senate. This approach is simply another indication of the kind of approach that was taken by the Opposition yesterday to the 2 other Constitution Alteration Bills; that is, to obstruct, to delay and to fail to pass the Bills.
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:
This proposed law was put through the House of Representatives in 1973. It was brought into this chamber in 1973 and dealt with in such a way that the Senate failed to pass or rejected it. The Bill is now resubmitted. I invite the attention of the honourable senators to the second reading speech which I made on 21 November 1973 when the Bill was introduced and also to the remarks which I made in connection with the Constitution Alteration Bill yesterday.
In accordance with the provisions of section 128 of the Constitution in respect of Constitution Alteration Bills that have been 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 reintroduces the Constitution Alteration (Mode of Altering the Constitution) 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 elections.
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 on pages 2013-2015 of 21 November 1973. The opportunity for a full debate in this chamber was available when the Bill was considered on 4 December.
I also remind the Senate of what I said when re-introducing the Constitution Alteration (Democratic Elections) Bill yesterday, that I expect the Senate to deal promptly with this and the other 3 Constitution Alteration Bills that first came before this chamber in November last. Failure to complete consideration by this evening will be regarded by the Government as failure to pass. I commend to the Senate the Constitution Alteration (Mode of Altering the Constitution) Bill 1974.
Motion (by Senator Withers) put:
That the debate be now adjourned.
The Senate divided. (The President- Senator Sir Magnus Cormack)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
That the resumption of the debate be made an order of the day for a later hour of the day.
I do this consistent with what I put yesterday, that the Government wishes and requests the Senate to pass these measures by the end of today. The Government has its program and it has also the responsibility of getting these measures to the people. It wishes to save the expense of a separate referendum and for many reasons it is convenient to have it held concurrently with the Senate election. I have indicated that the Government will treat for its purposes the failure to pass this measure today as a failure to pass. I therefore ask that the debate on the matter be resumed later this day.
This is consistent with what either my colleague, Senator Greenwood, or I moved yesterday. May I say that I am rather intrigued by the remarks of the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Murphy) in moving this motion. He talks about the Government’s program. I know that it has been a ploy of the Government to beat the drum for some IS months about obstruction, delay, filibustering and all the rest of it. One interesting thing is that the Government’s Gallup poll which masquerades under the name Australian National Opinion Poll can find that only one per cent of the people believe it. So the Government is not doing too well with its story. We are always prepared to be co-operative. If the Leader of the Government will tell us what the Government’s program is, what the dates are, what the problems under the Referendum (Constitution Alteration) Act are, what the problems of printing are and all the rest of it, we will see whether we can help him. But the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) is trying to play cat and mouse. It is the cat and mouse game. Of course, the Government will not tell us when the Senate election is to be held.
– You would know as much as we do.
-That is right. The honourable senator does not know either.
-Don ‘t I?
-No, otherwise everybody would know. All this stuff about delay to the Government’s program is trotted out. What program? We know that under the Constitution the Senate election can be held as late as Saturday, 29 June.
– You have to return the writs.
-I do not know; it is alleged that one can go even that far and that the writs can be returned later. What about the Government taking us into its confidence? If the Government would take us into its confidence by saying ‘We have been advised by our advisers that the last possible date on which the election can be held is such and such because of various reasons’, we could test the reasons. The reasons might be quite specious. If the Government would take us into its confidence by saying ‘We have certain printing problems; we have certain problems in relation to time for the preparation for the election’ -
– It is afraid to face the electors, too.
– Yes. The Government wants to play cat and mouse. It will announce the election date at the latest possible time in order to try to catch us by surprise. That is fair enough in politics. It is no use the Government complaining about a timetable which, as far as we know, does not even exist. I do not think that argument is good enough. I take exception also to the second last sentence in the Minister’s second reading speech, which reads:
Failure to complete consideration by this evening will be regarded by the Government as failure to pass.
Quite frankly, I do not care how the Government regards it. The $64 question, of course, is how the Governor-General regards it. How the Government regards it is basically irrelevant, apart from the advice that it might tender. Obviously the Government is disclosing the advice it intends to proffer to the Governor-General. I am glad that it is making public at a very early stage the advice that it intends to offer because I imagine that over the weekend, when all the political scientists have nothing to do and when perhaps even the academic lawyers can take a little time off to think about the real problems of Australia, they might be able to expose just how phoney this sort of advice would be. I think we ought to be grateful that the Government has given this indication. That is another reason for delaying consideration of this Bill until next Wednesday. However, all of the arguments were canvassed at enormous length yesterday, and the more we go on rehashing the arguments on which we spent 3 hours last night the less time there will be to get on with the business of the Senate. Therefore, I simply indicate that we have moved this amendment for the reasons we gave yesterday. If the Government has a program, let it come clean.
– Without going through all the arguments we went through last night, and having listened to all the reasons put forward as to why the Opposition will not pass these measures and how it is looking for ways of getting out of passing them, let me just say that the Australian Country Party adheres to the stand that it took last night: It believes that we should conclude the Address-in-Reply debate before we deal with these Bills. We are giving every assistance we can to the Government to enable this course to be followed. But I was rather intrigued just a few moments ago when I heard Senator Murphy say that if we do not pass these Bills we will not enable the Government to get on with its plan. All I want to say is that while the Labor Party has been in government- for well over 12 months now- we have been threatened with a double dissolution.
Despite all that, we have now reached the stage that we do not even know when the Senate election will be held. Surely those honourable senators who are coming up for re-election should know when this election will be held. One can recall the Leader of the then Opposition saying in this place that the Government should indicate to the people of Australia when there would be a House of Representatives election in 1972. He was saying that 6 months before the election was even due to take place. It has been the practice in the past to hold a Senate election at the end of the year before the year in which the 6-year term of an honourable senator expires. But here we are in March and the term of some honourable senators is due to end on 30 June. Yet no one has been told when the election is to be held.
– The honourable senator knows that it will be in the next 3 months.
-One expects that it will be, but no one has told us yet. Then Senator Murphy comes along with all this nonsense that he went on with last night and says that we are hindering and looking for ways not to be in a position to pass this legislation. Let us get on with this and we will give the Government the Bills next week.
– I must confess that like a lot of other honourable senators here I am now quite in a fog. A little while ago we were informed that the Leader of the Liberal Party (Senator Withers) had decided that we would sit tonight. When I asked the Leader of the Australian Country Party in the Senate (Senator Drake-Brockman) whether he was asked about it he said: ‘No, I was not asked. I was told.’ In my case I was not even asked or told. So I missed out completely. I suppose I am normally of a peace loving disposition although, on one famous occasion, Senator O ‘Byrne said that when I rose and said that I proposed to pour oil on troubled waters I usually poured petrol on the flames. But I am equally in a fog now in regard to this motion. Senator Murphy has pleaded most eloquently for action to be taken so that the Government can put its referundum proposals to the people on the day of the election. He said that there are serious time factors involved and that those time factors have to be just right. Today I saw a statement in the Canberra Times’ that the Government has had a good look at the matter and is satisfied and confident that the time factors will be just right and; that it has constitutional authority to assure it. How are we to know?
It is all very well for well informed people like Senator McAuliffe, Senator Mulvihill and others to be quite happy about this matter but how am I, when so frequently I am not even informed of these matters of high public moment, to know how to vote or of the way in which we should act in order to fall in with Senator Murphy’s requirements as to time when he knows the date of the election and I do not? In other words, he says to us: ‘Do the Government a good turn. Leap in the dark. ‘ I think that this is a most extraordinary procedure. I have never heard such a proposition. I have been here 14 years and I have never heard of such a proposition in the history of the Senate. The Government says: ‘Look, this is serious. We have to get things to fit in just right for the date of the Senate election.’ It says: ‘But, of course, we are not going to tell you when that is.’ I do not know how anything could be more ridiculous.
Naturally, I will support what Senator Withers is doing because I have an outstanding bump of caution. I will have to turn the other cheek and be with him on this occasion. But I have been interested to see in the Press that at least 2 branches of the Australian Labor Party have implored Mr Whitlam not to have the referenda on the day of the Senate election. I understand that one of them is to make a last-minute appeal to him this week. Perhaps I should not say this from the point of view of tactics: But if I were in the Australian Labor Party I would not complicate the Senate election by holding referenda with it. If the Australian Labor Party does this it will blow up in Mr Whitlam ‘s face.
– There are a few members of the Labor Party who think that also.
– A lot of them think that. I cannot imagine how a leader can ask his Party to go to a Senate election and complicate the position at the same time with a number of measures which can be interpreted as an attack upon the Senate as a States House, an attack upon State rights and an attempt to interfere with the electoral system.
– The honourable senator is so concerned with the welfare of the Labor Party.
-No, I am not. But at least I am entitled to say that I agree with some of the most knowledgeable members in your Party who were put on a pedestal for their assistance in winning the Federal election in 1972. They are the people who do not want Mr Whitlam to complicate the election. I studied at the feet of former Senator Kennelly on these questions of tactics. I learned a lot and I can only say to the members of the Australian Labor Party, as I have said before: If you hold this referendum on the same day as the Senate election it will blow up in your faces.
– The Leader of the Australian Country Party in the Senate (Senator DrakeBrockman) suggested that we should get on with this matter. That is what the Government is asking. The plain fact is that this same Bill was passed by the House of Representatives last year, brought into the Senate and unacceptably amended. The Bill has been passed again by an absolute majority of the House of Representatives and brought in here again. There is no doubt whatever in any honourable senator’s mind about the result of the matter. The Senate will not accept the Bill. There is no point in delaying it. The matter has been argued. The Constitution provides that such a proposed law can be brought back again. It simply requires the decision on it. But instead of giving a decision, all the Opposition is doing is trying to prevaricate.
– Procrastinate, not prevaricate.
– It is a little of each. There is procrastination in the decision and there is prevarication in the argument which is leading to the decision. There is no reason why the Opposition should not be prepared to say today what it will do, anyway. It is not prepared to pass this Bill in the form in which it has been presented twice by the House of Representatives. Everyone knows that.
We have heard some talk about what would be said by the academic lawyers. The fact is that the Bill has already been unacceptably amended. Everyone in this Senate chamber knows that it is not going to be passed in the form in which the House of Representatives presented it. The Government is facing the facts of life on the matter. It wants the proposal in the Bill to be put to the people of Australia as soon as possible. After all, they are the only ones who can agree to an alteration of the Constitution. I suppose we have to go through these formalities of members of the Opposition playing tactics which they think can assist them in some way or other. The Government asks that the Senate deal with the Bill today so that the matter may be clarified and the real position, which we all know, will be revealed and this tactic which has been pursued will, if it is successful, be treated as it is- a failure to pass the Bill.
– The question is:
That the words proposed to be left out (Senator Withers’ amendment) be left out.
I think that a constitutional matter is involved and I should order a division.
The Senate divided. (The President- Senator Sir Magnus Cormack)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
That the words proposed to be inserted be inserted.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
That the motion, as amended, be agreed to.
The Senate divided. (The President- Senator Sir Magnus Cormack)
Majority -……. 3
Question so resolved in the affirmative. Sitting suspended from 1 to 2. 15 p.m.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Suspension of Standing Orders
Motion (by Senator Murphy) proposed:
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the Bill being passed through all its stages without delay.
– I desire to speak to this motion. I indicate that the Opposition will not oppose its passage. I speak to the motion because this is the first occasion upon which this Bill is presented to the Senate a second time and because it is appropriate that the first opportunity be taken to express objection to what is an affront to the Senate’s legislative role. It is tremendously important that honourable senators appreciate what the Government is seeking to do on this occasion. It is strange that Senator Murphy is a party to a procedure which when he was in Opposition he would have regarded and when he is in Opposition again he will regard as a denial of the role of the Senate as a House of the legislature which can utilise committee procedures as an aid to its legislative deliberations.
What has happened with regard to this Bill? It was debated in this chamber on 4 December 1973. Apart from the formal introduction of the Bill on 20 November and the debate on 4 December, there had been no previous occasion on which on which the matters raised had been subject to any deliberative comment. On 4 December the Senate referred the Bill to its Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs. The purpose of that reference was to enable the Committee to examine the contents of the Bill- from the Senate’s point of view, it is unquestioned that it was a Bill of great significanceand to report back to the Senate no later than the first sitting day after1 February. The Committee was being used as an aid to the legislative process. It was being given an opportunity to examine in detail the implications of this Bill. The Committee was being asked to do what could not be done in this chamber in any expeditious manner, namely, to make a detailed examination of the implications and consequences of the Bill if it were passed. That occurred on 4 December.
The Bill that is now before the Senate was introduced into the House of Representatives 3 months and one day after that referral to a Senate committee. From the Government’s actions, it is apparent that the mere act of the Senate in referring a Bill to a committee for deliberation is being treated as a failure by the Senate to pass a Bill. I invite Senator Murphy to reflect in an objective manner, which he could claim he did when he was in Opposition, on whether it is fair to say that the Senate’s referral of a Bill to a committee for examination and for expeditious consideration and report is to be construed by the Executive arm of government as a failure to pass. I know that in the intervening 3 months there has been a prorogation of the Parliament, but it is not the prorogation of the Parliament which is relied upon in any way as the reason for the reintroduction of this Bill.
For the Government to achieve its purposethat is, to present this matter to the people for decision sometime in May or June, whenever the Senate election is held- there must be an initial presentation to both Houses and a rejection by the second House and subsequently, after an interval of 3 months, a further presentation of the Bill to both Houses of the Parliament. That procedure necessarily involves the assertion that the action of the Senate in referring the Bill to a committee is a failure to pass. I think that the Senate would do well to ponder what is involved in that proposition. Essentially, it is the reason I am speaking to this motion; not because we propose to oppose the customary motion- it is a customary motion- to suspend Standing Orders to enable all stages of the Bill to be dealt with without delay, but to ensure that the Hansard record of these proceedings contains the clearest assertion by the Senate of what it regards as its rights in this matter.
Ultimately it is for the Governor-General to determine whether on any occasion there is a failure to pass legislation. It is from his assessment of that question that consequences of one sort or another may flow. The Governor-General receives advice from his Ministers. Unless he seeks advice from sources other than those which normally advise him- in areas where he has an independent discretion it may be expected that he could seek advice or that he could go beyond the sources to which he customarily looks for advice- it is appropriate that certain views be recorded. What constitutes a failure to pass? Is it to be said that the Senate’s refusal to agree to a Bill on the first day that it is presented by the Government and the Senate ‘s deferment of the matter until the next day of sitting is a failure to pass? It would be a curious situation if that were said. Is it a failure to pass if the Bill is deferred for consideration for one week or one month? It would be a curious situation if that and that alone constituted a failure to pass. Is it a failure to pass if the Senate refers a matter to a select committee? Is it a failure to pass if the Senate defers consideration until after the happening of a stated event, which may facilitate further debate on the matter? One would hope that in all those instances it could not be decided objectively that there was a failure to pass.
– The previous Government did it with the banking Bill.
– If Senator Cant will bear with me, I will deal with what happened in 1951 because the contrast between the situation then and the situation today is remarkable when one sets the dates alongside each other. All I am concerned to assert here is that we on this side of the Senate do not regard the motion which was carried by the Senate last December to refer a Bill to a Senate committee for examination and for expeditious consideration and report as a failure to pass. We believe that the Senate system, as we have developed it over recent years, permits committees to be used as a means by which the debate on a Bill, both at the second reading stage and at the Committee stage, can be better conducted.
I take up the point which Senator Cant, by interjection, virtually invited me to take up. I refer to the situation in 1951. That year is significant because in that year the then GovernorGeneral granted to the then Prime Minister, Mr Menzies, a double dissolution under the terms of section 57 of the Constitution. Section 57 of the Constitution has, in almost identical words, the same provisions as appear in section 128 of the Constitution under which the Governor-General may submit questions to the people for a referendum for the alteration of the Constitution. Therefore, the interpretation given to the words ‘failure to pass’ and the context in which that interpretation was given are highly relevant to a consideration of the present position.
I simply refer to the present position in terms of what the dates were. On 14 November last year the first edition of the present Bill was passed by the House of Representatives. On 20 November the Senate received the Bill from the House of Representatives and the debate was adjourned. On 4 December the Bill came on for debate and it was referred to the Standing Committee for report not later than the first sitting day after 1 February 1974. In 1951 the vehicle upon which the Prime Minister went to the Governor-General and asked for a dissolution was the Banking Bill. I ask the Senate to bear with me as this chronology is set out. On 4 May 1 950 the House of Representatives passed the Banking Bill. On 2 1 June 1950 the Senate passed the same Bill but with amendments. The following day, 22 June, the House of Representatives rejected the amendments, and so the first limb of what was required under section 57 and comparably under section 128 was established.
The Bill came forward again in October 1 950. On 1 1 October the House of Representatives passed the Banking Bill a second time. Clearly there had been an interval of 3 months. On 1 7 October, 6 days later, the Senate received the Bill and adjourned the debate. On 24 October the Senate rebuffed the Government which sought to bring the matter on for debate and adjourned the debate until the next day of sitting. On 31 October the Senate again rebuffed the Government and adjourned the debate. On 1, 2, 7 and 8 November 1 950 the Senate debated the Banking Bill, and on 8 November the Opposition once again adjourned the debate. From December 1950 to March 1951 the Senate was not sitting and the debate of course could not be continued. The debate was resumed on 13 and 14 March and the second reading was carried. But on 14 March the Senate carried a motion for a reference to a select committee of Labor senators to report on the Bill in 4 weeks time.
On the second occasion when the Banking Bill was introduced into the Senate there had been a lapse of time from 17 October 1950 until 14 March 1951 in which the Senate had not concluded its debate on the Bill and, in respect of that period, there had been against the wishes of the Government numerous debates until the ultimate resolution was carried contrary to the wishes of the Government. In other words, the Senate was indicating over that period that it was not concerned with the expeditious treatment of the Bill, nor was it concerned to carry or reject the Bill. In fact, it was a fair argument to say that the Senate had failed to pass the Bill.
– I would be surprised if the record did not show that many speeches occupied an hour and a half.
– I am interested to hear Senator Wright, who must have lived through those days with interest and can recall them with fascination when he sees what is happening now, bring his mind to bear on the matter. The contrast between what happened in 1 95 1 and what is happening now is obvious to anyone who is prepared to examine the record. I mention those matters only because I believe it is appropriate that at this time we should recognise the enormity of what the Government is proposing to do in asking the Senate at this stage to accept this Bill on the basis that the earlier reference to a committee on the first occasion when the Bill came up for substantive debate was a failure to pass.
There are contrasts which might be summarised between the 195 1 situation and the present situation. The 1974 experience- the present experience- relates to the first occasion of the Senate’s consideration of the Bill. The 195 1 situation related to the Senate’s second consideration of the Bill. In short, it is not unreasonable that on the first occasion when a Bill comes into the Senate, the Senate should, particularly where it is a Bill which relates vitally to the functioning and the significance of the Senate in the legislative role, refer it to a committee for detailed report. Secondly, the present 1974 practice in the Senate of referring Bills to committees for report is well established. We know that occasionally it is a practice which is resorted to.
– There is a number already before committees.
– I acknowledge what Senator Byrne says. I think it is known certainly to honourable senators and to our colleagues in the House of Representatives and to the public generally that the committee system is used as our discretion and judgment requires it to be used. But in 195 1 there was no such established practice, nor were there in existence in the Senate standing committees to which Bills could be readily referred as there are at the present time. I think that probably the greatest difference is that at the present time there is no situation which could be regarded as a long pattern of adjournment or delay. As I have said, I have risen to express the view that this is the appropriate time, because it is the first occasion when the Bill comes before the Senate, to indicate our opposition to what has been done and to put on the record the opinion which I have expressed, that we do not regard the earlier action as an action of failure to pass.
The final point I make is one of comment on the significance of what has been done. Senator Murphy and his colleagues in the Labor Party for many years asserted the role of the Senate as a House of review. They did it, I suspect, notwithstanding that their own platform required the abolition of this chamber from our legislative system. But in the course of the arguments which they advanced, the role of the Senate was asserted as a role to be maintained and with functions to be performed which were of value.
They can not be of value if we are to have references to our committee system regarded by the House of Representatives as simply a delay which prevents the role of the Senate from being fulfilled. We regret that Government senators are so denigrating their own institution and so denying the sentiments which they have expressed in the past that they are prepared on this Bill- whatever might be the arguments on the other Bills- to accept that the simple reference of a Bill to a committee is a failure to pass. We of the Opposition deny that it has that categorisation.
– It has occurred to me and to some members of my Party -
– Are you indicating that you propose to move an amendment?
- Senator Cant was attempting to catch my eye, and I think in those circumstances I might first invite him to address himself to the motion.
– I am quite happy to make way for Senator Cant.
-I would have been quite happy to speak after Senator McManus moved his amendment. I did not hear all of Senator Greenwood’s remarks on this matter, but I have campaigned in quite a few Senate elections over the past few years and on each occasion I have heard the leaders of the Liberal Party and the Australian Country Party advocating votes for the Liberal Party and the Country Party and the leaders of the Australian Democratic Labor Party advocating votes for the DLP. Invariably in former years the word went out, particularly from the coalition parties, that the government should be able to govern, that it should have a majority in both Houses and that, therefore, the people should elect Government senators. That is the clearest argument I know for the abolition of the Senate. It has been said during the debate on these Bills, both last night and today, that the Senate’s role is to be a supervisory role over the Government and that the Opposition in this place is not adopting an obstructionist attitude towards the elected government. The Government is formed in the lower House and not in this place, although I am fast coming to the conclusion that on 2 December 1 972 all that happened was that government was transferred from the House of Representatives to the Senate. If honourable senators opposite advocate votes for their candidates when they are in government on the basis that they should also have a majority in the Senate to be able to govern, why would they argue that the elections for the Senate and House of Representatives should not be held at the same time? I once appeared on a television program with a member of the Liberal Party, a member of the Australian Country Party and a member of the Australian Democratic Labor Party. During that interview discussion took place at to whether the 2 elections should be brought together. A representative of the Liberal Party did not raise any objection to the 2 elections being brought together, but both the Democratic Labor Party representative and the Country Party representative were violently opposed to the suggestion.
– Was it Senator DrakeBrockman?
– No, it was Edgar Prowse who was then a senator. They were violently opposed to the 2 elections being brought together. Why? Do they want to adopt one policy for an election of the House of Representatives and another policy for an election to the Senate, or do they want an elected government to be supervised by a Senate, or half of a Senate, that was elected 3 years earlier, not on the issues that were current at the time the Government was elected?
– That is what the people want.
– The people are heartily sick of elections and Senator Little knows it. If this question went to the people tomorrow they would show that they want the 2 elections brought together, but it is the selfish attitude of the minority parties that makes them want the 2 elections divided. They know that they cannot put up an acceptable policy to the people of Australia that would win them seats in the lower House and in the Senate. The reason they want the elections divided is that under the system of proportional representation the Senate is a haven for minority parties.
– Do you not think minority parties have a right to exist, senator ?
– No, frankly. I am a believer, and am prepared to stand in my place and say it, that the 2-party system of government is the best system of government in the world. The 2-party system is the most stable system of government today. Senator Carrick sits in this chamber and smiles, but he knows as well as I know how the Liberals’ tail has been wagged by the minority in the Country Party and the minority in the Democratic Labor Party. The minority parties wagged the tail; the Liberals have had to dance to their tune. Under this system of fragmentation of representation in the Parliament one gets a state of instability. This has been proved right throughout history. What is the position in Italy today? What was the position in France before De Gaulle abolished the Constitution? There is no question about the 2-party system and I stand for it. I had passed through the organs of the Australian Labor Party at one time a resolution that the Australian Labor Party should give its preferences to the candidate representing the Liberal Party before giving them to the candidate representing any other Party. That was designed to create a 2-party system. Honourable senators should not get any wild ideas about what I mean. I mean exactly what I have said. I see no room in the democratic system for a heap of minority parties and for a great deal of instability in government. This is what happens now.
– The gretaest stability you get is in the grave.
– I suppose that sort of stability is the goal of all of us. It is inevitably the place that we must go to, so one day we will get stability. Of course, it is always said that the good die young, but then I look across the table at the Opposition.
– We all have to look in the mirror, senator.
– I do that every morning, and I can stand up and look in it every morning. Part of my philosophy of life is that I have to be able to look at myself every morning. The simple fact is that the Opposition Parties do not want the elections brought together because it does not advantage them. These are the 2 rump parties that I talk about. It does not advantage them to contest an election on the basis of a national policy. When we have the elections divided they can say anything they like because when they are asking for senators to be elected they know that they have no responsibility for government. They will not be responsible for government. But they wag the tail of the majority party in the Opposition, and so can come along to this place and implement at least one part of their policy.
– You told Sid Negus that you were going to rub him out and would not give him support.
– I think Senator Negus is a realist, having been in Canberra for 3 years now, he realises that he is probably here for one term only.
– Do not run him down.
– Even Senator McManus was defeated once.
– Yes, but I got back 3 times.
– You might be in some bother this time. I think you will be leading a further reduced minority party after 30 June. After 30 June we will hear again the wise words that we heard after a previous Senate election when Senator Cole announced that he would be the leader of the Democratic Labor Party, Senator McManus would be the Deputy Leader, and the Whip was yet to come. After 30 June it could be that only Senator McManus and Senator Gair will be here. So the numbers will be reduced. Anyway, it is my hope that that is what will happen. The sheet that has been circulated showing the proposed amendment that is to be moved by Senator McManus- although it does not say that it is to be moved by him- states firstly:
I think the central question to be asked about this is: Because of the number of years when the 2 elections were held together, is it now said that the Federal structure was weakened and that it has been strengthened only since 1963 when the 2 elections were put out of alignment? Is that what the amendment means? For 60-odd years when the elections were in conformity with each other was there a weak system of Federal Government? Is that what it means? The proposed amendment goes on to state:
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Webster)- Order! This amendment has not as yet been moved. Basically it is not yet before the Senate but you are developing arguments about it. You may develop those arguments after the amendment has been moved.
– I am not saying anything about the amendment. I am speaking only about the reasons given on the sheet why the amendment will be moved. I am arguing about the reasons, not the amendment.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- You might bear with me and perhaps come back to it at a later stage.
-All right, Mr Deputy President. I bow to your ruling. In other circumstances I might disagree with it. I do not know why the terms of senators should not be related to the terms of members of the House of Representatives. After all, how many short terms have there been in the 74 years of federal government? The reference in the amendment- I will not quote it- is 1929. Then we come to 1963. In discussions some people in the Liberal Party have talked about double dissolutions to bring the 2 elections together again and all these sorts of things. The Liberal Party has talked about the requirement for an amendment to the Constitution to bring them into line. Mr Menzies, as he was at the time, did not think there was a requirement for an amendment to the Constitution to take the House of Representatives out on its own. It is true that the Government could at any time bring the elections together. When a Senate election is due it could decide at that time to dissolve the House of Representatives and take half the Senate out with it.
– It needs a bit of courage to do that, though.
– I suppose every day one gets out of bed and starts to walk around the place one shows courage. The simple facts are that the political parties go to the people with a program for which they want to be elected. The party elected usually implements that program in a period of 3 years, the normal life of a Parliament. It does not expect to have to have this courage to go out. I personally am not satisfied, and the media will not convince me, that the Labor Party could not win a House of Representatives election if it went out on the hustings tomorrow. I think it could. All these people who like to believe in the latest poll results must be very naive because as far as the DLP may have sunk in the minds of the Australian voting public, I do not believe that it has slipped to one per cent.
– Do you believe it?
– That is why I say that one cannot believe the gallup polls. In a little while perhaps when they lift the DLP to 5 per cent, Senator McManus will start to believe them.
– Now you say that you do not believe them.
– You do not believe them now but in a little while you will. I do not see any reason why the Constitution should not be amended to bring the 2 Houses into line and for half the Senate to retire at the time of each House of Representatives election.
– I rise on a point of order. Is the senator not debating the Bill that is to be introduced? I thought the resolution that we were debating was ‘that Standing Orders be suspended to allow the Bill to be passed through all stages without delay’. We are now getting a debate on the BUI. Is that in order?
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- There is considerable interest in this matter. I think the senator who led for the Opposition roamed over quite a wide area. I believe Senator Cant is in order. It would appear to me that provided he does not refer to points set out in the proposed amendment, he can roam as he will.
– I do not see any reason why the resolution should not be carried to allow the matter to be dealt with. Perhaps, the substance of the Bill would be better debated at a later stage. I would like to debate it subsequent to the discussion on the amendment that Senator McManus proposes to move.
– It has occurred to the members of my Party that the trend in the discussions on these matters has been to deal to a considerable degree with what might be termed the machinery under which these matters are presented to Parliament. That is only natural. However, we felt that we should refer also to the fact that when the members of the Democratic Labor Party have voted they have borne in mind not only machinery matters but also matters of principle which are affected by resolutions such as this. Therefore because we felt it was important to emphasise that we believe that senators should be given reasonable time to consider these matters before debating and voting on them we determined that we should move an amendment to the motion ‘that so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the Bill being passed through all stages without delay’. The purpose of our amendment is to emphasise that we are taking our action on grounds not merely of the machinery for dealing with these matters but of the principles which are involved in them. I move:
If a seconder is required for the amendment, Mr Deputy President, I understand that Senator Little is prepared to second it.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Webster)- A seconder is required.
– I second the amendment.
– I do not propose to debate extensively the 7 arguments which are put in my amendment because obviously if we carry out the normal practices of the Senate there will be an opportunity to do that later. I merely want to emphasise the seventh point of the amendment. At the time of the Senate election, the Government proposes to intrude into that election a proposal for a constitutional alteration. The Government at no time can claim that it cannot remedy the situation in any other way. This Government has obtained for itself the power to call a double dissolution. It could hold the election consequent upon that double dissolution at the time that it is proposed to hold the election for half of the Senate. If it did that, everything which the Government seeks to achieve through the cumbersome method of a referendum would be achieved. Therefore, I suggest that there is no need for the question to be put to the people, because what the Government is saying to the people, in effect, is this: ‘Give us the power to do something that we already have the power to do’. The Government has the power to bring about simultaneous elections now, and it wants to put the people to the expense and trouble of a referendum in order to get the power to do something that it already has the power to do.
I think these statements of principle are very compelling. I heard Senator Greenwood, who led for the Opposition, say that as the position stood the Opposition would be inclined to vote for the motion. But as the situation has changedat the time the Opposition was not aware that this amendment was to be moved- I appeal to Opposition senators in the other parties to give the matter consideration in the light of the amendment. I hope that, having examined these principles, they will determine that this is a better manner in which to deal with the situation and that they will vote for our amendment.
Senator Cant made some remarks in regard to the reasons for bringing the elections for the 2 Houses together. He made it perfectly clear that this proposal has been thought up by the Government in the belief that it will assist it to get rid of the small parties and, in particular, the Democratic Labor Party. There is no real desire on the part of the Government to confer a favour or benefit upon the people of Australia. This is one more of the Government’s proposals. The latest one is to jack up the deposit that is required to be paid by a person who wants to stand for Parliament. The brains trust is sitting back, thinking up all kinds of proposals to get rid of the small parties and the Democratic Labor Party.
– And the Independents.
– And the Independents. Senator Negus should take note that the people amongst whom he is sitting at the present time have no time for him. They are anxious to bring about a situation in which he will depart from this Parliament, just as they are trying to bring about our departure. Senator Cant said that if the House of Representatives and Senate elections were held simultaneously it would probably get rid of the Democratic Labor Party. I have won my seat in the Senate at a time when both Houses have gone to the people simultaneously, and I won it easily. I can appreciate the fact that the brains trust- Mick and Eric and all the other boys- get together and work out all these propositions. But the Democratic Labor Party will face up to elections, whether they are for both Houses or for one House. We will certainly have the courage, whether we win or lose, to face up to a double dissolution; and that cannot be said by the Government. The Government is not game to go to a double dissolution because if a House of Representatives election were held in 6 weeks or 2 months time the Government would be out of office. It is hard to find anybody who is prepared to admit that he voted Labor at the last election. People who voted Labor beat their breasts and say: ‘ ‘Whyever did I do it’? They say to us: ‘Give us a chance as soon as possible to get rid of Labor’.
Senator Cant talked about the failure, as he put it, of proportional representation. He said that there can be no political stability in the country with proportional representation. I suppose that no State in Australia has had fewer changes of government over the last 40 years than has Tasmania, and it has proportional representation. There is more stability there than probably in any country in the world, and it has proportional representation. Honourable senators should have a look at the results of the first past the post system in Great Britain. In Northern Ireland the Paisleyites have 1 1 of the 12 seats under the first past the post system; whereas on a population basis they would be entitled to perhaps 7 seats.
I refer, as I often have referred, to the committee of inquiry which included amongst its members Gordon Bryant and the late Sam Cohen. It was set up by the Victorian branch of the Australian Labor Party to inquire into all electoral systems. It came to the conclusion that the electoral system which gave justice and which was best for all parties and for the Australian Labor Party was proportional representation. Sam Cohen and Gordon Bryant could not be described as fans of the Australian Democratic Labor Party. I read an eloquent statement by the Minister for Labour (Mr Clyde Cameron) made the other day to the Henry George League in South Australia. He told that organistion that in his view the only electoral system which would give this country electoral justice would be proportional representation. Senator McLaren knows that Clyde Cameron made that speech. Everywhere Clyde Cameron goes he says that there is only one just system and that is proportional representation. Of course, the Labor Party does not want a just system. It wants a system by which firstly it can win, and secondly, the DLP will be wiped out. That is what the Labor Party wants. I do not think its members ought ever talk about democratic representation or about electoral justice because they do not believe in these things.
The Labor Party believes in the electoral system by which it will win. For that reason it is putting up this proposition to bring the elections together, not that too many honourable senators on the Government side in their hearts believe in it. I would like to see a conscience vote in the ranks of the Australian Labor Party on this proposal which could affect the tenure of office of a number of them. I would love to see a conscience vote on the Government side but, of course, in this case honourable senators have to do what they are told. The result is that we get this proposition which is just one of a number of blatant propositions to get rid of the small parties. What we have is a system where the political Mr Bigs will not tolerate a small party. In the same way the Government in its legislation is moving to get rid of the small farmer and the small businessman. It is the Party of the political Mr Bigs. I conclude by expressing the wish that the other Opposition parties, when they examine the reasons we give here as statements of principle, will be inclined to support us on this matter. The general six or seven statements will be debated in the normal course of events, without undue haste or frenzy, when this matter comes before the Senate.
– It is a laughable exhibition to have the Opposition twitting the Government with being afraid to go to the people when it has spent the last couple of days in just that state. The Opposition is afraid to put these matters to the people. These democrats who ask us to consult the people of Australia about what they wish are by this very motion denying just that appeal to the people. It should be recalled that it does not matter what happens in the Senate or in the House of Representatives in relation to these proposals for referenda in the sense that they do not alter anything. This tale of lamentation, of the awful things that will be done to our governmental structure if this Bill passes the Senate, overlooks the fact that nothing will be changed until the people of Australia have spoken on the matter. If the Opposition is so confident that these are outrageous proposals and that they will get the deserts which the Opposition claims are their due, why do not honourable senators opposite as democrats, who are anxious for us to go to the people, allow these matters to go to the people. The fact of the matter is that all their indignation and all their claims to be great democrats are quite phoney.
I listened to Senator Greenwood working himself up into a lather of indignation at the way in which we had treated the Senate committees by recommitting this proposal in the face of the fact that the Opposition had had the numbers to refer it to the Senate Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs when it was last before the Senate. Of course, we have become used to the fact that the loftier the tone of indignation that we get from Senator Greenwood the phonier is his argument. Does anybody in the Senate seriously believe that the reason why the Opposition referred this matter to the Constitutional and Legal Affairs Committee was for it to get more serious consideration? Everybody knows that that was an attempt to bury this Constitution Alteration (Simultaneous Elections) Bill. What Senator McManus is proposing to do is also an attempt to bury this Bill. He is talking about the need for this proposal to get most careful examination. He has had since last December to think of all the arguments against this Bill as have Senator Greenwood and the rest of the Opposition. They have had abundant time. The suggestion that suddenly they have been caught unawares with a proposition to which they have not been able to give proper consideration just will not hold water. One assumes that on a matter which the Opposition regards as seriously as this it would not have been twiddling its thumbs since last December. One imagines that it would have sat down and looked at the history of proposals for constitutional reform.
Senator Greenwood even went to the trouble to delve back into the history books to find out what happened in the Menzies era when there was a double dissolution. There was no evidence in Senator Greenwood’s speech to show that he has been caught unawares by this proposal which has been put to the Senate today. Of course, it is fatuous and hypocritical. The Opposition knew all about this. It has had abundant time to think about it. This is a very simple proposition and there is time for it to be debated today. We are confronted with an attempt by the Opposition to prevent the people of Australia from having their say on this most important matter. We are not trying to dragoon anybody. We are not trying to push anything down the throats of the people. They can knock this matter back if they want to.
– They will.
-Perhaps they will. Senator Lawrie says that they will. If that is the case I do not know why he is not voting for this Bill. Why should he not welcome the opportunity of having another rebuff given by the people of Australia to the present Government? If he is so confident that the people of Australia will not stomach this proposal, let him cross the floor and vote with us. Let us put this to the test. But the Opposition does not want to give the Australian people a say on this or other matters of constitutional reform. They twit us with being a cowardly government. The Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) has shown that he is perhaps the most courageous Prime Minister this country has ever had. He is prepared to let the people have a say on any matter which he thinks requires constitutional amendment. Who are those who will not allow it? Senator Greenwood laughs. If Senator
Greenwood were so anxious to let the people of Australia express their opinion he would also be anxious to have them vote on this matter. Let us examine in some detail the reasons which Senator McManus has advanced for his proposed recommendation and which, by the way, amount to a plea for careful examination. I thought that he would elaborate on that proposition. What does he mean by ‘careful examination’? Does he not think that careful examination is given by the mere fact of our debating this matter? I thought that there would be plenty of opportunity for everything to be said that could be said against this proposal in the course of this ordinary debate. I do not think that Senator Greenwood took the opportunity which he had to reply to what I thought was a most cogent argument from Senator Cant in relation to the first reason which is advanced in support of Senator McManus ‘s amendment. It states:
The proposal contained in the Bill would destroy the independence of the Senile and thus weaken the federal structure.
Does Senator McManus seriously suggest that the federal structure will be weakened if we have simultaneous elections for the House of Representatives and the Senate? This is what we have had throughout most of the life of the Australian Parliament. Senator Cant asked him rhetorically: ‘Are you suggesting that when the 2 houses were elected at the same time we had weak government’? I submit that exactly the contrary is the case. When you have a Senate election at a different time to a House of Representatives election the Senate election takes on the character of a by-election. It is notorious that, no matter what government is in office, whether a Labor government or a LiberalCountry Party coalition government propped up by the Democratic Labor Party, when there is a by-election for the House of Representatives the people take the opportunity to be critical of whatever government is in office. We can examine the records with which we have been supplied by the psephologists which show that there is no exception to this rule that when an election is held separately to a general election the electors take the opportunity to give the government of the day a rap over the knuckles.
– Is there anything wrong with that?
– Yes, I believe it gets -
– I shall tell you why. The reason is that we then get a Senate with a composition which the electors do not seriously want.
– What do the people vote for then?
– I believe that their vote is not cast as responsibly as when they are electing a government.
– But the honourable senator said that the people wanted to give the Government a rap over the knuckles.
– Yes. I believe that that is a luxury that we cannot afford. I believe that a vote cast in that mood is not a responsible vote. I do not hesitate to criticise the electors. I do not suggest that because we are politicians we have to tell the electors that they never make a mistake- that we have to scratch their backs and toady to them. I believe that a vote cast in the atmosphere of a by-election is not a vote which is cast as sensibly as one with which the people elect a government. I believe that we have more stable government -
– Sheer irrelevance.
– In order to defend the proposition which Senator Wright evidently espouses he has to maintain that throughout the period in which elections for the House of Representatives were held at the same time as elections for the Senate we had weaker and worse government than at the present time. Does he advance that proposition?
– Of course he does.
-That is the proposition with which the Opposition is stuck. Their argument is shot through with illogicality. If they want to advance that proposition let them do so.
– What about the raids on ASIO?
-The raids on the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation have nothing to do with it. One of the bonuses that we will get out of the next Senate election will be that we will be relieved of the presence of Senator Little in this place.
Let me pass to the second reason that Senator McManus offers for his extraordinary amendment. He says that the 6-year terms of senators could be reduced to 1 8 months by mid-term dissolutions of the House of Representatives. Does not the honourable senator realise that at any time in the history of this Parliament the term of office of a senator can be reduced by the unilateral action of the Prime Minister in another place? What is new about this proposition? An honourable senator is elected for his term or until a double dissolution. Any time that the Government chooses to have a double dissolution an honourable senator’s term of office expires.
– Only when the Parliament creates the situation.
– Yes, but the senator’s term is reduced independently of his election and independently of what ever period for which the people may have elected him. His term can be altered by an action in the other place. As a result of action taken in another place -
– When the honourable senator has been here a little longer he will know what it is all about.
– I think that I will be here a little longer than the honourable senator. That is one thing that is reasonably certain.
– I knew a man who said that once and the fellow to whom he said it was still here 8 years after the other fellow lost his seat.
– If I may be allowed to continue, Senator McManus having had his say, I suggest that all the crocodile tears that we have had from Senator Greenwood and all the appeals for democracy that we have had from Senator McManus are so much hypocrisy. What they are really saying is that we do not want the people of Australia to express an opinion on this proposal or on the other proposals that we have been considering over the last couple of days. These are -
– The honourable senator said that the people make the wrong decision.
-Yes-and if the people make a wrong decision, we are stuck with it, as we are stuck with the wrong decision that they made at the referendum last year. I will not hesitate to say that I believe that the people have been wrong and that they have been wrong often. They were wrong for 23 years up until December 1972. In any event, I suggest that despite all the indignation that we have heard from senators opposite, theirs is an insincere and phoney argument based on a desire to avoid the judgment of the Australian people and not on any devotion to democracy.
– I think that I should indicate the attitude of the Opposition. When this motion of Senator Murphy’s first came on for debate after the suspension of the sitting for lunch today my colleague and deputy, Senator Greenwood, indicated that we in the Liberal Party would support Senator Msurphy’s motion. Senator Greenwood, as the Senate will recall, put down certain reasons or arguments as to how we felt about the whole operation. Since that happened an amendment has been moved which expresses basically what Senator Greenwood was saying. In view of that, I indicate that we will be voting for the amendment.
Before I sit down I would like to make one or two comments on the recently concluded speech of Senator James McClelland. I suppose that if there is one way for the Government to lose a vote it is by putting forward Senator James McClelland to speak on the matter. He has the magnificent ability to make certain that nobody will support what he has been saying. He spoke a lot about democracy. I was fascinated when he said that the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) is a man of enormous courage- the most courageous Prime Minister that we have ever seen. I point out that he has not yet gone out to Government House to seek a double dissolution. Then, Senator James McClelland went on to say that the Prime Minister is so courageous that he is prepared to put referendum proposals to the people that he, the Prime Minister, thinks ought to go to the people. I do not think that that is a terribly good indication of the democratic process. I put this simple propositon to Senator Wriedt who is the senior Minister in the Senate chamber at the moment: If the argument is that merely because a Bill passes through the House of Representatives twice with a constitutional majority it has to go to the people because that is democracy, will he -
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Webster)- Order! I ask honourable senators on my right not to carry on a conversation whilst Senator Withers is on his feet.
-Mr Deputy President, I repeat that my proposition is quite simple. If the Government proposition is that merely because a Bill to alter the Constitution passes through the House of Representatives twice by a constitutional majority it can- it does not have to betherefore be submitted by the Governor-General to the electorate, and that that is democracy, will the Government give an unqualified undertaking that should the Senate twice, by an absolute majority, pass a Bill to alter the Constitution, even though that Bill should be rejected, laid aside or amended unacceptably in another place, the Prime Minister will advise the GovernorGeneral also to submit the proposition contained in that Bill to the people? If we can get that sort of unqualified assurance from the Government then there may be some substance in the argument of honourable senators opposite when they prate about democracy. But without this sort of unqualified undertaking, for Government members to talk about democracy and to talk about courage is nothing more than a cheap debating point. It is as simple as that.
I have been saying ever since this session commenced that the Senate is the only institution in this country which stands as a barrier to the exercise of arbitrary power in the hands of the Prime Minister. The fact that the Prime Minister wants arbitrary power came out when Senator James McClelland said that the Prime Minister would decide on what matters the people should be allowed to vote. Section 128 of the Constitution says that the people will be allowed to vote on matters which have passed each chamber twice. Senator James McClelland said that the people would decide on matters which the Prime Minister, in his wisdom, decided to place before them. Unless we can get this unqualified undertaking from the Government that it will submit to the people referendum proposals passed twice by this chamber and rejected twice by the House of Representatives, let us have no more talk about democracy in submitting matters to the people.
-This debate, having taken quite a lot of the time of the Senate without getting down to the subject matter of the Bill, seems to me to be such a variety of humbug that we would have to live a long time to see its equal. We know very well indeed that the Opposition is using its numbers to try to discredit, frustrate, impede and use any method whatever not only to hold back the progress of this Government and the Parliament but also, in my view, to hold back the progress of Australia. The results and figures of the record of this Government will inevitably show a great improvement when compared with those long dreary years when the present Opposition was in power. The Opposition is afraid that this comparison will be made and so its members have adopted the tactics that they are using as a rearguard against the Goverment.
I have had quite a lot of experience in my time with elections. I recall that I was originally elected in 1946. My term began on 1 July 1947. Another election was held in 1 95 1 , so my term of office was 5 years of a normal 6-year period. I contested other elections in 1953, 1958, 1964 and 1970, so I have contested 6 elections and my term of office should have lasted for 36 years but that period has been reduced to 27 years. Senator
McManus said, in reply to an interjection from Senator James McClelland, that the Government wished to reduce the period that a senator would serve and that a senator would not be able to fulfil his full term. That argument is absolutely exposed. The fact of life is that when a double dissolution occurred in 1951 various senators, including Senator Marriott who was elected in 1949 -
-Well, Senator Wright was elected in 1 949 and he had a 6-year term but had to face the people in 195 1 after 2 years of his 6-year term. I think he was elected very nearly at the top of the ticket and he had a full term to serve. I was in a big team in the middle of the ticket and I served the short period.
– You are still here.
– Yes, I am still here and I am hale and hearty, too. I am able to hold my own and able to see through the concentrated essence of hypocrisy and humbug after all these years what the Opposition is trying to put over us on this side of the House and over the people of Australia.
Nothing is more certain than that it is a democratic process to go to the people. If there is a conflict that cannot be resolved we have the ultimate method of a double dissolution. We should not repeat what was commenced in 1963- the separation of elections for the House of Representatives and the Senate. We should not subject the people to expense and inconvenience of 3 Federal elections every 5 years. The Bill attempts to correct that situation. Yet we have this mock horror on the part of Opposition senators when they say that it is not necessary to synchronise the elections between the House of Representatives and the Senate. Every logical argument supports the method of bringing the elections together.
The proposition that has been put up by way of amendment is a whole gaggle of half truths. The amendment commences by stating that it would be a travesty of constitutional and parliamentary practice if this Bill, which so vitally affects the powers and independence of this Senate, were to be rushed through the proper parliamentary processes and submitted to the people without the most careful examination. I cannot credit that mature people could use language of such extravagance. If anyone believes that statement he must be easily convinced. This measure was debated in this Parliament at length on 20 November 1973. Anyone can see in Hansard that what we did then is being repeated almost word for word today. We presented this measure in accordance with the proper forms of the Senate and the Opposition opposed and failed to pass it. When Opposition members speak of this Bill being rushed through the proper parliamentary processes they are fooling no one. Now they come out with more extravagance and say that the proposals contained in the Bill will destroy the independence of the Senate and thus weaken the federal structure. I cannot possibly see how bringing the elections for the Senate and the House of Representatives together- an economic proposition on the one hand and a sensible and convenient proposition on the other- could be termed destroying the independence of the Senate and weakening the federal structure. The amendment shows how barren members of the Opposition must be of constructive thought to suggest that this Bill could destroy the independence of the Senate.
The second part of the amendment states that the 6-year terms for senators could be reduced to less than 18 months by mid-term dissolutions. I have just pointed out that 6-year terms were reduced to about that period when Senator Wright and I were first elected but we could not complain about that. The numbers counted as always and the people were asked to judge when this confrontation took place between rival ideologies and policies. It is ridiculous to use the argument that the 6-year terms could be reduced to less than 18 months, because the forms of the Senate already provide for that situation. I have never heard a very strong argument put up against the forms of the Senate in that respect. Paragraph 3 of the amendment states:
Continuity of the Senate would be destroyed because, every time there is a House of Representatives election, 30 senators would go out of office for about 3 months while an election took place.
That happens at least twice every 6 years. Under the present set-up it sometimes happens 4 times in 6 years or 3 times in 5 years. So that argument is completely without foundation. Paragraph 4 of the amendment states:
Under present arrangements there are always 60 senators and this continuity is a strength.
What does that mean? Under the present system anybody who is elected to the Senate is not able to take his seat until the following July. A public servant or person who holds an office of profit under the Crown has to resign from his job when he is elected to the Senate. He could have to wait for anything up to 1 1 months before he takes his seat. People who have been elected to the Senate at a democratic election do not take their seats until the following July. As a result there are often quite a number of lame dogs who sit in the Senate for the period of time after they are defeated at an election until their term of office expires.
– One is talking now.
– If I were to quack like Senator Marriott I could be accused of being a duck. The argument about the continuity of strength under the present arrangements is not a valid one because senators-elect have to wait until the following July before they can take their seats. Paragraph 5 of the amendment states:
If the Senate loses 30 senators for 3 months every time there is a House of Representatives election, the Senate’s committee activity could not continue during that period.
I cannot understand that. It is gibberish. Every time there is a Senate election campaign the whole of the parliamentary procedure is disturbed. Honourable senators opposite know that quite well. All sorts of grandstanding goes on for months before, during and often after each election. To argue that the Senate’s committee activity could not continue during such a period is really to draw the long bow. The next paragraph of the amendment is a very subtle one. Paragraph 6 states:
The Senate’s greatest power (be it a reserve power) is to refuse Supply and bring about a single dissolution of the House of Representatives in circumstances where it may be considered that the Government’s administration is not in the best interests of the country and that they should be sent to the judgment of the people.
That is the exact proposition we are putting forward in saying that the Constitution alteration proposals should be submitted to the people for their judgment. As was pointed out to Senator Lawrie earlier, the Opposition is afraid to let the Government go through the democratic process of asking the people to decide upon these matters at a time when it is most economical to do so, namely, at the time of a general election or the equivalent of a general election. Every elector is obliged to vote at such an election. The electoral rolls are brought up to date for such an election. The necessary polling facilities are provided for such an election. Is that not a reasonable time to put forward such propositions?
The amendment states that the Government’s administration of the country is not in the best interests of the country and that is should be sent to the judgment of the people. The Government feels that the present restrictive constitutional powers are not in the best interests of the good government of the country. Opposition senators believe that they are. They would because they represent the old conservative, stick-in-the-mud, Edward Heath type- I was going to say Heath
Robinson type, but they creak more than Heath Robinson- of Government that has got Great Britain into the mess in which it is in at present. The people of Great Britain have had to call on a Labour Government to get them out of the mess into which the equivalent in the United Kingdom of honourable senators opposite have got them. The Labour Party in the United Kingdom was not afraid to meet the judgment of the people; neither is the Labor Party in Australia. The Labor Party believes that the proposed constitutional alterations are necessary and in the best interests of the people. The final paragraph of the amendment states:
If it is desired to bring the elections for the 2 Houses together, a simple solution is for the House of Representatives to shorten its own term and go to the polls at the next Senate election, due to be held before 30 June 1 974.
Honourable senators of the opposition are whistling in the dark. They believe that they were born to rule. They cannot understand that there is an alternative to their threadbare philosophies and policies and that a breath of fresh air has blown into every section of the Australian community and its government. The Opposition is using every form of the Senate it can to frustrate the Government. It is using the Senate as a facade to carry out its policy of frustrating the Government and the Parliament. Honourable senators of the opposition know that they are going to reject these proposals when they are eventually put forward. Let us get on with the business of the Senate. The Opposition does not want to pass them; it wants to delay them. It will use all of the forms of the Senate it can to prevent them from being passed. I feel certain that the Governor-General will see through the Opposition, as the Government has seen through it, and that the people will be given an opportunity to adjudicate on these matters at the time of the next Senate election.
- Senator O’Byrne, who has just resumed his seat, began his speech by describing the arguments put forward by Opposition senators as humbug and hypocrisy. I consider that language to be unparliamentary. I think the only reason why the honourable senator used it was because he has become frustrated by the fact that the argument on this matter has been going on since 5.50 p.m. yesterday. The Senate will recall that at 5.50 p.m. yesterday the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senate Murphy) sought the adjournment of the debate on the Address-in-Reply to the Speech of Her
Majesty the Queen for the purpose of introducing into the Senate 4 messages that had been received from the House of Representatives. After the first message, which concerned the Constitution Alteration (Democratic Elections) Bill, had been read the Leader of the Government sought the suspension of so much of the Standing Orders as would prevent the Bill being passed through all its stages without delay, to which the Opposition agreed. He then sought the suspension of standing order 242, which was refused. The Leader of the Government then called upon the Bill to be read a first time, which was agreed to. He then moved that the Bill be read a second time and made his second reading speech.
The Leader of the Opposition (Senator Withers) then sought the adjournment of the debate on the motion that the Bill be read a second time and that was agreed to. The Leader of the Government then moved for the resumption of the debate to be made an order of the day for the next day of sitting. The Leader of the Opposition proposed an amendment to that motion. He moved that the resumption of the debate be made an order of the day for 13 March. That amendment was moved with one reason in mind; that was to enable the Senate to complete the debate on the Address-in-Reply to Her Majesty’s Speech which was delivered at the opening of this Parliament. Opposition senators believed that that debate should be finalised as is set out in standing order 14, before we dealt with legislation. If they were the thoughts of Opposition senators and if the Leader of the Government in the Senate realised this, surely he could have delayed the passage of the 4 Bills and saved all this argument. From 8 o’clock last night to shortly after 1 1 o’clock, and from 1 1 o’clock this morning to 3.45 this afternoon, with the exception of one hour for question time, who has been prolonging the debate? Senator O ‘Byrne accused Opposition senators of doing it, but he rambled on from 3.26 until just before 3.45.
– I did not get warmed up.
– I know you did not. We are used to Senator O’Byrne speaking for well over an hour. He read out the formal amendment proposed by the DLP, and passed a few remarks about it. What is all the argument about? The Leader of the Government has introduced a Bill and has moved that so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the Bill being passed through all its stages without delay. I, on behalf of my Party, agree to this course in relation to the other 3 Bills, and I would have agreed to it again; but shortly after the Leader of the Government moved his motion the DLP introduced an amendment which I did not see until the Deputy Leader of the Opposition was speaking. Having seen it and having read it, I agree with the matters of principle set out in it. The Opposition parties have indicated that they are quite happy with the other Bills being read a first time, the second reading speeches being presented and the debates being resumed on 13 March. What will happen if the DLP’s amendment is carried? Firstly, the Bill will be read a first time. The Leader of the Government will not be able to make his second reading speech, but he has the right to endeavour to make it on Tuesday. If the Senate so desires, the resumption of the debate can be carried over to 13 March, which is the date on which the debate on the other Bills will be resumed. Why all this argument? For the reasons which I have just explained to the Senate, the Country Party will support the amendment moved by the DLP.
– I wish to make one or two observations in speaking to the amendment. It has been suggested that in some way the Senate, in taking the stand that it is taking, is intruding unduly, almost without authority and certainly quite indefensibly in the progress of a Constitution Alteration Bill. It is interesting to compare the provisions of section 128 of the Constitution with the provisions which deal with Bills which may lead to a double dissolution. Bills involving an amendment of the Constitution, if passed by the House and rejected twice by the Senate, may after a period be submitted to the Governor-General for the referendum proposal to be put to the people. In other words, if the Bill is rejected twice by the Senate, or the other House if the initiative comes from the Senate, the proposal can be put to the people by way of referendum. But there is no censure of the House which elects to reject the Bill twice. If an ordinary Bill is rejected twice, the Government can ask the Governor-General to dissolve both Houses, which would give the people a chance to pass judgment on the conduct of both Houses. The Senate can be dissolved and the people can be asked to pass judgment on the Senate and on the conduct of the Senate. That is not the case with a Constitution Alteration Bill which has as its primary objective that the proposal go before the people. A formula is provided by which that proposal can go before the people. Therefore, the widest possible scope and opportunity, in the case of Constitution alterations, is given to each House, including the Senate, to ensure that it plays its legislative role in the proper fashion and at the proper time. That is what we are doing in the course of the discussions on these proposals.
The other minor point I wish to make is this: It is suggested that these Bills, having been passed by the House of Representatives, should be passed by the Senate so that the judgment of the people can be sought immediately. It is suggested that there should be no further intervention by way of legislative debate in this chamber or elsewhere in the Parliament. Let us look at the most recent proposal which came before the Parliament for a Constitution alteration. It was the Bill for a prices referendum. It was initiated in the House of Representatives. When it came to this place, it was met by the Democratic Labor Party’s Bill for a referendum on prices and incomes. In other words, 2 propositions were before the Parliament. If we had not taken that initiative, the Government, in due time, would have put the prices only referendum to the people. Because the Senate required time to deal with the proposal, dealt with it and put a counterproposal, the House of Representatives finally altered its stand. It changed its point of view and put incomes as well as prices to the people. In other words, the judgment of the House of Representatives as to what should go to the people was affected, and affected dramatically, by the consideration given to the whole matter by the Senate. We determined what ultimately should go to the people. There is the value of consideration by this chamber of propositions such as the four which are now before us. In those circumstances it is presumptuous for people to claim that the Senate is almost trespassing beyond its powers by intervening and stultifying in some way the opinion of the House on a matter involving this fundamental question of alterations to the Australian Constitution.
I feel that the distinguished Leader of the Government in the Senate, Senator Murphy, is holding a brief in this matter. He is one who, in the establishment of committees, in which he played a major part, has always held out for the power of the Senate, for its independence and for its right to function as a House of review and as a House to assess and study legislation and administrative actions. Now he comes out as the champion of this new process in which the Senate is not to be given a proper and leisurely opportunity to investigate and examine these Bills. Obviously that proposition is in the brief which the Attorney-General holds and which he is presenting to the Senate. None of the arguments which he advanced and none of the arguments which were advanced by junior counsel on his side are compelling. None of them are conclusive. I think that the Democratic Labor Party amendment moved by Senator McManus, which is receiving the support of the other Opposition parties- the Liberal Party and the Country Party -should receive the total endorsement of the Senate. We welcome that support. I hope that even at this stage Government senators may be persuaded to support the DLP amendment.
– I have listened with a great degree of interest to this debate. One thing which strikes me is that the Government is putting forward the proposition that because it desires to put a proposal to the people by way of referendum this chamber should agree automatically. I think that this chamber has the right to judge the suitability of a question, whether it is the type of question that should go to the people. For instance, taking the extreme, if the question were of an irresponsible nature to the minds of honourable senators, why should they say: ‘Yes, it should be put before the people’?
The Senate was established for the purpose of giving serious and deliberate consideration to whatever came before it. Therefore I think that honourable senators have a right to express themselves and to make a decision on whether a question should go forward to the people. I know that there are processes by which the Government can ultimately overcome the matter but if honourable senators really believe that a question is the wrong one to put before the people and if the Government persists and is determined to try to get the question before the people, the very fact that the Senate makes a decision which is contrary to the Government’s wishes gives a lead to the voters as to what the Senate thinks. Therefore, I think that the Government is taking too much upon itself if it expects the Senate automatically to agree to any question going before the people; the Government is treating the Senate in such a way that it believes that the Senate must automatically rubber stamp the Government’s decisions. Since I have been a member of the Senate, even when my own Party was in office, that has been one of the things to which I am not prepared to agree because I have always believed that the Senate was created for certain purposes and for certain reasons. Over the years, because of weakness or control from the other House, the Senate may have not have functioned as it should have functioned, but for some years now the Senate has been functioning in a proper way. Possibly it was wrong that the Senate did not function in a proper way for some time. But the purpose for which the Senate was created is the purpose that should be in the minds of members of this chamber. Under those circumstances I am not prepared to agree to a question going to the people just because the government of the day thinks that the question should go to the people. I think that if we as senators feel that way we should speak strongly against such a question and let the people know what we think.
Another aspect which does not seem to worry people in government these days is that it costs money- some millions of dollars- to put questions such as these to the people. Apparently millions of dollars just fly off the Government’s fingers; it does not seem to worry the Government that money is being expended in this way. Therefore, when we agree to put a question to the people we have to recognise the fact that it is costing the Australian people money to put the question before them. Under those circumstances what has been said does not frighten me in carrying out my duty in this respect. Just as Senator Byrne said about Senator Murphy, I believe that Senator James McClelland for whom I have a very high regard probably was carrying a brief because I do not know whether he really believed some of the things he said. He talked about the days when the elections for the Senate and the House of Representatives were held at the same time. Along with Senator Wright, 1 have been a member of this chamber since 1949, and I am sure that Senator Wright would agree with me when I say that over the years when the elections for the Senate and the House of Representatives were held at the same time the Senate was considered in a minor key. Everything was more or less concentrated on the House of Representatives. Only when the elections for the Senate and the House of Representatives have been held at different times has the Senate come much more into the public mind at election time.
I clearly remember the days when the elections for the Senate and the House of Representatives were held at the same time. The Prime Minister came from the House of Representatives and the election policy was focused very sharply on the House of Representatives. With the change from the pattern of holding elections for the Senate and the House of Representatives at the same time, with the actions that have been taken and the development that has occurred in the Senate over some years now, and despite what the Australian National Opinion Poll and others might say, in the minds of thinking people in this country the Senate rates higher now than at any time in its history. Therefore we as senators, without bringing party bias to bear on our judgment on these questions, are entitled to arrive at an honest decision as to what question we believe should be presented to the people of Australia by way of a referendum.
Judging from the history of this country, I do not think that the putting of a question to the Australian people by way of a referendum should excite the government of the day very greatly because so often people who go forward with great enthusiasm for the questions being put find that the Australian people are very hard to move when it comes to changing the Australian Constitution. Possibly people take the view that life in this country is not so bad. Australia is one of the best countries in which to live. Despite the fact that the present Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) may have some ambitions and ideas about changing the Constitution, and despite the fact that he thinks the Constitution is not right because it does not suit him personally or politically, the Australian people generally believe that under the Constitution, creaky as some might think it is, we have not done so badly after all.
Under those circumstances I believe that honourable senators have a right to make a judgment on whether a question should go to the people. I make no bones about it. My mind is clear. I shall vote against the proposal to present this question to the people. If further steps are taken and the question is put to the people, which is a course that the Government can follow, I certainly will do all I can to encourage the Australian people to vote no in the referendum.
That the words proposed to be left out (Senator McManus’s amendment) be left out.
The Senate divided. (The President- Senator Sir Magnus Cormack)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
– May it again be noted that the Government opposes this amendment. In order to save time we are not calling for a division on the consequential amendment, but we will do so on the main motion.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– The question is that the motion, as amended, be agreed to. I order a division on that question.
The Senate divided. (The President- Senator Sir Magnus Cormack)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
– Pursuant to contingent notice of motion I move:
The Senate will recall that this motion was carried in December in relation to the same Bill.
– The Opposition will oppose this motion and it will oppose it for the reasons which have been advanced on earlier occasions when these constitutional Bills have come before the Senate. We wonder, of course, why this particular motion is brought forward at this time. It does seem from what the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Murphy) said that he does not expect these Bills to have a second reading in this chamber. If the Leader of the Government holds to that view one might wonder why he persists with the motion which he is now giving expression to for the suspension of standing order 242. If, contrary to his anticipation, a second reading was to be given, I imagine that this motion could be moved forthwith as has been done in other years. But for reasons best known to himself this motion has been brought forward at this stage. The Opposition has indicted its attitude and we shall continue to oppose it.
– I would like to have a few words to say on this. This is the Bill we are discussing and will vote on, is it not?
– No. The motion is to suspend standing order 242.
-Mr President -
– Order! Would you please resume your seat.
– I would appreciate it if you would hear me out.
- Senator Negus, the motion before the Senate is a motion moved by Senator Murphy to suspend standing order 242. Standing order 242 requires a call of the Senate in the context of a constitutional Bill That is the motion. It is not a question of the Bill itself being before the Senate but the suspension of the standing order. If you wish to address the Senate you must confine your remarks to the standing order.
– It makes it so awkward because I was going to mention the fact that this matter was supposed to go before the Senate Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs.
– Order! It was placed before the Constitutional and Legal Affairs Committee. Matters such as this have been referred to the committee in the past. However, the prorogation of this Parliament by His Excellency the Governor-General on 14 February meant that the notice paper was cleared and therefore any motion that rested on the notice paper has to be restored by a vote of this Senate on a motion moved by the Leader of the Government (Senator Murphy) or the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Withers). That has not been done and there is no committee in existence.
– I understand what is happening. Despite the fact that last time standing order 242 was suspended as a matter of commonsense, as it ought to be suspended, this time every possible device is being used to avoid its suspension. Of course, standing order 242 would mean that at least 2 1 days notice would have to be given. This would be undetermined; one cannot give it now until one knows what will be the fate of the Bill. If there were any intention whatever of passing the Bill, the Opposition would agree to the suspension of standing order 242, as of course some members of it did on the last occasion. But it just means that the obstruction is being pursued. I do not think it needs any addition to what was said about the earlier Bills. Of course, the suggestion was made, and we were told, that the Bills would be dealt with on Wednesday next. However, if standing order 242 is to stand that would make nonsense of that intimation which was given by the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate (Senator Withers).
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.
Motion (by Senator Murphy) agreed to:
That the second reading be made an order of the day for the next day of sitting.
Debate resumed from 6 March (vide page 84), on motion by Senator Wheeldon:
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.
Upon which Senator Withers had moved by way of amendment:
That the following words be added to the AddressinReply, viz: but the Senate is of the opinion and regrets that Her Majesty was not informed by the Government of the true position in Australia in that is has:
1 ) created an intolerably high level of inflation and has taken no effective steps to stop it:
caused uncertainty and its management of the economy is creating social inequities;
attempted to change the Federal system of the Australian Constitution by diminishing the responsibility of the States;
injured rural industries and the communities they support;
pursued defence and foreign affairs policies which have seriously weakened our defence capacity; and
failed to fulfil the expectations of the Australian people because of its administrative incompetence’.
– In rising to give my full support to the motion moved by my colleague, Senator Wheeldon, and so ably seconded by Senator Milliner from Queensland, I want to refer to some of the remarks made by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Withers) when he moved his amendment to this motion. Senator Withers was quite critical, as were other honourable senators on the Opposition side, of the fact that the Government had called the Parliament together to allow the Queen to open it on Thursday of last week. They are fully aware of the reason why we had only one day of sitting last week; it was so that it would accord with the itinerary which the Queen had laid down for her. Part of that itinerary was her visit to New Zealand and then her visit to Papua New Guinea. When the Queen delivered her speech to this Parliament last week she made reference to the fact that she had just come from Papua New Guinea where she had seen at first hand the progress being made there in this period of self-government.
I think it was quite wrong for Senator Withers to complain that the taxpayers of this country were put to the great expense of bringing back to Canberra the members and staff of this House for one day’s sitting. The honourable senator conveniently forgot what happened in 1969 when a previous Liberal Prime Minister, Mr Gorton, called the Parliament together. I was not here at the time, but my colleagues witnessed the shortest opening speech on record for the Australian Parliament. That was done at great cost to the Australian taxpayers too. A comment was made yesterday by way of interjection about the cost of the function which followed the opening of Parliament last week. Unfortunately Her Majesty was unable to attend that function because she had to return to England. I shall refer to that in a few moments. However, I noticed that many of the people who criticised, by way of interjection, the cost of that function which was held last Thursday evening were very prominent in their attendance at it. Many of them were there with their bullet-proof shirts and claw hammer coats on, strutting around like turkey gobblers.
But I am happy to relate that for the first time, I am informed, quite a few of the ordinary staff of this Parliament were invited to that function. One good thing about the Labor Government is that it does not overlook the hard working staff in the Parliament when a public function is held under its auspices. The VIPs and members of Parliament are not the only ones in attendance. I think it augurs well for the future of the Labor Government that it does recognise that there are important people in this community apart from the VIPs and members of Parliament, because this place could not function without the very hard work and the able assistance that is given to us by the parliamentary staff in their various fields. I could start at the top and go right down the line to the people who clean this place. I pay great tribute to the efforts that they put into keeping this place functioning.
I want to refer to a quite scathing statement made by Senator Withers. He said that he did not want to detract from Her Majesty’s remarks when she opened the Parliament, but he then went on to say that she was only mouthing the words of the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam). If the Queen had not agreed with what was contained in the Speech she made, she had every right to object to making that Speech to this Parliament. She did not have to make the Speech. After all, she is the Queen of Australia. She could have objected to making any of those remarks which Senator Withers said she was obliged to make because the Speech was written for her by the Prime Minister. I think Her Majesty realised that most of the things contained in that Speech which she made to this Parliament were also contained in the Prime Minister’s policy speech to this nation at the time of the last election- a policy speech which was accepted by a majority of the Queen’s Australian subjects on 2 December 1972. 1 say now that the Queen would have had no compunction at all in repeating the things which the Prime Minister put to the people and on which the Labor Government was elected.
It was most unfortunate, as I said earlier, that Her Majesty could not stay to join in the function which was held on Thursday night. In her opening remark she said:
As you know, because of my constitutional duties which relate to the United Kingdom, I must, after opening our Parliament here today, return immediately to London.
Why did she have to return to London? Nobody on the Opposition side has yet mentioned why she had to return to London. It was because of the chaos that has existed in Britain over the last 4 years as a result of the mismanagement of a Conservative government. The Prime Minister, Mr Heath, found that he could not carry out the affairs of state and he had to capitulate and go to the people. Although he had a majority in the British Parliament he was not prepared to put into effect such measures as would put Britain back on to a stable footing. Of course, the same thing happened in this country in 1972. After 23 years of conservative government this country was in such a state of chaos and the economy was run down to such a low ebb, particularly in relation to primary industries, that when we went to the people in 1972 they in their wisdom decided to elect a Labor government. The people of Britain have now given Harold Wilson the numbers. Certainly he does not have a overall majority, but at least he has a majority over the Conservatives. The Queen in her wisdom has seen fit to call upon Harold Wilson once again to become the Prime Minister of Great Britain. I am sure that the people of Great Britain will place faith in Harold Wilson, even though he has a mammoth task in dragging that country out of the mire. Economically it has never been in a worse position since the history of Britain was first recorded. That is the reason why the Queen had to leave Australia.
We have heard statements made by Opposition senators to the effect that this Government, in the short space of 12 months, has dragged this country down to its knees. What did the counterparts of honourable senators opposite do in Great Britain? If by some chance honourable senators opposite got back into government here- I do not think there is much chance of that- they would do the same again. Although we are taunted by the Democratic Labor Party senators and Senator Withers who say that the Prime Minister ought to make the short trip to Government House and call for a double dissolution, they know in their own hearts who will win if the facts have to be put before the people at an election and if the Prime Minister goes on the hustings and on television in opposition to the Liberal Leader, Mr Snedden.
When the choice is put to the people, what will they say? They would not elect the previous Prime Minister and leader of the Liberal Government who had been in office for so long. What faith would the people put in a man who does not even have the confidence of the members of his own Party? I will refer to that matter later. Each day one picks up a newspaper one reads of a conflict of opinion between Mr Snedden and Mr Anthony, the Leader of the Party which is referred to as the tail that wagged the dog for so long. We had the smaller tail, the Democratic Labor Party, tagging along behind. This leads me to ask: Why is the Democratic Labor Party so concerned now that it should throw out so many challenges to us to go to the people? The answer is that ever since the Democratic Labor Party was first represented in this chamber it has been able to hold a gun at the head of the previous Liberal Government.
– Nineteen years ago.
– Time after time it was able to hold a gun at the head of the previous Liberal Government. It said: ‘If you do this and we do not agree with it, you will not get our preferences; if you do not do this and we want it done, you still will not get our preferences’. In the short time that I have been here the Democratic Labor Party senators always said that the Labor Party would never get into power while the DLP existed. That myth was exploded on 2 December 1972. The Labor Party won government in this country without the support of any other party. We did not have to barter with people like the DLP or barter with the previous Government.
– What about the Australia Party?
– No pressure was brought to bear. I think it is to the credit of the Australia Party that it has not become the pressure group that the DLP has become over the years by holding out all sorts of threats to the previous Government. This sort of thing is what brought about the downfall of John Gorton. He could not stomach any longer the DLP tail wagging the dog and more wagging from the Country Party further up the line. He could not govern in his own right. Mr McMahon found that the same problem was dished up to him. I think members of the previous Government were quite happy to go out of office. I think they are quite happy to see what is happening now in the Opposition parties. I am quite sure that the Liberals, if they would own up to it, are quite happy for their Party and the Country Party to be sitting in Opposition as separate entities in the other place and in this place. They do not constitute a united body.
– Both minority parties.
– They are both minority parties. Both the Country Party and the Democratic Labor Party are so afraid now that in some States they are trying to amalgamate and change their name again. Those of us who are prepared to read political history in this country have found that whenever the conservative parties are getting it in the neck and getting kicked to death they change their name. It is the same old crowd of people with a different name. I am proud to say that ever since the Australian Labor Party was born out of the trade union movement, through thick and thin it has gone forward with the name of the Australian Labor Party. When we have been in trouble we have not run away and changed our name to hide some of the mistakes which we may have made. Our opponents have always done that. 1 think the Australian Democratic Labor Party is on about its third change of name now. With the next one coming up, the ‘Nats’, it will be the fourth change in the short time that the Party had been in existence. Senator Little had just said that the Party has been here for 19 years. So when the fourth change of name takes place that will be a change every 5 years, which is not even the full term of an honourable senator who is elected for 6 years. Every 5 years the DLP has changed its name to try to hoodwink the people. But, as Senator Cant said today, I think the people of this country have woken up to splinter groups.
The only way we will get stable government in this country is under the 2-party system. The people should have a choice between one and the other. They should not have to be hoodwinked all the time and fooled about by myths which splinter groups put over. When the DLP goes on the hustings it says: ‘If you elect us we will do this’. But even a school child of 5 years of age- a child in the first year of school- knows that the DLP could never become a government. Neither could the Australian Country Party do so in its own right except, of course, in Queensland where there is the mighty gerrymander. There the Premier is leading the State with 19 per cent of the vote. This leads me to an interjection made yesterday by Senator Young. Senator Murphy was speaking on one of the Bills before the chamber and spoke about a gerrymander. Senator Young interjected and said: That is what the game is all about’. Of course over the years Senator Young has been a great pupil of Sir Thomas Playford who was a Premier of South Australia and a great exponent of the gerrymander. I think he was the champion of it and the person who taught Bjelke Petersen all he knows about a gerrymander. Sir Thomas was called up to Queensland to help engineer the situation that exists there at the present time.
I was very pleased to hear Senator Young publicly admit that that is what it is all about in the eyes of the Liberal Party- a gerrymander. It is not the will of the people but the will of the Conservatives to stay in government at whatever cost. We saw the gerrymander which existed in my own State of South Australia for a great number of years. In the time that I have been living in that State- nearly 25 years- only once did the Conservatives win a majority of votes. But very few times did the Labor Party ever win a majority of seats until there was a redistribution under the person who is now known as the purple Liberal, Mr Steel Hall. 1 and a lot of other South Australian people are confident that he will take his place in this Senate after 1 July next at the expense of some other honourable senator who is sitting here now.
– The honourable senator is going to vote for a minority group by the sound of it.
– I will not be voting for him; it will be the people of South Australia.
– Is the honourable senator swapping preferences with him?
– There is no doubt at all that the Labor Party will have its 3 candidates returned. There is no doubt about that. Senator Young has interjected and asked about the swapping of preferences. Well, I can tell him now where the swapping of preferences will take place. It will be between the 2 splinter groups, that is, between the Australian Country Party and the purple Liberals. If Steele Hall does not come to this place Jack Ryan certainly will, and probably it will be at Senator Young’s expense. I like him and I will be disappointed that he is not here because I enjoy his company on the committee on which we work together.
– The Labor Party will not get three in, Senator.
– I think it is only common logic that we will do so. We have only to get 50. 1 per cent of the vote and we have been getting that for I do not know how many years. We have never missed. The latest gallup poll- I do not always take notice of them- shows that at present Labor Party support in South Australia is at 53 per cent. So we can still afford to drop nearly 3 per cent and get our 3 senators in. I am sure that honourable senators opposite will be delighted when they see our new senator, Dr Neil Blewitt, come in here. He is a very capable man who will be a great credit to this chamber and to the electors of South Australia. But, Senator Young has said by way of interjection that we will not get our 3 representatives returned. He should cast his mind back to 1967 when the Liberal Party in South Australia was a very united Party. It did not have any splits. It ran as a united party. It did not have the Country Party. But on this occasion there will be the blue Liberals of which Senator Young is a member, the purple Liberals which the ex-Liberal Premier leads and then the greens, as they are known- the green pastures- the Country Party. So they will be split 3 ways in their campaign. We see dog fights going on here between Mr Snedden and Mr Anthony, but they are only minor compared with what will happen in South Australia as soon as the campaign opens with these 3 groups.
I will now refer to a remark which was made by Senator Withers when he listed the number of seats which the Labor Government won in the various States. He went to great pains to point out that in South Australia the Government lost the seat of Sturt. But he did not go on to tell us that that seat was won by a person who stood on a purple Liberal ticket. What will happen the next time around? This member has deserted the purple Liberals and rejoined the blues. That is what is going on. We find disunity in the Liberal
Party. Yet we have people come in here and say they are the alternative government. They chide us and say that we ought to have a double dissolution. Not one of them in all sincerity wants a double dissolution because, as I said previously, they know who will come out the winner when we get on the hustings with the Prime Minister. It will certainly be this Government. The Government has not backed away from anything. We have been open. We have told the people what we want to do. The people gave us a mandate to do it and we have done it. As near as possible we have put that policy into operation, except when it has been rejected in this place. I am hopeful that after the Senate election people in this chamber will no longer be able to say: ‘You do not have a mandate for it’. We ought to be able to stand or fall by our policy. Let the people see the results. Once our policy is put into operation, if it is not acceptable to the people let them reject it.
I shall make some comments in my short remarks on matters about which honourable senators opposite are very critical. Often we see them come into this chamber waving this little booklet ‘Platform, Constitution and Rules ‘ of the Australian Labor Party. I am proud to say that I belong to a Party which sees fit to publish its constitution, rules and platform. This booklet is freely available to any person who has a dollar to buy it. We are proud to present it. We are proud to have it as a public document. We do not mind people criticising it. All our conventions are open to the public and that is when we formulate our platform and when we alter it. But I have yet to see a copy of the platform and Constitution of the Liberal Country League or the Liberal Party. I cannot find one anywhere because they just do not have one. Now some experts have been called in. Mr Eggleton, who has been brought back from London at a very high salary, and somebody else, have been employed to try to draw up a policy for that Party. We draw up our own policy from the rank and file of the members of this great Party.
– Has the honourable senator brought one of ours?
– I have not seen yours. The honourable senator’s Party would not even have one.
– I will sell you one if you like. Does the honourable senator have a dollar?
– I have respect for legitimate parties but I have no respect for scab organisations which because they cannot get their own way in a party, run away and try to bite the hand which fed them, which nurtured them and brought them into politics. They climb up on the backs of the party and then, when they cannot get their own way, they scab on it. In this season I have no wish ever to read that document. We have heard much about the stability of the Liberal Opposition. Shortly after the last election great play was made of this when the Party said: Yes, we are quite happy to follow the policy of the Australian Labor Party in electing a shadow Cabinet or a Cabinet. We will allow the members elected by electors of this country to decide who will be in the Ministry’. Great play was made of this. It was a wonderful change. But what did we see in the Press yesterday? The Party has changed its mind again. It is going back to the old one-man government. The leader will now be allowed to hand out all his perks and favours to his friends and have them in the Cabinet. Members of the Liberal Party have short memories because that is what brought about the great shuffle in Cabinet in the last 2 or 3 Liberal governments and that is what brought about their downfall.
– Perks to friends?
– Yes, perks to their friends. The Liberal Party will not allow the elected members of this Parliament to choose the Cabinet as we do. Sometimes we are criticised and some people say that some of the Ministers we have elected are not capable. But at least those Ministers have the confidence and the majority support of the 93 elected Labor Party members of this Parliament.
– If the Leader had chosen, the honourable senator would be a Minister now.
– I would not be a Minister. I have no false ideas about my abilities. The interjection from Senator Marriott brings back something to my mind. I used to have a lot of sympathy for Senator Marriott when he was an assistant Minister in the previous Government. I still have a copy of a big cartoon on the wall in my lounge room at home. It depicts the assistant Minister and underneath it are the words ‘stamp licker’. It shows poor old Senator Marriott licking stamps as fast as he could. That is what his job amounted to. I remember that on several occasions I tried to ask a question of him in this chamber but he was not even allowed to answer a question when he was the Assistant Minister for Health. That is only a joking reference. Senator Marriott and I are good friends.
This change of policy has been brought about because the Liberal Party is not happy with the choice of its shadow cabinet elected by its parliamentary members. They have to hand over this power to the one man band again. He will wave the big stick. If the boys do not toe the line, he will say: ‘Right, you will be out tomorrow and Joe Blow or somebody else will be in ‘.
– What about your leader after yesterday’s Caucus meeting? They tell us that that was something.
– Our Caucus is responsible to the people who elect us. This is where members of the Liberal Party try to hoodwink the electors. They put up the word ‘Caucus’ to the electors of Australia as being some big bogy body. The Caucus is a body of elected Labor Party members of the Parliament. We join together in a common meeting and we make decisions there. No one man in that Caucus has the right to dictate to the others. We have a majority vote at all times. But, Senator Young, you will not be able to have that in future because you have overthrown that principle.
I want to refer to the disharmony that exists between the Liberal Party and the Australian Country Party at the present time and to a newspaper article which appeared in the ‘Canberra Times’ of 8 February 1974. It is headed: Threat on CP- Liberal seats’. It goes on to state:
The Liberal and Country parties could be opposing each other in every Federal seat in the next elections, the Leader of the Country Party, Mr Anthony, said in Canberra last night.
That was reported on 8 February. A statement appearing in the Melbourne ‘Sun’ of 11 February 1974 is headed: ‘CP leader, top Lib. talk unity’. So 3 days later, after Mr Anthony had made the statement that the parties were at loggerheads, it was reported that they were talking unity. As I say, this was reported on 1 1 February. Then, in the ‘Australian’ newspaper of 18 February 1974 we find the headline: ‘Liberal decision idiotic- Anthony’. So we only have to go a few days further on to see that they are at it again like a cat and a dog fighting in a bag. Yet they are trying to hoodwink the people and make them believe that they are united. The people are not that silly. They read the newspaper reports. On the 18 February we find the headline in the Melbourne ‘Sun’ newspaper: ‘Libs, CP split over 6 seats’. We have another split. Now I turn to an article which appeared in the ‘Canberra Times’ of 5 March 1 973. That is only this week. The article is headed: ‘Liberals “strain” relations with CP’.
– Do not believe it. It is not true.
– Of course it is true.
– Of course it is not.
- Senator Young says that it is not true. I knew that he would interject with that statement. Here is an article that appeared in a newspaper on Saturday, 2 March 1974. It is headed: ‘Liberal plea for unity’. It quotes statements by Mr Southey, who is the federal president of Senator Young’s Party. I will read what is stated in the article:
The Liberal Party Federal president, Mr. R. J. Southey, yesterday warned Liberals against making open criticisms of their colleagues.
Senator Young says that what I have quoted from those newspaper articles is not correct. Is he now saying that what Mr Southey says is not true? He cannot say that they are both not true. The newspaper article goes on to state:
The disunity of the last years before December 1972, is now buried in the past,’ Mr Southey said in an article in the Liberal Party journal, Current politiCS
That is in the Library and I advise senators to read it. The article continues:
Let us not, however, be complacent about that. We, the party organisation who select and maintain them, have a continuing duty to our parliamentary members to advise, to encourage and sometimes to warn ‘.
Yet, over the short time that I have been in the Senate, I have heard honourable senators accusing members of this Government of being dictated to by an outside body. But Mr Southey says that the outside party organisation maintains the members of the Liberal Party. These are his own words. This is not something that I have plucked out of the air. So either Senator Young has to say that these newspaper articles are correct or he has to say that this statement by Mr Southey- his federal president- is incorrect. The article continues:
He added that no speech was a good one unless it contained a complimentary reference to a colleague, and statements knocking colleagues were regarded as contemptible by the electors.
Of course, these are the very things that the electors feel are contemptible. It is no use for members of the Opposition to rise in the Parliament and to go out on to the hustings and say to the electors of Australia that the Liberal and Country Parties are a united body and an alternative government, because it has been proved time and again by the words of their officials that they are not united. It will be proven in South Australia at the next Senate election when each of the candidates from the Opposition parties are shown on separate Senate tickets. This is proof enough that they are not united.
They were united at the last Senate election because the candidates were shown on the one ticket. They had one team. This time they have 3 teams. Where is the unity? They must answer to the electors for this. I want to make brief reference to some of the good legislation that this Government has introduced.
– It has to be brief because there is not much of it.
– There is quite a lot of it. The most important thing that I want to mention is that we have endeavoured at all dmes to do justice to the under-privileged, the lower paid and particularly the pensioners. If we look back through the history in regard to pension increases we find that the only time the poor old pensioner received any decent pension increases of a little more than 50c- I think that the highest increase was $1.25- was during an election year. Unlike the previous governments, since this Government has been in office we have honoured promises we made that we would endeavour, as quickly as possible, to bring the pensioners’ emoluments up to 25 per cent of the average weekly wage. We have attempted to do this and we have very nearly reached that position now. With the latest increase that has been announced- I hope that the legislation will come before the Senate in a very short time, next week or the week after- we have increased the pensions again by $3 for single pensioners and $2.50 for married pensioners. That increase is to be granted on top of the 2 other increases of $1.50 each that have been made.
For the first time in the history of government in Australia, when this Government was elected it made the pension increase payment retrospective. We made the promise that we would increase pensions if we were elected. We made that pension increase retrospective. Yet I found in the area where I live that Liberal Party candidates and members of the Liberal Party were going around, before the legislation came in, a week after we were elected- and they knew full well that they were telling mistruths to the people- saying: ‘Oh yes, the Government promised you an immediate increase but it is not going to give it to you’. These people knew- I have challenged some of them on this-that that amount of money could not be paid until the legislation was passed through the Parliament. That is the way it has to be. Yet some Liberal Party supporters were telling the poor old pensioners who do not know any better that we were repudiating our promise. Of course, that was thrown back into their faces when, for the first time in history as I have said, we made pension payments retrospective. The pensioners were very grateful for that. They will soon receive this further increase. It is certainly not as much as we would like to give to them but we are giving them as much as we possibly can. It has been argued -
– You bought ‘Blue Poles’ and did a few other silly things instead.
- Senator Young says that we bought the painting ‘Blue Poles’. I did not buy it.
– The previous Government bought the Fill aircraft and look what a mess that was.
-Yes. Senator Young may be a little sorry he made that interjection. I think that the painting ‘Blue Poles’ cost a little over $ 1 m. The first government in this country that wants to get it on show is the State Liberal Government in New South Wales led by Premier Askin. He is falling over himself to borrow it from the Federal Government to put it on show. So the Liberal Party in New South Wales thinks that it is a good thing. Personally, I am not a lover of the arts and I could not care less. It does not worry me one bit.
Senator Gietzelt interjected and said that the painting did not cost anything near the amount of money- $360m I think it was- which Sir Robert Menzies used as a political gimmick, for the purchase of the F trouble-one aircraft, supposedly for the defence of this country because Indonesia was going to attack us. This is the argument with which he fooled the people. That was the old story when the Liberals were in government. We had scare tactics all the time. However, the people have had to pay that debt. I am quite certain that if the debt had not been hanging over the heads of the taxpayers of this country much more could have been done. The previous Government would not have had to sell out so much of our good assets to overseas combines. It had to do this to offset some of the money which it had wilfully wasted on the purchase of aeroplanes that are of no earthly use to this country other than as a showpiece. When history is written I think that this decision of Mr Menzies will go down as one of the blackest marks against him.
I wish to refer again to the amount of pensions. We have been criticised, particularly by the Democratic Labor Party and the Country Partyin particular Senator Webster used to make these criticisms during the last session- with the statement that the pensions percentage of the average wage had slipped since we became a government. What they did not tell the people was that during the reign of the previous Liberal Government the wage structure of the average worker was very low. What happened every time there was an application before the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission for an increase in the national wage? The Liberal Government’s advocate opposed an increase. We have not done that. We knew that these people were barely existing and we put advocates into the court to support an increase in the national wage, This is why the pension percentage did not appear to be so great as it might have been. We were also endeavouring to raise the wages of the lower paid workers of this country who fully deserved it. If the Liberals only realised this many of their supporters would not be so wealthy. A lot of blood and sweat is put in by the average worker. He has to do the back breaking work. Many people now grizzle and gripe that they cannot get a fair day’s work for a fair day’s pay. I mixed with some members of the Liberal Party when I used to work for them during my working life. I have always maintained that very few of them could do a hard day’s work. Some of them, as a matter of fact, could not put in a couple of hours in a shearing shed sweeping up locks without getting a backache. Yet the old shearer was always blamed because he wanted too much for his labours. As I say, that is the reason why the percentage rate of the pension did not appear to be so great when compared with the wage structure. That is going to be altered. We have got wages up now to a livable amount and as time goes by and legislation is introduced the pension rate will get a bit closer to the average wage so that the pensioner will be on a higher percentage than he ever was under the previous Government. The pensioners are assured of getting a minimum of $1.50 when the next Budget is brought down. We promised the pensioners that there would be 2 increases every 12 months, come what may, of a minimum amount of $1.50. They can look forward to that. They will not have to come to Parliament House in Canberra every Budget time as they used to in busloads from Melbourne and Sydney, having deputations on the steps of Parliament House and pleading with previous Prime Ministers to give them a little more to buy bread and butter. Pensioners do not have to do that any longer under this Government because they know that a solemn promise has been made and we are honouring it. We have honoured it so much that the increase which will be granted in the next few weeks to single pensioners will be doubled. We promised the single pensioners $1.50 but we will give them $3. So we are doing all we can to look after the welfare of the underprivileged and underpaid in this community.
The other matter to which I wish to refer relates to a paragraph of Her Majesty’s Speech to the Parliament on 28 February 1974. It reads:
This program for the new session of the twenth-eight Parliament is seen by my Government as a continuation of the progressive policies of reform which it has pursued vigorously and unflaggingly since assuming office, and for which it has a clear mandate from the Australian people.
Her Majesty saw fit to repeat the words that this Government has a clear mandate from the Australian people. Unlike members of the Opposition who claim time after time that we have no mandate, Her Majesty was prepared to utter those words in this Parliament. As I said when I opened my remarks, if Her Majesty did not agree with what was printed in this Speech- Senator Withers said that she was only mouthing the words of the Prime Minister- she would not have made it. I am sure Her Majesty would have vetted this Speech very thoroughly. I am certain that the gracious lady would not have uttered any comments in this Parliament with which she could not agree. She would not see fit to do so.
– I take a point of order. I hesitate to interfere but my recollection is that Standing Orders prevent the use of the name of Her Majesty or her representative the GovernorGeneral in political debate. The submission to which we are listening is entirely a subversion of the proper function of the Crown in delivering an address to the Parliament in opening it. I suggest that it is entirely wrong to associate Her Majesty in any way as personally adopting any part of the Speech. It is her constitutional duty to express the policy of the Administration in language that is submitted to her by her Ministers who are under oath to advise her and to submit policies in accordance with that advice. I heard the honourable senator repetitively trying to persuade the country and us that Her Majesty has in some way given her approval to the policy in her Speech. I submit that it is for the very purpose of preventing the involvement of the Crown in politics that Standing Orders require that her name should not be mentioned in political debate.
– I uphold the point of order. Senator McLaren will bear in mind on this occasion and on future occasions that standing order of the Senate.
- Mr President, I bow to your ruling, but I want to make the comment that the Leader of the Opposition also referred to Her Majesty in this debate.
– Not in the same context as you. You may proceed, Senator.
– I would like to say in explanation that I was referring to the fact that Senator Withers had said that Her Majesty was only mouthing the words of the Prime Minister. My submission all through my speech have been that if Her Majesty had not seen logic in those comments she would not have made them. Her Majesty had every right to amend that Speech. Of course, I know that it is a sore point, particularly with Senator Wright.
– It is an improper point for you to make.
– It is not an improper point at all.
– We both wish to keep the Crown out of politics.
– I did not bring the Crown down to the level of politics.
– You are now.
– The honourable senator is trying to infer that I did and I am saying that I never did. It was Senator Withers, I think, who tried to link the Prime Minister with forcing Her Majesty to make a Speech with which she was not in agreement. I think that when the honourable senator reads the record he will agree that those are the words the Leader of the Opposition uttered. That is what prompted me to make the remarks that I have made today.
– Are you prepared to say that the Speech was originally twice as long and it was deliberately cut down?
– I am not saying at this stage what length the Speech was. I am addressing my remarks to the Address-in-Reply debate. The debate concerns the Speech of Her Majesty which was printed for this Parliament and which also appears in Hansard. Senator Wright is trying to make out that what I am saying has no relevance or is in conflict with the Standing Orders.
– It is improper.
– I do not think it is improper. I wish to mention statements which have been made in this Parliament about the present Government’s trying to steamroll legislation through. I made a few brief remarks about this matter last night. I wish to cite again the figures which were given in the other place by my colleague, Mr Paul Keating, the honourable member ibr Blaxland. He pointed out that the record of the last Parliament shows that 19 Bills were put through in 1 7 hours. This Government has never attempted to do that and I do not think it ever will. That was the record of the previous Liberal Government, yet Liberal Party members criticise us for trying to put through Bills which have no effect on the legislature but which will give the people of this country an opportunity to vote. In the lifetime of the Twenty-seventh Parliament members of the present Opposition in the other place moved the gag 322 times. I am sure that we would have to be in office for many years before we could use the gag 322 times.
Debate (on motion by Senator Murphy) adjourned.
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 or the Constitution Alteration (Inter-change of Powers) Bill 1974 to be passed without a call of the Senate.
– The Opposition will once again oppose this motion in the same consistent manner as it has opposed similar motions on the 4 occasions that they have been raised over the past 2 days. I indicate, for the record, that the Opposition is consistent in the attitude which it is now taking with the attitude which it took last December because the Opposition also opposed a similar motion at that time. I draw attention to the fact that no explanation has been given by the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Murphy) as to his reasons for moving this motion. It should be recognised that there are 2 provisions in the Standing Orders which deal with a call of the Senate. The first is standing order 242, which is the one in relation to which suspension is being sought. It provides that before the third reading of any Bill by which an alteration of the Constitution is proposed there shall be a call of the Senate. The Leader of the Government in the Senate obviously wishes to remove that provision in order that there will be no obligation to have a call of the Senate.
It may be asked: What does it matter whether there is a call of the Senate? In fact, one might say that it is immaterial one way or the other whether there is a call of the Senate. The real objective to which I think the Leader of the Government in the Senate is addressing himself is the fact that there is another Standing Orderstanding order 283- which states that an order for a call of the Senate shall be made for any day not earlier than 2 1 days from the day on which such order shall have been made. I should have thought that the Leader of the Government in the Senate could have sought at the time the Bill is given a second reading- if it is to be given a second reading- to abbreviate the time within which the call of the Senate is required. I understand that whenever Bills for constitutional alterations have been before the Senate on earlier occasions that practice has been adopted instead of the practice of seeking to remove altogether the obligation for a call of the Senate. I have mentioned those points only because they were not dealt with in particularity on the earlier occasions that similar motions were brought forward.
The move to overcome the obligation to have a call of the Senate is essentially not necessary to achieve the purpose of having a speedy dispatch of a particular measure if speed is required. The Leader of the Government will still have an opportunity, if a second reading should be given to this or any of the other constitutional alteration Bills, to move either that standing order 242 be suspended or, if he feels that the attitude of the Senate on that is quite clear, that standing order 283 be amended in some way so that the obligation of a 3-week delay is reduced to, say, 24 hours or less. These matters ought not to be comprehended by the simple expression that this is a provision to avoid 3 weeks having to elapse. It may or may not, depending upon the attitude of the Senate to other Standing Orders if an approach is made to have them suspended. The Opposition will oppose this proposal.
-in reply-On 31 October 1950 a call of the Senate was dispensed with in respect to the Constitution Alteration (Prices) Bill 1950. On 12 July 1951 the Constitution Alteration (Powers to Deal with Communists and Communism) Bill 1951 was introduced into the Senate shortly before noon. Motions to dispense with the call of the Senate and for the Bill to pass through all stages without delay were passed. The Bill was read a third time the same day. On 4 December 1973 the call of the Senate was dispensed with in respect of the 4 constitutional alteration Bills which were before the Senate. The practice of dispensing with the call of the Senate is obviously a sensible one, especially in the situation where an absolute majority is required in any event.
The attitude of the Opposition now is consistent with what has been happening in the last couple of days in respect of Bills which have already been rejected. All that is required is the demonstration by its vote of the Opposition’s rejection again of the Bills, but all we have had is palaver about the Opposition wanting time in which to make up its mind and to consider the Bills and so forth. I do not think anybody has been deceived by any of that. The Government is in a minority in the Senate. All it can do is request that the procedures that would enable the Bill to be passed and put to the people in conjunction with the forthcoming Senate election be used. This is the first time this measure has come before this chamber. If it were to be passed there would have to be an interval of 2 months. Apparently the tactics to be adopted are to obstruct, delay and do whatever can be done to frustrate the putting of the measure to the people in the way in which the Government has indicated it wishes it to be put.
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:
The purpose of this Bill is to amend the Constitution to enable interchange of powers between the Australian Parliament and the State parliaments. The Government proposes that this Bill, along with several other proposals for constitutional amendments already submitted to this Parliament, will be put to the people by referendum at the time of the forthcoming Senate election.
– It is not a Bill to change the Constitution.
-The Bdi is a Bill to amend the Constitution, but it requires the approval of the electors in accordance with the constitutional provisions. I think that is a correct statement. There already is a provision in the Constitution, in section 51, paragraph (XXX- VII), for reference of powers by State parliaments to the Australian Parliament. However, there are several unresolved questions on the operation of the existing provision for the States to refer powers to this Parliament which have made them reluctant to do so. There is, moreover, no provision for references the other way- from the Australian Parliament to State parliaments.
Honourable senators will recall that, during the first meeting of the Constitutional Convention in September last year, heads of delegations agreed in principle that the Constitution should be altered to allow for interchanges of powers and to remove the existing doubts about the operation of the present power. Honourable senators will also recall that, during the Convention, the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) announced that we would seek to amend the existing power by referendum and have a new provision included to permit matters to be referred by the Australian Parliament to the State parliaments.
Further, the Prime Minister announced our intention that, in any interchange of powers, whether from the Commonwealth to the States or the States to the Commonwealth, the same provisions should be available as to duration, revocability and the power to apply terms and conditions.
Mr President, the Bill before the Senate, therefore, covers both the introduction of the new power and clarification of the existing power and makes corresponding provisions with respect to both. The Bill has been settled in consultation with the parliamentary counsel of the States as was foreshadowed at the Constitutional Convention. The State governments have also been kept informed of progress with the drafting. The relevant standing committee of the Australian Constitutional Convention was also given the opportunity of commenting on a draft of the Bill. The committee asked that a few matters be looked at again. The text of the Bill reflects their principal concern as to its operation- this was that there be no discrimination between States in any designation by the Commonwealth.
Mr President, I turn now to the details of the Bill. The new power of reference by the Australian Parliament is dealt with separately by the proposed new section 108a. The other proposed new section- section 108b- contains the provisions concerning terms and conditions, duration and revocability applicable to interchange of powers whether from the Commonwealth to the States or the States to the Commonwealth. The existing section 51 -paragraph XXXVII- will remain unaltered in form, but will operate in conjunction with section 108b, thus removing the doubts the States have felt on these matters.
For technical reasons, in the case of references by the Australian Parliament, the terms ‘designate’ and ‘designation’ have been used. To illustrate, if the Australian Parliament desired to empower the States to levy a tax which technically came within the category of excise duties, as to which the powers of this Parliament are exclusive, it would not seem appropriate to speak of the Australian Parliament referring the matter, for the power of the Australian Parliament as regards excise is to levy a Commonwealth tax to be paid into the Commonwealth Treasury and not a State tax paid into the State Treasury. In accordance with what I understand to be the express wish of the States, section 108a ensures that, if a designation is made, it is available to every State, so far as it deals with a matter that is relevant to the peace, order and good government of the State. Of course, no State will be bound to exercise the new power so conferred.
A designation of a matter by the Australian Parliament is to be possible- indeed, this is the principal purpose of the new provision- in respect of its otherwise exclusive powers. But State laws passed in pursuance of a designation by the Australian Parliament will be subject to the general limitations applicable under our Constitution to State laws- for example, section 92 will apply. The provisions of section 108b are, as I have said, to apply to references- I will use that term for simplicity- by either a State or the Commonwealth. The doubts that the States have felt about their powers to revoke or impose conditions should be removed by the express provisions of this section. A reference will be revocable at any time and will be able to be made subject to conditions. I hope that these provisions will encourage the States to refer to this Parliament powers such as family law, defamation and shipping and navigation which, in this context, have been raised at the Constitutional Convention. On the other hand, it might suit this Parliament, as well as the States, to refer to the States the power to make laws with respect to Commonwealth places within the States. Provision has not been made for a reference to be made so as to be irrevocable during a fixed period, although careful thought was given both by the States and by the Commonwealth to including such a provision. I think it is fair to say that it was generally agreed that the absence of such a provision would encourage references and that, given goodwill on both sides, such a provision would be unnecessary. Without goodwill, a reference power will not be of any value anyway.
The proposed alteration to the Constitution contained in this Bill, if approved by the people, will introduce a degree of flexibility in the distribution of powers under our Constitution that has been lacking for far too long. I hope the Senate will pass it speedily, so that it can be submitted to the people at the time of the Senate election. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Motion ( by Senator Greenwood) proposed:
That the debate be now adjourned.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Webster)- The question is that the debate be now adjourned. Those of that opinion say ‘aye ‘.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- To the contrary no’.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- I think the ayes have it.
– To save calling for a division, could it be noted that the Government has voted against the adjournment?
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- Yes.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Senator Murphy) proposed:
That the resumption of the debate be made an order of the day for a later hour this day.
I do that because whatever might have been the arguments raised in support of a speedy debate for the other proposals to amend the Constitution, there is absolutely no justification which on any pretext can be put forward on this occasion. This is a Bill which comes into the Senate for the very first occasion. It is a Bill which has been seen by members of this Parliament only this week. Whatever arrangements might have been made between the parliamentary counsel of the States and the Commonwealth, surely this Parliament has an obligation under the Constitution and as part of the legislative process to give consideration to the legislation which is brought forward. There is absolutely no opportunity to deal with this matter if it is introduced into the Senate this afternoon and we are expected to debate it at some hour this evening. This is the type of thing which we have constantly opposed and have criticised the Government for doing.
– Why should you question any proposition that Senator Murphy puts to you?
– I know the way in which Senator Wright puts it, and it is typical of the way in which this Government is treating the Senate and this country. Whatever the Government decides, that is good enough and, as Senator Wright suggests, the temerity of anybody to question what this Government is doing is to be categorised immediately as an obstruction. I certainly know that the Australian people will not regard that meaning of ‘obstruction’ as the meaning which they have attributed to the word in times past. I note also- and this highlights what the Government is seeking of the Senate- that the State Premiers, for the information of the State governments and the State parliaments, were sent letters dated 1 March last in which they were informed of the text of this Bill. Because on 4 March they had not replied to the Prime Minister, he was regarding the absence of a reply as concurrence by the States.
– A failure to pass.
– In the context, I think that what Senator Withers has said is a fair interpretation of the Government’s attitude. But it is the height of conceit and arrogance to believe that what you decide upon 1 March ought to be acceded to by all the State governments and the Senate within a week of that happening. The fact that there is no opportunity for consideration and debate is presumably consistent with the standards of the new Government which Mr Whitlam has imposed upon this country. We for our part believe that we ought to have the opportunity to consider this measure. We believe that we ought to be able to consider it in consultation with our colleagues in the State parliaments. We believe that we ought to have the opportunity to find out really what these provisions mean. If, in the long run, it becomes a question of supporting the proposals, then at least the measures will benefit in their presentation to the Australian people from the fact that consideration has meant a consensus and therefore a unanimity, if that is to be the result. But I suppose that the way in which this Government is conducting its affairs cannot be better highlighted than by the pre-emptory way in which it expects honourable senators to bend their knees at Mr Whitlam ‘s bidding in respect of this Bill. Therefore we trust that our amendment which asks that the matter be adjourned until next week is not regarded as unreasonable even by Senator Murphy and his colleagues.
-The Australian Democratic Labor Party supports the amendment which has been moved by Senator Greenwood on behalf of the Opposition. There are few Bills more fundamental to the operation of our Constitution than the one which we are now asked to consider. It deals and goes to the whole contract of Federation and to the definition and redistribution of powers. I know that Senator Murphy in his second reading speech recited certain consultations which have taken place between the States and the Commonwealth and the Parliamentary draftsmen both institutions and also other consultations, but we are senators representing the States. We have to realise that the people are entitled to be informed before the referendum as to what are the implications of the vote that they are being asked to cast one way or the other.
The Constitution provides that there shall be a short distribution of a pamphlet which will attempt to set out the implications of this proposal as seen by one side and by the other. But there must be a fairly complete dialogue between now and then, and the proper place for such a dialogue is obviously in this Parliament so that the representatives of the States in the Commonwealth Parliament- the senators assembled here- can investigate, examine and disclose what is implicit and what are the consequences of this legislation for the information of those who ultimately have to determine the redistribution of powers. For that reason, I think particularly in this case there is no justification whatsoever for any precipitate action in relation to the important and fundamental matter which is now before us for consideration. On those bases I very strongly- perhaps more strongly than I do on most occasions- support the amendment moved by Senator Greenwood.
-On behalf of the Australian Country Party I indicate that we will support the amendment. This is a new Bill, and the same reason cannot be advanced as was advanced previously, namely, that we have had 3 months in which to consider it. We have not been able to consider it because it has not been debated previously, and it has not been defeated or otherwise dealt with in the Senate. There is all the more reason in this instance for being given time to consider the Bill and to go into the matter thoroughly before we agree to the Bill.
– This Bill has been heralded for some time. The matter was raised at the Constitutional Convention. It is quite clear that not only is nothing precipitate ever going to be done but, as far as the Opposition is concerned, if it can help it nothing will be done by the Senate to assist the Government in its program of putting to the people at the next Senate election certain proposals for altering the Constitution. When a proposal in respect of some alteration of the Constitution is put up in this chamber honourable senators opposite say: ‘ It should be discussed at the Constitutional Convention’. When we bring forward a proposal that has been discussed at the Constitutional Convention and in respect of which a great deal of consultation has been had with the parliamentary counsel of the States and so on, honourable senators opposite are not even prepared to proceed with the second reading of the matter.
If ever a thing was clear enough that the principle of the Bill ought to have been and could be proceeded with forthwith in the light of the discussions on this matter that have taken place over many months, it is this Bill. If honourable senators opposite encounter difficulties with certain clauses of the Bill, one can understand that, but they are not prepared to go forward with a thing which is well known and has been discussed in the newspapers. The principle of the Bill is beyond any question. It is well known, and it has been publicised and considered. The State colleagues of whom honourable senators opposite speak have had ample time not only to be apprised of the Bill but also to endorse the principles of the Bill, but honourable senators opposite are not even prepared to give the Bill a second reading at this stage, let alone question the clauses of the Bill.
– Was there any formal report of the discussions in the Constitutional Convention presented to the Parliament?
-Of the debates of the Convention?
– You say that there was a general concurrence. Has that been reported formally to the Parliament?
– I am not sure how much of the debates of the Convention and other matters have been presented to the Parliament, but I know that Opposition senators are determined to see to it that the announced program of the Government to put the proposals for an alteration to the Constitution to the people for their decision at the time of the Senate election is spragged. The shortest course has been taken. The Government has had to wait for the 3- months interval in respect of 4 measures. We have had the utmost obstruction regarding those measures. Now, in regard to a fifth measure which, in its principles, really represents the wishes of the Australian Government and of the States, the Opposition is not even prepared to proceed to the second reading of the Bill. I suppose honourable senators opposite will accomplish their will if they want to use their numbers to carry on in this way. One cannot do anything about it until after the next Senate election.
That the words proposed to be left out (Senator Greenwood’s amendment) be left out.
The Senate divided. (The Deputy President- Senator Webster)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Webster)- The question now is that the words proposed to be inserted be inserted.
– May it be recorded that in order to save a further division on the consequential amendment the Government opposes that consequential amendment but will not seek a division of the Senate.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
That the motion, as amended, be agreed to.
The Senate divided. (The Deputy President- Senator Webster)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Sitting suspended from 5.46 to 8 p.m. (Quorum formed)
Message received from the House of Representatives in the following terms:
The House of Representatives transmits to the Senate the following Resolution which was agreed to by the House of Representatives this day and requests the concurrence of the Senate therein:
1 ) That the following matter be referred to the Joint Committee on the Broadcasting of Parliamentary Proceedings for inquiry and report:
whether the televising of portion of the Parliamentary debates and proceedings is desirable; and
if so, to what extent and in what manner the telecasts should be undertaken.
That the committee, for any purposes related to this inquiry, have power to send for persons, papers and records.
JAMES F. COPE
House of Representatives,
Canberra, 7 March 1974
Motion (by Senator Wriedt)- by leaveproposed:
1 ) That the Senate concurs in the resolution transmitted to the Senate by message No. 9 of the House of Representatives, namely;
that the following matter be referred to the Joint Committee on the Broadcasting of Parliamentary Proceedings for inquiry and report:
whether the televising of portion of the parliamentary debates and proceedings is desirable; and
if so, to what extent and in what manner the telecast should be undertaken.
That the Committee, for any purpose related to this inquiry, have power to send for persons, papers and records.
That the foregoing resolution be transmitted to the House of Representatives by message.
Debate (on motion by Senator Greenwood) adjourned.
Debate resumed (vide page 156).
– The Senate is debating the Speech given upon the opening of the Second Session of the 28th Parliament. It is a document wholly prepared and written by the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) and delivered, of constitutional necessity, by Her Majesty the Queen. The Queen, as constitutional Head of State, has no responsibility whatsoever as to the content of the document and no capacity for discretionary veto. I find it more than a little whimsical that a Prime Minister and a political party pledged to a republic in Australia, and particularly a Prime Minister who has stated publicly and on record that he sees the monarchy- I use his words- as being outmoded and democratically irrelevant, should seek to use the monarchy for this purpose. A Prime Minister who seeks to remove from this country all the signs of monarchy- the anthem, the flag and the insignia of the monarchynevertheless sees in it in an election year a charisma which will help his purpose.
If the Speech itself purports to have a message, that message lies in its penultimate paragraph which alleges that the Government has a program ‘for which it has a clear mandate from the Australian people’. What I want to say and to demonstrate emphatically is that what purported to be a mandate from the Australian people in December 1972 is now exposed not as a mandate but as a confidence trick. By taking 25 individual mandates or so-called mandates, I want to expose 25 individual confidence tricks, because the Australian people and this Parliament in the coming months are to judge this Government on its performance. If a mid-term Senate election serves any purpose- and it does; it serves a very valuable purpose- it serves the purpose of judging the government of the day on what it has done. The Government, in the Speech, has invited that judgment to be made, and the people will make that judgment in the ballot box.
I now invite the Senate and the Australian people to make a judgment on 25 mandates clearly sought and 25 confidence tricks clearly perpetrated. In the first the Prime Minister, as Leader of the Australian Labor Party, made a clear promise that, if elected, he would reduce inflation in Australia. His policy speech gave that clear undertaking; his prior speeches throughout Australia made that clear. The fact is that when he took office in December 1972 inflation was running at 4.7 per cent and falling. It is now running at 14.2 per cent and rising and is predicted to go to 20 per cent at the end of this year. That clearly constitutes a broken promise. The contempt that the Prime Minister and this Government have for the people of Australia is clearly shown in this Speech, because, although it is some 2,450 words in length, inflation is given 2 1 begrudging words. What platitudes and nonsense it is. The Speech of Her Majesty The Queen states:
Nevertheless, it regards inflation as a most urgent domestic problem and will continue its efforts to contain it.
It believes the many anti-inflationary measures it has already taken are having an important restraining effect.
If 14.2 per cent rising to 20 per cent is a restraining effect then the Government is being seduced by a boa constrictor. There can be no meaning to words in this kind of nonsense. So, on the mandate sought in relation to inflation and on the performance and prospect given, clearly there was no mandate. The public are free of their charge in this matter and so is the Senate. The second mandate sought was: ‘Put us in and we will reduce strikes and industrial turmoil.’ The Prime Minister and the Minister for Labour (Mr Clyde Cameron) said: ‘There will be less strikes under Labor. We understand the trade union movement.’ Mr Clyde Cameron said: ‘We will reduce strikes. ‘ That mandate is in tatters. Strikes are at a record level. A situation of go slow, work to regulations, a crippling slowing down of the community and a reduction in productivity is everywhere. This is an evil which has been built into a system designed by a Minister for Labour who advocates the very atmosphere of industrial conflict. He has a vested interest in industrial conflict. So, on the second mandate sought there is a clear repudiation. On the third mandate the Prime Minister and his Deputy Barnard) said: ‘Put us in and the defences of Australia will be preserved. We will ensure that the money spent on defence in Australia will not fall below 3.2 per cent to 3.5 per cent of the gross national product. We will maintain the forces. ‘ This was clearly repudiated. The first Budget reduced expenditure to 2.9 per cent and that mandate was repudiated.
I refer now to the fourth item which is interest rates. There is no clearer statement on any issue in relation to seeking a mandate than on interest rates. Prior to this we had a lecture by the Treasurer (Mr Crean) which was widely published in Australia. He said: ‘The Labor Party is a low interest rate Party. I, Mr Crean, believe that interest rates should not be more than 3 per cent or 4 per cent. ‘ The policy speech by Mr Whitlam states:
Labor will deliberately plan to reduce interest rates wherever practicable.
A major instrument of action by Labor in the last Budget was to increase interest rates substantially. The effect of this is that interest rates in Australia today are the highest that Australia has ever known. By the deliberate action of increasing the long term bond rate the Labor Government wilfully forced up the general overdraft interest rate. Of course, this in turn went into the commercial lending market and into the ordinary commercial rates for hire purchase and home purchase. We are now talking of 10 per cent, 1 1 per cent, 12 per cent and even 13 per cent and 14 per cent, which is a disgraceful form of usury deliberately brought about by a socalled workers’ government which has developed a Bacchanalian taste for itself and the attitude of: Anything will do for the workers. This was done wilfully. It was known that it would reach out and put onto every home purchase, every purchase of a motor car, of a television set, of a washing machine and of a refrigerator a direct extra charge. This was charge on the working people, the little people whom Labor is supposed to lead. So, with a snap of the fingers every person paying off a home found that his monthly payments of interest alone- not of capital- rose by between $20 and $40. This was robbing the people’s pocket by a deliberate and direct action of the Labor Party and it was a repudiation of its policy.
– They got nothing for that, nothing at all.
– That is right, nothing at all. In fact, the people were simply robbed. Their savings in the banks are being robbed because the interest on savings is far below the rate of inflation. Every person buying a car on hire purchase now pays $200 or $300 more in interest alone. Scarcity was deliberately created by the Labor Party. The Labor Party breeds on scarcity. It deliberately reduced the immigration rate, knowing that by so doing it would reduce the work force in the basic industries. It knew that it would slow down steel production, the production of domestic appliances and the automotive industries, and it deliberately set out to create scarcity and inflation. Let anybody in the Labor Party say that it did not do so. If I were to set out deliberately to create inflation in a country and to create it in a massive form I would do 5 things. I would severely cut back the immigration program, having planned the industries to absorb those migrants. I would then go out and urge the trade unions into higher and higher bids for over award wages. I would transfer 10,000 or more people from the private sector to the public sector so that there would be even greater scarcity. I would raise interest rates. I would then dismantle all the support to the rural industries, such as taxation incentives, subsidies and the superphosphate bounty so that I could deliberately create higher and higher food prices, which already have risen 22 per cent, an all time record. That would be a deliberate plan of a Machiavellian mind to create inflation. That is precisely what this Labor Government has done to the people of Australia.
To those who say that this is nonsense, that this comes from overseas and that everybody knows it, let us put the record straight. For 17 years of the 20 years that we were in Government Australia had the lowest rate of inflation of any country in the industrialised world. The rate averaged 2.5 per cent. When other countries went mad with inflation we kept on our normal course. When other countries were bedevilled by strikes and stoppages we kept on having a proud record. So the former Government showed quite clearly that in a world which was high in inflation it could manage to contain inflation. This Government has achieved something which is unique. Until now Australia had kept a low interest rate in a world of rising interest rates. The Labor Government has brought us into the world of inflation and it must accept the blame. So in relation to the fourth mandate we have a fourth repudiation. But the Leader of the Labor Party, Mr Whitlam, as his fifth point of mandate said: ‘Put us in and we will reduce taxation’. His policy speech stated that taxation was more than high enough at the time, particularly in the higher incomes, and that the job to do was to lower it. He stated:
The huge and automatic increase in Commonwealth revenue ensures that rates of taxation need not be increased at any level to implement a Labor Government ‘s program.
The most pressing need in the tax field is to retard the trend by which inflation has forced lower and middle income earners into the high tax brackets.
In order to obtain a mandate that was a clear promise that the Labor Party would at least hold most taxation and that it would reduce taxation in the middle and lower income tax groups. The first opportunity saw a massive increase in taxation. There was a promise not to increase company taxation, but it was increased. Despite promises not to increase taxation, all the indirect taxes, from those on cigarettes to alcohol, even brandy, were raised. Nothing was done- except that we have been given some belated promise now because there is to be a Senate election- to adjust the tax schedules. So on the fifth level there was a repudiation. Now, Labor said quite clearly: ‘Put us in power and we will provide low cost housing within the capacity of those on the lower incomes and the middle incomes to purchase. We will provide such housing in sufficient quantity’. The policy speech of the Prime Minister stated:
We will make a massive attack on the problem of land and housing costs.
Housing costs are rising at a record rate- 20 to 30 per cent a year, at this moment. Housing today is facing a crisis as the building industry indicates. There is an acute scarcity of home building materials. Indeed, the Labor Government has achieved the impossible. It has created a chronic shortage of the 3 inch nail for home building. It must have taken a lot of sweat to achieve this. The Government did it deliberately by denying labour to the basic industries, by denying the capacity of the steel industry to expand and the capacity of the building industry to expand. I repeat that the policy speech stated:
We will make a massive attack on the problem of land and housing costs.
Then this Government is put in power and it cynically increases interest rates and drives money out of the permanent building societies and out of the home lending societies. This is repudiation on a massive scale. Its mandate, after 6 items, is in tatters already. I have chosen 25 items to mention. I am sorry to weary the Senate with them but they are of vast importance. I could have chosen another 25 to mention. I now come to the saddest of all the promises. That is the promise by the Labor Party that if it were elected to power it would in a short time bring to the Aboriginal people of Australia a new deal, giving them a chance for dignity, good housing, good education and employment. It stated that it would give them a chance to pursue their independent right to living in their own life style. There could have been no more thoroughly articulated request for a mandate on any subject than that which was requested in regard to Aborigines. Mr Whitlam said in his policy speech:
Australia ‘s treatment of her Aboriginal people will be the thing upon which the rest of the world will judge Australia and Australians, not just now but in the greater perspective of history.
Several days ago the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Cavanagh) said:
Labor’s implementation of its policy in Aboriginal Affairs has been one of disaster.
It has been worse than that. By a wilfully extravagant claim of what it could achieve, of the
Valhalla or Garden of Eden that could be achieved and achieved quickly, the Labor Party misled the whole of the Aboriginal people and a substantial number of non-Aboriginal people of this community who were of good will, good heart and sentiment and who wanted, as we all do, to rectify the errors of a century and a half in this field. The Labor Party drew enormous support because of it. But what happened? When it came to office its policies amounted to patronage, handouts, platitudes and gross mismanagement We find that the Aboriginal people and their cause has been set back years. The Aborigines find themselves in somewhat the same position as the negroes in the United States of America who were deluded into believing that the passage of a law would give them freedom. The Aborigines believed in an instant dignity and an instant freedom. Who was to blame them? Who went amongst them and who misled them? If blame is to be attributed, the Labor Government of this country must take the blame for the tragedy and the provocations of today. There, in the words of Senator Cavanagh, is the repudiation of the Aboriginal mandate.
The Labor Party has always made the claim that if it were put into office it would look after the employment opportunities of the working people of Australia- those people who need to go to secondary industry for employment because rural industry is not labour intensive. In Australia where rural industry and the extractive industries are themselves not labour intensive, it is a vital necessity that we should supply sound secondary industries to provide employment and, more importantly, to provide a security for defence in the future. There were some grand words said on this. I quote them:
A Labor Government will set this fundamental goal for Australian industry -
Honourable senators can hear the role of jingoistic dreams.
– I can hear the roll of jingoism now from the honourable senator.
– The honourable senator should be able to detect it. Nobody would be a better judge. I return to what was said on behalf of the Australian Labor Party:
A Labor Government will set this fundamental goal for Australian industry: that Australia shall build her basic requirements of rolling stock, pipelines, ships and light and fighter aircraft in Australia.
One of the first acts of the Minister for Defence (Mr Barnard), having had a trip abroad on a VIP aircraft on the pretext that he was looking for fighter aircraft to purchase, knowing that his
Cabinet had decided not to buy them, was to decide that we would not have any new fighter aircraft. One of his acts of the last few days was to say to the American people: ‘We will not take part in the partial or the whole building of American aircraft by offset building in Australia’. There is today in the Australian aircraft industry a condition of great peril. Not in decades has the industry been in such demoralisation and disrepair. There is no program for aircraft building in Australia. There is no replacement for the Mirage aircraft. The Defence Minister has solved the problem. He has solved it by abolishing fighter squadrons so that he does not need fighter aircraft. Let anyone go and tell the former members of the No. 76 Mirage Squadron at Williamtown, now abandoned, that this Government has any virtues. Let anyone try to re-assemble in a decade the skills, dedication and qualities of that former squadron, whose reputation is recorded widely by Australia’s history. This is the Government that was going to build our basic requirements, our rolling stock, pipelines, ships and light and fighter aircraft in Australia. From where are we getting the pipelines? I need no answer. That is a rhetorical question. Where are the fighter aircraft? So item No. 8 goes out the window.
Let me come to item No. 9. The policy speech of the Australian Labor Party has a lot to say about shipping. Mr Deputy President, you will remember that it was stated in the policy speech that we would build our ships in Australia. I now continue to quote from the policy speech:
A Labor Government will establish a joint shipping venture between the ANL and the private ship owners. To encourage future maritime employment, and shipbuilding activity, a Labor Government will introduce a system for ship construction finance along the lines of the Japanese Government Import-Export Bank operations.
We had to get out of the way in King’s Hall because delegation after delegation of people who worked in the dockyards of Australia came here, quite rightly, saying to the Australian Government: ‘For God’s sake do not dismantle this shipbuilding and ship repairing industry. You are putting us out of employment’. From the Captain Cook dockyard and the Cockatoo Island dockyard they came. I have seen under a heading, ‘Dockyard loses $2 1.5m order’, that the Newcastle State Dockyard has lost what would have been its biggest order, worth $2 1.5m, for an oil drilling ship because of the Federal Government’s new shipbuilding subsidy policy. My goodness, this is another boa constrictor restraining policy. What is the Federal Government’s new shipbuilding policy? It is one of reducing the subsidies and of reducing the incentives that the former Liberal Government set up. Where indeed is the work for the dockyards? Where is the building of the DDL destroyers that were mentioned today? Where is the building of the new ships for the Australian Navy? No government has cut back shipbuilding in Australia quite like the Labor Government and the Labor Government stands indicted for a major repudiation of its policies.
I pass now to item 10. The Labor Party, in its policy speech, said that it would give a new deal to pensioners. The honourable senators on my left who are having a private caucus on their own at the moment might like to remember the policy speech which stated that the Government intended raising the basic pension rate to 25 per cent of average weekly earnings. Policies tend to change from one Caucus meeting to another and a Cabinet decision is only the office boy’s job needing the ratifications of the Caucus general manager. But it is said by those who have been deadly silent on all these other broken promises and have endorsed them by their silence that the Labor Government proposes to increase the rate of pension in the autumn for single pensioners by $3 a week and for married couples by $2.50 a week. If that is true, the increase will not even build up from the last pension rise to the increased cost of living as at last month. In 6 months’ time, when the next pension rise should occur, the pension system will be in chaos. The fact is that since the Labor Government took office the pension, which was running at just on 21 per cent of the average living wage, fell in value and is continuing to fall in value. At the very best the extra $3 a week would be slightly worse than the 21 per cent. By AugustSeptember pensioners will be in a pitiful plight and will be cut back to 19 or 20 per cent of average weekly earnings. There will be no fulfilment at all on the basis of taking the pensioners along the journey of raising the basic pension to 25 per cent of average weekly earnings.
– What are average weekly earnings?
-I challenge the Labor Government, including the talkative Senator Milliner, to deny that to raise the pension to 22.5 per cent of the average weekly earnings halfway along this journey- by mid-year the Labor Government will be halfway along its normal expected term, leaving aside its accidentproneness the pension rate must rise by $4.80 and not by $3. To raise the pension rate to 25 per cent of the average weekly earnings the increase would need to be $5.80. Indeed, no attempt at all will be made to achieve this. I concede the silence as a compliment from Senator Milliner.
The next matter I raise is more dreadful. The Labor Government has wilfully set out to dismantle the private and charitable nursing homes. Its stated policy is to scrap those homes and to build government nursing homes. When my Party lost office we left the pensioners in nursing homes with between $2 and $6 a week in their pockets. Today the whole of the pension rate is absorbed in nursing homes and the families of the pensioners have to provide an additional $10 to $15. The additional $3 to a pensioner in a nursing home, to a pensioner under intensive care, will not touch the side. This Government, by its inflation, not only has robbed the pensioners but also has robbed the pensioners’ families. Is it not interesting that this should be done?
The Labor Party policy speech on pre-schools stated that it would make pre-school education available to every Australian child. I hold in my hand a letter from the Australian Pre-School Association containing telegram after telegram of protest addressed to the Australian Government. The Association claims that the Government is repudiating its policy, is in fact refusing to adopt the Fry report on pre-school education and is moving into a form of child care instead. The Victorian Branch of the Australian Pre-School Association sent a telegram to the Prime Minister on behalf of 1 7 major organisations concerned with day care and pre-school services in Victoria. The telegram states:
We express grave concern at Press reports of the complete disregard of the Fry report and of the request to Social Welfare Commission to make alternative recommendations. We stress the need for recognition of strong educational component in all pre-school services. We urge that this request to the Social Welfare Commission be withdrawn until full o sideration be given to Fry report.
That letter is not from the Liberal Party but from the Australian Pre-School Association and says that it believes the Labor Government is repudiating its promise on pre-schools.
– What is the date?
– The date is 27 February 1974, one week ago. If the honourable senator feels he would be educated I will happily table the document. On no subject has there been more repudiation than on local government. The Labor Party, in its pre-election campaign stated to local government bodies: ‘Put us in and we will give you full and equal status with State and Federal government, full and equal rights to go to the Loan Council and to go to the Grants Commission’. The policy speech states that the Labor Party will give local government full access to the Loan Council and Grants Commission.
We debated in the Senate many months ago a Grants Commission Bill which did the very reverse from giving full access to the Grants Commission. What it did was an utter repudiation. In effect it said: ‘Before you can get anything out of us you have to understand that Tom Uren is the commissar of regionalism in Australia. Before you get anything form yourself into regions, not just your regions but regions which Mr Uren says shall be regions. If you do not do that you cannot even come along on your knees begging with your begging bowl. Having done that, put up to us, to Mr Uren, a proposition. If we do not like the proposition you cannot take it to the Grants Commission. But if we approve the region and if we approve the matter that you are asking for, you can then go to the Grants Commission’.
Is that full access to the Grants Commission? Every local government alderman and shire councillor in Australia knows that that mandate was the most gross confidence trick that has ever be. ,i inflicted on people in Australia. They know today that it is the takeover bid of the now Prime Minister, Mr Whitlam. He says that he does not believe that there ought to be 932 local government bodies in Australia. He is on record, in a written speech, as saying that to local government bodies. He says that there is no need for the Senate, and sometimes I agree with him when I look to my left. I am strengthened in that view when I listen to those on my left. The Prime Minister does not want a Senate or a monarchy. He wants to abolish the 6 State governments and he wants to reduce them all to some 40 bodies, 12 local government bodies in the cities and about 25 others for the rural areas. All of them will be directly responsible to the Federal Government to Mr Big himself.
– Under section 96.
– Yes, under section 96. All the talk about direct access was only humbug. The next matter with which wish to deal is the interesting little subject of State housing. In its policy speech the Australian Labor Party said that a Labor Government would request each State authority to estimate the funds it would require to reduce the waiting period for houses to 12 months. What is the waiting period for houses at this moment? Becaue of the Government’s restrictions the waiting period, instead of being reduced, has been grossly increased. That is another repudiation. There was the strongly implied promise in the Australian Labor Party’s policy speech that its actions as a government would result in the reduction of local government rates. The policy speech states:
Australians pay some of the world ‘s highest rates for some of the world ‘s worst municipal services.
It went on to indicate that the reason For this was the refusal of the Commonwealth government to assist local government. In the period of just over a year that the Labor Government, tragically, has been in office local government rates have steadily risen. That is another repudiation. Perhaps the choicest pieces are to be found in an examination of such things as telephone charges. It is quite clear from the policy speech what the Australian Labor Party would do in this respect if it were in office. It is quite clear that there would be no increases in telephone or postage charges. It is quite clear that all that was going to go by the board. What were we going to have in its place? I shall quote again from the policy speech. It states:
That is the end of the message. We ought to have 3 minutes silence for the wilful and mischievous inventiveness of the person who wrote this policy speech for the now Prime Minister. Has there ever been such a repudiation? Up went telephone charges and up went postage charges. Who was hit hardest? The people who could least afford it. Country people had their mail services cut. The small voluntary organisations that wanted to send mail to those on their mailing lists who give to this country the dedication, the charity, the great incentive, the stimulus and the effort that makes up the quality of our nation were affected. The Government has attacked those people.
In the face of telling us that the Government has a mandate to do certain things the PostmasterGeneral, Mr Lionel Bowen, said to an official of the Australian Postal Workers Union- a man who could no longer stomach the actions of the Labor Party and resigned from his position as No. 3 on the Australian Labor Party’s Senate ticket for Victoria; he knew the consequences of the repudiation- that the Government will have to put up the cost of ordinary postage, now 7c, to, as he has indicated, 10c, which represents a 30 per cent increase. Where is the mandate to do this kind of raiding of the Australian people and what effect will it have on inflation? Where has there been a reduction in the rate of inflation? As the members of the Australian Labor Party are sensitive and as the Minister for Primary Industry, Senator Wriedt, is one of those Jekyll and Hyde characters who somehow or other vote for the Labor Party’s policies in Cabinet and Caucus and then goes outside and says: ‘You must not blame me; it is them. I am a mee fellow’, let us have a little look at the subject of rural finance. Some of the contents of the Australian Labor Party’s policy speech on this subject are highly intriguing. The Australian Labor Party thought that it would be a good idea to buy support on the basis of offering lower interest rates. So the Prime Minister said in his policy speech:
Fundamental to Labor’s policies on resource development, reconstruction and rehabilitation of rural industries and the rural work-force is the ready availability of long term low interest finance.
Of course, the Australian Labor Party has not provided long term low interest finance; it has provided high interest finance. Wherever I turn on rural matters I find that the same nonsense is occurring. As the 17th repudiation I refer to the subject of disasters. By that I do not mean the disaster of the election of a Labor Government; I mean the disaster of the floods in Queensland and northern New South Wales. In its policy speech the Labor Party said:
We shall establish a national disaster organisation to handle these crises with speed and efficiency.
After 14 or 15 months of office where is the national disaster organisation except in the mind of the Labor Caucus? The people of Queensland and northern New South Wales have every reason to understand the repudiation of the mandate. I go from that point to another point. The policy speech states that Labor’s rural policies are founded on orderly marketing, stabilisation and progressive reconstruction and that a Labor government will strive to extend economic stability to every primary industry and rural region. What happened when the Labor Party was elected to office? It reduced taxation incentives. It attacked subsidies. Now it aims to take away the superphosphate bounty.
– Does the honourable senator believe in socialism?
-No, I do not believe in socialism. It has produced you, Senator McLaren. If ever there was walking proof of the disaster of socialism it is Senator McLaren. Indeed, if ever there is any lowering of standards and if ever there are inane ideas coming forward they are coming forward from the Senator
McLarens of this world who mouth to us doctrinaire socialism. Senator McLaren should tell the farmers that he believes in socialism.
– I am a farmer.
– You are a rural disaster, Senator McLaren. I pass on to the field of primary industry and I cite the failure of the Government to tackle the mounting problems caused by changes in international trade policies. To win votes Mr Whitlam said that the unfair freight rates imposed by overseas shipping companies and the inflation throughout Australia has resulted in a breakdown in the economic viability of many rural areas. The other day he said that the farmers have never had it so good. He recognised before the election that there had been a breakdown in the economic viability of many rural areas. Now, after one or two lucky harvests and one or two lucky seasons, he fails to recognise the great indebtedness that every farmer in Australia has built up over a decade of farming in a country which is drought-stricken and which will always suffer great extremes. He has failed to recognise that. He has begun to punish the farmers.
The earlier interjections by Senator McLaren have reminded me of the subject of chicken feed. I shall now cite the words in the policy speech of the Labor Party on wheat. It states:
A Labor Government will authorise a feasibility study for storing the periodic surpluses of wheat in strategically located areas which are periodically devastated by drought.
The only thing I have heard about chicken feed has been in this chamber. That is the 20th repudiation. The 21st was, of course, a double cross. It was a beautiful double cross. The Labor Party said to the grape growers of South Australia, New South Wales and elsewhere that it would remove the wine excise. It then imposed a tax on brandy. That has had a bad effect upon the grape growers of Australia. Where in the policy speech can one find any reference to the kind of electoral reforms that are being thrust on us at present? Where is there any talk about one vote one value? The Australia Party would not have been terribly interested in giving its second preferences to a Party that believed in first past the post voting. We are grateful to Senator Cant for the exposition today of his doctrinaire socialist policy of wiping out minority parties and the independents. The only person who has a view on the subject of one vote one value is the Minister for Services and Property, Mr Daly, who wants one vote in his electorate to have 2 values. About two-thirds of his electorate is made up of migrants. He knows that if he can get the referendum proposal through on a population and not number of electors basis he will have a situation where one vote has 2 values because one-third of the people of his electorate are electors and twothirds are migrants. God bless him.
Now I pass to some of the even more serious problems created by the Labor Party. On foreign policy, the Labor Party gave the people the view that there would be no great change from our alliances with the Western world, no weakening of ANZUS and no great weakening of SEATO, and that the Five-Power Pact would be kept intact; we would carry on, with some modifications. Then Labor was elected, and it abused every American, British and French politician. It worked on one rule- only the Russians and the Chinese were to be praised and protected- until this afternoon when we heard Senator Wheeldon declaim against the Russians and attack the Chinese. That was an interesting new socialist split, if ever there was one, in a man who is Chairman of the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence. The Labor Government attacked the British, the Americans and the French. It praised and protected the Russians and the Chinese until Mr Whitlam expressed, on 3 1 October 1973, a policy for which, in my judgment, the people would give him no mandate at all. I read from his speech in Peking. He said:
In China ‘s approach to relations with other countries, we find a welcome emphasis on the principles of the equality of states and respect for the rights and views of small and middle powers.
Shades of the Paracels and the Spratlys. Mr Whitiam continued:
At a time when profound changes are taking place in the patterns of international relations, it is particularly important that the role of small and medium powers should be understood and appreciated, and that they should seize the opportunities for greater independence … In this context, China’s support for the principles of respect for the national sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of all states can make a significant contribution to strengthening peace.
Previously he uttered the gem of the century:
In Peking today, we give expression to our new international outlook. With no nation is our new aspiration symbolised more than it is with China, a power not only in our region but in the world.
If the Austraiian people had half suspected that that was the philosophy and the viewpoint of the Labor Party, it would not have received a mandate. That statement was the very rejection of everything which we ever stood for.
If one looks at Her Majesty’s Speech, which was written by the Prime Minister, one finds some wonderful words and some beautiful platitudes about how we are handling the energy crisis. This Government has cut back drastically the incentives for oil exploration in this country, at a time when if there is one thing that this country needs to do it is to search, search and search more, more and more for oil and other energy resources. To say that we have no need to worry is to misunderstand the situation. We have 70 per cent of our needs. In terms of automotive fuel, we have 100 per cent. In 10 years time, if we do nothing, we will have less than 40 per cent; in 20 years time we will have 10 per cent. We will be in peril in an energy crisis world- and we have done nothing at all.
A main theme of the Labor Party’s policy speech was that a Labor government, if elected, would look towards control of foreign investment and a plan to achieve Australian ownership. In no situation today is there more confusion and more unknown than in the policy of the Australian Government on foreign investment. Today we saw- I was about to say a little boy lost, but he was rather a tall boy with a faraway look in his eye- the Premier of Western Australia plaintively trying to obtain from the Australian Government some reassurances about an aluminium industry in Western Australia, the terms and conditions of which this Government refuses to meet and the terms and conditions of which remain in utter confusion. No one in Australia today knows what the policy of foreign investment is.
I have cited 25 points on which a mandate was sought and a repudiation was achieved. It was a massive and scandalous confidence trick. The people of Australia were cheated. They now know that. In mid-term- in 2 months time, or more, or less- they will have an opportunity to judge the Australian Government. Today we had an interesting debate on simultaneous elections. Let me make this point quite clear: It is thoroughly understandable why the Labor Party, against the views of the founding fathers and against the views of those with long sight, wishes to bring together the elections for the 2 Houses. If in retrospect this situation had applied and had existed today, there would be no Senate election in 2 months time and no chance for the Australian people to judge this Government in mid-term. Because the Labor Party wishes to resist being judged and wishes to remove, as far as possible, the opportunities for the Australian people to sit in judgment and to restrain it, it wants to remove the separate Senate.
More than a confidence trick was played on the Australian people. The Labor Party’s paid, glib writers who had been students of the Kennedy regime in America of the 1960s had seen a Western democracy hungry for values beyond the material values, hungry for what is called the quality of life- the environment, conservation, the general human values -
– They got it from tricky Dicky, didn’t they?
– Including good manners. America was hungry for the quality of life which everybody seeks. The Labor Party wrote into its policy speech threads of a new look for the young, for the eager, for the heart hungry and for those who wanted the spiritual things. In nothing has the Labor Party failed this country more. It has given us a socialist frenzy of activities, seeking to give everything to a socialist few to promote its friends in nepotism and in patronage, to go junketing around the world in chartered or purchased Boeing 707s, at a time when pensioners are scraping -
– Ha, ha!
-It ought to be clearly noted that Senator Milliner scoffed when I said at a time when pensioners are in difficulties’. The Labor Government played the greatest deception upon the Australian people when, instead of bringing those kinds of values of leadership, it brought a brawling, Rabelaisian, Bacchanalian kind of state- a state in which the individual is lost in the mob, in which violence is approved and encouraged, in which ordinary decent human values are lost, in which providence and restraint count for nothing, in which skill counts for nothing and in which the promotion comes only if one happens to know a Labor politician. I conclude by saying that the Labor Party has no mandate. It perpetrated a confidence trick. It deserves to be rejected wholly because it cheated the Australian people.
- Mr Acting Deputy President, in conformity with standing order 364, I ask that the document referred to by Senator Carrick, from the pre-school organisation, I believe it was, be tabled.
-I offer to table it. With the consent of the Senate I will do so.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Wood)- Senator Milliner, you will need to move a motion to that effect.
– I move:
That the document from the Pre-school Association, referred to by Senator Carrick, be tabled.
– I second the motion.
– It is not in writing.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT- A motion has been moved by Senator Milliner and seconded by Senator O’Byrne. The question is that the motion be agreed to. Those of that opinion say ‘aye’, to the contrary ‘no’. I think the ayes’ have it.
– Is the motion carried?
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT- Yes.
– It is not in writing.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT-
Senator Milliner, will you put it in order by putting the motion in writing?
– I suppose one could say that tonight the Senate has been subjected to a performance worthy of a Russian circus, and I think Senator Carrick probably will get some offers to join up with the circus. But he reminded me of an old unsuccessful oil driller. He plugged away, never getting any good oil. He just keeps on boring. That was a most boring speech. He was a spokesman for his side of the chamber and for the discredited and unfortunate party which misgoverned this country for so long and which is now fighting a losing discredited rearguard.
– Yesterday’s men.
– That is right. Speaking on behalf of his Party in this hysterical speech he sounded as if he was suffering from the same sort of anxiety or hysteria as his own Party suffered when it knew very well that it had had it. He was struggling to find some story so that he could try to convince somebody. I do not know whom he could possibly convince. He used words such as commissar’ and ‘Jekyll and Hyde’ and other hysterical phrases such as are used by a person who is bordering on the psychopath. There is the old saying that anyone who goes to a psychiatrist needs his head read. Senator Carrick seems to make a feature of the Reds. He is a great Red man. Really the highlight of his whole political career has been his cashing in on the Reds. It is nearly a lost cause. (Quorum formed). Senator Greenwood’s leader made an agreement that this Address-in-Reply debate would continue tonight and that any difficulties would be overlooked because it had been expected that the Senate would rise early and some people had made family commitments.
– The opportunity can and will be taken at the end of Senator O’Byrne ‘s speech to correct what is known to all who were here today to be an obvious untruth. But I make the point now: How long can a person be allowed to perpetuate the untruth which is being stated?
– I rise to a point of order. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition has stated that a remark by Senator O’Byrne was an obvious untruth. On behalf of the Government, I take exception to the remark of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, and I ask that it be withdrawn.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT- I must ask that the accusation of an untruth, unless it can be proved, be withdrawn.
- Mr Acting Deputy President, I withdraw because you ask me to do so. There was no agreement made as alleged by Senator O’Byrne. I ask that he be asked to withdraw the statement that I broke an agreement, which is offensive to me personally.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT-
Senator O’Byrne, Senator Greenwood has said that there was no agreement made and that the statement that an agreement was broken is offensive to him. I ask you to withdraw it.
- Mr Acting Deputy President, there was an agreement between Senator Greenwood’s leader and the Leader of the Government in the Senate.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT- The accusation related to Senator Greenwood. Under those circumstances I ask you to withdraw it.
– I did not make the accusation against Senator Greenwood; I made it against his leader. But if Senator Greenwood feels aggrieved, I withdraw.
- Mr Acting Deputy President, I raise on a point of order because as soon as the Leader of the Government in the Senate implied this afternoon that neither divisions nor quorums would be called tonight I asked Senator O’Byrne to come outside the chamber in order to discuss with him various matters about this evening. One of those matters was that I would give him no guarantee on behalf of any honourable senators on my side of the chamber that quorums would not be called. I make this clear. I told Senator O’Byrne this and I hope that he will agree that this afternoon I did inform him of this.
- Mr Acting Deputy President, I will admit that my esteemed colleague and Opposition Whip, Senator Young, did discuss this matter with me. But we are the Opposition and Government Whips in this place, and we have to have regard to arrangements that are made by our leaders. This was announced by my leader, the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Senator Withers is not here to substantiate this agreement. The matter was between the 2 leaders. There should be some decency shown, and we should be able to proceed without disrupting the proceedings of the Senate in this way.
He has lived on repetitious and sickening Red baiting ever since the time of the old technique of the black-coated bureaucrat and the despicable propaganda of ‘open the door Richard ‘ of 1949. He and his kind knew it was false. They were attacking the Public Service and not the Opposition. They fed on this type of thing. Sometimes one would think that their heads were full of Reds when their bellies were not. I feel that tonight we have had a real old Red baiting and rabble rousing speech typical of the McCarthy era. I repudiate the attack that Senator Carrick has made on our Government. It was intemperate, ill-informed and almost incoherent because he hissed out venom like a cobra. It does him no credit and it does his Party no credit.
Senator Carrick spoke of giving judgment on 25 points of the Labor mandate, some of which related to reducing the rate of inflation. If I remember correctly, when he was relatively new his erstwhile leader used to talk about putting value back into the pound. The honourable senator referred to a confidence trick. There is no such thing as the 1 Pound. They had to get rid of it because it was being reduced in value so quickly. What dishonesty and hypocrisy it is to talk of reducing inflation. Inflation has been inherent and incipient in this country since my youth when bread was 3.5d a loaf. The only prices that come down are the bookmakers’ prices. Senator Carrick referred to broken promises and contempt for people, but what did we see when we came into power? In the war in Vietnam the Vietnamese people were suffering from all the power, technology and combined strength of the warmongers who were dropping bombs on those unfortunate people.
What came in its wake? Retribution has come in its wake and the country that initiated a containment policy and waged war today is in moral ruin. Its leader is discredited and streakers are running around the country. Senator Carrick will be one before long because he has got a streak of red in him. Under the previous Government we were sycophants of those great moral upholders. We would have tagged along behind under their so-called umbrella. Where would they have taken us? Into the morass in which they find themselves today. Our Government is following a new line, the new way of peace and friendship with our neighbours. When we came into office about 15 months ago we had no relations at all with China, one of the neighbours in our area, a country of 800 million people. We had nothing to do with them because they are Reds. Despite the hysteria of that time we are finding now that they are relatively friendly people. They want to trade with us. They have a great culture behind them. They are seeking development, but before we came into power maps were drawn and to fool the people arrows printed on them showed the alleged threat of attack by the Red Chinese. Senator Carrick thinks there is a Red under his bed.
What has happened to our foreign affairs policy? We now have a better relationship with Indonesia, Singapore, Japan and the Philippines. Our neighbours are important to us. We are no longer tied to the old militarist and capitalist system. Great Britain today is wallowing in hopelessness and that is where the friends of Senator Carrick would have this wonderful country, with all its resources and bright future. But we made a few alterations in policy to get out of the rut in which Senator Carrick would have kept us- out of the slough of despond we were in for so long under the previous Government.
Senator Carrick referred to 25 so called repudiations. They are as hollow as a drum. If we had followed the policy of the previous Government we would have had no oil from the Middle East. It would have led us into all the wars in its traditional style. They got us into every dog fight, in Korea and everywhere else down the line. Australia was involved in every war that was on. What did we get out of it? Nothing. We never got anything out of war. The longer the Liberal Government was in power the more difficult it was becoming to escape being involved in war. What did we get out of the Crimean war and the South African war? Who were the winners of those great wars? The winners were losers and the losers were the winners.
– You have your freedom.
– The honourable senator talks about freedom. It is a relative word.
– That stopped you.
-Of course it did not stop me. I lost my freedom. I gave it up in a cause. As Senator Little has raised the matter I now ask him what he was doing. He was probably planning how to sell porn in his porn shop. Not only that, he was learning how to manipulate unions as he did during his industrial career.
– You are jealous now because you did not have a union career.
– No, not jealous. Australia is only just getting its freedom back.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Wood)- Order! Senator O’Byrne, you must not reflect upon another senator by saying that he manipulates unions.
– I do not mind it.
– We have a few like him in Tasmania who are making a pretty good attempt to manipulate. They learned from him. He is an old dog for a hard track. I will return to some of the outrageous claims made by Senator Carrick. I will take him up on some to the positive aspects. Australia wants to go ahead. We do not want to paddle in the puddle of the past like Senator Carrick and his friends want us to do. They should paddle in their own puddle. I want to talk about the positive things we have done. In our first Budget we committed $843m to education, almost double the expenditure of our predecessors in that area.
– They are still whingeing about it.
– Of course. They are worse than Willy the Whingeing Pom. They make you cry. At least we had some initiative. We could see the vision splendid of making this country great, independent and free. We established the Schools Commission.
– That is a farce.
– I have heard you praise the Karmel report.
– I have praised the Karmel report but not the way the Schools Commission was set up.
– I heard you cringeing around trying to get a few extra baubles for some of your private schools. I have heard it said that you have never visited the state schools. You are a perpetuator of class divisions. You would rather look after the tall poppies rather than the ordinary Australian. We know your form, we know you well. But you could not get away from admitting that the Karmel report was a tremendous achievement and has given the go-ahead for education in Australia. The Schools Commission has been set up to tackle the great problem of the fundamental things of any democratic nation. Educate your children, enlighten your children, and then you are building up an asset for your future. The government which the honourable senator supported perpetuated the idea ‘keep them ignorant, keep them pregnant, keep them in the kitchen and you have got cheap labour’. We believe that our people can reach for the stars, can add to their dignity and expand their quality of life. These are the things to which we aspire. Consider the degree to which we have taken over responsibility for tertiary education. We have abolished fees for tertiary education, a revolutionary concept in Australia.
– You are pandering to the silvertails.
– I would like to set a lot of silvertails on your silver tail. The young people in our universities must, and do, appreciate the fact that higher learning and tertiary education is no longer an area of perpetuated vested interest, that people can aspire to achieve the highest and widest range for their talents- and we are providing the basis for this. We initiated the noncompetitive living allowance for full time and unbonded Australian students. If people wanted to get something from the tight, lousy-bagged government which existed until we came into power, they had to bond themselves. They had to agree to be bound to follow a particular line whereas our view is that by investing in the minds of men- our greatest asset- we set them free and they can choose where they want to go. Not so the previous Government. This is one of the mandates we were given and one of the mandates we are honouring. We have provided $32m for this purpose. Not only that, we provided an educational allowance of up to $304 a year for children in their final 2 years of secondary school.
What else did we do? We made grants to libraries. We granted funds to make available 500,000 more books to college students. Further, we went into the field of teacher training, for of all the people in this country who contribute towards making this a greater nation our school teachers rank first. What was happening in teacher training? Only inadequate facilities and inadequate and limited courses were available. But we find now that the number of Commonwealth Teaching Service scholarships has increased from 120 in 1972 to well over 400 at present. What did we do about isolated children? What did we do about scholarships for preschool teachers? What did we do in these areas?
– What did you do for isolated children? You pinched our program.
– Tell us what you did?
-We put the scheme into operation. Actions, not words! All we heard from the previous Government was words: Bullfrog- 10 per cent frog. What about help for needy students? We helped them immediately. We granted $3m last year to help destitute tertiary students. What about child care standards to which we have directed our attention? What about increased salaries for academics to give them proper remuneration?
– We set up that committee.
– You set it up with words, we put it into action. These are some of the 25 mandates which Senator Carrick claims we promised but did not carry out. I am just telling the Senate the fact and putting it on the record. Regarding pensioners, I would just like to remind Senator Carrick that we have just made an announcement that the standard rate of pension will be increased by $3 a week to $26 a week for a single person and that the married rate will be increased by $5 a week.
– What did your Caucus want?
– I can remember the miserable, parsimonious, hopeless handouts of 50c whenever you could squeeze it from the Treasurer. Half a dollar! ‘Lucky Joe’ they used to call the pensioners when they got half a dollar. I want to remind some Opposition senators that they are going to find it a bit difficult next time they go among age pensioners and try to sell them the Red bogy and all the other hypothetical things that they have visited on them for the last 23 years since the new single rate of pension will be 22.5 per cent of average weekly earnings and the married rate will be 39.5 per cent of average weekly earnings- and that our objective of giving pensioners 50 per cent of average weekly earnings is within sight. It is going to cost a lot of money- $222m a year- for us to give this increase. But I suppose when one puts that cost against the cost of the F 1 11 or some of the other hardware which the Government which Senator Little, who is interjecting, supported for so long, and whose Party by holding the balance of power kept in office, we could spend that money with the international warmongers. They would have given us so-called security with equipment with inbuilt obsolescence which was worn out before it ever went into use. But that is part of the process. It is just part of the difference between honourable senators opposite and me. I have a different attitude, a different ideology. I believe in people. I believe in the improvement of the standard of living, not destruction and war.
What has happened under this Government is that the cycle of boom, bust and war has been disturbed. Every 25 years, under the governments formed by the predecessors of honourable senators opposite, there would be a building down to depression, then up to a war, and then to a boom. Honourable senators opposite are upset that this cycle has been disturbed. I think this is why they are so hysterical. We have full employment in this country, and we intend to maintain it. Of course, the only way in which to make vast profits is either to overcharge the consumer or to underpay the worker. But we have changed that. We have frightened the people who have been working on this cycle for so long.
Despite the fact that we have broken that cycle, I notice that it is reported in the daily Press that Bougainville Copper Pty Ltd is not doing too badly. The Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd is not doing too badly. As a matter of fact, it is making record profits. The Colonial Sugar Refining Co. Ltd is showing record profits but it wants more subsidies and sugar concessions and things like this to be perpetuated. Wool prices have never been better. The price of beef has never been higher. As a matter of fact, beef has never been higher since the cow jumped over the moon. The cost of a pound of good steak today is fantastic. I did not think we would ever see meat costing so much here. When I came back from the United States after attending the United Nations 3 years ago, I was running around telling people that the situation in America was shocking; that one had to pay $5 for a leg of lamb. But one cannot get a leg of lamb for $5 here now.
– Are you saying that your Government is entitled to the credit for that?
– Honourable senators opposite are talking about inflation. Although we may think we have galloping inflation here, we are just breaking into a trot. Inflation is an international problem.
– In what butcher shop in America did you see the legs of lamb?
– They said that Mary had a little Iamb, but the lamb that she had was very little; it was so expensive that she could not afford to buy it.
– You know that they do not sell lamb over there.
– If the honourable senator went over there they would sell him for a goat.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Davidson)- Order! Senator Little, Senator O’Byrne is addressing the chair and I think we should hear him.
– That is very good of you; thank you, Mr Acting Deputy President. We are talking about honouring a mandate. We said that we would try to increase the pension rate until it represented 50 per cent of average weekly earnings.
– It is only up to 39 per cent.
– It is up to 39 per cent, yes. We have had 3 bites of the cherry: The first instalment was $1.50; the second was $1.50; and now it is proposed to increase the pension by $3. When we came into power the single rate of pension was equivalent to 18 per cent or 19 per cent of average weekly earnings.
– It is more than 25 per cent of average weekly earnings.
– Yes, of course it is; there is a vast improvement there. I am not worried about the claims made by some people that the big companies are badly off, because if one looks at the financial sections of the ‘Australian’, the Financial Review ‘ or any of the newspapers that have a financial section, one sees that there are whole pages covered with announcements of bonus issues and increased dividends, despite all the gloom spreaders. It would appear that they are all waiting on Senator Rae’s report, and he has been holding it back. I do not know; he blames the printers. But, of course, the whole system -
– I raise a point of order, Mr Acting Deputy President. Standing order 418 states- Senator O’Byrne has skated around this and offended against it for most of his speechthat a senator shall not make personal reflections on other honourable senators. To make the accusation that a Senate committee chairman has held something back is, in my submission, to make a personal reflection. I am sure that on reflection the honourable senator will recognise that it is, and it is my submission that he should withdraw it.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Davidson)- Senator Greenwood has referred to standing order 418 which refers to reflections made on other honourable senators. Senator O’Byrne, the matter before the Chair tonight is the Address-in-Reply. In this debate you can cover a fairly wide range of subjects, but I think you should keep to the various matters which are the subject of discussion and keep away from those areas of discussion which might reflect on other honourable senators.
- Mr Acting Deputy President, I asked for the withdrawal of a statement which was an offence against standing order 4 18.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT- I have not reached the conclusion that the statements made by Senator O’Byrne were offensive to Senator Rae. Senator Rae has not raised the issue. Senator Greenwood has drawn attention to standing order 4 1 8. He has put forward the point of view that the words used by Senator O’Byrne could be construed as being offensive to another honourable senator. My response to that earlier was to counsel Senator O’Byrne that he should not engage in this kind of reflection or, indeed, in the expression of this kind of opinion about an honourable senator. I asked Senator O’Byrne to keep his remarks to the subject matter which is before the Senate tonight, namely, the AddressinReply, acknowledging that this is a fairly wide ranging debate. Senator O’Byrne, I think you might take account of the point raised by Senator Greenwood and, as you take up the debate, express a word of apology for the words that you used.
- Mr Acting Deputy President, I raise a point of order. Senator O’Byrne said that Senator Rae had deliberately held up the report of a Senate committee. My colleague, Senator Greenwood, raised the point that this was a reflection upon an honourable senator.
– It is a reflection on the whole committee.
– I was just coming to that. Further, it is a reflection on the whole committee, of which some of Senator O ‘Byrne’s colleagues are members. I submit to you, Mr Acting Deputy President, that it is not sufficient for you simply to say that Senator O’Byrne should make some sort of apology and keep within the normal rules of debate. I submit to you that when a point of order is raised there is an obligation on you either to instruct Senator O’Byrne to withdraw that allegation or to say that he is entitled to make it. I think it is one or the other, with respect to the Chair. The Chair just cannot say: ‘Well, you can do all sorts of other things and perhaps make an apology when you come back to the debate’. That is my point of order, Sir, and, with respect, I think you should either instruct Senator O’Byrne to withdraw the allegation or say that he is entitled to make it.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT-
Senator Withers, you are making the allegation that Senator O’Byrne used certain words. Can I have those words again?
– The words which I understand Senator O’Byrne used were that Senator Rae had deliberately held up the report of a select committee of the Senate. Both the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, Senator Greenwood, and I regard that as a reflection upon an honourable senator and all the members who sit under Senator Rae on the Committee.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT-
Senator O’Byrne, did you accuse Senator Rae of deliberately holding up the report of the select committee?
– I would like Senator Rae to write out, so that he conforms with the Standing Orders, what I did say-
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT- But, Senator O ‘Byrne -
– I was not even here when the honourable senator made his scurrilous attack.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT-
Order! Senator O’Byrne, I ask you: In the course of your remarks did you use the words that Senator Rae had deliberately held up a report of his Committee?
- Mr Acting Deputy President, you show me those words in writing and I will say whether I said them.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT- But I am asking you a question, Senator O’Byrne. Either you said the words or you did not.
– Did I stop beating my wife?
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT-
Order! Senator O’Byrne, you will not insult the Chair in that way. I am extremely displeased with you that you insult the Chair in this way. I ask you the question again because, sitting in the Chair, I am taking notice of a number of things. I am listening to most of the words you use but some words can escape me. Surely you can remember whether you used the words. I ask you: Did you say that Senator Rae deliberately held up the report of the Select Committee? If you give me an answer in relation to this I shall know exactly what steps to take.
- Mr Acting Deputy President, I can say this, that if I said deliberately -
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT-
Order! I am not asking you if you said it deliberately. Will you please tell me whether you said that.
– I rise to a point of order.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT-
Order! Senator Cant -
– I raise a point of order. I am entitled to raise a point of order at any time.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT-
Order! Senator Cant, please resume your seat. I am talking to Senator O’Byrne.
-You are putting Senator O’Byrne on trial. That is what you are doing.
You are turning this Senate into a court of trial. You are trying to force Senator O ‘Byrne to admit to saying something. The onus of proof is on the accuser. I refer you to -
– May I intervene, Mr Acting Deputy President? I listened carefully to your initial remarks when the point of order was raised by Senator Greenwood. It seemed to me that your interpretation of what had happened and your request to Senator O’Byrne was a reasonable one. I submit to you that it would be in the best interests of the Senate if you were to pursue the original request which you made to Senator O’Byrne without the matter getting out of hand as I feel it is doing now.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT-
Order! Senator Wriedt, by the ‘original request’ do you mean the request to Senator O’Byrne as to whether he used the words?
- Mr Acting Deputy President, with respect you made a request of Senator O’Byrne that, if there were any personal reflection on Senator Rae, Senator O’Byrne should withdraw that remark.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT-
Thank you very much. Senator O’Byrne, if you made a reflection on Senator Rae will you please withdraw the remark.
– Yes. If I made any reflection against Senator Rae I withdraw the remark.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT- Do you withdraw it unconditionally?
– You have not made any conditions. What are you doing?
- Senator O’Byrne has withdrawn.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT-
- Mr Acting Deputy President, I would like to know: What do you think you are doing?
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT-
Senator O’Byrne, I accept your withdrawal.
– I was not asked to withdraw unconditionally. You put those terms on.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT-
Order! I am sorry. I accept your withdrawal. Will you please continue?
– You had better. I will continue with my speech. I say this: I am very disappointed at the work of the Senate Select Committee on Securities and Exchange. It has been dragging on for years and years. The Committee has delved into the whole of the economic racket in Australia. Some of the worst spivs who were supposedly the top boys in business in Australia will be and have been exposed by these investigations. For the good of Australia Senator Rae, as Chairman of the Committee, should have been falling over backwards to try to tell his colleagues in the community of what has been going on.
– I raise a point of order.
– Instead of this he comes up and says -
– I raise a point of order because the remarks which are now being made are casting a reflection upon the whole Securities and Exchange Committee. In pressing my point of order I remind this Senate that that Committee was prevented from operating for months until I drew the attention of the leader of Senator O ‘Byrne ‘s Party in this House to the fact that unless he reappointed the Committee it could not operate. That Committee was prevented from operating for months after the new Government was elected. If Senator O’Byrne wishes to continue abusing this Committee in this manner under the cover of his remarks the next step is for us to take the attendance at the Committee meetings into account to see who has been holding up the report of this Committee rather than insult members of the Committee who have been doing the work. If the honourable senator wants a debate on this matter let us have one.
– I rise to support the point of order and to add to what Senator Little has said. The allegation made by Senator O’Byrne is probably the most serious type of allegation which can be made under Parliamentary privilege. The honourable senator did not name people but he said that there were spivs in this community who, in effect, were defrauding the people of this country and that the Senate Committee was not prepared to do its job to expose those people. In those circumstances not only is it a reflection on every member of that Committee but also it is a reflection upon the Senate itself because the honourable senator is reflecting upon a body which the Senate has created. I submit that tonight Senator O’Byrne has abused the procedures of this Senate and that he ought to be called upon to withdraw.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Davidson)- Order! Senator O’Byrne, I must ask you again to keep within the Standing Orders of the Senate. You have heard the points of view which have been put forward. It is keenly felt by members of the Senate that you are reflecting on the members of the Committee to which you have referred. I must ask you to keep within the Standing Orders of the Senate and to watch the borders of debate and discussion.
– I rise again. If standing order 418 is not insisted upon it can be broken with impunity because a chairman can ask an honourable senator, after he has broken it, not to do so again. Apparently there is no limit to the number of times an honourable senator can be asked not to break standing order 418. My submission is that there has been a gross reflection upon a Committee and- to use the words which Senator Withers used to you earlier- in those circumstances it is a question of either rendering legitimate what Senator O ‘Byrne has said or calling upon him to withdraw.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT-
Order! Senator Greenwood, you are asking for a withdrawal.
– I am.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT-
Order! Senator O’Byrne, the words which have been used are claimed by honourable senators to be grossly offensive and they are seeking their withdrawal. Looking at standing order 418, I think, in the light of keeping the debate on an even keel, you should withdraw and then continue your remarks in the Address-in-Reply debate.
– I will withdraw and continue my remarks. Senator Carrick performed the old can-tipping job. Honourable senators opposite remind me of the old drover’s dog. They can give it but they cannot take it. I was just tipping a little bit of the gravy from the top. I have not started to give the hard stuff yet.
– What about asking your colleagues on this Committee how often they have attended in the last 2 months?
– I suppose that being on a committee with you would be a hardship. Members would avoid it as often as they could, and you are blaming it on the printers.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Davidson)- Order! Senator O’Byrne, you will address the Chair. You will continue your remarks in relation to the Address-in-Reply debate.
– The Address-in-Reply debate is a debate on the outline of the Speech which is the blueprint for the future of this country. During this debate Senator Carrick made some rather outrageous attacks on the Government. I was trying to refute some of the neotruths and untruths which were put forward when the honourable senator spoke about inflation, prices, pensions and the long list of things which he claimed were repudiated. The word which he actually used was ‘repudiation’. I suppose that if I had been thin-skinned and hypocritical I would have asked him to withdraw the word ‘repudiation’ because it is a very harsh word, yet I felt that this could be overlooked. However, Senator Carrick proceeded along his way in attacking the Government. I felt that I could quite well be given the liberty and the licence that the honourable senator was given, quid pro quo. I could have given him his buck ‘s worth. Senator Carrick gloats over inflation. I think that he likes to see inflation continuing because his colleagues profiteer out of it. The ordinary income earner and the retired person loses by inflation. The only people who can ride the crest of the wave of inflation are those in multinational companies in big business- the monopolists and the takeover merchants, the ones that have been investigated by the Senate Select Committee on Securities and Exchange. They are the overseas manipulators and the hot money merchants. They are the ones that the members of the Senate Securities and Exchange Committee know all about, but they are the only ones who know anything about it yet. We want to know about it and we want this Committee to hurry up. If necessary, it should go to a private printer to have the report printed. If it wants to hide under the screen of the excuse that the Government Printer cannot handle the work, let it farm out the work to one of the printers in private enterprise and get out the report.
- Mr Acting Deputy President, I rise to order. I am offended by the use of those words. Senator O’Byrne is continually making reflections on the Committee of which I am a member. He is now stating that we want to hide under something or other. I seek the withdrawal of those remarks.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Davidson)- Senator O’Byrne, a request has been made for remarks to be withdrawn on the ground that they are offensive. I think that you would know from your long experience that if remarks are made that are offensive they are not conducive to good debate in the Senate. Therefore, I think that in response to Senator Durack ‘s protest you should withdraw the remarks to which he has referred and continue your speech in the Address-in-Reply debate.
– I suppose that I can apologise again or withdraw or do whatever it is that is necessary. But, Mr Acting Deputy President, the truth hurts, you know.
– I rise to order again. The honourable senator is compounding the felony time and time again. I seek the withdrawal of these remarks and I seek their withdrawal unconditionally. If they are to be continued, I will continue to protest as my colleague, Senator Little, had done. If this continues we will have something to say about the attendance of Senator O ‘Byrne’s colleagues at meetings of this Committee in recent months.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT-
Order! Senator O’Byrne, you will be familiar with the fact that standing order 418 refers to offensive words. When a senator rises in his place and claims that words are offensive, account must be taken of this fact. Senator O’Byrne, I ask you to withdraw the words to which Senator Durack has taken exception and then, please, to continue your speech in the Address-in-Reply debate.
– I will withdraw the offensive words and just say this: If I had called on Senator Carrick to withdraw all the offensive words that he uttered in his speech I would have been up and down like a yo yo. I will continue my statement of the achievements of our Government. I point out that we have honoured our mandate in regard to social service payments to all types of pensioners. As I have said, between the period of the 1972 Budget presented when members of the Opposition were in government and the 1973 Budget the payment in regard to the single rate of pension increased by 15 per cent and the combined married rate of pension increased by 1 7.4 per cent. Under this Government the single rate pension will be 22.57 per cent of average weekly earnings and the rate of payment in respect of the combined married rate will be 39.5 per cent of average weekly earnings. If that is not honouring a mandate, I would like to know what is. Senator Carrick used most extravagant language about our attitude to this mandate for aged people. We have also said that there will be further increases in the August Budget and that it will take a second step towards the total abolition of the means test. We heard this mouthed by Opposition senators and Opposition members in another place for 22 years, and they did nothing. Within a short period of 1 5 months we have taken a second step towards the total abolition of the means test. The pensions of persons 70 years of age and over will be paid, free of means test.
The next point I would like to make is that under our Government during the last 1 5 months there has been a major improvement in the living standards of people on pensions. In addition, absolute standards as well as relativity to average standards in the community have been improved. Under our Government, neglect of pensioners has become a thing of the past. I think that it is one of our great achievements that the disregard of and cynicism towards the poorer people in the community that existed for so long in this country is now a thing of the past.
I would like to refer to some of the other points that were made about the economy by Senator Carrick. I have pointed out that full employment or as near to full employment as is possible has been achieved under a Labor Government. There has definitely been an upturn in the economy. Overseas balances have never been higher and of course we have been fortunate in many ways. It is said that fortune favours the brave, and we have been brave. We have laid the groundwork so that we can reap the rewards of good seasons on overseas markets. The demand and other such matters will come as grist to the mill. We have seen a dramatic upturn in the economy on every level.
There are a few areas that still need attention. But our Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) and our Ministers in the various portfolios are giving their full time and attention to getting into these areas to try to smooth them out. During 1 973 the real gross domestic product has increased by 6.S per cent compared with an increase of 2 per cent during 1972. Domestic production is running at $2, 000m a year more than it would have been if the underemployment of 1972 had been allowed to persist. We realise the greed and the avarice of many people who can live in a so-called entrepreneurial society in which the attitude is: Blow you, Jack; I am all right’.
We applied to the electorate to give the Commonwealth the long needed power to try to hold down prices. But every man Jack on the Opposition side went out campaigning to fool the people. They voted against giving the Com. nonwealth this power. Opposition member are still whinging. Many of them are whinging about inflation. They are fair fighters, of course. They want to fight their opponent and have his hands tied behind his back. They give a bloke a kick when they can, then tie his hands behind his back and pummel him. When they think that they have got him down they say: ‘What good boys are we’. But we will find our alternative ways. We have introduced a prices justification tribunal. We have made various alterations in our tariff policy.
– You have changed. You used to be a high tariff man.
– Of course Senator Sim would suffer from future shock. He is so far back in the 1900s that he does not realise that it is 7 March 1974, not 1874. He is rather a dim sim about the place. He is a bit behind the times. The establishment of a Prices Justification Tribunal is a very sound contribution towards an oversight of the greed and the avarice of exploiters who were in such full flight when the previous Government was in power. We have introduced the Industries Assistance Commission. We believe that this Commission can keep a very close look at our industries and those which need assistance will receive it.
We have heard a lot about the primary industries. I would say that they are in a very good position in nearly every direction because of good seasons and world demand for their products.
– And good Government.
– If I may pay tribute to the Minister for Primary Industry (Senator Wriedt), let me say that good administration of his Department, good rapport, good public relations and an inspiring policy have the farmers at long last seeing the stars and not the mud. Gone is the pork barrelling that has been going on with the parasitic parties that have been hanging onto the body politic of government, squeezing and sucking every ounce of political advantage and getting everything they could to farm off to their few gerrymandered electors. The farmers at last are seeing a higher, greater and wider vision. They can see that under our Minister and our policy they will get an umbrella on the wet day and they will not need it on the fine day. The previous Government promised the umbrella on a fine day and as soon as it started to rain the umbrella was taken away.
– That is what you have done with the farmers.
– The farmers are being encouraged to worry about what is going to happen when the agreement expires. This is a movable arrangement. The phosphate agreement under any government would be completed normally at the end of this year. It would be up for revision whichever Party was in power. The superphosphate bounty originally was introduced by a Labor Government to help needy farmers, lt was introduced to help to remedy in Australian soil a deficiency that has happened because of the geology of our country. We have a low rainfall and the phosphates have been leached out of our soil. Over many years there has been a considerable replacement of these phosphates. The original purpose behind the introduction of the trace element phosphate into our soil was to trigger the nitrogenous plants which would then add nitrogen to the soil. This is part of the cycle that takes place. We need this balance of trace elements. In many places fertility has been lifted to the point where the soil has sufficient nitrogen and does not need much superphoshpate.
As a matter of fact, there is a claim that more can be achieved by keyline farming, natural methods, chisel ploughing and perpetuating the living soil. By killing off the micro organisms with inorganic fertilisers more harm than good can be done to the soil. There could possibly come a time when soil was overloaded with superphosphate. These are matters of which the farmers are quite aware. If any organisations or individual farmers can put up a genuine case of need to the Industries Assistance Commission, the Government, the local member or any member on the Government side, they will find a generous Minister and a very considerate Government to meet the need. But it is wrong to hand out an open cheque from the Treasury for the big tall poppies who have gained so much out most of these subsidies. We try to help the little bloke but we find that the little bloke gets poorer and the big bloke gets richer. That is the way it works out in practically every field where there have been subsidies. The rich get richer and the poor get children. We think this also can be reversed by helping the needy.
The Government has put a check on foreign takeovers. We can find out how secondary industry is going by looking at the newspapers. Companies are earning higher dividends and making bonus issues. We have put a check to a certain extent on foreign takeovers and certainly on takeovers that have occurred in industries in which the foreign money has taken no part in development. Foreign investors were stalking around Australia looking for the best investments, the easiest money, places where there were great assets tucked away by conservative directorship over the years. It was only a matter of foreign investors moving in and getting a percentage of the shares. The people in other countries could then sit back and watch the interest and the dividends flow in while Australians were battling in the courts trying to get wage justice.
I had quite a lot to say about social security. We have no compunction in claiming that our social security policy is the best that has ever been known in the history of Australia. I refer now to our policy on resources. In a period of world energy crisis we find how well equipped Australia is. We have not let the exploiters come in and mine our uranium or exploit our other great resources. We have those resources for the future. We have gas and oil reserves which will keep the wheels of our industries turning. We have sufficient resources for our defence. Unlike some of the Opposition members who would have sold out our birthright for a mess of pottage we have all the resources in the ground as though they were in the bank. They are there for any emergency which might arise, for instance in defence, and there are sufficient to keep the wheels of our industries turning.
The same applies to the exploitation that is still going on with regard to our iron ore. Some supervision is needed. Someone spoke today about the shortage of nails. This matter concerns the monopolists, Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd, in whose hands this particular section of our economy has been reposed. It is a reflection upon BHP and its subsidiaries that they have not been able to anticipate the growing needs of this nation in regard to home building, fencing wire, other commodities required on the land and also fittings. This company, which has had such an enormous monopoly is short changing us. It will have to look to its laurels and meets its responsibilities. Otherwise we will have to go abroad and bring in these commodities from some other country. It is all very fine to have kick at the Government about this matter, but it should be remembered that Australia still has a private enterprise economy, as have the United States, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the European common market countries. All of those private enterprise economy countries are having a bit of a stew in their own juices, but our juice is a little richer than theirs. I think it is our responsibility to keep it that way.
I refute Senator Carrick ‘s litany of exaggerated misstatements of the truth. What he has said does not warrant any close examination. I think that we as a Government are entitled to be proud of the start we have made. After all Rome was not built in a day. We had to stop the downhill movement of 23 years of mis-government, get into neutral and then start going uphill again. That is what we have been doing. We are at that stage at the present time. I believe that the people of Australia will see at the next election that we have their interests at heart. I believe that they will say that we have started off well, that Australia is going ahead, and they will give us a further mandate to go on with the job we are doing. We have nothing at all to be ashamed of. I believe that the Government is going great guns. I believe that those people who compare what they have been forced to accept ever since the war years and what they have now will appreciate that they now have a dynamic and thoroughly dedicated Government that has great plans about increasing the welfare of the people and the environment in which they live. Those are very worthy objectives. I refute what Senator Carrick has said in an attempt to downgrade the great achievements of the Government.
- Mr Deputy President, I rise under standing order 408 to explain a matter of a personal nature. I seek the leave of the Senate to do so before Senator Bonner commences his speech.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– A quorum was called during the course of Senator O ‘Byrne’s speech. In a sense, I think, of irritation at the fact that a quorum had been called while he had been speaking, Senator O’Byrne said that there had been an agreement between the leaders of the political parties in this chamber that no quorums were to be called tonight and he accused me personally of breaking that agreement. I want to state quite positively that there was no such agreement. Prior to the quorum being called 1 ascertained, because there had been some suggestions from the Government side of the chamber that there was such an agreement, from the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Withers) whether there was such an agreement. He assured me that there was no such agreement. I think that the Hansard record of what was said this morning will bear that out. I have said that for the sake of the record and to refute what Senator O ‘Byrne has alleged.
-It is with a rather deep sense of pride that I have risen to take part in this debate. In saying that I am not saying that I agree with the contents of the Address given by Her Gracious Majesty the Queen. I am quite sure that I am speaking on behalf of the vast majority of Australians when I say that I am proud that Her Gracious Majesty the Queen saw fit to come to Australia to open the Second Session of the 28th Parliament.
I am sick and tired of having to listen to the chatter that has come from the other side of the
House during the last 12 months about the actions of the Opposition. Time and again I have heard it said that the Opposition is frustrating the Government by refusing to allow its legislation to pass through this chamber. On making inquiries I have ascertained that since the Labor Government came to office some 223 Bills have passed through this House. Is that frustrating the Government? I think not. I do not think the people of Australia agree with the claims that the Opposition has frustrated the Government. Over this period the Opposition certainly has either rejected or deferred consideration of some of the measures that have been introduced by the Government, but it rejected or deferred consideration of those Bills because it believed that they were not in the best interests of the nation and the people of Australia. Surely that is a function of this House. The Senate is a House of review, a House of scrutiny. I can assure honourable senators that that is what the members of the present Opposition will continue to do while ever they remain on the Opposition benches, which will not be for such a long time.
I wish to refer now to something that was raised in this chamber yesterday. I refer to the criticism of the Queensland Government by Senator Milliner, who said that it had not given one cent towards assisting the people of Queensland who were affected by the devastating floods that occurred in Queensland just recently. I understand that the Queensland floods began quite a long time before Ipswich or Brisbane were affected. The Gulf country, including the towns of Normanton, Karumba and Uran.dangie, were deluged early in the piece and on 20 January this year those towns and surrounding properties were evacuated. People lost their homes and their stock. No one had ever seen devastation like it before. What happened at that time? The Queensland Government initiated the evacuation of the people in those areas and provided assistance to them. All of the charter aircraft used in the evacuation in that section of the State at that time were paid for by the Queensland Government. All food drops and medical supplies- there was quite a substantial amount of this- were also financed by the Queensland Government. To provide these food drops and medical supplies the Queensland Government chartered commercial aircraft and used them quite extensively throughout the Gulf country as well as in and around other parts of Queensland. I hasten to say at this point that I in no way wish to denigrate the magnificent work that was done by the Royal Australian Air Force and the other Services, which nobly came into the picture at this time.
– Who provided them?
-That is beside the point at this time. It was the Queensland Government which approached the Federal Government. Naturally they were provided by the Minister for Defence (Mr Barnard), who is in charge of the Defence forces in a kind of way. As we have seen in recent years, he has not shown a great deal of interest in the Defence forces. I will have something to say about that later on. It is interesting to note that Senator Milliner’s criticism was only of the Queensland Government.
Where was the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) while all this was going on? Where was he while the Premier of Queensland, the Deputy Premier of Queensland and the Deputy Leader of the Liberal Party of Australia were going into the flood devastated areas with their trousers rolled up to help the people out? The Prime Minister was away from Australia. What was he attending? He was not attending the devastated areas of Queensland. He was in New Zealand at the Commonwealth Games. That is where the Prime Minister, who is supposed to be so concerned about Australia and the people of Australia, was to be found. Our Prime Minister, Australia ‘s Cassius Clay, returned to Australia, ignored the plight of the Queensland people and proceeded on a 16-day trip to South East Asia. During the time that he was in Australia, before he went to South East Asia, he would have had time to jump on a VIP aircraft, which naturally would be at the disposal of the Prime Minister, to go to the flood devastated areas of Queensland, to look at Karumba where people lost everything they had owned, to fly to Mt Isa to see what was happening there and to fly to Normanton where all the people had to be evacuated. No, he would not do that. It reminds me of something that happened some years ago. A former Prime Minister was alleged to have said: ‘I will go all the way with LBJ’.
-He said it, too.
– I agree that he did. The present Prime Minister seems to be hell bent on his desire to ‘bow to Chairman Mao’. The people in Queensland were suffering and the Queensland Government was doing all that it could, but in this chamber Senator Milliner stated that not one cent was given to the Queensland Government to the people in distress. As I understand the position, in the initial stages, to help the people overcome the initial devastation, $500,000 was given by the
Queensland Government. To match that grant, the most gracious Federal Government gave $600,000 at that time. We were told by one of the Government senators that the State Government gave nothing.
Let me refer to something else which the Queensland Government did. Under the leadership of Mr Hodges, the Queensland Minister for Works and Housing, 121 families were housed very quickly in Housing Commission homes. The total number of people in those families was something like 500. They were housed overnight by the Queensland Minister for Works and Housing. This was done by the State Government which, it was said, did nothing for the people of Queensland. I think that my statement speaks for itself. The Queensland Government certainly did a magnificent job. I take nothing away from the efforts of the Federal Government. I am conscious, as are other people in Queensland, of the work which the Federal Government did when it came into the picture, in the final analysis. There were negotiations between Federal Ministers and the State Premier and Deputy Premier. We are grateful for the help that came from the Federal Government. I think it is quite unfair and unjustified for any honourable senator to criticise the State Government in an attempt to gain some political kudos at the expense of the people of Queensland because he is seeking re-election this year.
I wish now to touch very briefly on another issue. It relates to the report of the AuditorGeneral on the Department of Aboriginal Affairs. Tonight poor old grandfather on the other side clowned for about 1 hour 10 minutes. It was typical of the Government. From reading the Auditor-General’s report, the mismanagement and the apparent bungling which went on in the Department of Aboriginal Affairs are typical of the kind of thing which we would expect from this Government. I am sure that many Queenslanders and many Australians such as myself, both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal, would be shocked at what has come out in the report. I hope that the Government will have the courage to accept the responsibility for what has happened in that Department. I sincerely hope that it will not be looking for a scapegoat on whom to pin the blame. I realise that a lot of that money was made available to Aboriginal people in various parts of Australia and to Aboriginal organisations. Perhaps they did not have business sense. Perhaps some of the money was used unwisely. But the responsibility for some of the things that happened certainly cannot be put at the feet of the Aboriginal people. I believe that it is the responsibility of the relevant Minister and, finally, the Government.
There have been times when I have been rather amused by honourable senators opposite talking about this Government’s tremendous mandate. I heard the phrase used quite a lot this evening. Honourable senators opposite continually boast of this great mandate which they have. Without wanting to seem to be boasting, I would say that I have the greatest mandate of any member of this Parliament at present, because 525,000 Queenslanders felt that I should be representing them in this chamber. Surely those people cannot be wrong. My colleagues and I will continue to safeguard the interests of the people whom we represent. The Senate is a House of scrutiny and a House in which we look at the legislation which the Government is bringing forward. I assure the Senate that, if we find that it is not in the best interests of the people of this nation, not only will we defer it until we can make a closer examination of it but we will reject it.
I wish to deal now with some of the things which have been said this evening about education. I am conscious that enormous amounts have been made available for education. I, like my colleagues, spent many hours in this chamber asking this Government not to take away the per capita grants from certain Australian children. But the Government seemed to be of the opinion that children who are to receive any government assistance in their education must attend a government school. The Government adopts the attitude: ‘Big Brother will look after you. You must send your children to a government school’. The fact that people in the community prefer to send their children either to a religious school or to some private school, for reasons of their own, does not matter to this Government. It says: ‘If you want any assistance, you must send them to government schools. The fact that you pay taxes, which are collected and sent to Canberra, does not matter at all. You must pay those taxes, and you must help with the upkeep of the schools to which you wish to send your children.
The Government speaks about wealthy schools. Why are the schools wealthy? They are wealthy because people have worked and have made sacrifices to that their children will get the best education money can provide. Nevertheless, these people must contribute to the nation’s economy through taxes. That is another example of the hypocrisy of this Government in its attitude towards education. Yet it tries to blow its own trumpet and say what a wonderful job it is doing. Mr Deputy President, I seek leave to continue my remarks at another time.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Senate Select Committee on Securities and Exchange
– I move:
That the Senate do now adjourn.
In moving this motion I take take the opportunity of addressing some remarks to statements made by my colleague Senator O’Byrne during the course of his speech this evening and to interjections that were made particularly by Senator Rae. During Senator O ‘Byrne’s speech there was criticism by him of the delay in the presentation to the Senate of the report of the Senate Select Commute on Securities and Exchange. It was alleged by Senator Rae, by way of interjection, that the delay in the presentation of the report was occasioned by the Australian Government Publishing Service or the Australian Government Printing Office, both of which offices are within my Department Because they are within my Department I feel that I have a responsibility to defend them.
Towards the end of last year there was some discussion between Senator Rae and the members of the Senate Select Committee on Securities and Exchange and the Government Printer or the Australian Government Publishing Service about the printing and presentation to the Senate of the report of the Senate Select Committee. On 22 November last Senator Rae wrote a letter to the Australian Government Printing Office and to the Australian Government Publishing Service setting out what he regarded as some of the problems of the Australian Government Publishing Service. On 28 November Mr Nott, an Australian Government publishing officer and, I understand, another officer from that section of my Department presented themselves before the Senate Select Committee on Securities and Exchange and gave the reasons why they were not able to tender the report to the Senate before the end of the sitting of the Senate in the last sessional period.
– Before July this year.
– I am talking about November 1973.
– At which time they said ‘not before July next year’.
-My friend Senator Rae during an interjection to Senator O’Byrne this evening blamed officers of my Department for the inability of the Senate Select Committee on Securities and Exchange to tender its report.
- Mr Deputy President, on a point of order, I take objection to being misquoted. I did not interject other than one remark which was in no way related to printing. I otherwise had nothing to say during a debate which I thought was a most unfortunate reflection upon the Senate and its committee system. I very carefully did not say anything and I most certainly did not say anything about printing. Senator Douglas McClelland must have made a mistake, which may be an unfortunate mistake. But if he wishes to accuse me of having blamed his officers in some way or making some remark about them, I ask him to quote more carefully, more acurately and more specifically than he has done so far, because I deny that I said it. That is the point of order which I take.
– I will accept the denial by Senator Rae, but in justification of the defence of the officers of my Department because some one on the other side of the chamber, by way of interjection to the Government side, interjected and said while Senator O’Byrne was speaking that the delay occurred -
- Senator O’Byrne himself was the only man who referred to printing.
– I am just saying that, despite what the record says, while I was sitting here in my place someone on the other side of the chamber- I thought it was Senator Rae, and if I am wrong in that I apologise to him- said that the delay was occasioned because of the delay in printing. Having heard that myself, I caused inquiries to be made and I stand here in defence of the officers of my Department, irrespective of who made the remark. I do not care whether it came from members on the Government side or members on the Opposition side. I sat here this evening and heard the interjection myself. I now rise in defence of the officers of my Department. On 22 November Senator Rae, as Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Securities and Exchange -
– I think it is much better that you -
– All right. Someone made an attack and I am defending not myself but the officers of my Department.
– No one attacked them.
Senator DOUGLAS McCLELLANDSenator Lawrie says that on one attacked them. I do not know whether the interjection was taken down by Hansard at the time, but I sat here in my ministerial position and heard it with my own ears.
- Senator, how about waiting until you read the Hansard and then see whether you need to reply?
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Webster)- Senator Rae, when you made your interpolation previously it should have been done following the Minister’s comment because, basically, you were making a personal explanation. I think that it would serve the Senate well if we hear the Minister out and then you can take any points you wish.
-Mr Deputy President, I accept Senator Rae’s denial. I assumed, from my hearing, that it was Senator Rae who interjected to my colleague Senator O’Byrne, and blamed the inability of the Printing Office and the Australian Government Publishing Service to carry out the printing requirements involved in the presentation of the Committee’s report to the Senate. Senator Rae wrote to Mr Nott of the Australian Government Printing Service on 22 November last. As a result of that, on 28 November Mr Nott, a First Assistant Secretary of my Department -
– I just suggest again that you do not go into this in detail because I will reply if you do.
-You may reply as much as you like, my friend.
– And I think that it may be unfortunate for the Senate and for your Department.
-You may reply as much as you like, my friend.I am here to defend the record of the officers of my Department. When there is an attack, either directly or by way of innuendo, on genuine, bona fide officers of the Australian Public Service -
- Senator O’Byrne was the only person -
-No matter who it may have been. I have accepted Senator Rae’s denial that it came from him. The fact remains that it was alleged in this chamber this evening that the inability of the Printing Office to handle this report was responsible for the failure to print this report. On 22 November Senator Rae wrote to the Controller of the Australian Government Publishing Service. On 28 November the Controller of the Australian Government Publishing Service presented himself to the Senate Select Committee on Securities and Exchange. On 29 November Mr Nott wrote to Senator Rae in the following terms:
Thank you for the opportunity to talk last night to the members of the Select Committee on Securities and Exchange about the matters covered in your letter -
– I raise a point of order. In the interests of the operation of the harmonised conduct of business of Senate committees and government departments, I ask the Minister to take a very brief cooling off period while I take this point of order and ask him to consider what he is doing. One should bear in mind that there was an occasion which caused the Senate Committee to request the presence of officers of the Minister’s Department to come before it and have a discussion. It is not quite correct to put the story as the Minister is putting it- just a letter and then a letter later. There is a long history to this matter and it may be preferable for the Minister to consider having a look at Hansard to see what was said, whether any allegations were made, and to leave it at that until he has an opportunity to see the transcript. I have certainly made no allegations, and as far as I know no member of my Committee has made any allegations. I think the Minister would do well to consider leaving it at that stage rather than inducing a situation which draws forth a response which can and will be documented.
– If Senator Rae will concede that any delay in the presentation of the report of the Senate Select Committee on Securities and Exchange is not the responsibility of any of the officers of my Department I am prepared not to proceed any further.
– I would ask for leave to speak briefly. I am quite prepared on behalf of the Committee to say that whatever the full position might be I do not wish at this stage in any way to give cause for the Minister to defend his Department. I have not raised it, and as far as I know no member of my Committee has raised it. We have received from various members of his Department considerable co-operation and I am grateful for it. It has been necessary for the Committee to engage, because of some misunderstandings -to use a neutral term- in a very considerable rearrangement to enable the report to be presented at the first possible opportunity. I do not make any accusations and 1 have not in the past.
-On behalf of your Committee?
– On behalf of my Committee. I have not in the past and I do not now. I do not think there is any need for the Minister to go into correspondence which may involve a further response. I wanted leave to say only that.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Webster)- Before the Senate takes this matter further I think I should say that we have a difficult situation. The Minister may acknowledge that he could have misinterpreted a comment which may not appear in Hansard. Who made the remark is unknown. On reflection there may be some impropriety for the Minister to quote a letter from his Department to the Committee, if that is the situation. On reflection he may feel that having the assurance of Senator Rae, who he thought raised the matter previously, it would be as well for him to desist from pursuing the matter at present.
– With the greatest respect to you, Mr Deputy President, I emphatically deny that there is any impropriety on my part in standing in this chamber to defend the integrity and efficiency of the officers of my Department. If no further accusations are to be cast against their efficiency and if no further accusation is made that they are responsible for delay in the presentation to the Senate of the report of the Senate Select Committee on Securities and Exchange I will proceed no further. However, if one scintilla of evidence be presented against them or if one scintilla of aspersion be cast against them I will proceed to present a case on behalf of the people whom I regard as efficient Australian public servants. I make no further comment than that. I believe that I have a responsibility to protect the integrity and efficiency of my officers.
– Not a blind one. Let us just leave it. I have withdrawn any accusation- or discounted it. I have not withdrawn it, because I did not make it.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- Order! Senator Rae, I ask you to desist.
– If no further accusations are levelled at officers of my Department for the failure of the Senate Select Committee on Securities and Exchange to present its report to the Senate- it might be claimed that that happened through lack of diligence or through inefficiency of officers of my DepartmentI will desist. However, if there be a scintilla of accusation against them I will stand here in defence of the officers of my Department.
Senator Little (Victoria) ( 10.44)- I feel obliged, as a member of the Senate Select Committee on Securities and Exchange and as one who listened very carefully to the debate because I am involved, to announce that I made no interjection or statement such as was referred to by the Minister for the Media (Senator Douglas McClelland). I heard no senator on this side of the chamber make such a statement. I did hear Senator O’Byrne make a statement to this effect: If the Government printery cannot do it, it should be printed privately, or I do not care how we get it. We want it’. I have said that in order to have it recorded in Hansard although it may not be completely accurate, word for word. It conveys the sense of Senator O ‘Byrne’s remark. They are the only remarks of that nature I heard.
I am quite prepared to assure the Minister as a responsible member of the Committee- and I am sure that every other member of the Commitee here is prepared so to assure him- there was no responsible person who would have knowledge of the affairs of the Committee who made such a remark by interjection or in any other way. I speak for myself in telling the Minister that I made no such interjection. I made no reference whatever to printing. The only such reference I heard came from Senator O’Byrne in the terms I have stated. I leave it to the other members of the Committee who were present at the time to speak for themselves.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 10.47 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 7 March 1974, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1974/19740307_senate_28_s59/>.