28th Parliament · 2nd Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir Magnus Cormack) took the chair at 2 p.m., and read prayers.
-I present the following petition from 7 1 3 citizens of Australia:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled: The petition of the undersigned respectfully sheweth:
That whereas the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 20, Sections1 and 2 states:
Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association’.
No one may be compelled to belong to an association. ‘
And whereas the Australian Government has endorsed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights but has, to date, failed to implement Article 20, Sections1 and 2 of the said Declaration and therefore denied Australian Citizens the rights inherent in that Declaration.
And whereas all such rights, liberties, advancement are of no avail if our Government is not ready to rectify this failure.
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:
Ensure the rights of every Australian Citizen to choose whether or not they shall belong to a trade union.
Restrict the operation of trade union organisations solely to the fields of working conditions and the economic interests of their members, and stop the practice of ‘closed shop’.
Ban the trade union practice of imposing political levies on members and to ensure that no trade union maintains any political affiliations.
Require trade unions to conduct Court supervised, secret ballot of its members before resorting to strike actions.
Stop the Government practice of trade union membership discrimination.
And your Petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
– I seek the leave of the Senate to make a statement in relation to an article which appeared in the Sydney ‘Sun’ of Friday, 5 April.
– Does the honourable senator claim to have been misrepresented?
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
Senator MARRIOTT (Tasmania)-To make my statement meaningful, I desire to quote from an article which appeared in the Sydney ‘Sun’ of Friday, 5 April. It reads:
A handful of Liberal Senators could block the Opposition plan to force a general election.
These are the people who risk losing seats which normally would be safe for another three years.
Colleagues will be urging them over the weekend not to chicken out’ of the moveto block the Government’s supply bills in the Senate next week.
These Senators are known to have misgivings about taking the unprecedented step of blocking money to a Government.
They are reported to include Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson, of New South Wales, and Senators Lillico and Marriott, of Tasmania.
They would not have been expected to retire from the Senate until 30 June 1977, in normal circumstances.
With the prospect of a double dissolution, they could have their parliamentary careers ended on 30 June this year.
Mr President, the facts are; I speak with great truth- that at a private meeting in Parliament House on Wednesday morning, 3 April, I expressed certain misgivings which I have respecting the advisability of the Senate’s defeating the Appropriation Bills. So far as I am aware at that time there was no threat by the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) of a double dissolution if Supply were not granted. Secondly, insinuations that I am frightened for personal reasons of a double dissolution can be proved wrong in that I have voted with the Opposition against the Government on all the occasions when the Senate has provided the Prime Minister with grounds for a double dissolution. Thirdly, although it is true that I, without a double dissolution, have 3 years of my fourth 6-year term to serve, I believe that unless my character has been harmed by what I believe to be baseless accusations I will be endorsed again to represent my Party and Tasmania in the Senate, and what is more I will win a longterm seat.
These opinions, which I hold to be true, make the snide insinuations of this front page bannerheadlined article, which includes a photograph of me, very hurtful to me personally and unless repudiated, as I repudiate them now, they can be very damaging to my character as a public man- a character of which at least I am proudand I may take action to defend it by additional means which are available to all Australians under our laws.
-Mr President, I seek leave to make a personal explanation on the same matter.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– (New South Wales)- I saw the article perhaps with more particularity, if possible, than Senator Marriott and Senator Lillico because I happen to be a senator of long-standing for the State of New South Wales. I served the State of New South Wales for many years in local government and then in its Parliament before serving it for 20 years in the Senate, for something like 9 years of which time I was a Minister of the Crown. This stupid statement, which has a high degree of defamation in it, was made about me also. All I want to say in relation to the matter is that if the newspaper wished to defame me it should not have defamed me as much as it did in the photograph it published. Seriously, the truth of the matter is that what was said was hurtful, harmful and derogatory in any sense in which one could read it. I too expect, and have no doubt, that I will be in the Senate if we have a double dissolution, as well we may, as a member of my Party and, giving the same loyalty as I have in the past, I expect to be here for the normal time of a senator, as I am now and will be until that event takes place.
– My question is directed to the Attorney-General. Is he aware of statements attributed to the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs that the unsightly objects on the lawns outside Parliament House should be removed, and of the statement attributed to a person claiming responsibility for those tents that they would not be removed? Will the AttorneyGeneral at long last state why action to remove the tents has not been taken either under the Trespass on Commonwealth Lands Ordinance of the Australian Capital Territory or any other law available to the Commonwealth?
-I seem to recall that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition raised this matter a few weeks ago and that I then indicated to him that it seemed to me- and I have not been advised to the contrary- that it is open to him to set the law in motion. If he feels so strongly about it, why does he not take some action? He has not given us any satisfactory explanation of why he, with his burning zeal to take the action, has not instituted some action. I saw a report of what the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs said. I still say it is open to those who want action to take action. It is convenient that in this area of the law proceedings can be commenced by the citizens generally. I do not know that there is any special reason why I should take action.
-May I have leave to ask a supplementary question?
– I ask the AttorneyGeneral why he, as the chief law officer of the Commonwealth responsible for the enforcement of Commonwealth law, has not taken action.
– That is a good question. I will say why action has not been taken. As the Senate would know, even if not all members are aware of it, in considering whether to take action as Attorney-General one considers what will be the effect generally upon the administration of justice and whether it is to the public advantage to take such action. I think a lot of honourable senators would share my view that the Government and the Attorney-General have been wise in this instance in not taking action which would probably be misunderstood around the world. I say this especially in the light of the fact that no request has come from the Parliament itself. Certainly it has been open to any individual including the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, to initiate action if he thought it was so amply justified and demanded.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Foreign Affairs and refers to the Honourable Vincent Clair Gair. As I recall the Minister’s answer last week, he said that the Honourable V. C. Gair took up his appointment as from Wednesday. Could the Minister advise the date on which his Department put the honourable person on its payroll?
– I take a point of order.
– What is the point of order?
– An elector from Queensland has taken action to bring this matter before the High Court. Therefore I ask whether caution should be exercised about any question that is asked and answered in this place today or on any other day.
– The sub judice doctrine is a matter to which I have given a great deal of thought. I can well understand the honourable senator’s requirement to draw to my attention that the matter is sub judice. However, I do not think that in these matters the Senate should be restrained from consideration of matters that are within its own province. Therefore honourable senators and the Senate as a whole are entitled to seek information so long as it does not prejudice the rights of the individual who is a litigant before the courts.
– I rise to another point of order. This matter is the subject of a debate that is now in continuation in this Senate. In view of previous rulings regarding these matters, I ask you, Mr President, to rule that all questions associated with this matter that is the subject of debate be ruled out or order.
– I can well understand Senator Poyser’s attitude to this matter because he has raised questions about it before. I gave myself the exercise of examining the matter in case any honourable senator raised it this afternoon. My ruling, which has just been typed out, is as follows: In practice the rule as to anticipation at question time has not been interpreted narrowly in the history of the Senate because, if it were, the rule could operate to block questions on a wide variety of subjects. I think it is a reasonable practice to allow questions which seek information on subjects related to matters on the notice paper but which do not necessarily amount to anticipating discussion. Questions and answers thereto, provided they are restricted to the seeking and the giving of information, make for an informed debate when it comes on. That is my ruling. So I do not uphold the point of order.
- Mr President, I raise a point of order. I direct your attention to standing order 99, which provides in part:
Questions shall not refer to-
a ) debates in the current Session____
Mr President, I have the greatest respect for your standing as the presiding officer of the Senate. I say that without equivocation. But, there are in I fact before the Senate a motion and an amendment, debate on which is in continuation and, I presume, will be resumed today. The provision in standing order 99 specifically states that questions shall not refer to debates in the current session. A debate on the subject matter of this question is in train. The question is directly related to the subject matter of that debate. Accordingly, Mr President, I ask whether you would be good enough to have regard to the point I have raised and, in the light of my submission, to reconsider the ruling you have given, which was a reiteration of a ruling you gave to Senator Poyser last week at a different stage of proceedings.
- Senator Brown, I am influenced by much of what you say whenever you stand up to say it. Standing order 99 provides that questions shall not refer to debates in the current session. It also provides:
Questions shall not contain-
statements of fact or names of persons unless they are strictly necessary to render the question intelligible and can be authenticated;
I think that all Senator Withers did was to mention Senator Gair’s name on the basis of making the question intelligible to the Minister for Foreign Affairs. So I do not uphold the point of order.
– In answer to Senator Withers, as he knows papers have been tabled in respect of this matter. The situation is that I have not the power of appointment of an ambassador or high commissioner. That is reserved to the Governor-General- not even to the Executive Council. On 14 March the Governor-General appointed Senator Gair to the position of Ambassador to Ireland. Agrement was received on 2 1 March. Following that, the Executive Council charged me with the responsibility of fixing rates of pay and the other things that go with the appointment, and the taking up of that appointment. The paper that I signed following that authorisation was in fairly standard form- that he takes up his position as Ambassador to Ireland when he hands in his credentials and at the same time hands in another letter withdrawing the credentials of his predecessor. This morning I received such advice from 2 overseas ambassadors. It is happening all the time. As to when his pay begins, I now leave it in the hands of the Senate or the High Court to tell me.
– Will the Minister Assisting the Minister for Defence confirm that the Government has decided to purchase 2 patrol frigates from the United States of America at a cost of $ 1 87m? If he confirms this, has the Government broken a promise given by the Minister for Defence in the House of Representatives on 23 May last? Did the Minister for Defence say on that date that, whatever decision was reached by the Government on the DDL or alternative project for the Australian Navy, he would give an unequivocal assurance that the destroyers would be built in Australia at the Williamstown dockyard?
-The Minister for Defence has already made a statement which appears in the Press confirming the purchase by Australia of the 2 frigates mentioned by the honourable senator. It had been indicated before, as the honourable senator would know, that the Minister for
Defence would be making such a statement some time during April. The position is- and I think answers have already been given to Senator Drake-Brockman about this matter- that when we became the Government the question of whether the DDLs ought to be manufactured in Australia or in fact manufactured at all was a subject of consideration by the Defence Force Development Committee and by the Government. Because of the escalation of price from something like $339m to about $400m the Government, acting on advice from the Defence Force Development Committee, decided not to take up the options. In fact I mentioned only last week in a speech in this chamber that the designs were not complete when we became the Government and that the designers were not in fact Australians. The Government decided, because of what it then termed the urgency of determining defence equipment, to make the purchases mentioned, and about which a statement will be made later.
The question of whether DDLs should be built in Australia is one related to the options about which I have spoken and the need to have equipment ready. It has been mentioned before to the honourable senator that the Government decided that in its’ first year of office improvement of pay and conditions for the Services should be the first action by the Government. This it did. It decided that in the second year of office, which is now, it should purchase equipment. We are now doing this. I can only say to the honourable senator that the statement concerning this matter will be made either late today or tomorrow and the answer I have given to the question will probably be expanded.
– Can the AttorneyGeneral confirm a statement which appeared in the Press relating to the distinction associated with the success of Sergeant Haswell of the Commonwealth Police Force in graduating from the Federal Bureau of Investigation Academy in the United States? Will the Attorney-General inform the Senate of any arrangements that exist for Australian police officers to attend this Academy, thus widening the scope of their experience?
– It is a matter of considerable satisfaction that Sergeant David Haswell of the Commonwealth Police Force graduated from the Academy recently with top honours in his class. Sergeant Haswell was also unanimously chosen by his classmates to address the graduation ceremony on their behalf. I am sure the Senate will agree with me that this was a very commendable performance on the part of Sergeant Haswell. who showed himself to be a credit to the Commonwealth Police Force. Arrangements for attendance of Commonwealth police officers at the FBI Academy are made on an ad hoc basis when it is felt that suitable officers could profit by doing a course at the Academy.
Sergent Haswell is the first officer to attend the course since an officer of the Victorian Police Force, Sergeant Miller, attended the course on a Churchill Fellowship in 1967. Sergeant Miller also graduated with distinction. The arrangements for Sergeant Haswell to attend the Academy were made on the basis that upon his return he would be able to work in connection with the training of other police officers, thus obviating the need to send other officers from Australia to undergo similar training.
-I ask the Minister for Primary Industry: Is it a fact that the Government intends changing the name of the Australian Wheat Board to the Australian Wheat Corporation? Was this a request from the Australian wheat industry? Is the Minister aware that the present Australian Wheat Board has been acknowledged for many years both at home and overseas as an excellent selling organisation?
– Since the present Government has been in office it has desired to restructure marketing authorities along the lines which we feel will give the primary producer the best returns he can obtain for his products. In the process there has been a desire to reach a reasonable degree of uniformity in structure. The only board which has been restructured along those lines up to the present time is the Australian Apple and Pear Board. Discussions were held with members of the Australian Wheat Board concerning the restructuring of that Board and the * possibility of the formation of an Australian wheat corporation which would possibly be along lines different from its present structure. There was no pursuance of that matter. The Government recognises that the Wheat Board in fact has been doing very good work for the wheat industry in Australia. For the present the Government has no intention of pursuing this matter any further.
-I ask the Minister for the Media whether he will indicate what sort of response there has been to the machinery of government advertising campaign which has been instigated by the Government. I further ask whether the campaign has been well received. Is there a demand by the public for an expansion of this campaign?
-Since the commencement of the insertion of these advertisements in the Press my Department has been inundated with requests for copies of the advertisements. To date, a large number of letters have been received from schools and technical colleges. Indeed, the Teachers Federation has been in touch with my Department. At the annual meeting of the Australian Provinical Press Association, which I addressed in Melbourne last Thursday night, the Government was congratulated for initiating such a campaign and for the response which the provincial Press was receiving to the advertisements. As a result my Department intends to produce the advertisements in booklet form for distribution among schools and bodies of this nature. But this cannot be done immediately. Eventually it will be done- I hope next financial year after the Government has been re-elected.
-I believe it has been reported that the DC 10 aircraft proposed for Australia is different from the one involved in a catastrophe outside Paris airport. The Minister for Transport is very safety-conscious. If there is risk at all I think that modification or rectification will be made to see that we are not endangering lives in Australia or in any way soiling the good safety record which Australian civil aviation has in its operations. I shall take up the matter with the responsible Minister to see whether there is a difference in the aircraft and to ensure that the necessary precautions are taken to see that no accident happens to planes which we purchase.
– Has the Minister representing the Minister for Health any knowledge of the proposal to establish hostels for intellectually handicapped people in Brisbane, Ipswich and Redcliffe? Will the Minister indicate the number of such hostels planned for this purpose?
– I did see a statement attributed to my colleague the Minister for Health which he issued some time last week, I think, in which he said that institutions of the type referred to by the honourable senator were being established at Ipswich, Redcliffe and Brisbane. I think, from recollection, throughout the whole of Queensland 16 institutions of the type mentioned are being established by the Department of Health as a result of a decision by the Australian Government.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Transport. I refer to a statement made yesterday by the Minister for Transport that approval had been given to the Australian National Line to purchase 2 bulk ore carriers from a German shipyard. Were the Whyalla shipyards in South Australia given an opportunity to tender for the supply of these ships? If not, will the Minister explain why such opportunity was denied to those shipyards?
– Consideration was given to Australian shipyards building the bulk ore carriers. The demand was an urgent one. The price overseas was more competitive than the Australian price. To put the ships in service it was necessary to get them from shipyards which could complete the contract in a shorter time than it would take the Australian shipyards to complete the contract- if they were capable of carrying out the contract.
– I direct a question to the Minister for the Media. Do Film Australia programs now have wider distribution in Australia than was previously the case? How many of these programs have been sold to television?
-Since the Australian Labor Party came into office, as a result of initiatives taken by my Department there has been a much wider circulation of Film Australia productions in Australia as well as abroad- Film Australia being the film production organisation of the Australian Government. Last year, for instance, at least 6 productions were shown on commercial television stations, a number of them being dramatised documentaries which were shown in prime viewing time. Last week arrangements were made by my Department with the Channel 0-10 network for it to purchase a film relating to the Sunderland flying boats, a documentary which has been produced by my Department. The Australian Broadcasting Commission has purchased six films from Film Australia on Thailand and negotiations are under way at this stage between the Channel 7 network and Film Australia for Film Australia to produce a number of documentaries for that organisation. In addition I can tell the honourable senator, as I told the Senate last week, that there has been a tremendous response for these types of productions in the United States and in Mexico, so much so that in Mexico, as a result of a week’s productions being shown there, there has been a request for repeat performances.
– Is the Minister for Primary Industry aware that the Prime Minister today confirmed that the Government has decided to continue the nitrogenous fertiliser subsidy? If so, will the Minister say why this subsidy has been allowed to survive while the Government has resisted every plea to reverse its decision not to continue the superphosphate bounty?
-The Australian Government has not resisted every plea to renew the superphosphate bounty. If Senator Maunsell would listen more clearly to my answers or read more clearly my statements or the Prime Minister’s statements he would realise that the Prime Minister has. invited rural industries to submit prima facie cases on superphosphate for referral to the Industries Assistance Commission. I stated in the Senate only a week or so ago, I think, that I have received a submission from the Western Australian Farmers Union which is, as I said at the time, a very good submission and the type of thing that the Prime Minister is seeking from rural industry. It has not yet been determined whether a prima facie case has been established. At least on the face of it, it has some good material. There will be a decision as to whether that matter will go to the Industries Assistant Commission. I am suprised that the honourable senator should raise objection to the decision to continue the nitrogenous fertiliser bounty because I would have thought that Australian primary producers would have been pleased with the decision.
– My question is directed to the Minister Assisting the Minister for Defence. Because of the criticism of the Minister for Defence that the recent decision about procurement was for political purposes, I ask: Have the decisions on defence procurement been rushed forward as an election ploy?
– The answer is no. Three weeks ago Mr Barnard told the House of Representatives that a decision on defence equipment purchases would be announced in April. As everybody knows, we have made other similar statements in this place and elsewhere to the effect that the Government was considering what sort of program should be adopted. The Minister has stated several times- I have also said this in reply to questions- that the Government had decided that in its first year of office it would make sure that wages, salaries and pensions were adjusted. This has been achieved. As the honourable senator knows, the cost of the increased payments was about $200m. The Government, and particularly Mr Barnard, have said that after that happened we would decide what we should do about the equipment purchase program. It is not a political judgment. It is based on a recommendation put forward by the Defence Forces Development Committee. That Committee did not finish its studies and deliberations until 29 March. The recommendation was presented to the Cabinet meeting yesterday, which was the first meeting since that date.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister for the Media, refers to his announcement on frequency modulation broadcasting and the introduction of a number of stations in Sydney and Melbourne. Will he take into account the needs of other capital cities, including Adelaide, and give consideration in the first instance to the distribution of the first group to a greater number of cities?
– I hope that with the concurrence of honourable senators I shall be able to make a ministerial statement on this subject later in the day.
– I direct my question to the Minister for the Media. Has the Minister heard rumours to the effect that the Australian Broadcasting Commission in South Australia might, be cutting back the local content in its country radio services on 5PA and 5MG? If so, can the Minister say whether there is any basis in fact for these reports?
– These rumours have been drawn to my attention. I can assure the honourable senator that there are no proposals on the part of the Australian Broadcasting Commission to reduce the amount of local content in programs and that indeed, on the contrary, the Commission is at present examining ways by which programming for regional radio services throughout Australia can be improved and the local content increased. The honourable senator will be aware that in this financial year the Government made available to the ABC an additional $10m. This amount of money has enabled considerably increased production of, essentially, locally produced programs. On radio young people’s programs are being extended by the inclusion of local contributions from the States, replacing some elements of the nationally relayed programs. This has involved expenditure to the order of $25,000. As to the rumours to which the honourable senator refers, I can assure him that they are not correct and that the ABC, far from intending to reduce local programming, is setting about finding ways and means by which to increase it.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Foreign Affairs. It relates to the action taken recently by the Minister at the South Pacific Forum to oppose and to achieve opposition to the inclusion of the People’s Republic of China with France in a resolution condemning nuclear tests. I ask: Is the Minister aware of the authoritative article entitled ‘Radioiodine in Animal Thyroid glands from 1966-72’ published in the Medical Journal of Australia of 2 March 1974. Is he aware that the article refers to exhaustive tests over a lengthy period of sheep and cattle thyroid glands from animals slaughtered in New Zealand and in Australia? Is he further aware that the article provides persuasive evidence that radioactivity on a number of occasions as detected in the thyroid glands originated from Chinese atmospheric tests? In view of the authoritative evidence on the effect of Chinese fallout in Australia and New Zealand and the proven real threat to human health in the Pacific area from the Chinese tests, what possible reason, other than a politically protective one, has the Minister for excluding the Chinese from a motion relating to the Pacific region?
– Firstly, it gives me a lot of powers in excluding anything in the South Pacific Forum. I answered this question the other day. What the South Pacific Forum did was to condemn all atmospheric testing, wherever it might occur. The motion went on specifically to name France and, as closely as I can remember, it used the words ‘The only country testing in this area’. As I explained the other day, the South Pacific Forum, which is a body derived from the South Pacific Commission of a few years ago, is dealing with those problems in the South Pacific area itself. Therefore, that is the specific thing that it is looking at.
– Is not fallout a problem?
-Just a moment. The honourable senator also asks the reason for it. That is the reason for it. He says that the motion is politically protective. It is not. The Australian Labor Party protested long before the Party of which the honourable senator is a member when the Chinese first started nuclear testing in the atmosphere. Mr Whitlam, as Leader of the Opposition, protested to China when he visited that country. He has protested to the Chinese since he has become Prime Minister and we have specifically sent our Ambassador to China to protest to the Chinese again. The honourable senator tries to hang the matter around our necks as a smear at election time in an effort to produce an impression in the community which is not true. His actions do him little credit. As I say, this is not true. As the honourable senator well knows, the reason we took France to the International Court of Justice and did not take China to the Court was that China never accepted the jurisdiction of the Court. Therefore, the same sort of parameters were not available to us within which we could act. For.the second time, I state that that is the reason. As for this business of why we protested against one country and not against another, the fact is that it was specifically written into the South Pacific Forum communique.
-Is the Attorney-General aware of allegations that the Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd is following a course of buying up timber mills, or sawmills as they are also called, around the country and that the company is paying substantial and unrealistic sums for these mills the cost of which will certainly be passed on to the public thereby inevitably adding to the cost of home building? Does he accept that it would be a highly undesirable situation if this essential home building material were to be controlled by a monopoly? Is there any action which can be taken to ensure that the sawmilling industry can continue to be run by individual entrepreneurs and that home building costs are not permitted to be escalated by the development of a monopolistic situation such as it appears is now threatening?
– I have heard rumours. I am not in a position to be able to verify them to the honourable senator. So may I speak about this matter in general terms without depending upon the accuracy of that allegation? In this area of industry, as in other areas of industry, it is clear and I think should have been accepted on all hands- I understand that in a sense it is- that monopolisation tends to force up the price of goods and that that kind of restrictive practice is injurious to the public and is not to be encouraged. The honourable senator asks what can be done about the position. A great deal can be done about it. First of all, we have a Prices Justification Tribunal which would operate in the case of a very large corporation. Next, we have some proposed laws in regard to trade practices which are designed to protect the consumer and outlaw these practices. These proposed laws were introduced substantially into the Parliament last August or September. They are again before the Senate for I think, the third time. We do not seem to be able to have them debated despite the fact that I understand all through industry and commerce there is no outstanding substantial objection to them. But for some reason or another our opponents opposite are, I think, still resisting debating those Bills. If the Bills are passed, the honourable senator will have his answer.
– I raise a point of order, Mr President. There is on the notice paper a matter which will allow this issue to be debated, and during that debate both sides can have their say. The Minister is using his answer to a question to debate an issue, and you have ruled that out of order constantly.
– Indeed I have. I uphold Senator Greenwood ‘s point of order.
(Senator Webster proceeding to direct a question to the Minister for Foreign Affairs)-
– I uphold the point of order on the nature of the question that Senator Webster asked.
- Mr President, I seek leave to question that ruling.
-Is leave granted?
– Leave is not granted.
-Is the Attorney-General aware that the Western Australian Premier has announced his intention to inquire into all aspects of the Forrest Place demonstration? Because of the near tragedy that occurred that day and the possibility that the demonstration was influenced by other than rural groups, will the Attorney-General give whatever assistance his Department can offer to the Western Australian Government? Is he also aware that an Australiawide demonstration is being planned for midMay at the remote north-west telecommunications base? Does the Government have -any intention to address the demonstrators at the site?
-I had not heard that the Western Australian Government proposed to inquire into this deplorable and threatening incident in Western Australia. I think that most Australians would say that that was a terrible incident in our public life. The Prime Minister actually was threatened in no slight way by what happened there. I shall look into what has happened. If it is suggested that some proper inquiry take place I think that the experience of the past indicates that the Commonwealth would cooperate in any reasonable inquiry into the events. It seems strange, considering the way that we distribute powers, that because of the defects of our Federal criminal law this is not a matter which is subject to Federal criminal law. However that may be, I will look into it. As to the other aspect of the matter concerning addressing a meeting, I do not quite follow what the honourable senator meant. I am quite sure that the Government of Australia is not in any way organising some such demonstration. It is not responsible for any arrangements there and is not proposing to participate in the arrangements of the meeting.
– My question, which is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Transport, refers to the announcement of the proposed expansion of Hobart Airport. Is the Minister able to say whether the extensions to the building will contain provisions so that international flights can be handled at Hobart? When does the Government anticipate building runways so that fully laden aircraft larger than 727s can fly direct to Hobart from places like New Zealand?
– An announcement was made yesterday about expenditure on upgrading Hobart Airport. I think that the actual details were spelt out but I will get a statement from the Minister for Transport. I believe that yesterday’s announcement did not propose alterations to runways but I shall give to the honourable senator the information that I can get.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Customs and Excise. I refer the Minister to the Department of Customs and Excise Instruction, issue No. 20, dated 1 April, which refers to the By-law Branch, Functions and Personnel of the Operations Section. Is it intended that interviews with public servants should be discouraged through the restrictions imposed by this instruction? If not, I ask the Minister whether he will examine the instruction which states:
Interviews and inquiries, particularly on the processing of ad hoc applications, should be made initially with the relevant interviewing officer who is available in the mornings only. Arrangements for any interview should be made at least 7 days in advance.
Would the Minister make arrangements for the necessary opportunities for consultation to be available?
-The long history of the Department of Customs and Excise, whether under the present Government or others, has been to have the utmost co-operation with the public and to try to arrange affairs so that there is the utmost expedition of trade and commerce. I am not sure of the background of the particular instruction referred to. I shall endeavour to find out for the honourable senator the reasoning behind it. I would be very much surprised if there is any suggestion of other than the most effective co-operation with those with whom the Department has to work.
-I direct my question to you, Mr President. Hansard eventually will show the words I used in my previous question. In ruling my question out of order, did you know of the words that I used or did you accept the interpretation placed on them by the Leader of the Government in the Senate, and the reflection he made, and then rule my question out of order?
– I shall reply to your question when I see the Hansard report.
-On that point may I say that it may be appropriate to let me phrase my question so that you would know whether it should be ruled out of order and not do so just on the word of the Leader of the Government?
– On a point of order Is there any precedent in the Senate for the Deputy President disputing the ruling of the President and continuing to embarrass the President?
– Do you want a ruling on it?
– I do not think there is any substance in the point of order, because I suffer no embarrassment.
– I address my question to the Leader of the Government. Are we to accept from the figures produced by an advisory committee of the Commonwealth Employment Service appointed at the instigation of the Minister for Labour, Mr Clyde Cameron, that 61.8 per cent of all people unemployed in Australia should not be receiving unemployment benefit? If so it would mean that it is costing the Government and the country $435,000 a week for people who are not genuinely unemployed. Further, 19 per cent of the people in the figures given had been on unemployment benefit for 6 months of more.
– What is the question?
– I am coming to that, Mr President. Will you bear with me? This means it has cost the country more than $4m over that 6 months period for that 19 per cent only. Does this not mean that a massive fraud has been perpetrated and that we ought to call for a royal commission?
– I am informed by my colleagues behind me, who are very familiar with this matter, that there have been some investigations by both Mr Clyde Cameron and Mr Hayden, the Minister for Social Security into this question of people who might be getting unemployment benefit irregularly or improperly.
– There is no ‘ might ‘ about it.
-I think that is right. Some people have obviously been getting this benefit irregularly. Last year there was a prosecution of one person who had obtained the benefit under a number of different names. There have been a number of other prosecutions. The Government is using its best endeavours to see that in a time of full employment people do not get benefits irregularly. However, I am a little surprised, if I may say so with respect, at the figures that the honourable senator has mentioned. I did have a look at them and they seem to me very much larger than what I had understood was the position. I assure the honourable senator that the matter is being investigated by both Ministers and that where there are any irregularities appropriate action will be taken. In a time of full employment it is quite wrong that anyone should be imposing upon the Government. This is wrong at any time but especially at a time of full employment.
– Following a question asked by Senator Townley concerning Hobart airport, I desire to ask a question of the Minister representing the Minister for Transport concerning Brisbane airport, which I understand is programmed to have a lot of money spent on it. Can the Minister inform us as soon as possible of the plans for Brisbane airport and whether they include the building of a completely new runway or just some alteration of existing runways and buildings?
-Cabinet decided yesterday to update Brisbane airport. As the Minister representing the Minister for Transport I do not have with me the full details of the proposal to update the airport but I expect that I can get the details within a very short period. I could not reply properly to Senator Townley when he asked his question, but I have since received details of the proposal for Hobart airport. With your permission, Mr President, and for the benefit of Senator Townley, I would state what work it is expected will be undertaken at Hobart airport at a cost of $1.3m and expected to be completed in 1975-76. The present airport was built in 1953 to cater for passenger loads of the smaller Viscount and Douglas DC6B aircraft. It is now completely inadequate, in size and design, for the bigger passenger loads of the DC9 and Boeing 727 aircraft. The Government has decided not to extend the present terminal. It is proposed to replace it with a new structure on the existing site. The terminal is to be built in stages so as to minimise inconvenience to passengers and airlines. The present terminal had capacity for only 1,400 passengers and visitors. It is expected that by the early 1980s the Hobart terminal will need to cater for at least 3,500 passengers and visitors. The Minister added that the existing roads, car parks and aprons will be adequate for the time being. It will be necessary to construct a small operations building nearby to replace the existing operations centre in the old terminal.
-I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration: Is it a fact that during a visit to Italy Mr Grassby, the Minister for Immigration, invited Mr Francesco Catanzarati, an Opposition member of the Italian Parliament, to visit Australia? Is it also a fact that that member of Parliament is a member of the Communist Party and the shadow Minister for Labour? Can the Minister say whether Mr Catanzarati has spent some time in Griffith, in Mr Grassby ‘s electorate, and is travelling by car to South Australia today? If this gentleman is visiting Australia, can the Minister tell the Senate the purpose of his visit, what areas he will visit and whether any of his expenses are being paid by the Australian Government?
– I am not aware whether my colleague the Minister for Immigration extended an invitation to the Italian gentleman referred to by the honourable senator. I am not aware whether the gentleman is visiting Australia or whether the Australian Government is contributing towards his expenses. If he is visiting Australia at the invitation of the Australian Government I think it is relevant to remind the honourable senator that in this modern day and age Mr Khrushchev once visited the United States of America and President Nixon visited the Soviet Union. 1 hope that the honourable senator will realise that men of good will still exist in this country.
– In directing my question to the Minister for the Media, I refer to the brief Press release in this morning’s newspapers in relation to frequency modulation broadcasting. I congratulate the Minister on the speed with which he has moved and ask whether he is in a position to amplify the position in regard to the introduction of frequency modulation broadcasting so that the people concerned- manufacturers, merchants, and not excluding those people who make their own equipment- may be advised as to the best methods of assisting the introduction of this splendid system of broadcasting.
– The Minister indicated earlier that he would seek leave to make a statement on that subject.
– Can the Minister for Aborigi nal Affairs indicate, or will he ascertain and let us know, the exact amount which to date has been paid in respect of legal aid for Aborigines in Tasmania, the number of applications received and the average amount expended?
– Obviously, to obtain the statistics necessary to answer the question I would need to refer to departmental records. I suggest that the honourable senator put his question on the notice paper.
-My ques tion is addressed to the Minister for Primary Industry. I refer to the action of unionists in refusing to permit the export of livestock on the basis that it is endangering abattoir employment. Is the Minister prepared to condone a position in which contracts are in danger and a valuable trade is in jeopardy because of the attitude of union officials, or has the Minister intervened? Has he had discussions with the union or with the Minister for Labour?
– I am aware that an industrial dispute exists in Western Australia. I certainly have not intervened.
– You have enough to do.
– Yes. The position is, of course, that the reduction in the slaughter of livestock in Western Australia, which I understand is the key to the issue, is due to the simple fact that less meat is available for slaughter. Whether or not the Minister for Labour has taken any steps to intervene in this matter, I do not know. I think it is more appropriate that I should refer the question to him to see whether he can give the honourable senator any further advice.
– I ask the AttorneyGeneral: In view of the wide public interest in the Government’s policy to make legal aid available to all sections of the community, what are the proposed locations for the establishment of Australian legal aid offices in the State of Tasmania and, if possible, in every State?
-In Tasmania it is proposed that the offices will be set up in Hobart, Launceston and Burnie and that there will be visiting legal services to the west coast areas of Queenstown, Gormanston, Zeehan, Strahan, Waratah, Leina and Savage River. In New South Wales the offices are proposed to be in central Sydney, Newcastle, Wollongong, Leichhardt, Fairfield and Blacktown. In Victoria they are proposed to be in central Melbourne and also in Brunswick, Geelong and Sunshine. A third suburban office will be established in Melbourne. In Queensland offices will be established in central Brisbane, Townsville, Rockhampton and Ipswich. In South Australia they will be in Adelaide and Elizabeth and in Western Australia in Perth and Fremantle. In the Northern Territory the offices will be located at Darwin and Alice Springs. There will also be an office in Canberra.
– Did you mention Rosebery?
– No, I did not mention Rosebery.
-Can the Minister for Repatriation inform the Senate of the number of exservicemen recipients of service pensions who have been called before review boards of the Repatriation Department in the last 12 months? Further, of the total number of ex-servicemen so called, can the Minister say how many pensions have been reduced or removed?
-The question calls, as the honourable senator will realise, for a lot of facts and information from the Department. I suggest he put the question on notice.
– Order! Senator, you are giving information, not asking a question.
-Mr President, I am asking: ‘Is it a fact . . . ‘Is it a fact that such a proposal would operate heavily against any taxpayer who sends his child or children to a church school or independent school?
- Mr President, I seek your guidance as to the amount of detail I should give in reply. Being under no such instructions, I ask the honourable senator to put his question on the notice paper.
– I suggest that if there are any other questions they be put on the notice paper.
– For the information of honourable senators I present the report of the Industries Assistance Commission on paper, which was forwarded to the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) on 26 February 1974.
– For the information of honourable senators I present the report of the Industries Assistance Commission on woven man-made fibre fabrics, which was forwarded to the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) on 7 February 1974, together with copies of correspondence between the Chairman of the Commission and the Standing Interdepartmental Committee on Assistance to Industries.
– For the information of honourable senators I present the following report prepared by the Commonwealth Bureau of Roads: Assessment of freeway plans- State Capital Cities- 1974
– I rise to support completely the statements -
– Order! Senator Lillico, you must ask for leave to make a statement.
– I ask for leave to make a statement.
– On the ground I understand, that you have been misrepresented; is that so?
– That is correct.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– I rise to support completely the statements which were made by Senator Marriott and Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson earlier in the sitting today, relating to a statement which appeared in a newspaper on Friday last. The statement was made anticipating a vote which the three of us might cast on a measure which is to come before the chamber this week. Up until that time I had not discussed this matter with anybody and certainly not with a journalist. I did not indicate to anybody in what direction my vote would be cast. The article is pure assumption; nothing else. I did get my photograph in the newspaper; there is that much to be said for it.
– It is a beauty, too. The honourable senator looked well.
– That is right. The statement is scurrilous, lt is untrue. It would make no difference to me whether I had 3 years, one year or one week of my term to run.
– What about.
- Senator Keeffe would know what I was about to say before I had even spoken on the matter. It would make no difference to whatever vote I cast in this place. The statement made is typical of the sloth into which some sections of the Press in this country have fallen over the last year or two. I repudiate it completely and absolutely.
– I ask for leave to make a statement relating to the introduction of frequency modulation broadcasting.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
Senator DOUGLAS MCCLELLAND (New South Wales- Minister for the Media)- Mr President, the Senate will be aware that on 13 March 1974, 1 tabled in this chamber a report of the independent inquiry into frequency modulation broadcasting, indicating at that time that the Government would be studying the details of the report and would eventually announce its decision on the method’ of introduction of FM broadcasting in Australia. I can now indicate to the Senate that the Government has accepted in principle the recommendations contained in the report and has approved the establishment of the first stage of an FM broadcasting system in the VHF band. This first stage will, of necessity, involve the re-allocation of television and other transmissions in some areas in Australia, and the Government has given approval for the expenditure of $3m over the next 2 or 3 years to facilitate this allocation.
The FM radio system to be adopted in Australia will be the pilot tone stereo system and will be located in the radio frequency band that lies between 88 and 108 megahertz. This system will be compatible with international standards for FM radio. The spectrum space involved will be allocated on a 0.1 megahertz channel basis with adjacent channels initially spaced 0.8 megahertz apart in any single reception area, but in adjacent reception areas a spacing of 0.4 megahertz may be used. It is intended that the initial allocations in the band should be made in the 92 to 94 megahertz and the 101 to 108 megahertz areas.
At this stage the Government has not made a firm decision on the types and functions of the stations to be established in FM radio, because detailed technical plans are to be developed for the system. Planning in both of these areas, however, will commence immediately and will be undertaken in a manner that will allow the development of FM services to proceed without interruption. In the initial stages of planning, most particularly on the types, functions and locations of stations, my Department will be consulting with other Government departments before recommending the policy to be adopted.
The Department of Urban and Regional Development, in particular, is expected to play a significant role in this planning because the Government believes that the policies adopted in the planning of media services should take particular account of the special needs of growth centres such as Monarto in South Australia and Albury-Wodonga. In the course of the planning, the Government will also take account of the effects of the adoption of a new policy on the allocation of frequencies in the medium frequency band. Honourable senators may be aware that on 20 February last I indicated that with a new policy in the medium frequency or AM area, it may well be possible to double the number of stations currently available to the listening public through existing conventional radio receivers. Sir Francis McLean and Professor Renwick, the commissioners who conducted the independent inquiry, expressed the opinion that the adoption of a new policy here is of a major significance to the policy to be adopted in the introduction of an FM system and there will need to be a careful examination made to decide which of the new requirements for radio services should be more properly accommodated in the AM band and which in the FM band. ‘ It may well be desirable, in utilising the FM spectrum space available, to ensure that the services established in FM are those which can best make use of the high fidelity, interference-free characteristics of this mode of broadcasting. In general, music broadcasts, for example, will be best heard on FM, while broadcasts which predominantly involve speech, may generally be best established in the medium frequency area. This, of course, will be subject to later decision by the Government but, at this stage, I thought I should indicate some of the lines that may be pursued in our future deliberations.
Honourable senators who have followed in detail the deliberations and recommendations of the independent committee of inquiry will be aware that the committee did not confine its recommendations simply to the commencement of FM broadcasting. Some of the recommendations within the McLean report contain suggestions to the Government on the future conduct of considerations on frequency modulation as well as suggestions on the standards to be established for radio and television receivers, the nature of new services and administrative arrangements which will assist in future planning. The committee recommended, for example, that I should consider ‘setting up a permanent consultative committee to advise on basic matters affecting the development of all broadcasting services, whether over the air, by wire, by satellite, by recorded form or by any new form of mass communication’. It also recommended ‘that a body should be set up to co-ordinate the purely technical aspects of broadcasting development’.
In the light of these recommendations, the Government has decided, at this stage, that it should set up a permanent advisory committee, established broadly along the lines proposed by the inquiry, but with its functions confined to advice on the allocation of frequencies in the Australian frequency table. This committee will be responsible to me, as Minister for the Media, and to the Postmaster-General. The proposed membership of the committee will be decided by the Government at a later date. At this point of time, however, I should indicate that the Government believes that the chairman of this committee should be selected from amongst representatives of Australian Government departments on the committee.
The report of the independent inquiry has also recommended that an assessment should be made of the problems involved in the use of the UHF band for broadcasting in Australia, that as soon as possible all colour and all black and white television receivers should be made suitable for UHF reception and that arrangements to control the performance of television and FM receivers should be made, particularly in relation to their mutual interference-producing capabilities. The Government accepts these recommendations.
Honourable senators may be aware that my colleague in another place, the Minister for Science (Mr Morrison), has been considering for some time the establishment of standards for television receivers from the consumers’ point of view. The Government believes that it is important that the consumer should be assured when he or she purchases a television set that the set is safe to use in the home and will provide reasonable reception, free of interference. As Minister for the Media I have asked my Department to co-operate with my ministerial colleague in the preparation of standards for television sets and I now propose to examine the provisions of the Broadcasting and Television Act to see whether it is possible to ensure that standards laid down for all forms of broadcast receivers can be enforced to provide protection to the public.
It has not generally been realised that a large part of the problem that has existed with the introduction of FM radio in Australia has had to do with the fact that many television sets purchased in Australia have not had built into them the design features that might have protected them against interference from FM radio signals. At the initial stages of FM development, the lack of this design feature in television sets may cause some minor problems but will not constitute a serious impediment. If the system is to be thoroughly developed, however, these design features will need to be incorporated in new sets if serious interference problems are to be avoided. Meanwhile the Government intends to avoid some possible problems in this area by accepting the recommendation of the inquiry that ‘no new television transmitters should be authorised in Channel 5 and no new authorisation should be made in Channels 3 or 4 pending a detailed forecast of FM facilities required in the 1980 V. It also accepts the recommendation of the inquiry that for new FM allocations the definition of the service area covered by the licence should be clearly established.
Honourable senators will be aware of the fact that the inquiry has recommended that in the first phase of an FM system, television programs established on the Channel 5 area should be cleared by allowing the stations concerned to transmit their signals on another channel. The first stage of this clearing process will necessitate the movement of Channel 1 in Taree, New South Wales, to Channel 6. It will then be possible to proceed in areas like Newcastle, New South Wales, and Bunbury, Western Australia, with the reallocation of their Channel 5 services.
Mr President, it is significant that the final recommendation of the inquiry indicates that additional staff should be provided in the technical planning department of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board and in the transmitter construction department of the Australian Post Office, sufficient to enable the implementation of FM development … to be achieved in the time indicated’. This recommendation will be taken up in the normal way after decisions have been made on the detailed schedule of the introduction of FM radio. I believe, however, that the Broadcasting Control Board accepts, as I do, that the report of this inquiry is a thoughtful and well prepared document and opens up the most exciting prospect for radio listeners that has been seen in the last 40 years in Australia.
I express my appreciation and thanks to the commissioners for their report and, as Minister responsible, give my assurance that the Government will do what it can to see that FM services are introduced with the least possible delay. That is my Party’s policy as established at its last Federal Conference. I would be remiss, Mr President, if I did not also use this opportunity to extend my thanks to the members of the Senate Standing Committee on Education, Science and the Arts for the role they have played in this area. I believe that the Government’s acceptance of the Committee’s recommendation for a new inquiry and now the Government’s acceptance of the recommendations of that inquiry, constitute one of the best examples to date of how a system of open Government can operate in Australia to the benefit of all Australians. I present the following paper:
Introduction of Frequency Modulation BroadcastingMinisterial statement, 8 April 1974.
Motion (by Senator Douglas McClelland) proposed:
That the Senate take note of the paper.
Debate (on motion by Senator Laucke) adjourned.
Motion (by Senator Murphy) agreed to:
That the Senate at its rising adjourn until tomorrow at 2. 1 5 p.m.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– I move:
The purpose of this motion is simply to avoid debarring that Committee from looking at the Family Law Bill. The Committee already has the reference, but without taking the Bill out of the consideration of the Senate, the Committee will be entitled to look at clauses of the Bill. Otherwise, it may have been thought that there would be some inhibition on the part of the Committee in looking at the clauses of the Bill.
– Although the Opposition had some general information last week that the Attorney-General (Senator Murphy) would move this motion, it has taken us a little by surprise that the motion has been moved today. I feel, in view of the imminence of certain events, that it is appropriate that this Bill should be referred to the Senate Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs. Therefore, the Opposition will not oppose its reference. However, I should say this: It had been the intention of the previous Government that it should await the report of the Senate Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs after its consideration of the terms of reference dealing with divorce, custody and family law before presenting any Bill relating to matrimonial causes. We appreciated that a considerable amount of work had been done by that Committee since this reference was made in December of, I think, 1971.
At the time of the change of government in December 1972 the Committee had not reported. I asked a question of the Chairman of that Committee late in 1972 as to whether it was correct that the Committee had met only once in the course of 1972. Though that be my impression, I have not yet had it confirmed by the Chairman of the Committee. Certainly, the Committee has not met on many occasions since the change of government in December 1972. One can hope only that if the matter is now referred to this Committee the Attorney-General will use his good offices to ensure that the Committee does meet and consider its report. I have stated publicly that I think there is a great deal in the Bill which has been introduced which is constructive and which provides the basis for consideration of an appropriate divorce and family law in this country. I say that, although I personally would have a number of reservations about a number of the provisions contained in the Bill. I acknowledge that it provides a constructive base for future work. If the work of this Committee is to be of assistance, then it seems to me that it must be prepared to do its work, and do it reasonably promptly.’ That, of course, necessitates its sitting. As I say, whether the events of the next few days will permit the Committee to sit is another matter; but I assume that that is a matter to which the Attorney-General must have given consideration when he moved the motion.
– in reply- In response to what has been put by Senator Greenwood, let me say that the intention is not to take the Bill out of the Senate. I should make that point clear. The motion says that, notwithstanding anything contained in the Standing Orders, the Committee shall be empowered to consider the clauses of the Bill. So the Bill will remain in the Senate, although the Committee will be entitled to look at its clauses in pursuance of its previous reference on this whole subject matter. I am aware of the enormous public demand for reform of the laws in this area. I had hoped that the Bill would be dealt with by the Parliament during this present sessional period, and it is very much to be regretted that events which will delay or prevent the consideration of this measure, which so much affects the people of Australia in their individual ways, may intervene. I will not pursue that matter because we will see what the events bring. However, I want to ensure that no opportunity at all is lost to have the Bill pursued, whether in this chamber or in the Committee.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill returned from the House of Representatives without amendment.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Douglas McClelland) read a first time.
– I move:
One of the Bills before the Senate is the Health Insurance Bill 1973. It comprises the principal legislation to enable the implementation of the Govenment’s health insurance program. The Health Insurance Bill 1973 provides for payments for medical benefits, hospital services and certain other specific services such as health program grants. I should emphasise that the Bill contains the same provisions as those outlined to the Senate when it was originally introduced in December 1973. Last year, it will be recollected, the rejection of this Bill prevented a key promise of this Government from being realised in the public interest. The Government is now putting this Bill once more before the Senate.
We are putting this Bill once more before the Senate because the introduction of an equitable and efficient health insurance program covering all Australians was one of our major election promises and one which was clearly approved by the electorate. Some members of the Australian public have perhaps been affected by the false fears which have been spread about the meaning of our program. However, a great number of people have seen through the smokescreen and it is apparent that organisations such as the Australian Medical Association have lost credibility with the public, and it will also be demonstrated in the future that political parties which align themselves with such narrow, sectional and ferociously conservative groups will similarly lose all credibility.
The whole debate on health insurance has polarised opinions roughly according to whether people have a progressive and socially concerned outlook or whether they are so conservative as to resist all worthwhile change. But there is one point on which there is general agreement and this is that in some way or other all Australians should have health insurance coverage. It would, of course, be possible to tinker with the so-called voluntary health insurance scheme to provide a patch-work coverage for the more than one and a half million people who do not have insurance coverage at present. One proposal- that of the Australian Democratic Labor Party, which I understand has some attractions for honourable senators opposite- would cost an additional $180m at least, which represents nearly a 2 per cent increase in taxation. Instead of opposing, I would suggest that the Opposition should go further than that and in the course of the debate it should explain exactly the cost of any proposals it has to rectify the defects in its scheme and indicate from where the money is to be raised, given its clear undertaking that it will cut back savagely on public expenditure.
Nobody can pretend that the present health insurance scheme is either equitable or efficient. Moreover, it is not even comprehensive. One of our first concerns is to see that everyone in the community is brought into the system. The Australian Bureau of Statistics figures show that the present scheme covers only about 87 per cent of the population. In absolute figures, having regard to the total population, this means- and I repeat what I said earlier- that over one and a half million Australians are not covered. Under the proposals in these Bills- and I point out that the Health Insurance Commission Bill flows from the Health Insurance Bill- everyone in the community will be automatically covered. As I mentioned, it would be possible to do a patch-up job on the present scheme to cover such people as pensioners and low income earners. I repeat that the Democratic Labor Party seems to have some vague suggestions about how this can be done. The DLP may well be sincerely motivated in its proposals but the fact is that they represent a poor solution to the basic problem to which they are addressed. The total annual cost of the DLP proposals which would seem to have so much attraction for honourable senators opposite are of the order of $ 180m. That is an expensive ‘band aid ‘ exercise on this very defective system.
This would represent a very costly partial solution to the social challenge posed by the inadequacies of the present pensioner medical service and the plight of low income earners who are unable to afford coverage under the existing health insurance scheme. In practice the DLP proposals would have the effect of excluding from eligibility for free general practitioner care many pensioners who would be eligible for this free treatment under the existing pensioner medical service. The fact is that the present means test for deciding eligibility for the pensioner medical service for a couple without children is $86.50 a week, whereas a couple without children cannot be admitted to the subsidised health benefits plan unless they have a weekly income of $69.50 or less.
The Bill now before us will enable the implementation of a program which will provide complete coverage, including specialist medical care, for all pensioners and low income earners for the same total cost as would be incurred in the continuation of the existing ramshackle array of health care schemes. Let me restate what I mentioned a few minutes ago. Tinkering with the pensioner medical service to cover pensioners under the subsidised health benefits plan will exclude great numbers of people who would otherwise have enjoyed the benefits of the pensioner medical service. Let us hear clearly and in quite concrete terms what is the Opposition’s alternative program and how the Opposition proposes to remedy the serious defects in the present health insurance scheme.
Perhaps the single aspect of the program most frequently and blatantly misrepresented has been the matter of choice of doctor. Many people do genuinely appear to have been deceived into thinking that they will lose their freedom of choice. It therefore must again be emphasised that our program in no way alters the present doctor-patient relationship. Patients will be perfectly free, just as at present, to choose their own family doctor. In the hospital situation, which is of course governed by State authorities, patients in public wards will generally be treated by sessional or salaried doctors, just as they are at present, and in intermediate and private wards they will be free to have the doctor of their choice by virtue of the extra insurance premiums they pay- which again is the same situation as applies at present. Attempts have been made to cause fear in the public mind about the use of health insurance cards. I should rather hope that we will see no more of this discreditable propaganda following the report, tabled in this place on 7 March, by the Committee of Inquiry into the Protection of Privacy on the question of patient privacy in health insurance. But in case there is a lingering desire to debate this issue on the part of the Opposition let me remind honourable senators opposite of the shocking degree of intrusion into personal records held by the Department of Social Security which my colleague, the Minister for Social Security (Mr Hayden), uncovered in the latter part of last year. This had been a longstanding practice tolerated by past governments until the time we achieved office.
The Committee of Inquiry into the Protection of Privacy made recommendations which are in line with the Government’s intentions, as spelt out in the White Paper, regarding the use of health insurance cards. We had, prior to the report by the Committee, made it clear that the recommendations of the Committee concerning confidentiality of patient information would be included at an appropriate time in the health insurance legislation. A close examination is being made of the Committee’s recommendations in preparation for the introduction of appropriate amendments to the health insurance legislation, whether embodied in the Bill now before the Senate, in complementary legislation, or in interim amendments to the existing National Health Act.
The total costs of the program will be the same as those which will be needed for the present unco-ordinated series of health care assistance schemes. For individual members of the public the costs will be based on the equitable principle of ability to pay and they will mean that the great majority of the public will pay less for the benefits of the program than they at present pay for coverage under the so-called private health insurance system. It is true that those on the highest incomes will pay a little more than they do at present but most of those on low and middle range incomes will pay less.
Honourable senators opposite are welcome to the role of defending the present inequitable system by which those who earn least pay the most for health insurance coverage and those who earn the most pay the least. Opposition to our program has been expressed by many conservative groups during public debate over the last year or so. It is surely noteworthy that such groups as the AMA, the General Practitioners Society, the Association of Medical Specialists and the Voluntary Health Insurance Association have vested interests in the continuation of the existing health insurance scheme. They may have ideological beliefs about the concept of universal health insurance financed through taxation, but it is very plain that their primary motivation is concerned with their perception of their own material interests. There are, of course, hundreds of unions and other organisations which support our health insurance program, many of them no doubt for reasons of ideology and because our proposals offer a materially better deal for their members. But it is significant that considerable support for the program has come from groups which have no political commitment to either side of the debate and no discernible material interests.
What of the Anglican Bishops, the Church and National Committee of the Presbyterian Church and the Australian Council of Social Services, to name only a few? It surely could not be suggested that those people are biased in their support for our program or that they are naive or have a misplaced sense of social values. The plain fact of the matter is that they are people concerned with social equity and progress who, after honestly and dispassionately examining our proposals, have decided that the health insurance program will be for the general good of the community.
All of the deceit and distortion which has been injected into the community debate on our health insurance proposals cannot alter the fact that this Government came into office with a clear mandate for its program. The introduction of that program has already been delayed too long. Too many Australians are suffering too much hardship because of inadequacies of the decrepit existing scheme, cynically bequeathed to the public by the Opposition, for this Government to accept further delays.
I should mention that while the Health Insurance Bill is the main legislative instrument for the introduction of the Government’s health insurance program it is the Government’s intention that complementary legislation concerning such matters as the scope and operation of private health insurance and the introduction of levies on taxable income and on motor vehicle third party and workers compensation insurance will be introduced at a later date. We will also, I repeat, introduce complementary legislation on the subject of the protection of privacy in health insurance operations.
In conclusion, let me quickly sum up the main principles of this scheme. It provides universal cover and rectifies a serious defect in the present scheme which cannot be overcome except at enormous expense. Even then, there would still be gaps in coverage. The equity of cover in the present scheme should be intolerable to any community that claims to have a social conscience in that those people who can least afford it pay most for their health cover, and those people who are most able to afford it pay least. Perhaps most importantly of all- we lose sight of this- is the way in which the pooling of funds allows the whole community to be covered and allows an expansion of the range of services available to the community to be provided at no additional cost to that currently outlaid under the present system of private health insurance, repatriation and medical services and pensioner medical and hospital services. That is one of the crucial points- I suggest that it is the most crucial point, which is consistently lost sight of.
The alternatives are to incur greater expenditure. That can be done only by increasing taxation, by reducing outlays in other areas, by an amalgamation of those things or by foregoing important priorities which could be included in general programs if a more efficient system of pooling finances could be undertaken as the Government is proposing in this universal health insurance scheme. When it is all boiled down, the real crux of the issues centres around the point that we are offering universal coverage to the community- something that belongs in most countries today; something that is being introduced in the United States of America; something that has been established in Canada for many years. As he indicated in another place, the Minister for Social Security was in Canada recently and was advised by the Ontario Medical Association, amongst other representatives of the medical profession, that they wholeheartedly embrace a universal system of health insurance based on fee for service private medical practice in the community. They would resist any effort to revert to the system that applied in the past in Canada, which would in turn be similar to the situation which applies in this country. I commend the Health Insurance Bill 1973 and the Health Insurance Commission Bill 1973, which I have yet to introduce to honourable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator Rae) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Douglas McClelland) read a first time.
– I move:
The Bill establishes a Health Insurance Commission as a statutory authority to plan and establish an organisation to administer the Government’s health insurance program. This Bill was, along with the Health Insurance Bill, defeated in the Senate last year. The Health Insurance Commission Bill is being reintroduced in the same form as it was when previously placed before the Parliament. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
– On the same basis as I moved the previous motion, I move:
At this stage I would seek from the Minister for the Media (Senator Douglas McClelland) an indication of whether he proposes to have a cognate debate on the second reading of the Health Insurance Commission Bill 1973 and the Health Insurance Bill 1973.
– So far as I am concerned, I would seek a cognate debate on the Health Insurance Commission Bill 1973 and the Health Insurance Bill 1973 but if the Opposition wishes otherwise, the Government will accomodate it. However, in the interests of the efficient functioning of the Senate I suggest that the Bills be debated at the same time.
– It would be the wish of the Opposition to debate them together.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from 4 April (vide page 70 1 ), on motion by Senator Murphy:
That, pursuant to section 203 of the Commonwealth Electrol Act 1918; 1973, the following question be referred to the High Court of Australia sitting as the Court of Disputed Returns, namely: Whether, and if so when, a vacancy has happened in the Senate in the representation of Queensland in connection with the place of Vincent Clair Gair.
Upon which Senator Withers had moved by way of amendment:
Leave out all words after ‘That’, insert ‘That the Senate, in. pursuance of its powers under section 47 of the Constitution, resolves
that, at the time that the President made his statement on 3 April 1974, Senator Gair had not resigned his place in the terms of section 19 of the Constitution and he was therefore, at the time of the statement, a senator for Queensland and accordingly, at the time of the statement, the Senate was entitled to regard Senator Gair as a senator for Queensland;
that there is abundant evidence that the Prime Minister and his responsible Ministers knew and intended that Senator Gair would cease to be a senator by resigning his seat in the Senate in the terms of section 1 9 of the Constitution:
that, following the issue of a writ by the Governor of Queensland for an election to fill 5 vacancies in the Senate, in compliance with a request from the Prime Minister, the Government’s attempt to assert thatSenator Gair had vacated his seat under section 44 or 45 of the Constitution on either 14 or 2 1 March 1974, and did not now need to resign as originally intended, deserves the gravest censure and the Government should resign.’
-Since this debate commenced last week other events have developed which have defused it of some of its intensity. We are therefore able to consider the motion and the amendment that were brought before the Senate somewhat more patiently, 1 suggest, and, I hope, with a little more clarity. It will be remembered that arising out of the transaction affecting Senator Gair and his appointment as Ambassador to Ireland, it was first of all announced that he was appointed to that position and both the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) and Senator Gair referred to an intention of submitting a resignation. Then events took place in Queensland that preceded that resignation and commenced an election as from the night of 2 April. What we are debating is the attempt of the Attorney-General (Senator Murphy) to counteract the effect of that by antedating that proclamation of the commencement of the election in Queensland and claiming that a casual vacancy occurred in this Senate on either 14 March or 21 March. There has been a lot of glib talk which seems to use in the language of some people the word ‘resignation’ as if it were not different from a ‘forfeiture’ by reason of acceptance of an office of profit or for other reasons. I suggest that there is the greatest difference between a voluntary act of resignation of a senator and a contrived forfeiture of his office under either section 44 or section 45 of the Constitution.
The proposition which Senator Murphy has advanced to the Senate is that there was a forfeiture of office. The proposition which I advance to the Senate is that there has been neither a forfeiture of office nor a resignation up till this time.
Therefore I support the amendment moved by Senator Withers, which is broadly to that effect. The proposition of Senator Murphy depends upon a claim that Senator Gair as from 14 March or 2 1 March held an office of profit. I suggest that to examine that one must consider the documents that he put before us to claim that Senator Gair has been appointed to and holds an office of profit. The document of 14 March is simply a letter from the Prime Minister to the GovernorGeneral expressing the Government’s wish ‘to appoint The Honourable Mr Vincent Clair Gair, who is presently a Queensland member of the Australian Senate, as its Ambassador to the Republic of Ireland’. It certainly concludes with a paragraph saying:
The Government considers that Mr Gair is well suited to the position of Ambassador to the Republic of Ireland and I recommend that you approve his appointment.
That letter is minuted ‘Approved. Paul Hasluck. 14 March’. Then there is the minute paper of the Executive Council of 2 1 March in which it is recommended by the Prime Minister, as Acting Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, for the approval of His Excellency, the Governor-General in Council, that in relation to the appointment, Mr Gair be paid such salary and allowances as may be determined by the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs; that such appointment be subject to such other terms and conditions as may be approved by the Minister; and that such appointment commence on or from a date to be determined by the Minister.
It is quite clear that the appointment was not commenced by this document. The Executive Council minute specifically provides that the appointment shall commence on a date to be determined by the Minister. It provides for the Minister to provide in relation to that appointment salary and allowances and other terms and conditions. That is followed, in the haste with which events pressed upon us on 3 April, by a long document, hastily prepared by the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Senator Willesee). It says:
. Donald Robert Willesee, Minister of State . . hereby approve the following salary, allowances and terms and conditions in relation to this appointment:
This provides certain provisions as to commencement of salary, outfit and certain other allowances shall come into operation at a date previous to arrival at the post. But, in that document so prepared by the Minister for Foreign Affairs, there is not one word that exercises the provision of the Executive Council minute determining the date upon which the appointment is to commence. I would have thought that in that situation learned counsel who have been good enough to provide opinions, obviously for the purpose of submission to Parliament, would have taken the trouble to analyse those particular parts of the documents and would have given us some analytical discussion on the formal requirements for appointment as an ambassador, and then would have discussed the extent to which these documents conform to those formal requirements. Even giving full credence to those opinions, nobody could be persuaded on the present documents that up to this time any appointment has been commenced.
It is a specific provision of the GovernorGeneral’s approval that the Minister for Foreign Affairs shall determine the date upon which the appointment shall commence. To get over the imbroglio that was caused by the afterthought of the contention- that is to say, for a contrived forfeiture of the office- the Minister did go to some pains to provide terms and conditions that should apply in relation to the designated appointee and when he should commence duty; but, as to the commencement of the appointment, it is left open for one to believe- I suggest it is open to belief on a reasonable basis- that the Ambassador designate will carry with him letters of credit which are the Governor-General’s appointment of him to the office. They will be the authority for him to commence duty in his office upon his arrival at his post. As to that being the reasonable contemplation of all parties concerned with the transaction, we were told by Senator Willesee last week that specifically as of Thursday last Senator Gair was not Ambassador to Ireland, he was Ambassador designate; that Mr Brennan is our continuing Ambassador to Ireland and when Senator Gair gets there he will hand in his letters of credit and also Mr Brennan ‘s recall. There will be an immediate changeover in the position of Ambassador when the new Ambassador’s appointment will commence and the outgoing Ambassador’s appointment will cease.
I take the opportunity to say that in the light of this situation it is impossible to be persuaded that there is very much reason behind the viewpoint put forward by counsel. It certainly is impossible to accept the afterthought of Senator Murphy who has just conjured up this contrived forfeiture for the purpose of counteracting the astute move by the Premier of Queensland to commence the election before an anticipated resignation. It quite clearly was to be supposed, apart from the point of the formality of the documents, that whatever was signed by the Governor-General and the Ministry here while Senator Gair was a member of the Senate is properly to be interpreted as a proposal conditional upon Senator Gair’s resigning his position in the Senate. It is quite in the ordinary course of affairs for arrangements to be made for the formal appointment to be made when other preliminaries such as resignation from the Senate have been undertaken. I suggest that anybody who does not advert to the interpretation of the transaction that gives to these documents that we have before us a conditional operation shows that the consideration that has been given to the matter has been quite conspicuously incomplete. Senator Gair had something to say, according to the Daily Mirror’ of 4 April; that is to say, as late last Thursday. He is reported to have said:
I consider that I did not resign from the Senate until I presented a letter to the Chairman of the Senate announcing that I had accepted appointment as Ambassador to Dublin. I was still a senator on Tuesday night. That is why I attended the Senate sittings and voted in some divisions.
That deliberate statement was made by him after the matter had come into controversy. Senator Gair said that on the Tuesday night he was still a member of the Senate. He went on to say in another part that he had his resignation in his pocket and intended to submit it the next day; but what he did submit the next day was not a letter of resignation but a letter that had been prepared for him by the Attorney-General or his advisers, asserting a contrived forfeiture because he held an office of profit.
Suppose that all I have said needs questioning. Consider the next point. Any person who holds an office of profit under the Crown becomes subject to a disability upon which his place becomes vacant; that is to say, he has to hold the office, not merely to be promised it, or not merely preliminary documents prepared. He has to hold it; not merely to be in receipt of salary, but in such a position that he is authorised to exercise the authority of the office. Fancy an empty shell of an ambassador with no authority to act in respect of one ambassadorial duty from now until he gets to Dublin. Who could suggest that in any real sense that person holds an office of profit within the terms of the Constitution? That leads me to make a comment, retaining all the respect that I can for the opinions that have been submitted to us to persuade us on legal grounds. Not a word is said in those opinions that when we are about to a forfeiture of an important office in the affairs of this country, that is to say a seat in the
Senate, or if we are to prove a forfeiture of such a matter as a licence or a lease, the courts, of course, with great prudence- and we would follow them in this attitude- require the strictest of proof. The onus of proof is heavily upon the person who is asserting the forfeiture. In the circumstances of this situation how can it be said in any real sense that a person in Brisbane, even though he is put on the payroll and has been provided with a garment or an outfit allowance and some promise of travel expenses, holds that office? Does he hold that office? Certainly not. A person holds an office when he takes his place to exercise the authority of that office. It would be an impossible proposition, I suggest, in any court of law to argue that Senator Gair holds an office of profit.
It is said that he has agreed to take a fee or honorarium for services rendered to the Commonwealth. Not a word is addressed in the opinions to the actual meaning of that phrase. We have already had attention drawn to the other phrase in section 44 of the Constitution relating to the holding of an office- not any office, but an office of profit. Let us suppose that profit would include the case of taking fees or honoraria. One would have thought that we would be entitled to a little elucidation from learned counsel as to what particular meaning should be attached to this second phrase. Other than to deny what has been alleged by other counsel outside the Senate, and to say that it does not merely apply to past services, there is scarcely a mention of this phrase and its proper meaning in the opinions.
So, we are asked to be persuaded that this senator directly or indirectly takes or agrees to take any fee or honorarium for services rendered to the Commonwealth. If it is an office of profit to which he has been designated carrying salary, allowances and fees would the language of one’s country construed without cleverness considered that a person holding an office of profit came within the description of a person who had agreed to take any fee or honorarium for services rendered to the Commonwealth? I submit that we must get to a very aborted construction of that phrase if we are going to apply it with propriety to Senator Gair’s position as now ambassador designate and even after he becomes ambassador and agrees then to take fees or honoraria for services to be rendered. When the clause is subjected to a little notice- I do not pretend to have given it full consideration- it instantly bears in upon one that it certainly does not cover the case of an office of profit of an ambassador in which he takes regular salary, fees and allowances. It is obviously a case where there has been a contract whereby somebody has rendered services to the Commonwealth in the discharge of some public duty in connection with his membership of the Parliament and then agrees to take from the public purse a fee or honorarium for the services that he has rendered. Ex post facto it is corrupt reward for services that were rendered as a member of the Parliament.
The other thing that puzzles me about these opinions- I express no final conclusion with regard to them- is that there is not a word of reference to the provisions in the Crimes Act with regard to bribery, conspiracy and the buying and selling of offices. Section 88 of the Crimes Act states that any person who corruptly obtains any benefit of any kind for himself on account of anything done or omitted to be done by him with regard to the appointment or contemplated appointment of any person to any office in the public service of the Commonwealth is guilty of a crime, and any person who corruptly confers upon any person any benefit of any kind on account of any such act or omission is guilty of a crime. This section reproduces an old statute of George III which was brought in to make criminal the corrupt purchase and transfer of offices. I am speaking only from memory. It was 20 years ago when a matter of corruption came up in Tasmania. I have not had time to verify the matter. The only thing to be consedered here is whether it is corrupt and that is essentially a jury question. But secrecy is a badge of corruption and so too is the degree of benefit and the degree of unreasonableness of the transaction where an arch enemy of the Government gets the benefit of a public office and thereby agrees to vacate another office for the benefit of the Government electorally. It is a matter for the jury to determine whether or not there has been corruption.
Section 86 of the Crimes Act states that if 2 persons are engaged in an agreement to effect a purpose that is unlawful under a law of the Commonwealth it is a crime. I do not know, and I do not assert at the moment, whether an agreement to contrive a forfeiture of the seat of a member of the Parliament is an unlawful act in the sense of the section but at least it deserves consideration by counsel who put forward their opinions as advice to this chamber.
In section 73 of the Crimes Act one finds that bribery is defined without reference to the term corruptly’. In that section any Commonwealth officer who obtains or attempts to obtain a bribe shall be guilty of an offence and any person who bribes a Commonwealth officer shall be guilty of an offence. ‘Bribe ‘ is described in this way:
Bribe’ includes the giving, conferring . . . of benefit of any kind in respect of any act done or to be done … in relation to a matter arising under a law of the Commonwealth . . .
A Commonwealth officer is .described as: a person who performs services for or on behalf of the Commonwealth . . .
Obviously if the Senate were to be persuaded that forfeiture has been effected it should receive an analysis of the legality or illegality of the transaction which is supposed to constitute the forfeiture. We would not entertain very readily evidence as to a transaction if responsible counsel, on consideration of that and all the other evidence which an inquiry might produce, said that there was a prima facie case for the AttorneyGeneral to investigate as to whether crimes had been committed. That leads me to say that on none of the grounds put forward could anybody responsibly be persuaded that this retrospective idea of the Attorney-General of a contrived forfeiture should be accepted in any degree.
But then Senator Murphy, realising the weakness of his situation, comes in here with a motion that the question clearly entertained by the Government should be submitted to the High Court under section 1 56 of the Commonwealth Electoral Act. The Attorney-General says, if you please, that section 156 of the Electoral Act is exhaustive and that no remnant of jurisdiction remains in this Senate to exercise the jurisdiction which formerly belonged to us by virtue of the section of the Constitution. So Senator Murphy says that section 156 exhausts our jurisdiction. Mr Deputy President, I remind you that section 156 -
– The honourable member’s memory is failing.
– I am using section 1 56 in the wrong sense. I should be using section 203. 1 forebore to consider section 1 56 in relation to the other 3 sections of the Crimes Act, but I would have expected the Attorney-General and his advisers to have given comments on section 156 of the Electoral Act from the point of view of legality. I turn to section 206, which is the proper reference. It reads:
On the hearing of any reference under this Part of this Act the Court of Disputed Returns shall sit as an open Court and shall have the powers conferred by section one hundred and eighty-nine of this Act so far as they are applicable, and in addition thereto shall have power-
to declare that any person was not qualified to be a Senator ora Member of the House of Represenatives;
to declare that any person was not capable of being chosen … as a Senator or a Member of the House of Representatives; and
to declare that there is a vacancy in the Senate . . .
Section 203 states that any question respecting the qualifications of a senator or respecting a vacancy in either House may be referred by resolution to the High Court as a Court of Disputed Returns. Senator Murphy tells us that that section was penned with the introductory words: ‘until Parliament otherwise provides’. I think it was Senator James McClelland who said that he could not find any exposition of those words. Of course, they are words which he used in relation to section 5 1 of the Constitution which gives this Parliament power over matters in respect of which other sections provide ‘until the Parliament otherwise provides’. Section 203 provides that any question respecting a vacancy may be referred to the High Court. When Parliament was dealing with disputed elections it provided in section 183 that the validity of any election may be disputed by petition addressed to the Court of Disputed Returns and not otherwise. This is a clear and specific direction that any question as to a disputed election has to go before the High Court. But when it came to a question of vacancy other than under a disputed election, Parliament carefully used the word ‘may’ without saying that it should not be determined otherwise. In the absence of a reference to any authority by the counsel whose opinions were put before us, I make a casual reference to Professor Enid Campbell’s book on ‘Parliamentary Privilege in Australia’. This is how this learned professor sees the matter, at page 101:
Where, as under the Commonwealth Electoral Act, section 203 … the House has a discretion to refer such questions to the elections court, there can be no doubt that the House still retains power to determine whether a member duly returned has, subsequent to election, become disqualified or for some other cause has vacated his seat.
So in relation to the contentions which Senator Murphy and Senator James McClelland put before us that there now rests within us no jurisdiction to determine upon a vacancy or disqualification, this learned author says that there can be no doubt that the House reserves the power to make an effective determination in those circumstances.
I suggest that all I have said is confirmed when one considers the structure of the whole of this part of the Constitution. The idea is that a secret vacancy, contrived by forfeiture 20 days before it was announced to the public, can have any effect upon the duties of the Governor of Queensland with regard to the election. That the ridiculousness of that ought to appear when honourable senators examine section 2 1 of the Constitution. The Governor of Queensland takes no notice of such a vacancy except upon the authentic communication from the President of the Senate. Section 2 1 provides:
Whenever a vacancy happens in the Senate, the President . . . shall notify the same to the Governor of the State in the representation of which the vacancy has happened.
I suggest that a little reflection upon any one of those propositions will destroy the argument for the motion and support the argument for the amendment. I submit that at the time at which the amendment took place, of course, there had been no resignation and no vacancy caused by this contrived forfeiture.
– I rise, as an ordinary person and not as a lawyer, with some trepidation after listening to Senator Wright speaking for three-quarters of an hour. He based most of his argument, both last Thursday and again today, on the question of whether Senator, at that time, V. C. Gair had or had not written a resignation; because he had not written a resignation a position as Queensland senator was not vacant. The position is quite interesting when one looks at the Constitution, as I have done. Section 44 is the first section which deals with a person who can be eligible to sit in the Senate. The section lists a number of people who cannot under any circumstance become a senator. Section 44 (i) to (v) lists the people who shall be incapable of being chosen or of sitting as a senator. Having established who is eligible, the Constitution, as is quite reasonable, deals with the case of a senator or a member of the House of Representatives who does something which takes away his right to be a senator or a member of the House of Representatives. Section 45 (iii) of the Constitution is the important section because it states that if a senator ‘directly or indirectly takes or agrees to take any fee or honorarium for services rendered to the Commonwealth’ his place shall thereupon become vacant. The phrase ‘directly or indirectly takes or agrees to take ‘ is an extremely wide one. It covers pretty well any situation one could think of.
Let us deal with the letter which V. C. Gair addressed to the President and which is dated 3 April 1974. The third paragraph of that letter states:
As you are aware, the position of Ambassador is an office of profit under the Crown and also carries with it fees for services rendered to the Commonwealth . . .
I think it is obvious to anyone that at that time Senator Gair was of the opinion that the position of ambassador was an office of profit. He considered that at that point of time, by this letter which he sent to the President, he was not eligible to continue as a senator under section 45 (iii) because he had agreed to take a fee or honorarium for services rendered to the Commonwealth. He said this is his letter. I know of no ambassador who at present is in his position in an honorary capacity. Senator Wright will probably find out whether there is one, but I know of no person in an ambassadorial position who is not receiving an emolument for his office. Therefore, when V. C. Gair said ‘As you are aware’- he was referring to the President- he believed that the position of ambassador was an office of profit under the Crown. I think that sentence is the relevant part of his letter. It makes the point that his office as a senator would have become vacant because he had agreed to accept the position.
I wis>h to take the matter a little further. Section 47 states:
Until the Parliament otherwise provides, any question respecting the qualification of a senator or of a member of the House of Representatives, or respecting a vacancy in either House of the Parliament, and any question of a disputed election to either House, shall be determined by the House in which the question arises.
I contend that this is in the normal flow of the way in which the Constitution was compiled and is presented here. Section 44 lists the persons who are eligible to stand. Section 45 states that a person cannot remain a senator if he does any of the things listed, such as becomes subject to any of the disabilities mentioned in the last preceding section, takes the benefit of any law relating to bankrupt or insolvent debtors or agrees to take any fee, which is the one I quoted- section 45(iii). The notation in the column alongside section 47 is ‘Disputed elections’. I have dealt with a case in which a person automatically leaves his position in the Senate when he does certain things. When a person has been elected or appointed, as he can be by a GovernorinCouncil in any of the States- he can be appointed; he does not have to be elected- if any one of the provisions of sections 44 or 45 of the Constitution are contravened, the Senate can meet and determine whether any action should be taken against the person who is sitting as a senator.
I feel that we should not be guided by the weight of numbers. We are faced with a very complex situation. It seems to me that the reasonable and just thing to do is not to come down on one side or the other but to refer the matter to people who understand the workings of the law. This would happen if the motion moved by the Attorney-General (Senator Murphy) were carried. We are not asking the Senate to determine, we are not coming down on one side or the other; we are asking that the highest authority in the land determine the correct procedure in view of the whole of the proceedings in relation to the nomination of Senator Gair to the position of Ambassador to Ireland. I think we would be recreant to our trust if we tried to take over the responsibility of determining the right thing to do when we are not able to argue this matter properly. Senator Wright has argued it from one point of view, and members of the Government who are lawyers have argued it from another point of view. There are always 2 points of view to any question. I believe that the correct procedure is not to accept the amendment but to vote for the motion.
- Senator Wilkinson referred in his speech to Senator Wright’s contribution to this debate and to his legal background. Senator Wilkinson, as a layman, proceeded to build his case by reference to sections 45 and 47 of the Australian Constitution. He went on to say that we should not come down in favour of this motion or the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate (Senator Withers).
– No. I said that I did support the motion but not the amendment. I said that I would support the motion because of the doubts in this case.
– I would go along with what the honourable senator said in relation to the Constitution in making out his case if it were not for what appears in the House of Representatives Hansard record of 2 August 1946. On the adjournment debate that night a number of members of the House of Representatives paid tribute to Mr Makin, who was then Minister for the Navy, Minister for Munitions and Minister for Aircraft Production, on his appointment as Australia’s first Ambassador to the United States of America. It is rather interesting to read how, after about six or seven speeches had been made, Mr Makin referred to his parliamentary life, what happened during his career, how he had enjoyed it, had gone on finally to Become the Minister for the Navy and capped his career by being appointed as Australia’s first Ambassador to the United States of America. On 2 August 1946 he said:
If one delves further into history one sees that Mr Makin resigned from the House of Representatives on 14 August. If I went along with the argument put forward by Senator Wilkinson, surely Mr Makin must have been appointed to an office of profit and was accepting his parliamentary salary as well as his ambassadorial salary.
– But you do not know that.
-I am sure that he did not do that. I am sure that the Government of the day, a Labor government, would have made sure that he did not do it. One can cite other similar instances. I recall that when I was a Minister the Government of the day appointed Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin as High Commissioner to New Zealand. We all knew in this place that Senator Dame Annabelle had been so appointed. But it was some time after it came to be known in this place that she resigned from the Senate. At that time I did not hear any honourable senator on the Opposition side raise any concern over her appointment or her resignation. A case very much closer to me involved my colleague, ex-Senator Prowse. He told me that he had been to a doctor who had recommended that he get out of Parliament. I had to study the Standing Orders and the Constitution and abide by what they set down to ensure that he resigned from the Senate in the proper manner. I had to do this.
– That is not what we are talking about.
-It is the same thing. If I had not done so his replacement would not be here. Why in these circumstances could the same procedures not have been followed? They could not be followed because the Government would not have been able to fill the vacancy in the way it wanted to and at the time it wanted to do it.
The case under the discussion is totally different from the 3 cases that I have mentioned. I believe that this is a crisis which is very serious indeed. To me this case reeks of premeditated scheming and a disregard for political morals. We have had many crises in this Senate. One has only to think of the VIP flight crisis in which honourable senators who are on the Government side but who were on the Opposition side at that time tried to bring down the Government of the day because they believed that they had a very good case. They believed that there was a situation in which the Minister responsible was acting improperly. When one thinks about how VIP flights are run these days, what happened during the early stages when this Government came into office and what happened in regard to the transporting of members’ families and so on, surely we could have raised a VIP issue with just as much force as did Opposition senators in earlier days. Other crises involved Jetair Australia Ltd and the Hoffmann case. One of our Senate colleagues paid a very high price for his administration of that portfolio and for the criticism that was levelled at him by then Opposition senators.
I was very concerned last week and also this week when I found out from answers to questions that the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Murphy) was inclined to say that Opposition senators were not able and did not have the right to question him in detail on these matters. This is a very different story from what happened in 1970 when I was Minister. I remember very vividly the case of an aircraftsman who went absent without leave. I can recall sitting in the place now occupied by Senator Bishop and being grilled by the then Opposition Leader in this place as though I were in some court.
– That is right.
– The honourable senator who interjected is aware of this. He went through this on the Jetair business. It is wrong for the present Leader of the Government in the Senate, who has the responsibility for this case, to stand up and say that Opposition senators are not allowed to ask questions or to ask them in much greater detail than he would desire. It is plain that the Government has been dishonest in this case. The Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) has said that the Honourable V. C. Gair was appointed on 14 March. Senator Murphy, who is the Leader of the Government in this place, said in answer to questions the other day that the appointment was no later than 2 1 March. Then we had the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Senator Willesee) saying that the appointment was formal on 3 April. At the same time that Minister admitted that the Honourable V. C. Gair was only Ambassador designate. We had a further elucidation today on this matter, also by that Minister. But whatever the situation is I believe that the Parliament and the people of this country have been hoodwinked. I believe that the people are entitled to be disgusted with the Prime Minister who has schemed to gain a majority vote in this Senate in order to reverse the balance of power given by the people in a democratic vote.
I believe that the Prime Minister and his Government can be likened to a group of men who set out to plan the perfect crime. Honourable senators can imagine these men examining all the wherefores and the whyfores. If they take this action they will get a certain result; if they take another action, they will get a different result. So these people plan the situation very carefully. But like many people in this situation, they disregard one important fact. I am not saying for a minute that the Prime Minister and his Cabinet colleagues disregarded a particular fact. What I am saying is that they did not place the importance on one particular fact that they should have placed on it. That is the issuing of the writs. They thought that they could overcome that problem when they came to it. But like most offenders, they slipped up on one vital point and it has brought their scheme undone. I am sure that their sordid actions have not been obliterated from the memories of the people of this country.
I come to the way in which appointments are made. I said earlier in my remarks that we have had examples of appointments made. I referred to Mr Makin and the former Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin. It is quite traditional for a person to resign so that he or she can take up another appointment. It is not traditional for an appointment to be made in order to gain a resignation from Parliament. That is the point that counts in this case. Let me talk about the acceptance of the appointment. How does the Government explain away the fact that the terms and conditions of appointment were signed on 3 April 1 974 if Senator Gair was, in fact, Ambassador to Ireland on 14 or 2 1 March 1974? How was Senator Gair to accept an appointment without knowing the terms and conditions? Is it not logical that he should wait and learn the terms and conditions before he agreed to accept them?
– Is it likely that he would accept them before he had a good look at them?
– Quite so. Surely what I am saying tallies with the reported statement, to which Senator Wright referred, made by Senator Gair when he returned to Brisbane last Wednesday. He said that he believed he had resigned from the Senate on that day.
– He made a statement in Canberra different to that one.
– I am not talking about the one that was different. I did not see it. I am developing my case. We know when the terms and conditions were drawn up. Senator
Willesee, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, said today that he was given the job of drawing up the terms and conditions in writing and that he did that on 3 April. Did not Senator Gair then have a look at those terms and conditions on that day, or did he accept the appointment before those terms and conditions were drawn up? I believe that the Government has shown itself to be guilty of connivance and trickery. I think that that has been borne out by the questions that have been asked in the Senate and by the statements that have been made which have been contradictory and misleading. The Government has abused the trust of the people. Therefore, I believe that it no longer has a mandate to govern. f now wish to say something about manipulation. Who can say that today or tomorrow or next month or next year the Government will not try to pull off a similar manipulation of the Parliament? I wonder whether there is sitting in the Senate amongst us another Opposition senator who is to lose his seat by being whisked away overseas post? Certainly, we would not be told if such an action had been taken. The Government, by its malpractices, has created an intolerable situation of doubt and suspicion. I believe that there is a gross offence against the Senate. Not only is the Senate competent to deal with the matter, but also it has a clear obligation to demonstrate by its vote that it will not again be used as a pawn in a rigged game of political chess. So we support the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition. I hope that by doing so we will not see this sort of fiasco come before the Senate again.
-The proposition before the Senate is a simple one. It is that the question be referred to the High Court of Australia sitting as a Court of Disputed Returns, as to whether, and if so when, a vacancy has happened in the Senate in the representation of Queensland in connection with the place of Vincent Clair Gair. We are debating this issue at a time when the whole of the exercise can be neutralised by other events. This will become part of history. I think that some of the exaggerated statements that have been made by members of the Opposition to bolster up their very weak case will reflect upon them very badly in the view of historians in as much as they are contradictory of statements that have been made previously in the Senate by people such as Senator Greenwood. I think that it is worth repeating the attitude of Senator Greenwood, as stated on 24 August 1971, when he was Attorney-General: 1 would have thought that where a Senator’s constitutional right to sit in this chamber is conferred by the Constitution, the High Court is the appropriate body charged by the Constitution with the duties of interpretation. It would be an unreal situation if this Parliament or any one House of the Parliament were to decide whether or not a senator had the qualifications to remain in this chamber, I believe it would be mischievous to embark upon an inquiry in the assumption that this Parliament or this chamber does have the power.
This is the proposition that we are debating this afternoon. Because of the charges that have been made, we had Senator Wright talking about the Crimes Act and we have heard him state that a crime has been committed. We have heard Senator Drake-Brockman claim that the Government has been dishonest in the case. I think that it is a logical proposition that this matter be taken away from the heat of political argument in the Senate and properly investigated by the High Court. Senator Drake-Brockmen said: ‘Who can say that tomorrow or next year a member of Parliament may not be similarly manipulated?’ All of these descriptions of the events leading up to this debate are highly accusative and would much more properly be dealt with by the High Court of Australia sitting as the Court of Disputed Returns.
I personally would like the matter to go before the Court of Disputed Returns because there I would be able to give on oath certain evidence in relation to other matters leading up to and surrounding this issue and the charges which have been made about manipulation. I would be able to tell the Court that before the Senate rose for the Christmas recess Senator Gair and I had our first conversation for a long period of time about an operation for dupretrens contracture that he was to have on his hand. He was advised by his doctor to consult me because I have had a series of operations on my hand for this particular complaint. Senator Gair approached me and said: What was the result of your operation?’ We exchanged views on the matter. When Senator Gair returned to the Parliament after the recess, which was on 28 February when Her Majesty opened the Parliament, I met him in the little reception room near the members’ bar. I said to him: ‘How is your hand progressing?’ I gave him some advice that was given to me, about how to exercise his hand so that he used the muscles and how to deal with any adhesions that might result from this. As a matter of fact, this was an unusual conversation because of the very rare occasions on which I have ever spoken to Senator Gair.
On 5 March the Senate elected its Chairman of Committees. After the election took place Senator Gair came up to me and said ‘I voted for you as Chairman of Committees’, and he proceeded to tell me what a bunch of drongoes were in his Party, including Senator Little who had voted for Senator Webster, and thus voted against his own interests.
-] hope he has a high opinion of you because I do not think much of his opinions any more.
– He did not have much of an opinion of the honourable senator. He felt that if the honourable senator had any political nous he would not, by his vote, have supported the publicity that was given in his own State against his own personal interests. I understand that Senator Gair had tried to persuade Senator Little individually and the members of the Democratic Labor Party collectively of the advantages or disadvantages of their intended vote. However, after this tirade by Senator Gair against his own erstwhile colleagues I said to him: ‘You know, they have kicked you into the back benches. They have given you a pretty rough trot. Why do not you and Mrs Gair go for a holiday?
-It is lovely to hear Uriah Heap at work, is it not? Come on, tell us some more.
- Mr President, I said earlier that I am prepared to go before the Court of Disputed Returns and swear to this. I would like this matter to go to the High Court. Senator Little has just described me as Uriah Heap, and I think he should be asked to withdraw that.
– I did not hear it. Did you say that, Senator Little?
– I said that it is nice to hear Uriah Heap describing his methods. If it is offensive to the honourable senator I will withdraw it. I thought he would have been proud of his association, judging by the way he is going on.
-That is not a withdrawal. I ask that it be withdrawn unreservedly.
– I withdraw it.
– 1 have already said that I am prepared to go before the Court, and I hope that this matter will go before the Court. In the circumstances, people as bitter as Senator Little and many of his colleagues and others who have, been under pressure in different ways should not now sit in judgment on a matter that obviously should go to the High Court. However, I will continue with the sequence of events, because it is very important. When Senator Gair had given me this description of his colleagues and the way in which they had treated him, I suggested to him that he should go for a holiday with Mrs Gair. Before we parted company 1 said that he looked tired, that he had had a long parliamentary career, and that that was what I thought. Then, on S March Senator Gair came to me and said that he was interested in the discussion I had with him. I said to him: ‘What do you have in mind?’ I said that because Senator Negus and Senator Turnbull had been overseas. As a matter of fact, it was a very important -
– I attended a meeting of the United Nations.
-That is right, and that was more or less the general intention that Senator Gair had when he approached me about this matter and discussed it with me. Immediately Senator Gair left my company I reported this matter to my leader. I told him that Senator Gair had made representations about it. On 12 March he came again to my office and discussed the matter further. I called Senator Murphy to my office and, after telling him of the background to these representations, Senator Murphy took Senator Gair along to discuss the matter with the Prime Minister ( Mr Whitlam).
All of these accusations of corruption and crime and all the other things can be brought out in the High Court. I would like to see them come out in the High Court. That is the only place in which they can be brought out, because one cannot expect any logic or rationality over this matter in the politically fired atmosphere of the Senate. We can see what has happened. Certain people despised or resented Senator Gair’s action in getting out after being treated the way he was by his own Party. He said on television the other night: ‘I wanted to get something for myself after 40 years in public life. I wanted to be able to get something that my wife could enjoy after the years of deprivation of my company because of public life ‘.
– I suppose Judas could have made that excuse, too, for his 30 pieces of silver.
– The honourable senator is a great judge of Judases. He would be the greatest 30 pieces of silver man. When one finds the devil quoting scripture one is looking at someone in trouble. Senator Little, who is trying to interject, is an expert on splits, too. He used to run a porno shop. Now I think he has delegated the running of the shop to someone else. But he is not bad at it.
– I take a point of order. That is a very grave reflection on the honourable senator and I certainly feel that it must be withdrawn immediately.
– We can exchange compliments. Senator Little has apologised to Senator O ‘Byrne and I have no doubt that he would apologise to Senator Little.
– If Senator Little takes exception to anything I have said I apologise to him. However in the situation that exists now this matter should go to the Court of Disputed Returns. Senator Gair said in his letter: lt is with regret that I decided after receiving the offer to leave the Senate and the many friends 1 made during my nine years here.
He said that he regretted that he decided to leave the Senate because he realised that an upheaval would follow. I think that at the time he made the representations he expected to be able to get away from it and that he would be amongst the people of his ancestors.
– They are not his ancestors. Steady on; I am of Irish descent.
– All right, you can descend to that. He also may have felt that he left Australia for Australia ‘s good but he did say that it was with regret that he had decided to leave the Senate. I quite understand his feelings because of the consequences of creating a vacancy in the Senate representation from Queensland and the criticism that would arise, and has arisen, as a result of his actions. He made the admission that he endeavoured to communicate the fact that he had accepted the appointment as Australia’s ambassador to the Republic of Ireland. The President was not available when he sought to see him and he said that this was regrettable. Senator Gair went on to say:
My appointment was approved by the Governor-General on 14 March 1 974. with my knowledge and consent.
I think that if a document like this were placed before the High Court it would be interpreted in its proper perspective. He said:
I was informed on 20 March that the Government of Ireland had communicated its agreement to my appointment.
As you are aware, the position of Ambassador is an office of profit under the Crown -
That is Senator Gair’s interpretation- and also carries with it fees for services rendered to the Commonwealth, within the meaning of Section 45 of the Constitution, which I had agreed to take.
The effect of my appointment as Ambassador was to vacate my place as a Senator by virtue of the Constitution.
Why should that document not go before the High Court or the Court of Disputed Returns? Why does the Senate want to make a judgment on this matter in the heat of political friction and at a time of very complicated political events? I believe that the Senate not only would be following tradition but also would be acting in its own best interests if it referred this question to the Court of Disputed Returns. We have heard legal argument here but it has been politically flavoured legal argument. Both sides can be put up. One of the legal luminaries if I could call him that, who was mentioned was Professor Patrick Lane. I think it was Senator Withers who quoted Patrick Lane during the course of his remarks. I would like to refer later to this Professor Patrick Lane because he deigned to give his opinion that this matter is one of great moment. It was mentioned during the course of the debate that he was seeking pre-selection or that he was a member of the Liberal Party.
– Is Professor Lane seeking pre-selection?
– Professor Lane was said to be a member of the Liberal Party. I think Senator Withers said that no one should question the political background of any person giving a legal opinion but it is my view that Professor Lane came in, without any basis facts, from the very night of the announcement and possibly he was seeking some political kudos. The fact is that he deigned to come into the argument without knowing the facts and wanted to influence the Senate. Possibly he was one of the Opposition ‘s advisers. That is the sort of advice that Opposition senators seek from people within their own political ambit. They got this information from him. I appreciate that Senator Wilkinson has found the relevant passage that I was looking for. This is what Senator Withers said:
On a media man ‘s say so he produces an expert- Professor Lane. I have no doubt that Professor Lane is a man of great reputation. He is certainly well acknowledged within the profession as a man who knows his subject.
Senator Murphy then interjected and said:
He did not even know what the facts were.
We have the same set of circumstances facing Opposition senators who do not even know the facts. They are acting on supposition. They have never had the story of the chain of events from Senator Gair. They never asked him. Senator Gair almost certainly would have to give evidence before the High Court but he cannot come to the Senate to give the facts. Therefore the judgment that this Senate is going to make will be made without the facts. Professor Lane said:
The point in issue is just when Mr Gair resigned. In all events I suppose we can call him Mr Gair from now because if nothing else, he has formally resigned today.
I am reading from the Hansard report of proceedings in the Senate on 4 April 1974. When Professor Lane said ‘today’ he meant 3 April and he said that Mr Gair had resigned. Well, to all intents and purposes there is no mention made of resignation in this letter from Senator Gair who said:
The effect of my appointment as Ambassador was to vacate my place as a Senator by virtue of the Constitution.
Senator Gair did not resign at all, so Professor Lane was quite wrong when he made that statement. Professor Lane went on to say:
But the Government is setting up a different case, a rather preposterous case -
Professor Lane also is judging the Government from afar without any facts. I think that possibly many people who, in the past, have accepted his opinions would be very doubtful about the authenticity and strength of his opinions in the future. Professor Lane went on to say: . . the Government had been privy to a man who, at that time on the Government’s submission, did an act which ipso facto disqualified the Senator so that from15 March or 2 1 March there has been masquerading in the Senate a Mr Gair, who, Senator Murphy tells us, disqualified himself from those dates. If that is the case well certain consequences follow such as,I suppose that the proceedings by the Senate since15 March or 21 March, might be nullified because sitting in the Senate was a man who just shouldn’t be there.
I suppose to put that in its proper perspective one could say it is a bit like what Alice said: She saw Gair in the chair and when she looked, he was not there. Professor Lane is making a big argument about these dates. He says:
There’s another more drastic consequence. Sir Philip Game sacked his Ministry in 1929, notwithstanding that the Ministrythe Lang Ministry- had control of the House. Sir Philip Game sacked his Ministry because, said Sir Philip Game, his Ministry wasn ‘t obeying the law of the land.
Here we have Professor Patrick Lane putting up a proposition without the facts, trying through the Press to influence this Senate. Now the Senate itself is putting up a case that this should be referred to the proper quarter- to the Court of Disputed Returns. I would very much like to see this matter go before the Court of Disputed Returns. The facts would then be elucidated, the case would be judged by dispassionate peoplethe highest legal people in the land- the odium that would remain on the Senate for making a judgment in the heat of political argument rather than on logic would be removed, and the traditions of the Senate would be followed, much to its advantage. I support the proposition that this question be referred to the High Court sitting as the Court of Disputed Returns.
– The question before the Senate is a very serious one indeed. To understand it it is necessary to understand the chronology of events of the past week or weeks. The starting point is the emergence of a point in time at which there came into public knowledge the understanding that Senator Vincent Gair had been appointed by the Government of the day to be Ambassador to Ireland. The method by which that knowledge came to the public is of real importance. It did not come from the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Senator Willesee) sitting in this chamber. He is the Minister responsible for that Department, for ambassadors, for the appointments within the Department and, very specifically, he is responsible for the determination of the terms and conditions of appointment of ambassadors, including this starting point of their appointments and their emoluments. I would stress that one would have believed that the normal thing would have been for the Minister for Foreign Affairs to rise in his place and announce the appointment of Senator Gair and the terms and conditions of his appointment including the date of commencement and the emoluments. That did not happen.
As I understand it, the public knowledge came by way of response and not by initiative; it came by way of an answer to a question in the first place, that answer given by the Prime Minister. It did not come otherwise. There followed on 2 April a questioning as to whether Senator Gair had resigned. This culminated on the evening of 2 April in an action taken in the Queensland Parliament, through the Governor of Queenslandvery properly under the powers vested in him and in his Government under section 1 5 of the Commonwealth Constitution- to issue a writ for the coming Senate election. The Prime Minister had written to each of the State Governors telling them of his intention to hold an election on 18 May and giving them the clear belief that they were to issue writs for that election for 5 Senate vacancies. No mention at all was made that there would be a sixth Senate vacancy. It is important to understand that that letter itself is evidence that at that time the Government of Queensland, and the Governor of Queensland, clearly had prima facie evidence that there was no other vacancy; there were only 5 prospective vacancies. Accordingly, under section 1 5 of the Constitution, the Governor of Queensland issued a writ and an election is now in process for the election of 5 senators in Queensland, the election date being 1 8 May. Quite clearly that is so.
In the next day or two we had a number of events. One was the handing to Mr President on 3 April of a letter signed by Senator Vincent Gair, which is now tabled in this Senate. You, Mr President, studied that letter to determine its nature and you on that day made a statement in this Senate, saying, if I may precis it, that you had considered the letter of Senator Gair in the light of your responsibility under section 2 1 of the Constitution which requires you to notify a vacancy in the Senate to the Governor of the State in the representation of which the vacancy occurs, that you had to satisfy yourself whether such a vacancy had occurred; that you had reached the opinion that Senator Gair’s letter was not a letter of resignation but a notification of his appointment as Ambassador to Ireland and that in his view the effect was to vacate his position as a senator by virtue of various disqualifications under sections 44 and 45 of the Constitution, and that you therefore, quite properly, referred the matter back to the judgment of the Senate, having the conscious knowledge that your responsibility was under section 2 1 of the Constitution. Section 2 1 states:
Whenever a vacancy happens in the Senate, the President, or if there is no President or if the President is absent from the Commonwealth, the Governor-General, shall notify the same to the Governor of the State in the representation of which the vacancy has happened.
Mr President, you, very properly under section 21, studied Senator Gair’s letter, concluded that it was not a letter of resignation and concluded also that within your powers of determination Senator Gair had not resigned and to that extent at least he was still a qualified senator; but that to the extent that events relating to his appointment may have disqualified him under sections 44 and 45 of the Constitution, you would refer this to the Senate. You, Sir, no doubt had clearly in your mind that you would do so under the terms of section 47 of the Constitution, which is the relevant one at this moment. That section says:
Until the Parliament otherwise provides, any question respecting the qualification of a senator or of a member of the House of Representatives, or respecting a vacancy in either House of the Parliament, and any question of a disputed election to either House, shall be determined by the House in which the question arises.
As I read that section it imposes as the normal responsibility on the Senate the determination of the qualifications of a senator and whether there shall be a vacancy, and it does that until the Parliament otherwise provides. So the Constitution charges this Senate with a normal responsibility of determining the qualifications of Senator Gair at the date of reference of the letter and whether that vacancy had occurred at that time. I say that the Senate has a fundamental obligation to act within that section of the Constitution. After you had made your statement, Sir, in opening debate on it the Government moved that under section 203 of the Electoral Act the matter be referred to the Court of Disputed Returns which, in the Commonwealth jurisdiction, is the High Court. The Opposition replied by way of amendment, the substance of which is in Hansard. It contains a clear understanding that Senator Gair had not resigned, that there is abundant evidence that the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) and his Ministers knew that he had not resigned, that he intended to resign on 3 April and that clearly therefore the Government has acted with immense impropriety and not only should be censured but also should resign.
Let me trace the events as such. I want, in terms of section 47, in determining whether Senator Gair was disqualified prior to 3 April, to call 4 witnesses. The witnesses are Senator Gair himself; Mr Whitlam, the Prime Minister; Senator Willesee, the Foreign Minister; and Senator Murphy, the Attorney-General. I draw attention to 6 profound items of testimony demonstrated by Senator Gair and available to the Senate. Firstly, I draw the attention of the Senate to the fact, which is beyond doubt, that from the relevant date of 14 March, on which the Government contends Senator Gair’s appointment was made, until the evening of 2 April Senator Gair functioned and operated as a member of this chamber without any challenge by any other member of this chamber, without your knowledge of any disqualification, Mr President, without anyone’s conveying to you any such knowledge, and without any challenge to him. I remind the Senate that I chose the date of 14 March because on that day the Prime Minister sought the approval of the Governor-General for the appointment in the future of Mr Vincent Clair Gair as Ambassador to Ireland and His Excellency approved it under the date 14 March. Therefore, the relevant information concerns the point of time, either on 14 March or thereafter, on which Senator Gair vacated his place either by resignation or by disqualification.
As first testimony I have said that Senator Gair attended in the Senate on all sitting days from 14 March to 2 April inclusive. The records show that he voted in 9 divisions, some of them very important divisions; that he spoke on a constitutional matter; and that he voted in this chamber at approximately 10 p.m. on 2 April when you, Mr President were in the chair and were freely available to him should he have desired to convey to you a message of resignation. So, by that action Senator Gair purported to be a senator and nobody challenged that.
The second testimony is that Senator Gair received all salaries, allowances, emoluments and travel allowances for the month of March. That, of course is a matter of record. If he were not a senator he would not have been eligible for those payments.
No person in this chamber took any action in that regard. Thirdly, he used his office in this place and on the evening of 2 April used the travel warrant provisions of this Parliament, through the transport officer, to leave Canbrra and to fly home. If he were not a senator, that would not have been available to him. Fourthly, he told many people in this place, including his colleagues, that he would resign on 3 April. That evidence is capable of being obtained verbally and no doubt by way of statutory declaration. Fifthly, he has not ever provided a letter of resignation. Sixthly, he was available to you, Mr President at all times from 10 p.m. onwards on 2 April.
Conclusively, by all the actions of Senator Gair he was a senator discharging and being permitted to discharge all his functions and, incidentally, taking part in divisions on 2 matters regarding constitutional alterations. They are matters of very great importance. A disqualified senator, by participating in a vote on them, could have put in peril the whole question of the authenticity of the business of this chamber.
– That is so because in those matters a specific majority is required.
-I am grateful to Senator Wright for the interjection. A specific majority is required. The Attorney-General, who had the passage of the Bills, sat in this chamber knowing that Senator Gair was voting. He knew of the majority required. By his silence and by the silence of all Ministers including the Prime Minister and of all members, tacitly the Government gave proof of the fact that Senator Gair was a qualified member. I now call as witness Mr Whitlam, the Prime Minister.
– You cannot call him.
– I call him as a verbal witness. As his written testimony, the transcript of his Press conference on 2 April is of great importance. The following is an extract from it:
Question- Prime Minister, has Senator Gair officially accepted the position?
Prime Minister- Yes. He has not, I understand, resigned from the Senate yet.
The Prime Minister said on 2 April that on his understanding Senator Gair was still a fully qualified member of the Senate. Who would know better than the Prime Minister? Senator Willesee finds nothing of merit in this matter. In fact, he washes his hands of it, and frankly I do not blame him; but it will be hard to do so. I asked Senator Willesee why he had not responded on this matter and he said that the Prime Minister was the Acting Minister for
Foreign Affairs at all relevant times; that the Prime Minister was the Minister in charge of this matter. So the Prime Minister is the one man in Australia who can speak authoritatively on this question. Had Senator Gair resigned or disqualified himself by 2 April? The Prime Minister said: He has not, I understand, resigned from the Senate yet’. The Prime Minister made it abundantly clear that in his view Senator Gair was functioning as a fully qualified senator.
Now I will call, by way of involuntary testimony, the Foreign Minister, Senator Willesee. He is the responsible Minister- if not for making the appointment while absent overseas, for supervising all the terms of the appointment. It was necessary for him to discharge the terms of the Executive Council minute of 2 1 March. No man could have been more in possession of the facts than Senator Willesee, save the Prime Minister, because Senator Willesee must have known from 2 1 March that it was his job to fix the terms, conditions, emoluments and the date of appointment of Senator Gair. Senator Willesee sat in this place, however temporarily, recognising the existence of Senator Gair- he was here on 2 April and before- and not raising a voice challenging the qualifications of Senator Gair. He made no attempt to intervene at all.
Senator Willesee has given us the formal information. I refer to Hansard of 4 April, page 667, which sets out a question by Senator Durack and the response by the Foreign Minister. Hansard reads:
– My question is directed to the Minister for Foreign Affairs and refers to some of the documents that were tabled by the Attorney-General yesterday in relation to the appointment of Senator Gair. The first document I shall refer to is the minute of the Executive Council dated 2 1 March which states, among other things, that such appointment of Senator Gair commences on and from a date to be determined by the Minister for Foreign Affairs. I ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs whether the document signed by him, dated 3 April and tabled yesterday, is his determination of the commencement of Senator G air’s appointment?
– The appointment and terms and conditions signed by me? Yes.
– Is that your determination of the commencement of the appointment?
Senator Willesee said in answer to a question that Senator Gair’s appointment commenced from 3 April in accordance with the terms and conditions and the date of appointment.
– Of course he may or may not be right.
– The Minister intervenes and says that the relevant Minister may or may not be right. The hazard that unhappily for 16 months the people of Australia have had to put up with is that every Minister who has opened his mouth or taken action may or may not be right. The inference by Senator Cavanagh is that once again therefore Senator Willesee may have been wrong, because if the Government’s case -
– No, it is a legal question.
-It is no good talking about rhetorical questions. If the Government’s case rests as it does on the fact that Senator Gair was appointed on 14 March or is it 21 March, what Senator Cavanagh is saying is that Senator Willesee is wrong.
– No, I am saying it is a legal question and should go to the court.
-Well, let us have a look at this because we can decide it better than a legal body.
– You think you are the judge and jury.
-I will invite the Senate and Senator Primmer to make this decision. I can quite understand the nervous dyspepsia of Senator Mulvihill, who is interjecting; he had to hurry back from a half-completed visit to Africa because his own pre-selection is in a turmoil and because he is threatened by the very people on his side who caused this debacle. Senator Mulvihill attempts to raise his voice after his panic race back from Africa to try to protect himself against the left wing steering committee which has wrecked his Party in conjunction with the Prime Minister- the Gietzelts, the Murphys and the James Mcclellands of this world. I call every Labor member who pauses in the corridor to deny this. What are members of the Labor Party saying today? They are saying there are 2 causes of this debacle they are now in. One is the wilful, headstrong Prime Minister they have who resists and disobeys Caucus. They are saying this day after day to me. At the weekend my telephone was running hot on this point. The other thing they are saying- of course Senator Mulvihill does not like it- is that once again as with the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation and as with the breaking of pairs- and I sympathise with Senator Cavanagh on this- this was the result of action of the left wing steering committee.
Sitting suspended from 5.45 to 8 p.m.
– Prior to the suspension of the sitting for dinner I had called, as perhaps involuntary witnesses, 4 persons in support- by their words and deeds- of my contention that
Senator Gair had not resigned or been disqualified from this Senate by at least 3 April. I called as the first witness Senator Gair, pointing out that by his actions, his deeds, his acceptance of the emoluments of office and his conversations with his colleagues he had indicated that he proposed to resign on 3 April. I made it clear that Mr Whitlam at a Press conference had indicated that his clear understanding was that on 2 April Senator Gair was a functioning senator with full qualifications and that he, Mr Whitlam, understood that Senator Gair would resign on 3 April. I was examining the actions and words of Senator Willesee. I quoted the question asked by Senator Durack and the answer given by Senator Willesee to illustrate that Senator Willesee made it clear that Senator Gair would take up his appointment, in terms of conditions and commencement date, on 3 April. I went on to say that Senator Willesee had been in this chamber in the weeks before. He was fully aware of the circumstances regarding the appointment. He did nothing to indicate any disqualification of Senator Gair.
I now draw attention to the fact that Senator Willesee has produced no paper, no letter, no written document of any appointment by the Government of Senator Gair; nor any indication of an offer and an acceptance. But let me test the situation regarding Senator Gair. If there were an office of profit under the Crown, if there were directly or indirectly any benefits or honoraria coming to Senator Gair, then those benefits would have come between 14 March and 3 April of this year. It is the habit of all departments as at 3 1 March to make up the cheques for payment of all out of pocket expenses of all servants of the Commonwealth, including honourable senators who today will have received an acknowledgment of their travelling allowances for last month. Then, I quote as evidence on the part of Senator Willesee, the fact that he has not by any act, word or deed tabled any document to indicate that Senator Gair has acquired any monetary gain or any reimbursement for the month of March. If he had done so, that evidence would have been available and it would have been produced. But the fact that such evidence was not produced is conclusive evidence that it did not occur. If such evidence happens to emerge tomorrow, everyone will have the correct suspicion of how it is invented. But the fact of the matter is that if expenses had been incurred, if salaries, allowances or emoluments had been paid, then that matter would have been capable of proof. No such proof has come forward.
The Attorney-General is another definitely involuntary witness. He sat in this chamber from 14 March to 3 April. He said he knew during that time that Senator Gair was disqualified as a senator. If this is true, then, in fact, he is guilty of a very serious offence because he condoned a breach of Parliament and he connived at actions which could have rendered the whole of the proceedings of this chamber invalid. It was his duty as a senator, as a Minister and particularly as Attorney-General to acquaint you, Mr President, and, either through you or directly, the Senate of any knowledge which he had of a disqualification of a senator. He did not do so until some time after 2 April. He then said: ‘I knew it a day or so before. I told Senator Gair that I thought he should not have been in here’. That is quite outrageous. If that is so, he should have told the Senate. But, in fact, we did not know.
Another piece of evidence which is of great importance is the fact that it is admitted by all sides that the letter signed by Senator Gair and delivered to you, Mr President, was, in fact, not drawn up by Senator Gair; it was the brainchild of others. There is some suggestion that Senator Gair edited the letter.
– He said that he did.
– He said that he edited it, but the production was that of the Government. Senator Gair in a broadcast interview said that one of the many special assistants who have bedevilled this Government- I think in this case Mr Eric Walsh- came to him and saw him. It is strange that, in terms of an appointment of a person to ambassadorial rank the negotiations and the details of administration should be done not by a member of the Department of Foreign Affairs or by the Minister but by a Press officer, a public relations officer. This, in itself, is of immense interest because it indicates what was intended, and that was a public relations exercise. Senator Gair said that he was pressed to hand in this letter. Let us see what the situation is. I point out that you, Sir, under your full authority announced that under section 21 of the Constitution you had decided that there was no vacancy; you had no evidence of a resignation and therefore there was no vacancy. You ruled that the letter was not a letter of resignation; if anything, it was a letter to be adjudicated on under section 47 of the Constitution. Mr President, since that is your clear prerogative, Senator Gair had not resigned. As you have not said that you have received any subsequent letter, he has not resigned.
The question then arises as to whether he has disqualified himself. One must keep this situation against the background that the Prime Minister said that Senator Gair was a senator on 2 April and that he was fully qualified. There are 2 relevant situations in which a senator can disqualify himself. Section 44 of the Constitution states:
Any person who-
Holds any office of profit under the Crown, or any pension payable during the pleasure of the Crown out of any of the revenues of the Commonwealth: shall be incapable of being chosen or of sitting as a senator or a member of the House of Representatives.
So the question is: Did Senator Gair at the relevant time hold an office of profit under the Crown or was any pension payable out of any of the revenues of the Commonwealth? Equally, section 45 of the Constitution provides:
If a senator or member of the House of Representatives-
Directly or indirectly takes or agrees to take any fee or honorarium for services rendered to the Commonwealth, or for services rendered in the Parliament to any person or State: his place shall thereupon become vacant.
Does anyone suggest, by any kind of evidence before the Senate, that there is proof of a fee or an honorarium or payment for services rendered? Where has there been the faintest evidence; where has there been the faintest proof? Clearly under neither of these heads is this so.
Let me recapitulate the facts. We are asked, under section 47, to decide the qualifications of a senator or whether there is a vacancy in the Senate. As to the qualifications of a senator, Senator Gair remains completely qualified in that he has not resigned. As to his disqualification under section 44 or 45 of the Constitution, Senator Gair has said: ‘I was a senator until 3 April’. The Prime Minister has said: ‘Senator Gair was a senator until 3 April’. The Minister for Foreign Affairs has said to Senator Durack: ‘The appointment, including the commencing date and the conditions, functions from 3 April’. They are the 3 responsible people- the Prime Minister, the Minister for Foreign Affairs and the person involved. All of them said this. This having been said and the writ having been issued in Queensland, the Government found that its snide intention had been frustrated. Its intention was quite clear. It wanted, by an act of surprise, to appoint Senator Gair, have him resign at its timetable and therefore force 6 vacancies in Queensland so that it would not be possible for the Government to be defeated- 3 non-Labor Party and 2 Labor Party- in Queensland. The whole aim was to frustrate the electors of Australia. The 2 intentions were to deceive the Parliament grossly and, by deceiving the Parliament, to frustrate the will of the electors because by such a connivance the electors of Australia would be denied their right, under proportional representation, to exert a majority of non-Labor senators in this chamber.
This was not just a trick on Parliament; it was an evil-genius plan to trick the electors of Australia. Clearly this is so. Clearly this was a post facto plot. In fact, it was a fraud in every sense. It comes close to being a criminal fraud in that it aims to deceive the Parliament and the people of Australia into a belief that Senator Gair was disqualified on 1 4 or 20 March.
– On 21 March.
– But the Government cannot have it both ways. Senator Cavanagh wants it both ways. If the Government knew that Senator Gair was disqualified on 14 or 20 March it is guilty.
– It was 2 1 March.
– Thank you very much.
– I hate to have to correct you, but I have to do it.
- Senator Devitt interjects. He is not correcting me. The vagueness is not mine. I am repeating the vagueness of the Attorney-General who said: ‘It may have been the 1 4th or it may have been the 21st. I cannot tell’.
– You said that it was a fraud to give the people a say.
– Yes, it is, because if the Prime Minister and his ministry knew that on either of those dates Senator Gair was disqualified as a senator the whole ministry was defrauding the people of Australia by pretending to them that Senator Gair was a functioning senator.
– But they sought to rectify that by giving the people a voice.
– There is no question of that. It is no good being penitent after the offence. It will not do a person much good in a court of law to regret his offence. There is a natural regret today after the offence, but that is no good. Take it either way you like: If the Government knew on 14 or 21 March, it connived in a fraud and a conspiracy.
– The High Court will decide that.
-Senator Devitt is very interested in saying that now the High Court will decide.
– Do you say that Senator Gair is still a senator?
-Naturally Senator Gietzelt is eager. He and his comrades have been busy during the weekend. Doing what? Trying to save their skins in their Senate selection team for New South Wales. If the left wing steering committee, of which he is the evil genius, which has created such disaster for the Labor Party of Australia, were to turn its energies to better things the Labor Party today would be in better shape.
– Is Senator Gair still a senator?
-I said that if the Labor Party knew, it was conniving in a fraud. If it did not know, it invented this after the fact, and that is as great a fraud. On either level it is a major fraud. It is quite clear that it is a fraud. The Constitution places as the normal and proper responsibility and charge of the Senate the determination of whether a senator is qualified or whether there is a Senate vacancy. The duty of the Senate is to determine that fact, not to run away from it. Of course the Government wants to run away from it. Of course the Government wants to take it into the Court of Disputed Returns- anything to get it out of the public mind for the next few weeks. Why would the Government not want to do that? Why would the Government not want to delay now that it is caught out, with its sticky hands?
– Do you say that Senator Gair is still a senator?
-Senator Gietzelt is eager for me to answer a question. I will, so that we can be helped on this, because I would not like him to miss. He asked very phrenetically whether Senator Gair is still a senator. Mr President, you ruled that as at 3 April he was a senator in that he had not resigned. You ruled that he had not resigned. If, as at 3 April he had not resigned, unless he was disqualified he was still a senator. The Minister for Foreign Affairs has said that Senator Gair’s appointment and its conditions and emoluments took place from 3 April. I did not say this. The Minister for Foreign Affairs said that it is so. I say to Senator Gietzelt, through you, Mr President, that his Minister for Foreign Affairs said that Senator Gair vacated his seat, by disqualification, on 3 April. That is also what Senator Gair said. Whichever way we go, he certainly had not resigned by 3 April. The Prime Minister said that Senator Gair had not resigned by 3 April. The Prime Minister said that Senator Gair was still a qualified senator. I did not say that; the Prime Minister said that. So Senator Gietzelt is asking for a test. The Prime Minister, ruling under section 47 of the Constitution, said that in his view and understanding Senator Gair was a fully qualified senator as at 2 April, and he understood that the senator would resign on 3 April and not be disqualified. That is the situation.
As is quite clear, a massive fraud has been attempted. Quite clearly, this has failed. The Government has been caught out. The guilty people are, firstly, the Prime Minister because he clearly knew; secondly, the Foreign Minister because, although he apparently was a very unwilling party to the appointment of Senator Gair, he knew of it. He knew of the possibility of qualifications and he remained silent. So he must share the culpability. The Attorney, on his own confession, said he knew and he did nothing about it at all. Others are talking about letting the Labor Party judge those who egged it on. As with Horatio at the bridge, those behind cried forward’ and those in front cried ‘back’. So the left wing steering committee, which has done so much damage to the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation and with all its bad advice had divided and split the Labor Party once again, with the Prime Minister, has brought disruption and utter discredit to the Labor Party. The credibility of the Prime Minister cannot be re-established under this motion. I support the amendment as moved by Senator Withers.
– I intervene in this debate in relation to this whole matter for the first time. The matter before the Senate is, of course, one of very great consequence. It stems from a series of actions which are most reprehensible and must invoke the condemnation of the whole Parliament. We are seeing now a situation in which the greatest confusion has been caused, in which there is very grave doubt as to whether a certain person is or is not a member of this chamber, as to what are the consequences of that and whether or not that gentleman was or was not entitled to participate in certain deliberations here at the end of last week. All those things have been precipitated by something which could only be described as a grave violation of the traditions of the Parliament and an attempt to induce a person from one party to come across, to abandon his position so that the relative strengths in the Parliament could be redetermined. Those things are of very great consequence and must bring an element of very deep concern to all members of the Parliament.
Senator Murphy has proposed that the matter as to the vacancy should be determined by the High Court sitting as a court of disputed returns. The first matter that comes in consequence is this- and I think Senator Murphy said this-that in looking at the section of the Constitution under which the Senate itself may determine the question of a vacancy until and unless otherwise provided, the Attorney-General (Senator Murphy) would argue that as the Electoral Act has been passed under the relevant section the Senate, to use his term, has exhausted its own power to determine this matter. I think that is a proposition which, whilst it was repeated time and again by Senator Murphy without any substantial support, if any, is one that cannot be sustained. The section of the Constitution uses the permissive word ‘may’, and on any interpretation of that word, on the authorities in the High Court and elsewhere, that permissive or facultative term is one that must be given its ordinary meaning unless there is substantial evidence to the contrary. The authorities in relation to this matter under debate are not many but at least there is a very current authority. It is a very modern authority issued this year.
– Are you saying that it is optional?
– What I am arguing is that the Senate has the power under the section of the Constitution -
– Section 47.
– The Senate has the power under section 47 of the Constitution either to make the decision whether it will sit in judgment itself on the question of a vacancy or whether in a particular case it will pass that judgment over to the High Court sitting as a court of disputed returns. It may elect in its discretion to do one or the other. The authority I quote is from a recent textbook called ‘The Constitution of the Commonwealth of Australia’, annotated. The distinguished authors are R. D. Lumb, barrister and solicitor of the High Court of Australia, Reader in Law, University of Queensland, and K. W. Ryan, barrister-at-law, University of Queensland. This book was published this year, 1 974. Because one part of what I am going to cite may tell to some extent in favour of the honourable senator involved in this matter I propose to cite the whole section. It reads:
Until the Parliament otherwise provides, any question respecting the qualification of a senator or of a member of the House of Representatives, or respecting a vacancy in either House of the Parliament, and any question of a disputed election to either House, shall be determined by the House in which the question arises.
That is section 47 of the Constitution. This is the comment of the learned authors.
Under the lex et consuetudo parliamenti each House has control over its members and may decide questions as to their qualifications, elections, and other matters affecting the proceedings of Parliament. However, s 47 allows the Parliament to adopt a different procedure for determining these questions.
Under Part XVIII of the Commonwealth Electoral Act, a Court of Disputed Returns is established. This court shall be either the High Court, or the Supreme Court of the State (in which the election is held) if the matter is referred to it by the High Court. The Court of Disputed Returns has the jurisdiction to decide the validity of an election or return. It has various powers, including the power to compel attendance of witnesses, to declare an election void, and to declare any person duly elected who was not returned as elected. A copy of the order of the court is sent to the House concerned. Section 20 1 would seem to make the court’s decision mandatory, for it provides:
Effect shall bc given to any decision of the Court as follows:
As to other questions, viz, questions concerning vacancies or qualifications of a member (Le., which do not involve the validity of an election or a return), the House in which the question arises may refer the matter to the Court of Disputed Returns. This means that in these matters each House retains the power to decide whether to deal with the matter itself or to refer it to the court
I repeat the last sentence which reads:
This means that in these matters each House retains the power to decide whether to deal with the matter itself or to refer it to the court.
– That may be so, but what is the proper procedure when there is a legal question?
-Wait a minute. I said I would read the whole section. The next part might comfort the honourable senator somewhat. It reads:
However, as these are essentially legal questions it is to be expected that they will be referred to the court. The court has similar powers to those which may be exercised by it when determining a disputed election, and in addition, the power to declare that any person was not capable of being chosen on sitting as a Senator or member of the House, and to declare that a vacancy exists.
In other words, the learned authors say, in spite of the protestations of the Attorney-General, that the Senate has not exhausted its power to deal with this matter, if it elects to do so, merely because it passes over concurrent jurisdiction to the court of disputed returns. That is the first thing. The question is that the Senate has this power if it elects to use it. The next logical question is: Is this a matter in which the Senate should so proceed? We have seen this Senate act in matters of privilege. We have seen journalists arraigned before this chamber. Matters have been referred to the Committee of Privileges, which is the Senate sitting in another place and in another guise, a report being brought back and this Senate then sitting in judgment and confirming the investigation of that Committee.
– Yes, but in those cases there were never questions of legal interpretation.
– You do not know what comes out of them. There were interpretations that were required in the matter I have in mind.
– Not legal interpretations.
– There were legal interpretations that went to a layman committee- the Committee of Privileges of this Senate. This Senate sat in final judgment in an adoption of the report of that Committee. Nobody could say that one matter I have in mind, the recent matter of the 2 journalists, involved a situation in the Senate as important and as serious as this one is today. That matter involved the action of 2 journalists who prematurely had reported the contents of a parliamentary committee report. They were cited for that. In that matter the Senate said ‘We are competent to deal with this ourselves’, deputing the investigational committee of the Senate. In this matter where the very good name of the Senate is concerned, where the inviolability of its proceedings is involved, surely the Senate is entitled to take upon itself the responsibility of determining this matter if it elects to do so.
I hold strongly to the view that the Senate has that residual power. It has not abandoned it and it has not surrendered it totally. In a particular circumstance in a proper case and in the appropriate situation it is not only able to do that but, it is also required and is under a duty so to exercise its power and authority. There is too much of a tendency in these days for Parliament to surrender its power to bodies outside the precincts of these halls. Parliament is the elected body. It is the supreme body in the Commonwealth of Australia and at times it must accept all the responsibilities that go with that high office and high position. This is such a case.
I do not wish to speak at length. But there is one aspect of this matter that concerns me very greatly. It affects the situation in which the honourable senator whose name is concerned in this matter has involved himself or in which he has been involved. There was some dispute as to whether Senator Gair was or ceased to be a member of the Senate as at a certain date, whether it was 1 4 March, 2 1 March or 3 April. Apparently, the matter remains unresolved. If the honourable senator was not, in fact, a member of the Senate, was not entitled to take his seat here and, more particularly, if he knew that that was the situation, he has involved himself in the possibility of an action at law by any complainant who may proceed by way of civil action against him, with a very high recovery of damages resulting for every person who so elects to proceed against him.
– That is not so. Does the honourable senator say that every person -
– It can read 2 ways. It can read as being any person who elects to proceed. I do not subscribe altogether to the proposition that once one action has been brought against him, the whole matter is then estopped.
– A person cannot be convicted twice of the one offence.
– I am glad that the honourable senator made that point. This is not a criminal or a quasi-criminal proceeding. This is an action for the recovery of damages. Therefore, the situation of autrefois convict does not apply. If it is a criminal or a quasi-criminal proceeding and a person is convicted, he then raises that as a defence in a subsequent action. But this is a civil matter. It is what might be called a ‘common informer matter’ and I would imagine the actions could be interminable.
– There is an invitation there for 26 people to take action.
– I do not know. Let met leave aside all the questions involving the quantum of damages to which Senator Gair might be liable. The fact is that under the circumstances that I have mentioned, if he were not entitled to take his seat, if he did, in fact, take his seat and particularly if he knew that he was not entitled so to do, then he becomes liable to an action at law. One of the pieces of evidence that would be adjuced against Senator Gair in any such proceeding would be, of course, his admission in his letter of 3 April in which he himself acknowledged that he had not been a member of the Senate since 14 March.
Let us look at the circumstances in which that letter was prepared. It is obvious that we do not know about them. It was prepared by people who were around Senator Gair and by people who had an interest in sustaining the proposition that he had ceased to be a member as at a certain date before the writs were issued in Queensland. The prime purpose of that letter written by those who were then around Senator Gair and advising him- apparently there were such peoplewas to establish their proposition for their purposes and for their ends -
– Did Senator Gair tell the honourable senator that?
– It is obvious.
– He told the honourable senator that?
– I think the inference is irresistible and inescapable. If that is so, it means that in order to achieve that end, those who were advising the honourable senator and who may have prepared the letter for him, or who may have suggested that the letter be written, were advising Senator Gair to do something which incriminated him and which rendered him liable to legal proceedings. This was a situation they were prepared to bring about to achieve the end and purpose that they had in mind. I think that if I have assessed the position correctly that would be a most reprehensible course of action when a man, who apparently did not -
– The honourable senator is saying, in effect, that Senator Gair did not have his faculties about him.
– I am saying that no layman, uninstructed by legal counsel, would be able to assess the implications of that position. It was fairly obvious -
– Legal counsel should not get him to sign it unless he has independent advice.
– -Exactly. I would say that Senator Gair had no independent legal counsel advice. Apparently, he was induced, persuaded or encouraged to sign a self-incriminating document that rendered him liable to legal proceedings. If that is the type of conduct of those around him- more particularly, of those people who were professionally qualified in the law- it is most reprehensible conduct and is to be condemned. I think that is the very serious implication that arises in this situation.
Having said that, I wish to move on to another aspect of the matter. I am supporting this amendment which purports to declare that Senator Gair was a member of the Senate as at a certain date.
– The honourable senator is saying that laymen should resolve this legal question.
– No. I am saying this: I personally would wish to see this matter resolved. Whilst the matter remains undetermined, it means that the people of Queensland are not aware whether they have 10 senators or 9 senators to represent them. Therefore, surely the Senate has an obligation to determine that question and to determine it immediately. It is within the competence of the Senate so to determine. I was disposed - (Honourable senators interjecting)-
- Mr Acting Deputy President, may I have some silence? I cannot be heard.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator McAuliffe)- Senator Byrne, I think you draw the cross fire yourself. However, from now on I will endeavour to protect you.
– I was saying that my disposition was that in order to clarify this position and in order to determine the situation an amendment might well have been moved in addition to Senator Withers amendment stating that this chamber itself make a declaration that Senator Gair is not longer a member of the Senate. Obviously, the documents indicate- I think that Senator Gair’s own public presentations indicate- that he regarded himself as no longer being a member of the Senate. All that is in question is the date of resignation. That is in dispute. Therefore, I say that an obligation rests upon the Senate for it to determine this matter as soon as possible so that the position can be clarified. I have little doubt that Senator Withers’ amendment will be carried. It will receive the support of the Australian Democratic Labor Party. 1 have in mind that perhaps tomorrow I might consider moving a further motion for a declaration by the Senate that Senator Gair is not a member of it. I think that it is something that he himself would welcome. Obviously, it is something that is concerning him because in the documents he indicates that he thinks that he is not longer a member. He obviously wished to sever his connection and accept another post. He has been left in a position of uncertainty which the Senate can easily resolve. I think that there is a duty upon us to resolve the question as soon as possible.
I finish on this note: If the Government wished to increase its numbers in the Senate it was not necessary to descend to this type of reprehensible subterfuge. The Government already had prepared the machinery for a double dissolution of the Parliament. If it felt it had the confidence of the people, over the last few months it could have gone to the Governor-General and asked for a double dissolution which would have tested the popular feeling in relation to the Senate. The Government could have done that if it had been confident that it could get the support of the people and gain a corresponding increase in its numbers in the Senate. But instead of having the machinery ready and showing that it was prepared to go to the people, it was prepared to use this indefensible method to persuade somebody to leave the Parliament. There is little doubt that that is the inescapable conclusion. For these reasons, I support the amendment moved by Senator Withers and indicate that I will give consideration to moving a substantive motion for a declaration by the Senate that, in fact, a vacancy exists thus letting the matter be finally resolved.
-This matter, of course, has exercised the attention of this chamber for more than a week now. I, like everybody else, have been called upon to play some small part in the incidents that have led up to the catastrophe for the parliamentary system of government in this country which has emanated from the successful attempt to bribe away from the political loyalties of a lifetime a man who had a splendid political record but who, of course, was going through a phase of life through which all of us must go some day. We heard from Senator O ‘Byrne this afternoon an account of the precise methods that were used to corrupt a person who perhaps was no longer quite as capable as he once was of defending himself from this type of political chicanery.
– That is a nice accusation to make.
– I am here to speak the truth, and I will speak it. Let me go through the incidents that led up to the position in which we find ourselves today. The story first broke in the Press last Tuesday morning, and I read about it in the newspapers. When we got to Canberra we met Senator Gair and talked to him. I asked him whether the story was to be believed. At that time it was completely unbelievable to me that he would take that attitude. He immediately informed us that the Press report was true; that he was contemplating acceptance of the position; indeed, that he felt the matter had gone beyond his control; and that he thought he was committed. Senator Gair was asked, not by me but by another member of our Caucus who can speak for himself, to reconsider the matter.
– Would that be Senator Kane?
– That was Senator Kane. Senator Gair said that he did not think he could reconsider it, but he might. Asked when his term in the Senate would end, he said: ‘Tomorrow I propose to hand in my resignation’. They were the circumstances and that was the truth of the matter up to that point of time.
When the story broke, of course, the Government was gleeful. Statements were made in the other House and in this chamber, and the Government felt that it had pulled a shrewd and competent political trick. I suppose it could have been said, if one has that standard of morality in politics- I have never subscribed to it- that it was a smart or clever political trick. But when one plays politics on that basis, of course, one naturally attracts resistance, and apparently resistance occurred. The Government was outsmarted. I. believe that this chamber is more interested in what happened then’ than in the circumstances of the purchasing, by the offer of an ambassadorship in Ireland, of the most hated enemy of the Labor Party. Those who hated him most set out to destroy him. Those are the circumstances we should be discussing, because Senator Gair or ex-Senator Gair, whichever he may be, is no longer important in relation to the responsibilities that go with what has happened in this Parliament. Senator Gair no longer is a significant factor in the arguments that are taking place because immediately the smart ones found that they were outsmarted they resorted to dishonesty and trickery and, it is alleged, lies in this Parliament in order to substantiate the situation.
I want to trace the circumstances of Senator Gair’s appointment, not as a man with a legal mind but as an ordinary member of the Australian community. The first claim that was made to prove that Senator Gair was no longer a senatorindeed, had not been for some weeks- was that he ceased to be a senator on 14 March when a letter over the signature of the Acting Minister for Foreign Affairs, who happens to be the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam), was sent to the Governor-General informing him of the wishes of the Government in this matter and asking for his approval to proceed with the appointment. The appointment had yet to be made. According to the paper placed before us, the Government received that approval. On the basis of that approval it was suggested that Senator Gair was no longer a member of the Senate from a time which suited the Government.
The Government made a hasty decision because it would be completely impossible to prove that a man had been appointed as ambassador to a country before that country had accepted the appointment. It would have been a breach of all the procedures established by all countries to appoint a person to an office such as this before he had actually been accepted by the country concerned. Of course, it is necessary to obtain the approval of the appropriate authority in one’s own country before one can proceed to set in motion the necessary machinery for appointment. But who ever heard in any previous case- I hope that the Government tries to prove this in the High Court- of it being even possible to make such an appointment before acceptance had been received from the country to which the person involved was to be appointed.
Now in this chamber the Attorney-General (Senator Murphy) has shifted ground. Although the learned legal opinion submitted by the Solicitor-General states that the appointment became effective on 14 March, the AttorneyGeneral now wants to make it 21 March because that is the day after approval was received from the country that was to receive the benefit of the services of Vincent Gair as Ambassador for Australia. That approval was received on 20 March. On 21 March a minute, again over the signature of the Acting Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Mr Whitlam, was sent to His Excellency the Governor-General for his approval. The subject matter of that minute was: ‘Appointment of Senator the Honourable Vincent Clair Gair . . .’ So at that time the appointment was still the subject matter of a minute; it had not been accomplished, as was claimed originally, on 14 March. Of course, the fact of it being the subject matter of a minute does not constitute an appointment either, does it? Paragraph (iii) of that minute states:
Such appointment commences on and from a date to be determined-
It says not that it has been determined but that it is to be determined in the future; if it does not mean that, what does it mean? by the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs.
That is what the Prime Minister and Acting Minister for Foreign Affairs asked His Excellency the Governor-General to approve, and the Governor-General gave his approval. He approved nothing other than that ‘such appointment commences on and from a date to be’- in the future- ‘determined’. Then we come to the honest legal opinion. It is strange that the very learned gentleman who gave this legal opinion used the same verbiage in expressing the opinion that the appointment of Senator Gair as Ambassador to Ireland was approved, and actually Senator Gair was the Ambassador on 14 March. In giving his opinion the Solicitor-General said: . . that the former Senator held an office of profit from the moment of his appointment . . .
I repeat the words: ‘from the moment of his appointment.’ But the appointment had not commenced on 21 March; it was to commence on a date yet to be fixed. So how can Senator Gair have become an ambassador on 21 March when the legal opinion of the Solicitor-General is that he become Ambassador on 14 March? The legal opinion admits that he held an office of profit from the moment of his appointment. Yet the minute dated 21 March states that the appointment was to commence on a date to be fixed -in the future.
As we all now know, the only suggestion that any date has ever been fixed came in an admission by the Minister for Foreign Affairs relating to the document that he has laid before the Parliament. Paragraph (ii) of the document sent to His Excellency on 2 1 March for approval contained all the subsidiary matters which go with the appointment, such as what it costs to get there, how much it costs to transport the furniture and the glassware, the cost of the insurance thereof and everything else; but it carefully omitted the date of commencement that had to be fixed. It has still to be fixed unless we can accept what the Attorney-General said here, that he considered that document to be the date determined. That is answered in Hansard because in an answer to Senator Durack there were 2 separate and definite statements from the Minister. What other construction can be placed upon it than that? That he was appointed at some previous date? Of course you cannot say that.
But that is not the most serious thing. To make that stick, following the enormous pressure exerted by honourable senators by way of questioning to get at the truth of what had happened in this instance, a statement was made, not in this chamber but in another place, and for the first time, that Senator Gair, who was alleged by the Government to have been an ambassador for some 3 weeks and had come in here on 9 occasions and voted in divisions during that period, was told by the Attorney-General, who sits in this chamber, that he should not be here and that he should not vote. That statement was not made by the Attorney-General under pressure of question. It was first suggested in another place by the Prime Minister and later substantiated in this chamber by the Attorney-General who alleged that he did this. I want to read a statement made in Brisbane to a newspaper by Senator Gair on this very subject. I am not suggesting that the Prime Minister and the Attorney-General are liars. That has yet to be determined and it should be done by a royal commission because somebody has lied- either the Prime Minister, the Attorney-General or the Ambassador to Ireland. If the Ambassador to Ireland lied and the Prime Minister and the Attorney-General knew it, his appointment should have been withdrawn already. What inference can we draw from the fact that he is still tonight the Ambassador-designate to Ireland except that what he is reported to have said to this newspaper is correct. He is reported as having said:
Mr Gair denied that the AttorneyGeneral, Senator Murphy, had advised him not to take his place in the Senate.
An unequivocal statement was made by the Attorney-General and the Prime Minister. This newspaper report continues:
He rejected a statement by the Prime Minister, Mr Whitlam, who said in Parliament that Senator Gair had sat in the Senate Chamber on Tuesday against the advice of Senator Murphy.
That is not correct’ he said. ‘Senator Murphy saw me in my place and never said a word … No one advised me not to take my place in the Senate. I went in automatically. It never occurred to me. That is the truth. ‘
I issue this challenge to the Government: If that statement is true, is it going to send to Ireland the man who made it? Is it going to find out whether he did or did not make that statement? Is it going to send this man to Ireland? If its Prime Minister told the truth and if its Attorney-General told the truth he must be telling a lie. Is that the sort of status that the Government wants Australia to have abroad?
I challenge the Government that it dare not allow this matter to proceed beyond this point. A royal commission at least should be appointed to ascertain the truth. I have heard honourable senators on the Government side talking about Watergate and somebody bugging somebody’s office. This is political trickery again, is it not? Is bugging any worse than buying a political opponent to gain a political advantage? Who cares? Not I, because I have not been involved in such things. Let honourable senators opposite answer and tell me which is the worst- bugging somebody’s office or buying somebody they have hated for the last 18 years. Honourable senators opposite know full well the answer to that question. The whole of the Government of the United States of America today stands in doubt in the eyes of the world because of one question and one question alone and that is: Did those in high authority conspire to deceive the Congress?
This matter we are dealing with also is a conspiracy but here we have deliberate and direct evidence of those in the Parliament who are involved but they are too cowardly now to defend their honour. This is involved in the statement made by the Ambassador-designate to Ireland who said that people lied in the House of Representatives and they lied in the Senate. Yet those people are still going to send the man who said that to Ireland. Somebody is frightened to establish the truth and therefore they are going to allow this country to be besmirched in the eyes of the world and never resolve where the lie is. The lie must be somewhere between the 3 people who made the statements on this question.
It is because this Parliament is more precious to the people of this nation than any of the little people in here and any of the parties represented that the Democratic Labor Party will go to the people, whatever seems to be the obvious political consequences. We will go to the people and give them their opportunity. This Senate has been charged with a sacred trust and that is the right to recall parliaments and send them to the people, their true masters. We do not dismiss the Government in this chamber; we merely say: Go back to your masters, the people, and let them decide whether your actions of the last week will preserve democracy and good government in this country, or whether they will destroy the prestige of this House and the other place for all time.’ For that reason we will have no hesitation when we come to vote on this motion. We will have no hesitation in regard to any of the other motions that come before this Senate and have to be decided not in the interests of politicians but in the interests of Parliament and the people.
– This debate has aroused a great deal of heat and hysterical rantings from Opposition senators who are endeavouring to make some political capital out of an endeavour by the Government to carry out its mandate, its policies, and to exercise the prerogative of any person involved in politics attempting to achieve the art of the possible. I make no defence of the Government’s position in this matter because I believe that the immorality in the matters that we have been determining over the last several months lies not so much in the appointment of the Honourable Vincent Gair but in those 10 senators who were elected in 1967 and who have sought to sit in judgment upon a government that was elected in 1972. That is where the immorality lies. Those people who were elected in 1967 were basking in the inability of the Australian electorate to understand the real issues of the Vietnam war. But by 1972 it had become apparent to the great mass of the Australian people that that was a dirty and unwinnable war and that in fact there was a need to clear the slate as far as politicians in Australia were concerned and to elect to government a party which had consistently followed a policy of not being involved in any war in Asia.
In the last 18 months since this Government was elected in 1 972 it has sought to implement the mandate that was given to it by the Australian people but these 10 senators have been sitting in judgment and have been attempting to nullify and to destroy the mandate that was given to the Government by the people of Australia. That is the immorality in this whole situation. This Government has been frustrated by an obstructionist Senate. The Government has sought in every way to exercise the mandate given to it by the Australian people but that mandate has been set aside, amended or rejected by a number of people whom history has passed by in terms of the political development of this country. I do not believe that what the Government did in this case is any different from the practices that have been symbolic of the Australian approach to politics or, for that matter, the approach to politics in all the Western world? If in its endeavours to obtain a majority vote in this place the Australian Government was able to persuade any member of the Parliament to accept a position, one can only conclude that the person who accepted the position knowingly and willingly made the decision in the light of all the circumstances.
One can understand the Democratic Labor Party’s concern about this because Senator Gair has certainly affected its position in the Australian political scene; his retirement from this place has been a very heavy blow to the Democratic Labor Party. When one hears of attempts that have been made by those who seek to have this Senate determine the issue of Senator Gair’s retirement one would imagine that somebody in the Government Party had twisted Senator Gair’s arm, that Senator Gair did not have possession of his faculties, that he would not have been able to make the decision himself, that this man who was formerly Leader of this Party had suddenly become irresponsible and incapable of making a decision affecting his future. It is a state of affairs which has, of course, created some sort of political reaction in this country. I do not intend to get involved in the legal side of the argument. It is crystal clear to me, since I have read the Constitution, that Senator Gair agreed to accept the appointment and that it then went through the normal and formal channels of approval; that is to say, he accepted, it was then conveyed to the authorities in Ireland, and then conveyed to the Governor-General, and he gave his formal assent to it. From that moment on Senator Gair remained a member of this chamber no longer.
With respect to the President of this place, it seems to me that in the first instance the responsibility to determine whether Senator Gair was in fact a member of the Senate on Tuesday last was the responsibility of Senator Gair himself. I cannot understand the thinking of the Opposition senators who have suggested that Senator Murphy was recreant to his responsibilities, that as the Leader of a minority party in this place he had to rectify a situation. Surely the responsibility rested either with the senator who should have understood what were the constitutional requirements or certainly with the President of this place. With respect to that statement, 1 say that I have the utmost confidence in the President of this Senate. However, it seems to me that he knew that the Prime Minister had made an announcement in the other place in respect of Senator Gair and that then the responsibility rested with the President, the person in charge of this House. It was equally a matter of the responsibility of Senator McManus, the Leader of his Party, to question whether Senator Gair was entitled to be recording a vote in this chamber. To suggest that there was something improper on the part of the Government seems to me to be an untenable suggestion and one which no reasonable person could accept as capable of being believed or accepted.
Of course, when certain members of the House became aware of some of the loopholes- I suppose that is the way one could describe the incident- a conspiracy was begun in which the Premier of Queensland, not acting honourably and in accordance with the Constitution, conspired with the Leader of the Country Party and certain persons in this place to deceive the national Parliament and to deprive the people of Queensland of an opportunity at the elections on 18 May of electing a successor to Senator Gair. I find that a conspiracy.
– I rise to a point of order. I think it is unparliamentary and contrary to Standing Orders to reflect in this place upon the Premier of Queensland.
– After all that you have said?
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Webster)- The honourable senator reflected on a position in the Queensland Parliament, not on a parliamentarian. There is no substance in the point of order.
– I think it is fair to recall the events that took place last week. The Premier of Queensland has basked in the publicity; he has taken great credit for having created some sort of situation here in Canberra. I do not think there is any doubt that he was aided and abetted by some members of the national Parliament. I do not think there is any doubt that there was a prawn night here in which attempts were made, quite deliberately, to restrain the senator from exercising his right to regularise this whole situation. The senator concerned was probably completely befuddled by the great amount of attention paid to him by those who hitherto had been his greatest admirers and supporters. Now that they are confronted with the legal situation and with the Government’s proposition to regularise the departure of Senator Gair from this chamberthat is, by referring the question to the High Court for consideration- all sorts of unpalatable suggestions have been made. It has been suggested that Senator Gair has rendered himself liable to some penalties because he has voted in this chamber. I am told that Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin placed herself in a similar position some time ago when she in fact sat here from the time she had been given her appointment and before she took up her appointment in a new place.
– She was not offered a prawn night.
– There was no prawn night organised for Senator Dame Annabelle Rankin. So we have a situation which is most unsatisfactory from the point of view of the Australian people, brought about by the intransigence of the Queensland Government and by attempts of members of this House and by other members of the national Parliament to try to prevent the regularising of Senator Gair’s retirement from this place. As a layman I have always understood that ignorance of the law has never been regarded as an excuse. If I had been appointed to some government position outside the Parliament, I would have made it my responsibility I am sure that is the way all of us should review this particular matter- to ascertain whether I was sitting in this chamber properly or otherwise. I certainly would expect that those who are senior to me in the official conduct of this chamber also would take steps to see whether my position was regularised. I cannot believe that anyone in his right senses can suggest that somehow or other the Government is at fault in this whole matter.
But, of course, one would imagine, having regard to the hysterical rantings of some of those who have spoken on this matter, that this House has suddenly become a House of review; that it is not a party House, that it is a House of politics, that it is a House which exercises its right as a tribunal free of all party taints that affect us because we happen to be politicians. What sort of a trick are we trying to play upon the Australian people? Everybody knows that the matters involved in this question are being decided in each of the party rooms; that there is no possibility of the decision being arrived at free of the political influences and prejudices which we each hold and express. We are all subject to political influences in this matter. That is why the Government ‘s proposition to put this question to the High Court ought to be supported. But everybody knows there is no chance of that happening. The DLP, having lost its former leader, is now prepared to decry him and pull him down from the pedestal on which it had placed him in recent years. It is so ashamed of the position it is in and so much aware of the political oblivion to which the electors are shortly going to confine it that we have no doubt about the attitude it will take.
We have no doubt about the attitude of the Country Party because its Leader was part of the conspiracy to circumvent the will of the Government and the will of the people. The Liberal Party is prepared to make a last throw in the hope of getting electoral support. It will take any steps to try to get back into office. Let us have no illusions about what this chamber will do. Let us have no illusions about the inability of the Senate to deal with this matter in a judicial sense. The Leader of the Opposition (Senator Withers), in moving his amendment, is seeking to delay the retirement or removal of Senator Gair from the Senate. Is it suggested by those honourable senators who have been so vocal in this debate that Senator Gair is still a member of this chamber? If the letter that Senator Gair, or Mr Gair–
– His Excellency.
– Yes, His Excellency. If the letter that he sent to the President of the Senate is not a letter of resignation- that is what has been seriously suggested- he is still a member of the Senate, although some people are now trying to put another proposition. Senator Willesee, in answering a question, said that as from a particular date last week Senator Gair was considered to have been appointed to the position of Ambassador, and some people are suggesting that that has no particular relevance to the matter in question. Either Senator Gair is a member of the Senate or he is not. Either he has resigned or he has not. Either he is constitutionally a member of the Senate or he is not.
Honourable senators have taken a great deal of time in pointing out that Senator Gair voted last Tuesday- probably in all ignorance, probably confused by the turn of events and by the hostility of his own Party. His Party colleagues, without any trial or notification, expelled him. He was not treated democratically or given a right of appeal. In the face of all these difficultieshe also was invited to a prawn evening in Senator Maunsell ‘s office- how could it be expected that the matter would be regularised so that the people would understand what has taken place? If there is any guilty man, every member of this chamber is guilty because not one of us got to his feet to draw to the attention of the President that we had a stranger in the House. The colleagues of Senator Gair, amongst whom he formed so large a part of the situation, took no steps to advise him, their former mentor, that he was transgressing in attending in this place.
It is quite ludicrous for the Opposition to endeavour to paint the Government in some sort of black picture. Heavens above, have they not heard of the action of Premier Askin of New South Wales? I address myself to my friends opposite who are members of the Liberal Party. Have they not heard what Premier Askin did to Mr Abe Landa, a former Attorney-General in the New South Wales Labor Government? Premier Askin appointed him as Agent-General in London in 1965. I am sure that my friend Senator Carrick would have been privy to that decision because at that time he was General Secretary of the New South Wales Division of the Liberal Party. How does it suddenly become immoral now that it is done federally when it was morally good and acceptable in the New South Wales political arena? Of course politics is the art of the possible and we are entitled to take every step at our disposal in order to get a majority in this place so that we can implement the mandate that was given to us by the electors in 1 972.
– I call Senator Wood.
-Do you not want me to speak in this place?
– I called you, Senator Wood.
– 1 have a right as a senator. The Whip is kicking up a shindy about it, Mr President.
– Order! No one may interfere with a senator on his feet. I call Senator Wood.
– Thank you, Mr President. I was very surprised to hear Senator Gietzelt say that it is right to do the sort of thing that has been done in the case of Senator Gair. People who believe in upholding a right spirit in Parliament would not regard that as an expression to be voiced in this chamber. I am one of those who believe that if the process of Parliament sets a certain course that is the right course to adopt. The Senate has been set up so that half its membership comes up for election every 3 years. That was arranged for a specific purpose. Whilst the other chamber changes more or less completelythat is, the government moves from one side to the other when there is a change- in this chamber that does not take place so far as the composition of the Senate is concerned. Our founding fathers specially provided that there would not be a complete change of thinking in this chamber as in the other. There is a carryover of membership from a previous 3-year term. 1 do not think it is right that that system should be altered by us as a matter of expediency.
There is no doubt that the deal done with Senator Gair was intended specifically to upset the particular purpose to which regard was had by the founding fathers. Normally 5 senators from each State come up for election, but in this case it would have meant that 6 senators would have been elected to represent Queensland. This was not done to observe a high thinking parliamentary standard. It was done especially to obtain a gain of one seat in Queensland’s representation in this chamber so that the composition of the parties in the Senate might be changed materially.
From a political point of view it might be regarded as clever thinking or good strategy, but from a parliamentary point of view it is very bad. When people know that the action is being taken for a certain purpose it is bad for them to acquiesce and to operate in this way. There is no doubt that when Senator Gair was offered and accepted the position the intention was not to get the highest possible ambassadorial representation in Ireland. It was done purely out of political expediency, and in those circumstances I think it was very bad. My own view is that the people appointed to ambassadorial posts should be chosen on the highest possible basis so that that is the type of representation we have in other countries. I an not degrading Senator Gair in any way. He was Premier of my own State of Queensland for a number of years. He also has been a senator for a number of years. I am not speaking of him personally. But it seems to me that for such a post to be filled out of political expediency is the wrong way to choose an ambassador for this country.
– He said that he was tired and wanted a rest.
– I know that the tiredness suited the Government of the day. There is no doubt about it. From a political point of view it probably was considered to be a very shrewd and clever move; but, as honourable senators know, it did not come off.
– You were ringing up Joh.
– I do not apologise for ringing up the Premier of Queensland. I believe that in doing so I was frustrating an action based on ulterior motives, from a parliamentary point of view. I am very pleased that anything I was able to do in that regard was successful.
-What did you do? Could you give us the real story?
– Give us the inside story.
– The inside story is very simple and straightforward. It was just a matter of letting the Premier of Queensland know that in this way the usual process of election of the Senate would be altered. In those circumstances it was necessary for him to use his State powers to ensure that what the founding fathers had intended for this chamber would still remain.
– Did you organise the prawn party?
– No, I do not have prawn parties or booze parties. I happen to be a pineapple juice, orangeade and lemonade drinker. If other people want to be silly and booze themselves up, that is their business. It is outside my jurisdiction. In fairness to the Premier of Queensland I wish to say that I have the greatest admiration for the speed with which he acted when he knew what was taking place, for all the effort he put into the matter and eventually for restoring the situation to the same basis as the founding fathers of this Commonwealth adopted.
I entered this debate because I feel that the whole event should not have happened. I am very pleased that the Government’s efforts have been frustrated. I hope that it will be a lesson to governments of all political colours and that they will learn that this sort of tactic should not be used. I am not in favour of its being used by a government of my own political thinking or by any other government because I think it is a very wrong practice. Therefore I am glad that what was thought would take place has not taken place. It seems now that Senator Gair will achieve the position of Ambassador to Ireland but the Government will not achieve its aim of securing the sixth Senate seat in Queensland in the way it hoped.
– It depends on the outcome of the High Court case.
– Despite what my friends on the Government side say, I feel confident that the action taken is so watertight that what the Premier of Queensland has done will stay put. I am quite confident that 5 senators will be chosen on one ballot paper. It may be that one senator will have to be chosen on a separate ballot paper to make up the 6 senators.
– You are antiticipating the High Court decision.
– I am not anticipating any High Court decision because I do not believe that a High Court decision will be made. I believe that the decision will be made by this chamber and that the decision that this chamber makes is the one that will be recognised.
I regret this whole incident. I regret that it was felt necessary to make this approach and that Senate Gair was prepared to accept the position in the circumstances. I am very pleased that the situation has not developed in the way that the Government hoped. I feel very happy about any part that I have played in frustrating the Government’s effort. In conclusion I say once again that these tactics, irrespective of the political colour of the government that uses them, are bad. I think that we should discourage these tactics as much as possible. Contrary to the view held by Senator Gietzelt, I do not believe it is a thing we should aim for. I believe it is the sort of thing we should protest against and prohibit wherever possible.
- Senator Wood is a very great parliamentarian. It is not often, I think, that he misleads the Senate, but I regret to say that from my own experience I know he has misled the Senate this evening. He claimed that he drank only pineapple juice, orangeade and lemonade. But I have found him to be enormously addicted to drinking tea. I do not intend to traverse the arguments which should properly be ventilated and probably will be ventilated in the High
Court of Australia if other events do not supervene. We are talking about a question here which ought to be resolved in the High Court. It may not need to be resolved in the High Court because something else may happen.
It is interesting that such things can supervene. We have had a case of this in the very example that is before us. It is said by all hands here that Senator Gair was expected to resign. Senator Gair said that he intended to put in a resignation. He also said that he tried to put in a resignation and we heard what you said about your availability, Mr President. The fact is that Senator Gair did not put in the resignation. Had he done so the question of whether legally such a resignation would be necessary or operative may never have arisen as it apparently has not arisen in regard to a number of previous appointments. The fact is that he did not resign. After the actions of the Queensland Government it was necessary to examine closely the question as to his holding of and vacation of office. The legal view accepted by the Government is that in any event after 2 1 March he was not entitled to sit. There was no sitting of the Senate from 21 March until Tuesday, 2 April. Before that the Democratic Labor Party, of course, was aware of Senator Gair’s position.
– Before when?
-Before Tuesday, 2 April.
– On Tuesday, 2 April we were aware of it only early in the morning. We were not aware of it before then.
- Senator, you are saying that your Party was not aware of it before then. Your Party has a secretary and I think he is the keeper of your secrets. You should ascertain the facts more correctly. The honourable senator might find that the secretary of his Party was aware of Senator Gair’s position. I suggest to the honourable senator that he should not state, as he has, that his Party was not aware. I am not speaking of the Tuesday. I am speaking of before Tuesday, 2 April. I think the honourable senator should ascertain the facts from his Party before he states that his Party was not aware. On top of the fact that Senator Gair had made his Party aware before the Tuesday -
– On the Tuesday.
-. . . before the Tuesday, there were statements in the newspapers on the Tuesday morning and the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) himself announced the decision. Where is the nonsence about which the honourable senator is talking? He has made an abusurd complaint about the Government because on that very Tuesday the whole of this chamber was aware of what had been publicly stated in the newspapers and publicly stated by the Prime Minister himself.
After all the documents have been produced the Opposition apparently contends that Mr Gair, the former Senator, is still a senator and the Clerk marks him as absent. Yet, all this nonsense is spoken that some time on the Tuesday after the announcement was made the Government or the Ministers or myself were at some fault. After the matters were revealed Opposition members still stand here and contend that Senator Gair is a senator right now. The Government says that the proper course is that the judicial authority which has been established to deal with such matters should determine them. This was contemplated by this Parliament in section 203 of the Commonwealth Electoral Act. We had the discussion on whether the power of the Senate was exhausted. We had cited to the Senate an eminent legal authority who considered that the power of the Senate was exhausted. Whether that be so or not, it is quite clear that the matter of such a vacancy involves considerations of law which have been dealt with at length in the opinions of the Solicitor-General and of Professor Howard, the general Counsel to the Attorney-General. These opinions which have been put before the Senate are that if legal questions are disputed they should be determined by a judicial authority. Senator Greenwood, when he was Attorney-General, said that it was mischievous for such questions to be determined in the Senate. Last time I spoke in this debate I quoted the honourable senator in full to the effect that it was quite wrong that such a question should be decided on Party political lines in this chamber. As far as I know he has not spoken in this debate. He has been significantly silent.
– That is because he cannot resile from his previous opinion.
-That is right. No doubt he will cross the floor and vote because this will be a vote on Party political lines. He will vote for a proposition that this matter be not referred to the High Court of Australia. We heard what Senator Withers said. I know he said some rather uncomplimentary thing about public servants, but he did not stop at that. He said that if this matter were sent to the High Court it would simply sweep it under the carpet.
-He ought to be hounded out of his profession.
-I do not know what treatment might be accorded to him, but as the honourable senators know -
– That is only because you like him and he likes you,
– I think he is a gentle kind of person. Perhaps he does not mean all that he says about these people. But he did say some rather extraordinary things about the High Court of Australia. One would think that the High Court sitting as a court of disputed returns, with the most distinguished gentlemen on it, was some kind of a trumped up body, notwithstanding that most of the appointments were made by the honourable senator’s own administration or its predecessors. Therefore we have the spectacle of the Opposition saying: ‘Look, something is clear. No one could possibly find otherwise. No one could possibly accept what the Government is putting forward and what the Government says here. ‘ Let us send the case to the High Court of Australia and get its decision. The Opposition is not prepared to have the legal position, which the Government puts forward as its view, determined by the High Court. Instead the Opposition says: ‘Let us have a Party political vote. Let us determine this issue here so that it can be done on Party political lines, so that those honourable senators who are about to depart from this place will be able to act as justices and determine these great legal issues before they are rejected by the people of Australia when a double dissolution occurs within a few days. ‘ That does not seem to be altogether in accordance with the rule of law. The Australian Labor Party believes in the rule of law. Here is a question which certainly ought to go to the High Court.
If we assume for the moment, against what was put by the eminent legal authority, that the Senate does retain some residual power to determine legal questions, surely it is not a question such as this. This is a tangled legal question in respect of which the only legal opinions produced to the Senate have been those of distinguished authorities cited by honourable senators on the Government side. These opinions support the Government view. They indicate that a vacancy had occurred prior to the Queensland action and that certain consequences flow from that. The Opposition prefers to use numbers instead of having a determination by the highest body of law. It will not have those numbers for very long. The vacation by the former honourable senator- whether he resigned or forfeited his seat; however it came about- was prior to the issue of the writs and there should be an election for 6 honourable senators in
Queensland. That simply means an election by the people. The Queensland Government is endeavouring to bring about a position where appointment would be made by the Government. The people will be deprived of a vote in the election. For our Government here to contend that there should be a vote by the people is somehow considered irregular and improper. It is suggested that the people should not be entitled to have a vote. The constitutional consequence is that if the seat were vacated before the election in Queensland there should be. a vote of the people to fill that position.
The Opposition complains and says that there has been some endeavour to alter the balance here. If that were the consequence and it would help to deprive the Opposition of its majority, that might be viewed with favour by a great number of people. We have the situation in this chamber where this year there have been 36 divisions and the Government has been defeated 35 times. This Senate does not reflect the popular vote. If we have a double dissolution, what will occur? The Senate may well end up in a deadlock. Suppose the unlikely were to happen and a non-Labor Government were elected in the House of Representatives, could that Government expect supply from the Senate in these circumstances? What the Opposition has been doing over the past 18 months and especially over the past few months is to produce an era of unstable government. I said last week that the actions of the Opposition were calculated to undermine the system of Government- not merely to undermine the Government. That is what the Opposition is endeavouring to do. It has set about on a course to undermine the system of government. Here is an illustration of what happens. After the President put down his statement the Government came in with a straightforward, logical and appropriate motion to refer the question to the High Court of Australia sitting as the court of disputed returns in order to determine the question. Now, what happens? An amendment is moved by Senator Withers. What does it say? It states:
Have you ever read such a nonsequitur in your life- because he had not resigned he was a senator? The Leader of the Opposition well knows that in the Constitution- this is the very point at issue- there is another provision by which Senator Gair could vacate his office in a number of circumstances. We have pointed to two of them. Senator Withers has the impudence to put in his amendment a statement that because Senator Gair had not resigned he was still a senator. If the amendment said ‘because Senator Gair had not resigned and he had not otherwise vacated his office’ one could understand it. The amendment continues:
I have dealt with this matter. What is the position? Whether Senator Gair said that he would resign, whether somebody stopped him as a result of the prawn night or whatever it was, the Senate knows that he did not resign. The amendment continues:
Senator Withers said that this is a terrible thing. What nonsense. After the Queensland Government took the steps that it did, this Government’s proper duty was to ascertain the precise legal position. It has ascertained that, obtained legal advice and put the opinions before the Senate. This amendment is nonsense. The Opposition is not dealing straightforwardly with a Government motion which seeks to refer the question and get a determination by the High Court of Australia.
A lot of things have been said about the role of the Senate and about what is right and proper. Honourable senators opposite have said an awful lot. I suppose we have read in the newspapers and heard in this chamber so much nonsense and so many misstatements that one could go through all of them and correct the amount of rubbish which has been said, and I do not propose to do so except to say that it is there and almost every page on which the Opposition spoke is full of it. The Opposition talks about upholding the Senate and upholding the proprieties. It is about to use numbers to reject a motion to have a proper legal determination by the highest judicial authouity. The Opposition purports to determine a question of the rights of a person and the rights of a chamber by the brutal use of numbers. This is what the Opposition has been doing all year. This is why the Opposition has brought us to this situation. This is why the Opposition will be rejected by the people. I am happy to say that a considerable number of senators opposite will not be here after the double dissolution to carry on their pernicious practices.
That the words proposed to be left out (Senator Withers’ amendment) be left out.
The Senate divided. (The President- Senator Sir Magnus Cormack)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
That the words proposed to be inserted (Senator Withers’ amendment) be inserted.
The Senate divided. (The President- Senator Sir Magnus Cormack)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
That the motion (Senator Murphy’s) as amended be agreed to.
The Senate divided. (The President- Senator Sir Magnus Cormack)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
– I move:
Honourable senators may recall that today there was a motion that the Senate would sit at 2.15 tomorrow. The intention was that we would sit after lunch. It was not intended to alter the commencing times of the Senate. I ask honourable senators to understand clearly that it is proposed that tomorrow we sit at 1 1 a.m. and to go on until about 1 o’clock or whatever time we might decide to suspend the sitting shortly before, resume at 2.15 and sit till 6 p.m., and then sit from 8 to 10.30 p.m. It should be quite clearly understood that we will start at 1 1 a.m. tomorrow if this motion is adopted by the Senate.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Willesee) read a first time.
Senator WILLESEE (Western Australia-
Minister for Foreign Affairs) ( 10.0)- I move:
This Bill now before the Senate is an interim measure to provide for 2 members for the Australian Capital Territory in the event of a general election for this House before the Distribution Committee for the Australian Capital Territory has completed its task. This Parliament has already enacted legislation supported by the Opposition to give the Australian Capital Territory 2 members from the next House of Representatives election. The appropriate procedures for the division of the Australian Capital Territory into 2 areas have been in train for some time but, because of the unprecedented threat made by the Opposition to deny Supply to a popularly elected Government, it may be necessary to hold a general election for this House before the Committee has completed its task. If a general election for this House is held without the passage of the interim measure proposed by this Bill, the people of the nation’s capital will be denied any form of democratic representation.
The Australian Capital Territory is one of the fastest growing centres of population in the country but it has traditionally been one of the most under-represented areas in our polity. By definition, the people of the Territory have no state parliament and, by the refusal of previous Liberal-Country Party governments, the people have no effective local government either. The Government has sought to provide representation for the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory in the Senate but these just measures have twice been rejected by the Opposition in the Senate. It is the intention of this Government to ensure that the people of the Australian Capital Territory are not also denied their rightful representation in the House of Representatives.
In 1 948, the Chifley Labour Government first provided for the people of the Australian Capital Territory to be represented in the House of Representatives. Since the population of the Territory was then small, the member so chosen was not granted full voting rights at that time. However, the rapid growth of the city of Canberra has led to the Australian Capital Territory electorate having a larger enrolment than any other federal division. For most of the period since 1948, the people of Canberra were very ably represented by the late Jim Fraser and, as a result of his agitation, the member for the Australian Capital Territory was given full voting rights in the House of Representatives as from 1967. Last year, the present Government sought to provide for the return of 2 members from the Australian Capital Territory. The current enrolment in the Territory is of the order of 100,000 electors and Parliament recognised that the time had come to adjust the number of members accordingly. It is only right that the people of the nation’s capital should be represented as adequately as are people in the various States.
The Distribution Committee appointed by the Governor-General on 18 December 1973 has released its proposed division of the Territory but must wait for a statutory period of 30 days to elapse for the receipt of suggestions or objections. This period concludes on 18 April 1974 and the Committee can proceed no further until that date. The Government therefore proposes, as an interin measure, to adopt the Committee’s original proposals for the division of the Territory. It is worthy of note that no objections to these proposals have been received by the Committee, according to the Chairman, Mr Ley.
The Committee has proposed a remarkably simple and logical basis for the division, namely, that the Territory should be split in two by the path of the Molonglo River and by Lake Burley Griffin. This is in agreement with the suggestions put forward by all of the major political parties. What a remarkable achievement to have the Liberal Party, the Country Party and the Australian Labor Party in complete agreement on redistribution. Is this another first in the history of our Parliament? This yields 2 divisions which differ in enrolment by less than 1,000 electors. Further, population projections by the National Capital Development Commission show that the 2 electorates will remain almost equal in population until 1980 and beyond. Thus, we will have achieved a most equitable distribution.
The proposed boundary is the most natural geographical basis for the division and will produce almost no confusion on the part of the people of Canberra as to the division to which they belong. Rather than deprive the people of the Territory of any democratic representation whatsoever in the next Parliament, the Government is by this Bill seeking to adopt the Committee’s original proposals as the basis for returning 2 members for the Territory should this be necessary.
As I stressed earlier, the present Bill is purely an interim measure without which the people of the Australian Capital Territory would be denied any representation in the next Parliament. I believe that no senator could, in all conscience, vote against such a fair and just proposal. Mr President, I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Withers) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Wriedt) read a first time.
– I move:
By this Bill Parliament is again being asked to create the Petroleum and Minerals Authority. The functions of the Petroleum and Minerals Authority will be to explore for and develop our petroleum and mineral resources and to assist in implementing the Government’s policy of promoting Australia ownership and control of our natural resources and resource industries. The Bill was first introduced into the House of Representatives on 4 December 1973 and into the Senate on 13 December 1973. The Senate refused to read the Bill a second time on 2 April 1974.
This is a measure to which the Government attaches the greatest importance. The Government’s policy in relation to this matter was completely vindicated by the events late last year prior to the introduction of the Bill into the House of Representatives on 4 December 1973. Events since that announcement have strengthened the arguments for the creation of the Petroleum and Minerals Authority. There is additional evidence too in the proposed actions of other governments. Since the preparation of our legislation the United Kingdom Government has announced proposals for the establishment of a Government authority and Mr Trudeau, the Canadian Prime Minister, is planning to introduce legislation shortly to create a national petroleum corporation whose objectives are remarkably similar to those in relation to petroleum proposed for the Petroleum and Minerals Authority.
It is through the Petroleum and Minerals Authority that the Government plans to recycle the savings from the withdrawal of the section 77 taxation concessions and the cessation of the petroleum search subsidy scheme. We plan to use these funds initially to promote the search for petroleum under arrangements to be determined. In addition, and of no less importance, they will be available to further our policy of ensuring that future on-shore mining development is at least predominantly Australian owned and controlled. We will consider assistance to the many small companies and syndicates which have used up their capital on exploration and have discovered worthwhile mineralisations so attractive that, in default of obtaining internal Australian capital, they fall into the hands of foreign companies before they have a chance of getting off the ground as Australian concerns.
The Government’s action in introducing this Bill today is evidence of the great urgency which it attaches to this proposal and to the tasks for which the Petroleum and Minerals Authority is being created. The Federal Liberal Party’s proposed new policy statement, as publicised recently in the Press, after emphasising that Australian ownership is ‘preferable’ states that where this is not possible, carefully monitored participation by overseas interests or by Government is acceptable in the nation’s best interest’. Equal government participation is precisely the objective of this measure.. In the case of off-shore petroleum exploration it will be in partnership with competent and experienced petroleum search companies, who will be providing the major risk capital and equipment. In respect of on-shore exploration, government participation will take the form of either equity acquisition, loan, partnership or guarantee. All these projects will be financed by the recycling of the $50m to $60m hitherto paid to undeserving companies without in most cases an effective return and certainly without any interest accruing to the Australian people.
The Government has a mandate for this proposal, the nation a need; and the measure of our sincerity is the existence in this country today of government corporations co-operating with and competing effectively with private enterprise. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Rae) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Murphy) read a first time.
– 1 move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
For several years the belief has grown amongst Australian people that Australia was being sold out too cheaply to foreign interests. This belief has become a conviction and even the LiberalCountry Party governments, which had permitted and encouraged it, finally were compelled to restrict foreign takeovers and establish the Australian Industry Development Corporation. But the AIDC was established with one hand tied behind its back and with restrictions upon its own independent action. It could do few of the things which could be done by its foreign competitors or even by its Australian competitors for funds. So much was this true that the Senate Select Committee on Foreign Ownership and Control concluded in October 1972 as follows:
The Committee is of the opinion that the Australian Resources Development Bank and the Australian Industry Development Corporation are both performing important tasks. However, at this stage of their development, due to courses beyond their control, their role is far too insignificant to be considered a major force in the capital market. The Committee recommends that the activities of both these two bodies be expanded further.
It seemed beyond doubt that when the Australian Labor Party Government on 30 August 1973, introduced Bills to expand the activities of the AIDC the Opposition in the House and in the Senate would give them serious consideration. The Minister for Overseas Trade (Mr J. F. Cairns) left plenty of time for that to be done. The Bills introduced on 30 August were not called on for debate until 16 October- 47 days later. But what was the attitude of the Opposition in the House of Representatives? When introducing this Bill in the other place the Minister for Overseas Trade said that the official spokesman, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr Lynch) said as recorded on page 2 166 of Hansard
I have outlined the general basis on which the Opposition rejects both Bills
And, finally, at the end of his speech on page 2 168, he said:
The Opposition rejects both Bills.
In order to show how completely the Opposition rejected the move to expand the AIDC, the Leader of the Australian Country Party (Mr Anthony) said at page 2 1 73:
I oppose this Bill in its entirety for reasons I will explain.
It was not only opposition to some part of the 2 Bills, but also it was rejection of them- rejection in entirety. The Opposition was not only unconcerned that its own Senate Select Committee had concluded after inquiry that the AIDC and the Australian Resources Development Bank were far too insignificant to be considered a major force in the capital market and recommended that the ‘activities of both these two bodies be expanded further’, but also unconcerned too that the majority of the Australian people were appalled at the sell-out of Australia and wanted something to be done.
Both Bills- the Australian Industry Development Corporation Bill and the National Investment Fund Bill- passed the House of Representatives on 17 and 18 October respectively and were so certified by the Clerk as ready for presentation to the Senate. On 23 October both Bills were presented to the Senate. It was then that tactics, which now appear to be little more than delaying and obstructing, began. It was not until 28 November, nearly 5 weeks later, that the Senate found itself able to make a decision about the 2 Bills. Its Select Committee had found a year earlier that the AIDC and the Australian Resources Development Bank were too insignificant to perform a major task and should be expanded and yet the Senate took 5 weeks even to begin to consider Bills which had that purpose.
Having found time to consider the Bills, the Senate decided not to pass them, wholly or in part, but referred them to the same Select Committee for inquiry and report, not at some indefinite future date, but ‘as soon as possible’ and not later than 12 March. But ‘as soon as possible’ did not mean much, and 12 March has come and gone. It is already 25 days since 12 March, the date fixed by the Senate itself as the date beyond which the Committee should not go, and there is no report from the Committee and no action by the Senate. On 7 March 1974 the House of Representatives adopted a resolution requesting the Senate to resume consideration of the 2 Bills but there was no response from the Senate. It seems now to be clear beyond doubt- the Opposition in the House of Representatives has rejected the Australian Industrial Development Corporation and National Investment Fund Bills, and the Senate has obstructed and hindered their passage until it has now become equally clear that the Senate has failed to pass the Australian Industrial Development Corporation and National Investment Fund Bills.
The Opposition in the House of Representatives has already stated its position clearly and, quoting the Minister, perhaps even arrogantly. It rejects the Australian Industry Development Corporation and National Investment Fund Bills in their entirety. The Minister for Overseas Trade said that there is therefore no particular reason then why we should waste time on the matter here, meaning the House of Representatives. These Bills are being submitted to the House now so that they may be sent to the Senate without humbug or delay. The Government wants to know where the Senate stands. Does it want to stand against the Government, against the will of the Australian people clearly expressed in December 1972, or will it consent to give effect to the will of the people?
There are few matters upon which the will of the people is more clear than it is about the AIDC. The Australian people want something to be done to stop the sell-out of Australia. They want the AIDC to be strengthened to become a significant force in the capital market to help retain Australian ownership and control. The AIDC will become a co-ordinator of enterprise in the ownership and development of Australia by
Australians within the normal free enterprise system, and it will receive the ready co-operation of Australian business enterprise. Much time has been taken up in this parliament and out of it in misrepresenting the Government’s plans for the AIDC and the NIF. The AIDC and the NIF are to perform a positive constructive role in the Australian business economy, not as an alternative to it.
Up to now, Australian resources have often been sold out at low prices to suit the multinational corporations which make their profit elsewhere. Up to now, investment in Australian resources has often been limited to those who will invest and at the same time acquire and dispose of a share of the output and will be allowed to invest only if they do so. This take and pay principle excludes investors who seek to invest for normal profit return. In this system investment may not take place at all unless the investor contracts to take over a share of the output. This is not a free enterprise system of investment, and there can be no wonder we are unable to get enough money to remove the undercapacity which leaves Australia today so short of many basic resources. There can be no wonder that we are short of capital to increase capacity and short of Australian capital to ensure the operation remains Australian. It is in the promotion and co-ordination of investment of a free enterprise kind that AIDC will find most of its work and its service to the Australian people in the future. Equally the role of the National Investment Fund is a free enterprise role. No more than 15 per cent of all wage and salary earners now invest in shares and between them hold no more than 3 per cent of the value of all shares. The purpose of the NIF is to provide for the ordinary Australian a readily available chance to invest his savings into the ownership and development of Australia. The average Australian will respond to this chance and by doing so there will follow an increase in the total amount of savings invested in Australia.
Not only the House of Representatives and the Government of Australia but the people of Australia want AIDC and the NIF to become the law of this land. These 2 Bills will show where the Senate stands. The Government does not want any delay or equivocation here to protect the Senate from facing that responsibility. It wants these 2 Bills to pass here without delay or obstruction so that the Senate can stand up and be counted, not only on these 2 Bills but upon whom it considers should be the Government of Australia. I commend these 2 Bills to the Senate for these purposes, and for their value to every
Australian citizen, who desires to be able to determine his own affairs and those of his children in the future.
Debate (on motion by Senator Withers) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Murphy) read a first time.
Support for the second reading of this Bill was contained in the speech I made earlier relating to the Australian Industry Development Corporation Bill.
Debate (on motion by Senator Withers) adjourned.
Motion (by Senator Murphy)- by leaveagreed to:
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the Questions with regard to the remaining stages for the passage through the Senate of the Australian Industry Development Corporation Bill 1973  [No. 2] and the National Investment Fund Bill 1973  [No. 2] being put in one motion at each Stage, and the consideration of the Bills together in Committee of the Whole, and as would prevent the reading of the Short Titles only on every Order for the reading of the Bills.
Debate resumed (vide page 72 1 )
– On behalf of the Opposition I wish to indicate that we will not vote for the second reading of these 2 health Bills. The Government has not brought these Bills up because it is interested in the health of the people; it brought them up purely as a little window-dressing for the coming election. If it wants to go to the election on the now discredited health proposals of the Minister for Social Security (Mr Hayden), that is the risk it takes. These proposals were dreamt up by 2 economists whom most people thought were medical practitioners. The proposals have been criticised and exposed as being a fraud and as being phoney operations. These Bills are not health Bills and do not even purport to be a health system. They are nothing but a means of taxing the public in order to give the public a second-rate service. We know that when the Bills were defeated this time last year the Government had no real intention of bringing–
– Last December.
-Last December. Well, they were defeated last year. The Government then admitted by its own statements that there must have been something wrong with legislation. I recall that only a month or so ago, was it not, the Minister for Social Security, if that is what he is termed nowadays, was sent overseas to look at other proposals. I think my facts are right in this regard. The Minister visited the Dominion of Canada to study its system. If the Government was so convinced that the propositions it brought forward last year were perfect, absolute, the greatest things ever dreamed up for the health of the people of Australia, why then, at the stage when the Bills had been defeated, did it have a second thought about them? The Government had a second thought about them for a very simple reason. It knew as a result of the debates, when the weaknesses of that legislation were exposed in this place, that if Australia wished to have any sort of health scheme the one it proposed, and the one now again proposed, was so inadequate in its concepts and in its attempts to be a health scheme that it had to come up with some other idea.
While the Government has grandstanded about this so-called health proposal, what does it come up with? As I understand the situation it has come up with one of the Bills that was passed last year which, I think, related to a Health Insurance Commission. I think I am correct in that regard. These 2 Bills, I understand, are part of a scheme which comprises at least another 2 Bills which are yet to come and which have not yet even seen the light of day. So the Government’s great and grandiose health scheme, which it was presenting as a total health scheme, is being dribbled into Parliament in bits and pieces- a health Bill this year, a health Bill next year and a health Bill at some other time. How can the Government expect the Parliament to make a judgment when it keeps dribbling in, in bits and pieces, what it claims to be a total scheme?
They are the reasons, outlined last year, why it was felt that we on this side could not accept these proposals. It is now April. We know that, if the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) can only get up enough courage, with luck the people will have a double dissolution and there will be an election on 18 May. Out will go this Government and there will be a Liberal-Country Party majority in both Houses. The Government is now going window-shopping. I love a cartoon I saw today. There was a bloke streaking past the defence area and 2 proper well-known streakers complained that it was unfair that the Minister for Defence was taking their credit away from them. So we are to have a series of these propositions. The Australian Industry Development Corporation Bill was just introduced and the Government spokesman complained about what has happened in the Senate when in fact the Government only a month or two ago, referred that Bill to a select committee. So what are we talking about? We really are not talking about a health Bill this evening, nor will we be doing so tomorrow when we come back to it. What we are talking about is nothing but a piece of Government propaganda which is being produced in both Houses of the Parliament for electioneering propaganda purposes. These Bills have been produced for that reason and no other.
How then could one expect the Parliament to consider these Bills as a health proposal? We have complained over the Gair affair that this cynical, corrupt Government has no interest in the Parliament. These proposals before us at the moment expose the cynicism of this Government and the lengths to which it will go to manipulate the parliamentary procedures for mere cheap political advantage.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Webster)- Order! It being 10.30 p.m., in accordance with the sessional order relating to the adjournment of the Senate, I formally put the question:
That the Senate do now adjourn.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following answer to a question upon notice was circulated:
What action has the Australian Government taken to implement the decision of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, made in December 1973, that each country carry 40 per cent of its trade in its own flag carriers.
No such decision was taken at the December meeting. The UNCTAD Conference resumed again this month to agree on a code of conduct for liner shipping conferences. As part of this code consideration is being given to the question of shares of trade to be carried by national flag carriers and third country carriers in shipping conferences.
Senate adjourned at 10.31 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 8 April 1974, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1974/19740408_senate_28_s59/>.