29th Parliament · 1st Session
THE PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Justin O’Byrne) took the chair at 2.15 p.m., and read prayers.
-I present the following petition from IS citizens of Australia:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of the Commonwealth respectfully showeth:
Irretrievable breakdown of marriage as the sole ground for divorce, as set down in the Family Law Bill 1973 based on one years separation.
Maintenance to be based on the needs of all the parties in a failed marriage. Effective automatic permanent entitlement to an ex-wife to be abolished.
Emphasis to be placed on rehabilitation and retraining of estranged wives to enable them to be independent.
Custody to be awarded in disputed cases on the basis of a qualified panel recommendation and to only take into account the material, moral and psychological well being of children involved, not the possessive demands of their parents.
Matrimonial property to be divided equally, taking into account initial contributions.
Costs of matrimonial proceedings to be divided equally.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
-I present the following petition from 16 Citizens of Tasmania:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully sheweth:
that for the exercise of complete religious freedom and for the promotion of a liberal and egalitarian society, Church and State need to be kept separate;
that this principle is recognised in Section 1 16 of the Australian Constitution;
that the taxing of any citizens to propagate or support any religion is contrary to this principle and a violation of human rights.
Your petitioners humbly pray that Part II, Section 3, of the proposed Bill of Human Rights, which now reads:
No one shall be subject to coercion which will impair his freedom to have or to adopt a belief or religion of his choice, be amended to read further: and no revenue derived in any way from any Australian citizen shall be appropriated by the Australian Government, or by a State Government, or by a Municipal
Government, for the propagation or support of any religion.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray.
-Mr President, as petitions in similar terms have previously been read a number of times in the Senate I do not move that this one be read.
A petition in identical terms from 6 Citizens of Australia was presented by Senator Guilfoyle.
– I present the following petition from 41 citizens of Australia:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled: The humble petition of undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the existing National Health Scheme involves a vast amount of public money distributed by private Benefit Societies and that it is necessary to joint one of these to qualify for the full Government Health subsidy.
That it is far too expensive and discriminates against lower income groups a lot of whom cannot afford the cost of membership or private medical treatment.
That it is inequitable, inefficient and does not satisfy the needs of the community.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that you will urgently legislate for a Comprehensive National Health Insurance Scheme, financed from taxation, and covering everybody instead of only those who can now afford it.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will every pray.
Petition received and read.
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament Assembled: The petition of the undersigned respectfully sheweth:
That whereas our constitutional parliamentary democracy was clearly developed as a Federation to preserve for all time to the Australian people their cherished right to live as free men and women, enjoying complete liberty of worship, assembly, speech, movement and the communication of knowledge and information.
And whereas our existing Australian Flag and our national anthem, “God Save the Queen”, are perpetual reminders of these hard-won freedoms and the wise British principle of the division of power, so well reflected in our own Australian Constitution with its careful separation of powers as between the Crown and Commonwealth Parliament, the Senate, the State Parliaments, the Governor-General and State Governors, and the Independent Courts of Justice,
And whereas all such rights, liberties, heritage, advancement and prosperity, etc., are of no avail if our Armed Forces are unprepared or incapable of repelling invasion or our shores or withstanding other military threats.
So therefore must all these things be accorded the highest national concern and priority.
Your Petitioners most humbly pray that the Senate, in Parliament assembled, will take the most urgent steps to ensure:
The most rapid, efficient and largest possible expansion of all branches of our Defence Forces, and greatest possible strengthening and extending of defence treaties and security arrangements with our traditional friends and allies,
The right of every Australian citizen to vote at a National Referendum or Senate or Federal Elections for the retention of our present Australian flag and equally of our national anthem, “God Save the Queen”, before any government or other body can attempt to substitute either a new flag or anthem, and a similar voting right for the choice of any official National song to play on international occasions.
And your Petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament Assembled: The humble Petition of the undersigned electors of the Commonwealth of Australia respectfully showeth that:
The Russian author, Alexander Solzhenitsyn, has revealed the details of the crimes against tens of millions of people in the Soviet Union through the activities of the secret police and vast concentration camps.
Whereas on the 14th February 1974, the day after the banishment of Alexander Solzhenitsyn from his homeland, nine Soviet citizens headed by Dr Andrei Sakharov addressed an appeal to the peoples of the world. The four points of this petition are as requested by the nine Soviet citizens. The signatories were Dr Andrei Sakharov, physicist, Helena Nonmaire physicist, Vladimire Maximov Mikhail Agouraki, historian, Boris Shraghin, art-historian, Paul Litvinov, Yuri Orlov, Anatoli Marshenko and Father Sergei Zhalutkov
Your petitioners most humbly pray that the Senate in Parliament assembled should request that the Prime Minister of Australia take immediate and determined steps to call upon the Government of the U.S.S.R. and the Secretary-General of the United Nations:
To permit publication in the U.S.S.R. of ‘Gulag Archipelago’.
To create an international tribunal to examine the alleged crimes committed in the U.S.S.R.
To open the files of all Soviet secret police agencies including the Cheka the OGPU, and NKVD and the KGB.
To protect Solzhenitsyn from all persecution and allow him to return to his homeland.
And your Petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
Notice of Motion
Senator MURPHY (New South WalesAttorneyGeneral)! give notice that on the next day of sitting I shall seek leave to introduce a Family Law Bill.
– Will the Minister for Repatriation and Compensation inform the Senate whether disabled ex-servicemen and war widows currently entitled to free medical treatment from the Repatriation Department will be required to pay the tax levy designed to finance the proposed national health scheme?
-This matter was dealt with in the White Paper which was presented by the Government to the last Parliament. The White Paper indicated that single repatriation beneficiaries and war widows entitled to full repatriation treatment benefits would be totally exempted from the levy and that other beneficiaries who were entitled to full treatment benefits for themselves but not for their dependants would be exempted from 50 per cent of the levy. Bills introduced by the Treasurer in another place on 10 July make provision for these matters.
-My question is directed to the Postmaster-General. Will the PostmasterGeneral confirm that a Mr Albert Langer has applied for employment as a PostmasterGeneral ‘s lineman? Is it new policy on the part of the Postmaster-General to provide employment as Postmaster-General’s linemen for highly qualified university honours graduates? If it is, will he explain the policy? Will he also ensure that employment will not be denied to less qualified persons as a result of this new policy? In short, will he explain the circumstances of the application for employment by Mr Langer?
– I am not aware of the case quoted by Senator Greenwood. I will undertake to make inquiries in connection with it and try to give him an answer tomorrow.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Agriculture. As one who represents a major wheat growing State I ask the Minister: What is the position regarding negotiations for a new 5-year wheat stabilisation scheme? Is it a fact, as stated by Mr Black of the United Farmers and Woolgrowers Association yesterday, that there is a risk that the whole question of wheat stabilisation will be referred to the Industries Assistance Commisssion, leaving negotiations suspended for 2 years?
-I am not aware of the statement by Mr Black but if he in fact did make that statement he is incorrect. The current position is that all the States have agreed to the stabilisation scheme. That scheme includes a requirement for subsequent schemes to be referred to the Industries Assistance Commission. However, agreement has been reached and legislation will be introduced to the Parliament shortly to effect the new wheat stabilisation scheme.
-My question is addressed to the Minister for Customs and Excise. Does the Minister recall denying in March of this year media reports that the ban on the export of kangaroo products from Western Australia would be waived? Did he say that the ban would not be lifted despite some endeavour by Western Australia to implement the conservation program drawn up by Federal and State Ministers? In view of current reports that South Australia may be granted sole rights to export kangaroo skin products, will the Minister outline the present position? Will he also advise as to the American attitude towards the import of kangaroo products into that country and whether any agreement has been reached with that country for the export of kangaroo products from Australia?
– Honourable senators will recall that early last year I announced that as from 1 April 1973 1, as Minister for Customs and Excise, would no longer consent to waive the prohibition on the export of kangaroo skins and products which had been in force as regard skins since, I think, 1 923. That has been subject only to the exception that individual souvenirs- that is, non-commercial quantities- are exported. Since that time Federal and State Ministers have met and agreed to set up a working party to develop a national conservation program in the interests of the preservation of the species. That working party evolved a program which has not been carried out by the States that took part in the development of the program except that, I understand, Western Australia has gone a long way towards it and South Australia in quite recent times also has gone a long way towards it.
On the basis that South Australia will observe the program, I am taking the view that it should be encouraged, and that others also should be encouraged, to observe it. I have said that as from a date to be fixed individual exports- that is, the export of non-commercial quantitieswould be permitted only where the kangaroos had been culled in accordance with that program. So that means an intensification- if one likes to call it that- of the ban. It would not apply simply to South Australia but to any area where the program was being carried out. I have said that any consideration of the export of commercial quantities of skins or products from kangaroos culled in accordance with the program would be undertaken only if it were calculated to bring about an Australia-wide observance of the program. I am not quite clear on the present position regarding the United States of America but I know the attitude was being taken some time ago that if we were to relax this ban it would intensify its measures against the import of kangaroos skins or products.
– I direct my question to the Minister for the Media. In view of the questioning by the Prices Justification Tribunal with regard to advertising costs in relation to selling price, has the Minister ordered any inquiry into the effect a widely spread curtailment of advertising would have on the media? I direct my question to media outlets in general, but in particular to the difficulties which would be experienced by the television industry due to the requirement to produce programs of local content at a time when arrangements for phasing out other large sources of advertising are taking effect.
– I have seen a reference to the fact that one of the commercial television stations which come within the ambit of the Prices Justification Tribunal has made application to the Tribunal for an increase in the rates it charges for commercial advertising. It is involved before the Tribunal not only because it is engaged in commercial television but also because it is engaged in a number of other ventures. For those who knock this Government and say that little has been done to encourage Australian production I can tell the honourable senator that the figures which I have seen indicate that when this Government came into Office that particular network was spending about $ 1 m in the round on the production of Australian programs compared with an expenditure of $lm on the purchase of overseas programs. Today to its credit, that network is spending some $3m on the production of Australian programs compared with an expenditure of only $ lm in the round on the purchase of overseas programs.
Naturally I am awaiting the decision of the Prices Justification Tribunal on this matter before we have a look at the whole aspect of advertising costs. I assure the honourable senator that because the Australian Government is a large participant in the advertising industry, expending about $9m a year on advertising, the Australian Government Advertising Service is interested.
-Has the Attorney-General seen reports in Queensland newspapers of criticism of the operation of the Australian Legal Aid Office made in Ipswich by the Queensland Attorney-General? Is there any basis for this criticism? What contribution is the regional office of the Australian Legal Aid Office making at Ipswich?
– I have not seen a copy of the remarks attributed to Mr Knox, the Queensland Attorney-General, but I have read a rather lengthy report on his remarks in an Ipswich newspaper. I can say that there is no real basis for any criticism by him. He has suggested that the lawyers from the Australian Legal Aid Office in Ipswich are duplicating other legal services. That is not so. The Office is working in cooperation with other services. It was opened in April this year and since then the 2 lawyers have been heavily engaged in providing legal assistance to those people who come to them for help. Those people otherwise could not afford to seek legal advice. The Ipswich Office was the first regional office to be opened in Australia. It pioneered in Queensland the duty lawyer scheme in courts of petty sessions. This proved to be so successful that I understand the Queensland Attorney-General has made arrangements for it to be carried out in other courts of petty sessions. I regret that Mr Knox did not see fit to acknowledge the important work that has been done by the Australian Government in providing legal aid, or did not even mention the $2m which was provided by the Australian Government to the States on a per capita basis last year. That was the first time that such assistance had been provided by any Australian Government. Out of that sum the Queensland Government received $300,000 with which to provide additional aid through the Queensland Legal Aid Committee. But perhaps Mr Knox may not have been aware of it; if he was aware of it it is a pity that he did not make some acknowledgement of it.
– Is the Attorney-General aware that immediately prior to the May 1974 general election, officers of the Fitzroy Legal Service and the Springvale Legal Service in Victoria wrote on the official letterhead of their respective offices to clients and former clients urging electoral support for the Australian Labor Party? Does the Australian Government provide financial assistance in the operations of either or both of these legal services? Does the AttorneyGeneral agree that such political pressure constitutes undue influence and is inconsistent with the proper legal relationship which officers of such legal services should maintain towards their respective clients?
– I was not aware of that at all. I do not know that it constitutes any kind of undue influence because those people would hardly go into the ballot boxes to watch how other persons voted. The Australian Government did provide some small amount of financial assistance to the Fitzroy Legal Service, I think some time last year. It was a comparatively modest sum. When I came into my office last night I saw some correspondence from this organisation in which some financial assistance was requested. I think this organisation rather felt that the Australian Government ought to be assisting not only this body but also other voluntary legal bodies thoughout Australia. I can assure the honourable senator that that matter will be given consideration. If substantial legal assistance were given to such a body, I would agree with the honourable senator that it would not be proper for that body to be sending out, on its official notepaper, matter which amounted to intervention in party politics. Speaking off the cuff, I would think it would be improper for that to be done, and I do not think that should be encouraged.
-This may be regarded as a question supplementary to the previous question; it is along the same lines. It is addressed to the Attorney-General. Will the AttorneyGeneral make inquiries to ascertain whether, prior to the recent general election, the Queensland Law Society sent out to all its members an official notification that they should vote against Australian Labor Party candidates because of the fact that the Attorney-General had instituted free legal aid in Queensland? Will he make inquiries to see whether that also impinges on the rights of individual members of the Queensland Law Society?
– I do not need to inquire into the matter because I know it is a fact that some letter was sent out by the Queensland Law Society. I suppose it was an activity in which the Society was entitled to indulge, lt obviously regards itself as having an interest in party politics and, like so many bodies that purport to be non-party political, it is party political and it was exercising its democratic rights. But as the question was a supplementary one, I may say that it again raises the question about which the previous questioner inquired, that is, whether it is proper that bodies which are engaged in that kind of party politicking should be in receipt of any substantial sums of Government money.
– I direct my question to the Postmaster-General. I ask: Are reports of proposed increases in postal and telegraph charges correct? If so, is the Postmaster-General aware of the great hardships which these increased charges will impose on many areas in the community? Will any areas in the community be exempt from or be given certain concessions in respect of these increases?
– The honourable senator knows that I cannot comment about something which is to be put before the Government. He will have to wait until any proposal from the Government is presented to the Senate. It can then be discussed.
– I refer the Minister of Agriculture to Press reports of the Rural Forum, held in Canberra on 5 July, which state that farmers’ leaders alleged that Government policies had accelerated the drift of people from the land. It was alleged also that the national rural debt in fact had increased. Assuming that the Government policies referred to are those of the Whitlam Government, I ask the Minister whether there is any evidence to support those allegations. If the answer is no, does the Minister regret that some farmers’ leaders, in common with many members of the Opposition, display a disturbing ignorance of basic facts and /or a desire to misrepresent the facts and deceive the public?
– The question appears to contain 2 elements. It is true that there has been a significant drift of people from rural areas in Australia for many years. In fact the rural population fell by one-half in the years from 1950 to 1970. As to the current position, the only uptodate figures I could give would be those in the census for 1972-1973. They suggest that compared with an overall increase in the Australian population of about 1.3 per cent there has been an increase of only approximately 0.9 per cent in the rural sector. I think that a significant factor is the immigration intake, the predominance of which goes to city areas. The figures suggest that if the decline, which has been going on for 20 years, has not been reversed it, at least, has been arrested in that 12 months period. As for the extension of rural indebtedness, the only figures I have are tentative figures from the Bureau of Statistics. They show that in the period from June 1 972 to June 1 973 rural indebtedness has fallen from approximately $3.3 billion to $2.8 billion, so in fact there has been a reduction of $500m in rural indebtedness in those 12 months.
– I direct my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Labor and Immigration. Is he aware of the widespread concern expressed by migrant groups, Good Neighbour councils- particularly that in South Australia on the occasion of its 25th anniversaryand migrant welfare associations at the splitting up of the Department of Immigration? Will the Government take into account the representations of these many organisations which have had long experience with what is a very large and substantial percentage of the Australian community? Has the Government an immigration target for the coming year? If so, what is the figure?
– Yes, I have seen criticisms of the decision of the Government to amalgamate the departments. On Thursday, as the honourable senator will recall, I endeavoured to explain why the Government had made the changes. I pointed out then that one of the main objectives of the Government was to ensure that migrants dovetail more completely into the work force. I said that some of the functions of the Department and of the former Minister for Immigration would be taken over by the Department of Foreign Affairs and the Department of Social Security. We are aware of the concern about the amalgamation which Senator Davidson speaks of and which is being expressed in the migrant community, largely through the migrant Press. The Prime Minister acknowledged his concern in his speech last Saturday to the Good Neighbour Council of South Australia. I can assure the honourable senator, as Mr Clyde Cameron has already stated, that the expertise of officials of the former Department of Immigration will not be lost to the migrants or to the Public Service, and that the Department of Labor and Immigration will still serve as an established centre of contact for all migrants. If any migrant is unsure about which Department to approach with a problem, he still will be able to use the Department of Labor and Immigration. When the committee I spoke about on Thursday has made its determinations, instructions will be given as to which area concerning immigration will be served by the respective Ministers.
The Government will take into account the representations of the bodies about which the honourable senator spoke. If we are to succeed in our objective of allowing those settlers to merge properly with the Australian community we must take account of the advice tendered to the Government by the numerous bodies- I think there are 5 1 bodies- that do so. As the honourable senator would probably know, prior to the double dissolution the Government had settled down to the task of setting a target. The assessment was interrupted by the double dissolution. The Minister for Labor is presently considering such a target, and we hope that shortly he will announce it.
– I ask a question of the Postmaster-General. In view of the fact that pensioners tend to move from place to place among members of their family, perhaps as much as or maybe even more than other members of the community do, has any thought been given to reexamining the requirement of the payment of a mail redirection fee which has applied since last October so that pensioners in this situation can be relieved of the additional cost?
– A recommendation has been put to the Government that concessions in relation to a mail redirection fee should be made in respect of 3 categories- pensioners who are eligible for fringe benefits and government servants, both Federal and State, who are required to move from place to place and who would normally be subject to a redirection fee. We would expect shortly to approve of an arrangement under which they would be exempt from such a redirection fee for the first month.
– I ask a question of the Minister for Agriculture in his capacity as Minister for Agriculture and as Minister representing the Minister for Overseas Trade. Has the Minister’s attention been drawn to the fact that many
Australian meatworks are idle due to industrial disputes or industrial troubles, thus depriving the producers of livestock of their usual market outlets and causing them financial hardship? What action has the Federal Government taken to get the meatworks operating again? What action, if any, is the Government taking to find new markets to replace those lost when Great Britain joined the European Common Market and those which we appear to have lost in Japan?
-I do not know that the loss of markets can be fully attributed to industrial action by the Australasian Meat Industry Employees’ Union concerning the slaughtering of cattle particularly, and sheep to a lesser extent. It is true that the present throughput is down. I think all honourable senators are aware of the reason- namely, that our beef export markets have been quite severely hit. Also, sheep are being exported live to Middle East countries. On the one hand we have the attitude, which Senator Lawrie has put forward, that it is the fault of the unions. On the other hand, the unions claim that producers are withholding stock from the market. One does not really know where the truth lies, but probably there is a measure of truth in both those claims.
The Government is fully aware of the effect on the meat trade since our loss- not a complete loss but a very significant loss- of markets in the European Economic Community, North America and Japan. The honourable senator asked: What has the Government done? There has already been a delegation, led by Dr Harris of the Department of Overseas Trade, to the European Economic Community. He had discussions with authorities there about further access of Australian meat into the EEC. Only yesterday he left for discussions in Japan to endeavour to get the trade to Japan moving again and to seek the Japanese Government’s views on multi-national trade arrangements for the whole of the world meat trade. The Government has done all it can to overcome the present difficulty but, as has been said, the short term picture is not bright. I am afraid we will have to live with a very tight market situation with respect to our exports of meat, but the long term prospect remains sound.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Treasurer. Is the Minister aware that a Federal Government grant of $250,000 to the Knox City Council in Victoria to enable that Council to embark upon a major building program of kindergartens and preschool centres has been withheld by the Victorian Government? Has the Victorian Government had this money since April 1974? Was the grant conditional upon part of the money being spent before the end of last month? If so, will the action of the Victorian Government deprive the Knox City Council of access to the grant of $250,000? What action can the Federal Government take to ensure that its assistance to not only the Knox City Council but also other city and shire councils will not be sabotaged in the future in this way?
-I could not possibly answer that question. I will need to have it put on notice and obtain a reply from the Treasurer.
QUEEN v LAPIDAT
– My question is addressed to the Attorney-General. In view of a judicial decision given in April of this year by Mr Justice Fox, the sagacity and correctness of which I do not doubt, that under current legislation a person apprehended on the retractable steps of a civil aircraft while carrying a gun is not guilty of an offence, will the Attorney-General give consideration to having the law amended so that such persons can be charged with an offence?
-The honourable senator is no doubt referring to the case of the Queen v Lapidat which was heard on 4 April this year. In that case the accused was charged on 2 countsfirstly, of carrying on board an aircraft an automatic pistol and ammunition and, secondly, of attempting to carry on board an aircraft an automatic pistol and ammunition. On the first count the judge directed the jury to acquit the accused. The circumstances were that whilst on the stairs at the rear of an aircraft the accused was spoken to by an airport supervisor who asked him to come back to the terminal. The accused was there searched and found to have a loaded pistol in his trousers. The judge held that the accused was not on the aircraft until he had passed from the steps- that is, the ordinary staircase that is brought up to the aircraft- into the aeroplane. The attempt charge was left to the jury to decide. With such a charge it is essential to prove the ingredient of intention. The accused stated, as part of his defence, that he intended, before actually passing into the aircraft, to obtain the permission of the captain of the aircraft. The jury deliberated for some hours. I suppose it is possible to speculate that the jury acquitted the accused because it was not satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that he intended to go aboard the aircraft without permission. The legislation is under review in order perhaps to provide more stringent provisions than now exist.
-Will the Minister for Foreign Affairs express concern at the events in Cyprus? What action is the Government taking to keep fully informed of the position there? What action will the Government take to prevent Cyprus from becoming another nation under military rule? Further, will Australia support Canada ‘s application to have the matter brought before the Security Council.
-I think everybody is concerned about the recent events in Cyprus. Our latest reports are that the situation there is still very confused. The fate of President Makarios is still uncertain, although the latest report would seem to indicate that he is still alive. As the Senate would know, we have had a police contingent in Cyprus since 1 964. According to the last report of the Secretary-General it numbered 35 people. Inspector Kelly, of the New South Wales Police Force, who is in charge of the contingent, has reported that they are in no danger. Because we have people there, obviously we are supporting the mandate of the Secretary-General. That mandate reads:
In the interests of preserving international peace and security to use its best efforts to prevent a recurrence of fighting and, as necessary, to contribute to the maintenance and restoration of law and order and a return to normal conditions.
The mandate that was granted to the SecretaryGeneral in 1964 was originally for 3 months. It has now been extended to the end of this year. According to the last report I have had, there has been no request for the Security Council to take action. Because it is firmly in the hands of the Secretary-General I would agree that that is where the central thrust should take place should anything fresh happen. We are keeping in very close touch with our Ambassador there, Sir Laurence Mclntyre. He will advise us, depending on the situation in Cyprus, whether the Security Council should meet to ascertain whether there should be any fresh initiatives or whether the forces there at the moment can get the situation back to one of law and order.
-I direct my question to the Minister for Repatriation and Compensation. Am I correct in understanding that one of the important recommendations of the WoodhouseMeares report is that war injuries, whether the individual was at war or at home, should be compensated on an income related basis as for other injuries instead of the fiat rate basis under the present repatriation system? I am very interested in this recommendation as I advocated it strongly as long ago as 1967. 1 ask: What is the position in regard to the inquiry into repatriation by Mr Justice Toose? Will the Minister consider the advisability of urging its early availability so that it can be taken.into consideration when we are studying the Woodhouse-Meares report?
– In substance I think that what Senator Wright has said as to the recommendations of the report of the committee presided over by Mr Justice Woodhouse is correct. Naturally the recommendations in the Woodhouse Committee report and the recommendations from the inquiry by Mr Justice Toose into repatriation will overlap in many important respects and ultimately it will be essential for the Government and the Parliament to compare the 2 reports before there can be a satisfactory determination of the future of repatriation benefits. The inquiry by Mr Justice Toose is almost completed.
As Senator Wright knows, a very thorough and a very searching inquiry into the whole of the existing repatriation structure has been undertaken by Mr Justice Toose. It is to be hoped that the report will be complete within a few months. The report by Mr Justice Toose will be tabled in Parliament immediately it is complete. The only thing I would say is that while both the report by Mr Justice Toose and the report by Mr Justice Woodhouse and Mr Justice Meares have been commissioned by the Government they are not necessarily the policy of the Government, although legislation is obviously envisaged in the field of a national compensation scheme and obviously consideration has been given to making more satisfactory in some respects the present repatriation scheme. But it does not necessarily follow that what is recommended by either of these inquiries will be adopted by the Government. Certainly it is intended by the Government that there will be the maximum opportunity for public discussion and public debate on the recommendations in both reports before any legislation is introduced into this Parliament.
-I ask the Minister for Repatriation and Compensation: Is it a fact that artificial limbs are provided free of charge by the Department of Repatriation and Compensation to persons other than ex-servicemen?
-Yes. The Government determined that as from September 1973 artificial limbs should be provided free of charge to all persons in the community who are in need of them, and the Department of Repatriation and subsequently the Department of Repatriation and Compensation have been providing artificial limbs on that basis. However, as one would probably have expected, the demand in the beginning for artificial limbs from people not entitled to repatriation benefits was extremely great and exceeded the combined production of the Repatriation Artificial Limb and Appliance Centre and commercial artificial limb makers. However, the backlog is being overtaken and the Department is making every endeavour to see that every person in the community who needs an appliance of this kind will receive it from the Department of Repatriation and Compensation.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. Is it a fact that Mr Justice Woodward in his report on Aboriginal land rights said that his recommendations were being put forward as a basis for negotiation between Aboriginal councils and the Government, that Aboriginal people themselves must be fully consulted about any steps proposed to be taken and that an imposed white solution is unacceptable? If that is so, what, if any, steps are being taken to consult in the terms of the recommendation, who is being consulted and what form are such consultations taking? Will those consultations extend to Aborigines outside the Northern Territory, which was covered in the Woodward report?
– It is true that the Woodward report stated that there should be discussions with Aborigines and that no white solution would be a solution to the problems. It is anticipated that the Woodward report will be tabled in this chamber this week with an accompanying statement. Already 2 lands councils, which were established on the recommendation of the first interim report of the committee, have had referred to them the question of Aboriginal land rights in respect of such matters as tribal lands and claims for residential rights, for the purpose of discussions with the Aborigines. These discussions shall cover only land within the Northern Territory, which is the extent of Commonwealth power, other than areas the subject of compulsory acquisition without interfering with the States, and areas adjacent which were covered by the Woodward report.
The Government intends to establish a commission, and legislation will be brought down in the Budget session for its establishment, along the lines recommended by Mr Justice
Woodward for the purpose of registering claims of pastoral properties. As there is some urgency in connection with particular areas, namely Wattie Creek and the area around Darwin, we propose to establish an interim commission for the purpose of dealing with such areas-in discussions with the Aboriginal communities of those areas- and getting areas of land on which to establish residences and viable industries for those at Bagot near Darwin and those at Wattie Creek in the Centre. So that we may begin discussions before the commission is set up we propose in the near future to establish an interim commission. The reply to the question is that all registration of land, defining of areas and provision of compensation by granting land to Aborigines in areas where particular land cannot be returned to them will be carried out in consultation with the Aboriginal communities. The 2 agencies operating now are the Northern and Central Lands Councils which were established as the result of the first report of the Woodward Committee.
-I direct a question to the Minister representing the Treasurer. In the interest of open government will the Minister advise the Senate of the names, designations and recommendations of Treasury officials currently advising the Australian Government on the state of the economy? If the Minister is able to give such information, will he inform the Senate whether such advisers are the same Treasury officials as advised the previous Liberal-Country Party Government over the past decade or so and whether the advice is identical or in similar terms?
– I am sure that is a question which should be referred to the Treasurer himself and I shall do so.
– In directing a question to the Minister representing the Treasurer, I refer to recent severe increases in water rates in South Australia. I want to know whether the Minister’s attention has been drawn to the fact that in many cases the increase over the last 12 months is approaching 100 per cent and in many other cases has exceeded 100 per cent in that short period. As it seems inevitable that council rates and other rates will be increased and in view of the fact that a large number of people will be paying in excess of the $300 allowable as a taxation deduction, will the Government increase the allowable deduction in the forthcoming Budget?
– No, my attention has not been drawn to the matter. In view of the detailed nature of the question, I shall have to refer it to my colleague the Treasurer.
-Has the Postmaster-General heard reports that the 4 country telephone directories for South Australia are to be amalgamated into one volume? Is there any truth in these reports?
– It is not practicable at the present time to amalgamate the telephone directories to which the honourable senator referred. However, it has been decided to integrate the names of all subscribers into a single alphabetical list within each of the directories. This will mean that the names of all subscribers in a particular country directory will be presented in one list and so facilitate the task of a person who is searching for the telephone number of a subscriber, obviating the necessity to go through the lists of a number of telephone exchanges. This simplification of the search will mean that only the names and locations of subscribers will be listed and not the exchange. Such a simplification will follow the dialling instructions and other information which presently appear at the head of each individual exchange list. This will apply particularly to the instructions that are common to subscribers connected to a large number of exchanges. While not meeting what Senator Donald Cameron wants, I think that the changes will make the facilities provided in telephone directories better.
– I direct a question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate in his capacity as Minister representing the Prime Minister. I refer to the report that as a protest against French atmospheric nuclear tests the Prime Minister refused to accept an invitation from the French Ambassador to celebrate France’s national day. If the report is correct will the Prime Minister protest in a similar way against the Chinese atmospheric nuclear tests by refusing any invitation to attend receptions given by the Ambassador of the People’s Republic of China until such time as China discontinues atmospheric nuclear tests, thereby demonstrating the Government’s much vaunted evenhandedness?
-I am unable to tell the honourable senator whether the information is correct. But I doubt it because I am informed by
Senator Willesee that as Minister for Foreign Affairs he attended the function and proposed the toast. The Government has made clear on many occasions its opposition to the conduct of atmospheric nuclear weapons tests by France and China and by any other country.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for the Media. Has the Minister seen a report in today’s ‘Sun’ which claims that at least 20 major films are planned to be produced before the end of the year? Is it true that the Australian Council for the Arts, through the Australian Film Institute, is responsible for this boom in production? If so, can the Minister say what role the Australian Film Development Corporation undertakes?
-As I understand the situation, the Film and Television Board of the Australian Council for the Arts, amongst other things, provides funds for the production of films which are not or may not be considered to be commercially viable but which are considered worthy of production because of their cultural or artistic merit. I understand also that a voluntary organisation known as the Australian Film Institute receives substantial financial support from the Film and Television Board of the Council for the Arts to assist in making grants for or in arranging distribution of the films to which I have referred. However, I did see a reference in the article in the ‘Sun’ to the fact that some 20 feature films are in production this year. I would think that the great bulk of those films result from investment by the Australian Film Development Corporation, which is responsible to me ministerially but which has independence under the statute and which makes investments in films considered by that Corporation to be commercially viable. They are the ones that provide the real employment opportunities. I can tell the honourable senator that when this Government assumed office in 1972 only 4 feature films had been made in Australia in that year. Last year there were eight, and this year there will be about twenty all told, most of them having been assisted financially by the Australian Film Development Corporation.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Prime Minister. Has the Australian Government informed the State governments of the adjustments it would make to general purpose and specific purpose grants to any State which transferred responsibility for its railway system to the Australian Government? If it has, what are the adjustments?
– I think that if the honourable senator would place the question on notice we would get a formal and complete answer to what is a very important question.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. In the light of the recent announcement by the Western Australian Government that the Western Australian Aboriginal Affairs Planning Authority became the Western Australian office of the Department of Aboriginal Affairs on 1 July of this year, can the Minister advise whether a similar agreement has been arranged with other States for the transfer of responsibility for Aboriginal affairs from State governments to the Australian Government?
– It is true that the Australian Government on 1 July last assumed responsibility for Aboriginal affairs in Western Australia and at an earlier stage assumed responsibility for policy, planning and coordination of Aboriginal affairs in South Australia. Staff of the South Australian Aboriginal Resources Division have been taken over by the Commonwealth as have those engaged in this section of activities in Western Australia. Western Australia has passed reciprocal legislation and those persons formerly employed by the Western Australian Government became employees of the Commonwealth from 1 July. We have had discussions with the other States. Victoria, as has been announced by Mr Dickie, is agreeable, in Mr Dickie’s words, to hand over control of Aboriginal affairs from some time during the year. This will be accomplished this year. Victoria is agreeable also to hand over free of charge to Aboriginal Hostels Limited, which is a Commonwealth agency, the hostels for Aboriginals in Victoria. That State will hand over also such things as equipment, cars, books, files and furniture to Aboriginal Hostels Ltd. Discussions are taking place between my Department and representatives of the New South Wales Government. Sir Robert Askin has made a statement that he is in favour of handing over policy and planning in regard to Aboriginals to the Australian Government.
The Minister concerned in Queensland has indicated that he supports the proposal. My Department and the Queensland Aboriginal and Island Affairs Department have had discussions with the idea of drawing up proposals for a takeover. The proposals will be submitted to the Queensland Cabinet for its approval or rejection. I think it is regrettable that the Premier of Queensland has repeatedly made statements saying that there will be no surrender of control over Aboriginals in Queensland by the Queensland Government, despite the fact that the interviews which we have had with the particular Minister and his Department have seemed favourable to that course. The series of demonstrations which have occurred in Brisbane and throughout northern Queensland would indicate that the Premier’s attitude is not in keeping with the expressed desire of the Aboriginal people in that State.
– I ask the Minister for Agriculture whether it is a fact that the Australian Government is concerned about the heavy buying in recent wool sales by the Australian Wool Corporation? Has the Minister any information which would suggest that the major buyer of Australian wool, Japan, is almost out of raw wool stocks and will be forced to purchase heavily in the spring? If so, would this not indicate a similar situation to the last occasion on which the Wool Corporation bought heavily during a slump and sold at a handsome profit when the demand returned?
– It is true that yesterday the Australian Wool Corporation had to buy in 60 per cent of the trade. This was a very high figure and one which obviously would concern everybody. The reasons are not as yet clearly denned. Japan certainly is not buying now as she was in the latter part of last year when the market was extremely strong. I have not been advised that there is any depletion of wool stocks in Japan at present. My understanding is that the Japanese found that they had bought in excess of requirement last year. They were of the opinion that it was necessary to stockpile on wool because there was a general feeling around the world that supplies of wool would not be adequate in the forthcoming 12 months. I have initiated discussions to be held next Thursday between officials of the Wool Corporation and Government officials. I shall also be having discussions with the Treasurer on Thursday as to Government policy in respect of the Corporation’s activities.
– Order! I draw the attention of honourable senators to the presence in the
Gallery of Mr Sharma a member of parliament and Deputy Leader of the Indian Parliamentary Congress Party, of Mr Sarkar, the Deputy Director General of Indian Civil Aviation and Mr Reay of the Department of Foreign Affairs. I extend a greeting to the distinguished visitors on behalf of the senators assembled and welcome them to the Senate.
-I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Health whether Dr David Jarvis, an experienced general practitioner, was employed at the salaried health centre at Melba in the Austraiian Capital Territory from the beginning of September 1973? Has Dr Jarvis recently resigned from the salaried health centre at Melba to enter private practice at Latham? Has Dr Jarvis given reasons for his resignation? What are they? Do the reasons include lack of control over his own clerical and nursing staff in the Melba centre?
– I should be delighted to enter into a discussion of these matters with Senator Baume. The only thing that stops me from doing so is that I have not the slightest idea what he is talking about. If he puts the question on notice I shall see that he obtains an answer at the earliest possible opportunity.
– My question is addressed to the Postmaster-General. As the recent postal strike in New South Wales has meant that there is a backlog of mail awaiting delivery, can the Postmaster-General indicate what, if any, steps have been taken to clear up this backlog? If steps have been taken, how effective have they been?
-Following the settlement of the recent stoppage, instructions were given to the Post Office to take urgent steps to clear the backlog of mail. In addition to having Post Office employees available, I also instructed one of my assistants- a Minister’s assistant- who has some experience in industrial affairs to confer with the Amalgamated Postal Workers Union and other unions. The information I have today is that the position is improving day by day. However, in the Sydney Mail Exchange some delays are occurring in the handling of incoming overseas surface mail, but domestic mail is now being processed without delay.
Some delays remain in the Sydney metropolitan area where an estimated 60,000 letters and more than 4,000 bags of mail are awaiting delivery. I have already referred to the special steps that I have instructed should be taken. In addition, Mr Don Hancock, the officer whom I have mentioned, has been talking with the Postal Workers Union and the other unions concerned and, as a result of these talks, he has introduced new and urgent measures at the North Sydney Post Office, the Vaucluse Post Office, the Randwick Post Office and the Baulkham Hills Post Office. Various arrangements have been made to get assistance and for postmen from adjacent post offices to assist. It is now expected, on the information I have received, that the backlog will be cleared within three or four weeks.
– My question which is directed to the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs refers to the Minister’s recent public comments relating to the number of Aboriginal people serving gaol sentences being disproportionate to their percentage of the total Australian population. I ask: Will the Minister consider referring this matter to the Australian Institute of Criminology, asking that Institute to examine all relevant aspects including the nature of the offences involved, the nature and extent of the punishments inflicted, any evidence of discrimination, the desirability of any legal reforms and any possible steps of a preventive nature? If that Institute is not adequately equipped to undertake such a study, will the Minister consider the establishment of an appropriate body to conduct an inquiry, such body to include persons with expert knowledge of the Aboriginal people.
– I do not know whether an inquiry is the main question. The main complaint is that there are in gaol today so many Aboriginals who have been convicted of what I call victimless crimes such as drunkenness, vagrancy and prostitution- crimes in which there were no victims- and that there is some discrimination in that there is a greater incidence of arrest among Aboriginal people than among white people because there are different attitudes in different places. Firstly, an Aboriginal is noticeable because of his colour and, secondly, when an Aboriginal goes into a hotel, unlike a European he does not go on his own or with one other person and afterwards he does not drive away in a car. An Aboriginal goes to a hotel in a group because he wants company.
Of course, there is the situation in Alice Springs where white citizens do not like to see a drunken Aboriginal on the street, so the Aboriginal is arrested in the public bar of the hotel. I think that the causes are known. One of my suggestions was that victimless crimes should not be judged as crimes at all and that there should not be detention for such crimes if the persons involved do no harm to anyone else. I believe that in the next session of the South Australian Parliament legislation will be introduced to stop drunkenness being classified as a criminal offence. It will relate to arrests for drunkenness. Queensland has introduced a system whereby persons arrested on drunkenness charges are released on 10c bail.
– That is only a matter of discretion.
– It is a matter of discretion, possibly that of the magistrate. This means that persons who are charged abscond. They do not turn up but it still leaves a charge hanging over the head of the defendant concerned and that person can be picked up at any time and brought to trial. Only today I discussed with our Attorney-General whether we could do something in this regard in the Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory. I am quite happy to discuss it with the Australian Institute of Criminology to see whether we can get any value out of an inquiry and whether any solution can be found.
- Mr President, I ask that further questions be placed on notice.
Senator MURPHY (New South WalesAttorneyGeneral) Pursuant to section 168 of the Restrictive Trade Practices Act 1971-1973 I present the seventh annual report of the Commissioner of Trade Practices with respect to his operations during the year ended 30 June 1 974.
Reports on Items
Senator MURPHY (New South WalesAttorneyGeneral) For the information of honourable senators I present the report from the Industries Assistance Commission on Calcium Carbide, dated 17 April 1974. For the information of honourable senators, I present the Industries Assistance Commission Report entitled ‘Textiles Authority Report on Certain Items of Apparel’.
– For the information of honourable senators, I present the report of the Interdepartmental Committee on the
Review of the Public Works Committee Act, dated June 1974.
-On behalf of the Minister for Manufacturing Industry I present for the information of honourable senators the annual reports for 1972-73 of the following research and development establishments: Aeronautical Research Laboratories; Central Studies Establishment; Defence Standards Laboratories; Weapons Research Establishment.
– Pursuant to section 16 of the Pig Industry Research Act 197 1, 1 present the second annual report of the Australian Pig Industry Research Committee, for the year ended 30 June 1973.
– Pursuant to section 16 of the Chicken Meat Research Act 1969, 1 present the Fourth Annual Report of the Australian Chicken Meat Research Committee for the year ended 30 June 1973.
– Pursuant to section 29 of the Dairy Produce Export Control Act 1924-1972 and the Dairy Produce Sales Promotion Act 1 95 8- 1 972, 1 present the Annual Report of the Australian Dairy Produce Board for the year ended 30 June 1973.
– Pursuant to section 18 of the Dried Fruits Research Act 1971, 1 present the Second Annual Report of the Australian Dried Fruits Research Committee for the year ended 30 June 1973.
– Pursuant to section 26 of the Tobacco Marketing Act 1 965- 1 973, 1 present the Eighth Annual Report of the Australian Tobacco Board regarding the operation of the Act for the year ended 31 December 1973, together with financial statements and the Auditor-General’s report on those statements.
– Pursuant to section 23 of the Egg Export Control Act 1947-1966, I present the Twenty-Sixth Annual Report of the Australian Egg Board on the operation of the Act for the year ended 30 June 1973, together with financial statements and the report of the AuditorGeneral on those statements.
Senator WHEELDON (Western AustraliaMinister for Repatriation and Compensation)For the information of honourable senators, I present the report of the National Health and Medical Research Council on acupuncture.
Senator WHEELDON (Western AustraliaMinister for Repatriation and Compensation)Pursuant to section 9 of the Medical Research Endowment Act 1937, I present the Annual Report on work done under the Act during the year ended 3 1 December 1972.
– I have ascertained that His Excellency the Governor-General will be pleased to receive the Address-in-Reply to his opening Speech at Government House on Thursday, 1 8 July, at 5.30 p.m. I extend an invitation to all honourable senators to accompany me on the occasion of its presentation. For this purpose, it is proposed that the sitting of the Senate will be suspended at 5 p.m. on Thursday.
Debate resumed from 10 July (vide page 69), on motion by Senator Douglas McClelland:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
- Mr President, I hand to you 3 tables, which I will seek leave to incorporate in Hansard, so that you can determine whether they comply with the normal rules. I pass 3 copies to the Minister for the Media (Senator Douglas McClelland) so that I will not have any trouble when I ask for leave to incorporate them.
The Commonwealth Electoral Bill (No. 2) 1973 has not changed since it was last presented in this chamber, nor have the views of the Opposition. The Australian Labor Party’s diatribe against Australia’s electoral system is not aimed at establishing a fair and just electoral system. It is aimed at perpetuating the Labor Party in government. This Bill seeks to do no less than that. It will also have the effect of changing 10- yearly redistributions to 3-yearly redistributions. This would mean a redistribution before each election. The purpose would be to prevent the government in power from losing office. The Minister for Services and Property, Mr Daly, has excused his attack on the electoral system by claiming:
We seek only to introduce and perpetuate, as Tar as possible, the principle of ‘one vote one value’ and to ensure that the result of an election will reflect the opinion of the majority.
Surely the Act in its present form ensures that, because at the last election for the House of Representatives the Australian Labor Party obtained 49.3 per cent of the primary vote and 51.96 per cent of the seats. I ask: Does the Labor Party claim that the results of the election on 1 8 May were not fair and just? Surely that result was a very good example of the result of an election reflecting the opinion of the electorate. But Mr Daly’s refusal to accept 52 per cent of the seats for less than 50 per cent of the votes leads one to believe that he and his Party want more than 52 per cent of the seats for a similar or lesser vote. I believe that that is precisely what Mr Daly and the Australian Labor Party want. They want to rig the electoral system so that the Australian Labor Party can gain office with 50 per cent or less of the vote while ensuring that the Opposition would require more than 50 per cent of the vote to gain office. Mr Daly wants to create a situation similar to ‘Animal Farm’ in which he will assert that all political parties should have equal chances but the Australian Labor Party’s chances should be more equal than the chances of the rest.
In Western Australia we have been shown quite clearly what the Government believes is a fair and just redistribution. But for the alertness of Liberal Party scrutineers the Labor Party would have won 60 per cent of the seats in my State of Western Australia with only 46 per cent of the votes. That is the type of electoral justice the Labor Party wants. That is the equity it is seeking. That is its mathematics of the principle of one vote one value, that is, that one Labor
Party vote should equal 1 1/2 Opposition votes. That is Fred’s fairness; that is Fred’s fable; in fact, that is Fred ‘s fiddle.
The most fascinating result in Western Australia in the last election was, of course, in the electorate of Stirling. The election there was fascinating not only because of the closeness of the count and the recount but also for quite a different reason. During the recount it was found that one bundle of votes that had been counted as 100 votes in favour of the Labor Party in fact contained only 97 votes. There was only one bundle of miscounted votes for the Liberal Party. That bundle, which was counted as being 100 votes for Mr Viner, the Liberal Party’s candidate, in fact contained 1 1 1 votes for him. Both bundles were from the same box. What a fascinating error in such a close count. Is it any wonder that we on this side of the chamber are somewhat suspicious of the Labor Party’s socalled electoral reforms?
– What has that to do with reform? You are criticising the scrutineers.
– We have just seen one of the re-distributions undertaken by the Government of which Senator McLaren is a supporter and we have just seen an election supervised by it. Mr Daly made another interesting assertion in his speech. He asserted that the Bill was not aimed specifically against country divisions, ‘particularly those represented by the Australian Country Party ‘. Mr Daly ‘s recent television appearances and Press releases have certainly fooled the majority of Australians for, with a very satisfied smirk, he announced to the nation that he certainly wanted to give the Australian Country Party as many heart attacks as possible. Yet he now wants us to believe that his legislation is not aimed specifically at the Australian Country Party. I ask: Why then did Mr Daly single out the Country Party percentages? Why then were the majority of electorates that were singled out for comment Country Party electorates? These so-called facts, figures and percentages were singled out by Mr Daly in an attempt to distort the true electoral situation.
Mr Daly knows full well, as does the rest of the Australian Labor Party, that in New South Wales the Liberal Party and Country Party candidates work under an electorate understanding and that therefore the more accurate way of assessing the situation in that State is to look at the vote in New South Wales as a whole. On 18 May the Liberal and Country Parties won 48.8 per cent of the vote in New South Wales and 44 per cent of the seats; the Australian Labor Party won 52 per cent of the vote and 55 per cent of the seats. Is that unfair? Is that unjust to the Labor Parry? Is that a gerrymander in favour of the Liberal and Country Parties? Mr Daly’s figures are meaningless and phoney because when he sought to single out small electorates to compare with the large electorates he noticeably did not mention his electorate of Grayndler in New South Wales, which is one of the smallest in area and one of the smallest in the number of voters in it. Mr Daly did not mention that he represents fewer electors than the Leader of the Australian Country Party, Mr Anthony. Mr Daly’s electorate, which is a metropolitan seat and a Labor Party seat, has 53,695 voters, which is 6,000 fewer than the 59,428 electors in Mr Anthony’s electorate. One would think that Mr Daly at least would be honest enough to tell the truth.
If the Australian Labor Party is so wedded to its claims of electoral justice, fairness and equality, regardless of the consequences, why has it not attempted to equalise the electorates in Tasmania, the Australian Capital Territory or the Northern Territory with the rest of Australia? As a member of the Liberal Party I would not dream of attempting to alter Tasmania’s representation because that representation formed part of the Federal compact. But the Australian Labor Party has claimed electoral equality for all. The Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) has not been hesitant in his requests for constitutional alterations nor in his instigation of costly and meaningless referenda. Why not have a referendum on that matter? I put to the Senate that he is not keen to alter the situation in Tasmania because in that State, with only 55 per cent of the vote, the Australian Labor Party has 100 per cent of the seats. That is a prime example of what the Australian Labour Party considers fair and just.
One would imagine from the continual complaints of Government supporters that they represent on average about 40 per cent more electors than do Opposition supporters. That, of course, is nonsense. If they care to look at the figures for the election held on 1 8 May last they will discover that, in fact, the Opposition and Government supporters in the House of Representatives represent electorates of approximately equal numbers of electors, and no proposed redistribution could provide a fairer equality of representation than that which exists today. The only reason the Government has introduced this Bill is to enable the Australian Labor Party to hold a redistribution before the next election on terms more favourable to itself. It has not been introduced for reasons of equity, of justice or to obtain one vote one value because those provisions are established under our present legislation. It has not been introduced for reasons of necessity. If the legislation is passed and a redistribution is carried out, it would be the first time in the history of the Commonwealth Parliament that a set of boundaries would be used for only one election. The Government knows full well that a redistribution will be constitutionally necessary after the 1976 census. Using figures prepared by the Australian Bureau of Statistics on the projected population growth of Australia, it can be seen that at least 3 States will have their representation in the House of Representatives changed after that census. I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard a document showing the projected population growth in AustraliaStates and Territories- at 30 June 1976. The calculations are based on estimates of the population at 30 June 1973.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Webster)- Order! Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows)-
-I also seek to incorporate in Hansard a document showing how the change in population will affect the number of seats in the House of Representatives for each State.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT- Order! Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows)-
-The table shows that the likely result of the 1977 determination will be: New South Wales, from 45 seats to 44; Victoria remaining at 34 seats; Queensland, from 1 8 seats to 19; South Australia, unchanged; Western Australia increasing from 10 to 11 seats and Tasmania remaining at 5 seats.
The projected 1975 redistribution which the Government wants is idiotic. What is the sense in replacing 45 divisions in New South Wales presently with 45 other divisions in 1975 when there will have to be a redistribution in 1978 to replace those 45 divisions with 44? This will have to occur no matter what happens to this legislation. That is why the practice of the last 60 years has been so sensible. The 2 operations, namely, correcting disparities and State entitlements, should be carried out together in 1978. No redistribution is necessary before that time. In short, the projected 1975 redistribution is 3 years premature.
This country has a history of infrequent redistributions. This is a desirable attribute in a representative type of government. It allows electors to be able to identify themselves with their members of Parliament, and it allows the representative himself to have a proper understanding of his electorate’s demands and needs. This rapport between parliamentary representatives and their electors will be lost if we are to start having redistributions before each election or random redistributions held whenever a politca party thinks one necessary for its own advantage. Once we have a situation where a political party can use Fred’s fiddle as soon as it gets into office to cocoon itself in power, then we will start a chain reaction. Whereas in the past we have all viewed the Electoral Act as being fair and just and a piece of legislation which should not be used for purely political purposes, if this legislation is carried it will mean that every party will believe the Electoral Act is there for its own purposes and not to enable the Austraiian people to elect the government of their choice.
I seek leave to incorporate in Hansard a list of redistributions held in Australia and the number of elections that have been held on each redistribution.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Webster)- Order! Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows)-
-As the Senate will see from this list, the first redistribution was held in 1912 following the 1911 census. Those boundaries were used for 4 elections. There was a census held in 1921, with a redistribution in 1922. Those boundaries were used for 5 elections. Five elections were held on the redistribution of 1934, three on the boundaries drawn up in 1948, five on the 1955 boundaries and, to date, three on the 1968 redistribution. Any election held prior to the next census and determination ought to be held on the present boundaries. Each of these redistributions has followed a census and the determination of the Chief Electoral Officer of the number of members for each State. Each redistribution has simultaneously corrected State representation and electoral disparities.
The redistribution the Government proposes to carry out if this legislation is passed does not attempt to do this. It seeks merely to re-arrange the existing number of divisions, but not to correct State entitlements. State entitlements cannot be corrected until the presentation of the next determination by the Chief Electoral Officer. Labor Party propaganda insists that the Electoral Act is unfair and that redistributions have been biased against the Labor Party. That is a peculiar assertion when one considers that under the 1968 redistribution Labor has twice been able to win government with less than 50 per cent of the primary vote. Labor gained 49.6 per cent in i972 and 49.3 per cent in 1974.
– When did your mob get 50 per cent?
-I do not represent a mob. I happen to belong to a Party. Speak of your own Party in those terms if you wish.
– You still did not tell us when you got 50 per cent of the vote.
-If I may interpose to answer as a matter of interest those useless and quite irrelevant interjections, at no time between 1949 and 1972 did your Party receive a majority of the primary vote above the Liberal-Country Party and the Democratic Labor Party except in 1954 when your Party ought to have won the election, but that was held on boundaries set by your Party in 1948. Surely this shows how effective and how scrupulously fair the existing legislation is. Even with the passage of 6 years and with the vast increase in the number of electors as a result of the introduction of 18-year-old voting, the 1968 redistribution still gives an accurate reflection of the voters’ preferences. The results of the 1974 election show this clearly. Even with the natural movements in population and the entry of 1 8-year-olds onto the electoral scene, the election results still reflected, with uncanny accuracy, the preferences of the electors. The Labor Party, with 49.3 per cent of the formal votes cast obtained 51.96 per cent of the seats in the new Parliament. The combined Liberal-Country Party vote was 45.8 per cent and we received 48.03 per cent of the seats.
In his submission to the electoral commissioners considering the 1968 redistribution the then Leader of the Opposition, Mr Whitlam, wrote:
No distribution should permit a situation where a Party or coalition of Parties which secures a majority of votes does not secure a majority of members of the House of Representatives. To permit otherwise would be to perpetrate a travesty of representative government.
We, on this side of the House agree with that statement. We submit that the present electoral legislation carries out the intent of Mr Whitlam ‘s statement and contend that the proposed legislation would, in Mr Whitlam’s words, ‘perpetrate a travesty of representative government. ‘
It is difficult to see why the Government is so insistent on altering the Electoral Act to allow for a 10 per cent tolerance from quota. The present allowance for a 20 per cent tolerance is not a mandatory requirement which binds the electoral commissioners. In fact it gives them greater flexibility, as was recently demonstrated in Western Australia where the State Act was amended by a Labor Government to allow greater flexibility in the drawing up of boundaries. The State Labor Government in Western Australia raised the permissible variation from 10 per cent to 20 per cent because 10 per cent was found to be unworkable.
By the standards of almost any other country in the world, redistributions in Australia have been remarkably fair under the present Act. In Britain, for example, constituencies vary in size roughly between 40,000 and 80,000 electors. In France they vary between 25,000 and 150,000. In Canada, which the Minister for Services and Property has just visited in order to observe electoral procedures, a 25 per cent tolerance from quota is allowed. While singing the praises of the Canadian electoral system very loudly, Mr Daly, for some reason which escapes us all, no doubt, has failed to mention that fact. The Government’s tendency to leave out facts which it finds unpalatable creates the basis for its inherent dishonesty.
Australian Labor Party members also tend to make statements without any basis, to make statement without any historical knowledge of the facts and to make statements without any understanding of the topic they are attacking. This tendency was very clearly exhibited by Senator Brown recently when, while representing the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Senator Cavanagh, he told a public meeting at Bairnsdale that if it had not been for pressure by a Labor Government Aborigines might still not have the vote. At that meeting he was challenged by local Aboriginal leader, Mr Phil Pepper, who said he could remember his father voting as far back as 1908. My information is that Senator
Brown then challenged him to prove this statement and wagered a bet of $1,000 to $100 to go to any charity he cared to name. That tendency to expound without knowledge will cost Senator Brown $1,000, for Victorian Aborigines got the vote in 1855. Being a man of honour, as we all know he is, I am sure Senator Brown has already donated $1,000 to the charity of Mr Pepper’s choice. It just shows that one should not speak without knowledge.
Under our present Electoral Act, the party which receives the majority of the votes wins office. Surely that is a fair result and the only fair and just way to judge an electoral system. There is no such thing as a perfect electoral system. Perfection in any sphere is almost unattainable. The major criterion for any electoral system is that the party receiving the majority of the votes gains office, and the system brings stability of government to the country. Our present electoral system does just that. There is no need or justification for this legislation.
I reject totally any suggestion that we are being unreasonable in this matter. When a redistribution has been needed we have voted for that redistribution. When a redistribution is necessary in the future we will vote for that redistribution if it is fair and just. We have proved that we are fair and reasonable on the question of electoral boundaries and redistribution. Earlier this year in the previous parliament we approved a redistribution in Western Australia, because it was necessary, and we approved a redistribution in the Australian Capital Territory, because it was necessary. We approved those changes to the electoral boundaries and we gave the Government 2 seats. We handed the Government 2 seats, Fraser and Tangney, on a silver platter only weeks before the last election. If we had been cynical and self-seeking, as is the Labor Party, we would have voted against both proposals because they would not have been to our electoral advantage. We knew it, but at least we had the decency to do the decent thing. We gave the Labor Party those seats and we approved the redistribution because at that time a redistribution was necessary.
I would like to make it very clear to the Government that we on this side of the House do not fall for the Labor Party’s big lie that there is a gerrymander at present. The results of the last election show that there is not. The 1968 redistribution was intended to provide boundaries remaining in force for 10 years. Three elections have been held on the present boundaries with very fair results. Is it not incredible that the party that won 2 of those 3 elections dares to claim that these present boundaries are unfair? They are too fair and that is why the Labor Party wants to ditch them in 1975, 3 years before their term is due to expire.
I give fair warning to the Government that the Opposition, and I think I speak for every member of the Liberal and Country Parties, would most likely oppose any redistribution which is totally unnecessary, as any redistribution would be before the next census and determination resulting from it. The Opposition is against the concept of changing boundaries at every election. If this legislation is approved and the Government sets the precedent of having a redistribution without having a determination from the electoral officer, the fairness and equity of our electoral system will be in jeopardy. The Opposition therefore opposes this Bill and it will continue to oppose measures aimed at changing the fairness of our electoral system. We opposed the Bill twice last year and we will oppose it again at this sitting. And if the Government ever gets around to discussing how to have a joint sitting and plucks up enough courage to have it, we will oppose it then too.
– I think we would all agree, and I speak as one who naturally supports the Government’s proposals, that the exhibition we have just heard from Senator Withers represents the reincarnation of Bourbonism. Honourable senators opposite never forget anything and they never learn anything. As I listened to Senator Withers I wondered whether he had even taken the time to read the second reading speech of the Minister for the Media (Senator Douglas McClelland). He talks about equality and claims that there is no need for any of these reforms. I wonder whether he has even taken the trouble to compare the difference in the numbers of electors in the electorates of Mitchell and Darling in New South Wales where there is about a 73 per cent difference, or the difference in numbers of electors in the electorates of Diamond Valley and Wimmera in Victoria. Anybody who has and then gets up and says that they are equal is talking through his hat. After all, I am sure that everyone -
– What about Richmond and Grayndler?
-Senator Withers has made his speech and now I am making mine. I have better lungs than he has and I can drown him out any time. The whole of the Australian Press clamoured that the Australian electoral system was outmoded. I can assure the honourable senator and the entire Opposition that this is only one of a series of reforms. I will wait with baited breath to see how he talks about some of the other reforms, the simple ones such as the designation of a candidate’s party alongside his name on the ballot paper. Probably on some of those reforms the Opposition will have a bit each way. Honourable senators opposite had numerous opportunities to update the present electoral system. But they did nothing about it. I do not know how any honourable senator can make a comparison between the enrolments in the electorates of Mitchell and Darling in New South Wales or between those in Diamond Valley and Wimmera in Victoria and reach the conclusion that this represents the ideal or logical system.
Let me take the position a little further and commend to Opposition senators that series of very analytical articles headed ‘Election- 1974’ which were produced by Mr David Solomon in the ‘Canberra Times’. He gave one of the most effective assessments of what was wrong with the present electoral system. It will be found that the total number of votes cast for the 128 Government candidates who stood at the last election exceeded the total number of votes cast for the 174 Opposition candidates who stood for election. Yet an examination of the results shows that the Australian Labor Party lost a number of seats. How can Opposition senators tell me that that is an equitable system?
I wish to speak on the other matter to which Senator Withers referred. I know that Senator Withers in his usual style is trying to con the members of the Australian Country Party into believing that he wants to hold together this very fragile alliance. Let me point out firstly that it was a Liberal-Country Party coalition government that submerged the seat of Lawson in New South Wales. If it is of any comfort to the Country Party, I point out that whatever the Government may want to do here, the number of Country Party seats in New South Wales was reduced because of the actions of the Liberal Party. In any case, nobody can control the mobility of electors. Senator Withers knows that if he was Leader of the Government- God forbid that it would ever happen- to obtain some form of electoral parity in New South Wales, another country seat probably would have to be submerged. So let us not run away from the situation. The point I am making is that this is a normal adjustment.
Senator Withers talked about the margin of votes by which a candidate won an electorate. I emphasise again that if the number of votes cast for a candidate exceeds the aggregate vote of that candidate’s major opponents and he still loses the seat, how can it be said that the vote cast by a person in one electorate is reasonably on a par with that cast by a person in another electorate? We hear a lot about our democratic institutions. Here is a classic way in which we can endeavour to obtain reasonable electorate parity. After all, we are not suggesting that the number of people on the electoral rolls should be divided into the number of electorates so as to obtain complete electorate equality. We are allowing a 10 per cent tolerance. So let us not run away with the idea that there has to be a set enrolment for each electorate.
I want to digress to deal with one matter. Senator Withers reflected on the electoral officer in the electorate of Stirling. I had occasion to telephone the Labor Party candidate, Mr Reece, during that critical week. At no time did he question the ability, sincerity or integrity of the electoral officers. He accepted his defeat and there was no appeal made against it. Senator Withers talked about votes being mixed up in particular bundles. That can happen in any electorate throughout Australia. Safe in his coward’s castle he directed cheap sneers at the electoral officers in Stirling. In fact, he said that were it not for the Liberal Party scrutineers, the position could have been different. The implication was that the seat could have been wrongly allotted to the Government.
I wish to give a comparison of conduct. I suppose it ill becomes me, a simple railway man, to tell Senator Withers, a member of the legal fraternity, what his conduct should be. But let me state the position for the record. Numerous errors have been made by the electoral officer in the electorate of Lowe in which I live. I have never said that the electoral officer was in the pay of the Right Honourable William McMahon who is the member for Lowe in another place. But a number of disturbing features were brought to my notice. I would not raise them now, but since Senator Withers is supposed to set the standards of debate in the Senate, let me come right out in the open and state what has happened. A certain oversight by the returning officer was brought to my notice. I did not come into the Senate to state what I had been told and hide behind parliamentary privilege. I made a report to the Minister for Services and Property (Mr Daly). However, before I did that I telephoned the Chief Electoral Officer in New South Wales and acquainted him and the divisional returning officer with the fact that I was going to report certain matters to the Minister. I think it ill becomes Senator Withers to speak about decorum in the Senate in his usual snooty, supercilious mood. At least he should have put in a protest to the electoral officer in regard to what happened in Western Australia or contacted the Minister. But he used this forum, the Senate, for this sort of brinkmanship. I think the honourable senator was ill behaved, and that his actions showed ill breeding and were a disgrace to the Senate.
– The honourable senator had a lot to say on the matter in Western Australia.
-I know. I think he ought to hang his head in shame. The fact that he has walked out of the Senate chamber proves what I am saying. I am in agreement with Senator McAuliffe who said that Senator Withers’ statements were the most repugnant that we have heard in the Senate.
Every reform that is introduced always faces opposition. People argue about the mechanics of government and the mechanics of an electoral system. If a person has a bad mind he will always see some peculiar trend. As a matter of fact, in my State of New South Wales it was remarkable that in the 1954 federal election the Labor Party nearly won the seat of Robertson, but by the time of the next federal election, after a redistribution had occurred, the position was entirely different. Honourable senators talk about community of interest. If ever an expression was prostituted, it is that one. I have heard members of the Country Party ask what will happen if a particular country town is taken out of a division. But it is remarkable that if their colleagues in the Liberal Party engage in a redistribution of a metropolitan division, it does not mean a thing to them. Let us examine the position with the electorates of Evans and Lowe. Since Senator Withers has set the standard of this debate and made his remarks from the gutter, I intend to do the same. I was talking to a past leader of the former Government, Mr Bill McMahon. With a twinkle in his eye he told me that he had been to a certain school in Bennelong. I said: ‘That is not in your electorate of Lowe’. He said: ‘No, but it has electoral possibilities’. He is a professional. Obviously, he is looking ahead to see whether things could be a little better in the event of a distribution. If honourable senators look at the history of the Lowe electorate- I have voted there all my voting life- they will see that the boundaries have moved into what was at one time part of the electorate of Parramatta and even part of the electorate of Bennelong. I suppose the former
Prime Minister is looking in that direction in the event of any future redistribution.
Let us be fair about the position: The only safeguard that can be found to any of these geographical fluctuations is to try to reduce the tolerance. If a draftsman has to create a new set of electorates and achieve a fluctuation of 20 per cent of voters within which to manoeuvre, there will be all sorts of combinations of voters. An attempt should be made to reduce that fluctuation in the number of voters in an electorate. That is what the Government is attempting to do. Let us be real about the position: The great leveller in elections, no matter what form of redistribution is attempted, is the fact that nobody can control the mobility of electors. I know the figures that have been cited in respect of the United States of America and I know the figures for Australia. I am subject to correction, but I think that over a 3 year span, in the 120-odd electorates in Australia there would be over 1 million corrections to the electoral roll. Perhaps it is good for democracy if 1,000 people leave a metropolitan Sydney metropolitan electorate and another 1,000 people take their place. I refer particularly to electorates, such as the electorate of Lowe, which are rather static Honourable senators would find that this is the leveller. It is the reason why all these Gallup polls are never perfectly accurate. We have these little transfers of population. Mr Deputy President, you and I know that in modern Australia today- I think Senator Withers in his calmer moments would also know this- the fact is that a young person in his 20s will get a promotion interstate with some firm or perhaps with the Public Service. Conversely, people who reach retiring age also change their place of residence. This is why we have seen a ballooning in the number of people in the electorate of Robertson. People are retiring and moving to other areas. This is borne out with what has happened on the far south coast of New South Wales. 1 have injected this material into the debate deliberately because I believe that despite all this huffing and puffing by Senator Withers he cannot stop progress. I know that when the second and third electoral Bills are presented to the Senate with reforms that are probably not quite as revolutionary as these reforms, Senator Withers will again rise and threaten us. He will speak as though both of us will don top hats, go into the Domain and fight a duel at 6 o’clock in the morning in order to preserve the honour of the electoral system. I have never heard such a ridiculous tirade as that which Senator Withers contributed to the debate today. I repeat that the level of debate dropped to an all-time low with the filthy innuendoes that were cast in regard to the Stirling electorate. When the final vote was determined and the margin was known, it was so close that our candidate, Mr Reece, had every reason to make an appeal. But he did not.
Let me wind up on another point about the electoral system. I have placed questions on the notice paper asking why people in Suva did not get a vote. I understand that arrangements were made but that the person who was to be the electoral officer was ill. Another situation occurred at Australia House in London where officials synchronised the voting hours with Australia’s. That meant in effect that people coming from the Midlands and elsewhere in Britain had only a limited time during the day to cast a vote on 18 May. We could have raised these matters in the Senate- and as Senator Withers knows we are capable of indulging in plenty of vigour in our debates if we want to do so- but we contented ourselves with writing to the Minister and placing questions on the notice paper. I believe that the rule applied to Australia House was stupid. A few friends of mine who would have voted for me and others in the Labor Party were disenfranchised at Australia House. 1 am not squealing but I do say, with all deference to Senator Baume, that we might have had Mr Westerway in this chamber. Senator Withers makes a great song about Stirling but he won. One can squeal when one loses but he is the first person I have known to squeal when he wins. This shows what a peculiar person he is.
I want to sum it up in this way. We in the Government make no apology for saying that the electoral system is outmoded. This is epitomised in the Minister’s second reading speech, which shows the vast differences in numbers of people on the rolls for the electorates of Darling and Mitchell and for similar electorates in Victoria. We believe that this argument is unanswerable. Finally, for the benefit of the Leader of the Australian Country Party in the Senate, Senator Drake-Brockman, since he is always very nice and listens to me without interjecting- I cannot say that for one or two other honourable senatorsI simply quote from the Minister’s speech. He said:
The Bill is not, as it has been claimed, specifically aimed against country divisions . . . The Australian Labor Party more so than any other party is mindful of the difficulties . . .
He goes on to say:
The Labor Party represents 19 country seats and also holds the largest electorate in Australia, Kalgoorlie.
I simply say to you, Mr Acting Deputy President -and, as I have the honour to address you now, I compliment you on your new position- that the defence rests on what I have said.
– I listened very intently to the honourable senator who has just sat down. I had intended to say when he finished that I had listened to him all the time he was speaking and that I did not hear him mention the country. Unfortunately, however, by reading the last paragraph of the second reading speech of the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Senator Willesee) he beat me to the punch. The honourable senator has shown during his time in this Senate a very great interest in the natural animals of this country. He has gone to every length to see that rules are laid down and enforced for the protection of those animals. I would have thought that the honourable senator, having said what he did about the Labor Party and its rural activities and having at heart the interests of the natural animals of this country, would have said something regarding the representation in this Parliament of people who live in the isolated areas of this country. The honourable senator makes the point that no one can control the mobility of electors. But did he say anything about assisting the people who live in these far distant areas away from the capital cities and of getting them, firstly, some representation in this Parliament and then of getting them equal representation here? He made no comment on this at all.
I want to say that my Party is not against change in electoral matters. I want to lay it right on the line that there are 5 points which we believe should be considered before making any electoral change. Let me enumerate those points before I go on to say something about tins Bill. The Australian Country Party believes that the political voice of rural people and the rural industries must be heard no matter through which party that voice is heard. I think that most honourable senators would agree with me. My Party believes that people in industry whose contributions to the national well being is vital- and surely the rural industries are vital to the economy of this country- should not be deprived by their geographical isolation of the right te adequate and equal representation in the Parliament.
– We are not saying that. We agree with you.
-The honourable senator who preceded me said nothing about it. He said that no one can control the mobility of electors, and left it at that. The Country Party believes it is wrong that political power should be concentrated in a few great cities, swamping rural expression.
-I do not agree with you.
-This is just the difference between the Labor Party and the Country Party.
– This is not what happens.
-The honourable senator who spoke last- Senator Mulvihill- made the point that the Labor Party represented the country electors as much as does any other party in this Parliament. Yet Senator Georges has said that he does not agree with the point I have made. I am saying that the great cities are swamping the electoral voice of the country areas. My Party believes also it is right that the political voice of the country areas should be protected from measures which are aimed deliberately at hastening its end. The Minister in charge of electoral matters in this Parliament, Mr Daly, is deliberately aiming at hastening the end of the Country Party. No one would deny that. The Leader of the Opposition (Senator Withers) made quite clear in his speech what he thought of that. The Country Party believes that good government for all people comes from a reasonably balanced Parliament organised so that it can pay regard to the wellbeing of all of the nation’s interests. Surely therefore the people who live in isolated areas should have someone here to speak on their behalf and to put forward their interests.
Having made the point of view of my Party clear I say that this is the third time I have risen in this chamber to oppose the electoral changes proposed in this Bill. The second reading speech is a classic example of the Labor Government saying one thing and meaning another. I have lost count of the number of times this has happened since the change of government in 1972. 1 recall well Senator Carrick ‘s excellent recital a few months ago of the Government’s dishonesty, as the honourable senator called it at that time. To my mind he gave unchallengeable details of 27 promises made by Labor and broken within its first 12 months of government. The Government’s only answer to Senator Carrick ‘s recital was a very significant silence. We on this side of the chamber will not be silent whenever the Government is dishonest or attempts to camouflage an ulterior motive.
Mr Daly, the Minister who introduced this Bill in another place, declares that he wants a greater degree of equity in the electoral system. He claims that his Government wants practical equality of representation. What Mr Daly wants to achieve by this Bill is not equity and equality. His long range goal is to destroy the Country Party and to entrench the Labor Party in government. Those are the purposes of this Bill. I wonder that there was no reference in the second reading speech to the Country Party representing cows, trees and haystacks, as Mr Daly declared in his second reading speech when the Bill was before the House previously. To my mind this is one of the most infamous phrases from the Minister’s public attacks on the Country Party. The Labor Party was very quick to allege in the recent general election campaign that the Opposition was refusing to obey the umpire’s decision. I now turn that charge back on the Government. In May the people threw out the Government’s request to be given power to amend the Constitution so that electoral divisions could be determined on the basis of total population instead of numbers of eligible voters. The people would have nothing to do with that proposal because the Government had finally revealed its plan for electoral changes to be nothing but a preposterous gerrymander. But the Government is not prepared to accept the verdict. It reintroduced a Bill which was twice defeated in the Senate. The Bill now before us represents another means of effecting a gerrymander.
I have already told the Senate in previous debates on this matter that a 20 per cent variation in electoral enrolments either side of the quota has been accepted by all governments since Federation in the interests of truly representative government.
– Does that make it right forever?
– I think so- and a little bit more. The Government proposes in this Bill to reduce the permissible variation to 10 percent. If this Bill is passed I wonder how long it will be before we are dealing with another Bill taking away the 10 per cent variation.
– Why do you not fight that when you come to it?
– I am only wondering. If we should change our electoral laws to insist upon an equal number of voters in all electorates one would not need a crystal ball to foresee the result in the vast sparsely populated areas of Australia about which I was talking a while ago. Ultimately we would have only a handful of huge electorates covering the rural areas. Under the Labor Government that unhappy day might not be too far away. There is unprecedented discontent and pessimism about the future in rural areas. This is not only because of Labor’s strangling anti-rural policies but also because no attempt has been made by the Government to protect country based secondary industries or to encourage development of new industries other than in its few selected growth areas.
The disenchantment with this Government that I have seen in country areas can lead only to an acceleration of the drift of people to the cities. Senator Mulvihill says that that cannot be stopped. As that happens we can expect to see a duplication of the situation in Western Australia where the Kalgoorlie electorate embraces most of the State. The Country Party believes that the political voice of the rural communities must be heard. We have always believed that their right to adequate and equal representation in the Federal Parliament should not be denied them because of their geographic isolation. The Labor Party says that it is undemocratic for one electorate to have more voters than another. The Labor Party argues that we are out of step with other democracies in continuing to follow this practice. I think this is nonsense. The Government knows it is nonsense.
Many countries of the English speaking world do not consider it undemocratic, unfair or unjust to have widely varying numbers of voters in electorates. Great Britain and Canada are excellent examples. In Britain the enrolments for this year’s election were as high as 96,000 electors and as low as 23,000 electors. I might add that these were the figures immediately after a redistribution. In Canada the variation is even greater-from 8,000 electors in one area to 80,000 in another. The New Zealand electoral laws permit a fairly wide variation as do the laws in the United States of America. Yet the Government says it is undemocratic to continue with the present electoral laws in this country.
To my mind Australia is not out of step with other democratic brother nations, as the Labor Party would have us believe. We would be the one out if we permitted the Labor Government to distribute electorates purely for political gain. No Australian should have any doubt about the Government’s intention to make and sustain the change. If this Bill is passed we will have a redistribution of boundaries in the life of every Parliament. I think that has been already proved when one looks at the seat of Moore in Western
Australia where the numbers of electors have grown considerably since the redistribution was put through this Parliament early in May. This, I believe, would bring about a chaotic situation in which every election would be fought on new boundaries. What would happen in the Electoral Office I do now know. In my State, because of the redistribution that was approved in this Parliament in May, we have seen the Electoral Office under great pressure producing rolls which do not fully cover a division and sub-divisions have been taken from another division and put into that division. If people wish to check an electoral roll now they have to look up another roll to obtain some of the names which are in the new division.
– You want to use the computer as we do in South Australia. We get it in 48 hours.
– I do not know why it can be done in South Australia when we cannot do it in Western Australia under the same government.
– It is a different government.
– Yes. It must be. I thought we had only an Australian Government, according to honourable senators opposite. I see no merit in this Bill, nor does my Party. I believe it is unfair and unjust because it discriminates against a section of the community in the highly important area of parliamentary representation. Therefore I believe the Bill should be rejected and I will vote as the Leader of the Opposition has indicated against this Bill as will my Party.
– Members of the public looking in on this debate would be excused if they thought that the Opposition was frightened of them. This situation is pretty typical of the situation which I have observed in South Australia for some years. It could be that the Liberal Party’s attitude has been fashioned somewhat by a remark which the Leader of the Opposition in another place, Mr Snedden, made when he said that he had consulted all his various State organisations within the Liberal Party to get their advice about electoral reform. If he consulted South Australia he certainly was contaminated by it. This debate is one which I could almost believe is taking place in the Legislative Council in South Australia. The same attitudes are being adopted to electoral reform. We have the continual argument about the system of resisting change within the system which clouds, of course, the greater argument of the merits of the parties which fill out and flesh out the electoral framework. For that reason I intend to support the Bill.
I would have thought that the Senate would pass this Bill. I listened to the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Withers) say that he has opposed this legislation twice previously, that he will oppose it again on this occasion, that he will oppose it at a joint sitting and that he will keep on opposing it. That he should take that viewpoint raises very interesting questions about the Australian Constitution. But at the outset I indicate that it is a fruitless argument to keep on resisting fairness in the electoral system, and it is not good enough to impute motives which are less than fair to those who introduce the legislation as a reason for voting against it.
I fully believe that the Labor Party would take every advantage it could in the electoral system because I come from a State in which in the past the Labor Party has tried to do this. However, in that State for many years it was completely outwitted by the Liberal-Country League, which was better at it. When the Labor Party came to office in 1965 it was faced with a situation in which there were 10 times as many voters in one electorate than there were in another; there were 5,000 electors in one and 50,000 electors in another. Despite that system, and under it, the Labor Party tried to implement its own type of gerrymander, but it did not get the proposal through the Legislative Council at that time, and I am pleased that it did not do so because the system which evolved in South Australia was much fairer than the one which existed for a long period under the Playford administration and it was certainly fairer than the one which the Labor Party, under the Walsh administration, tried to implement in 1965. The very fact that honourable senators on this side of the chamber might reasonably view with concern what the Labor Party might do with the electoral system if it were fully in charge of it does not take away the responsibility of Opposition senators to vote for a fair system, and I am very disappointed indeed to hear -
– He is the electoral expert.
- Senator Jessop said recently that my Party had no policies. I will present him with our electoral policy as well as with other policies in order to fill the vacuum in his political knowledge, although I doubt that anyone could fill that vacuum. The situation that speakers so far from this side of the chamber have not understood is that Labor has the authority to pass this Bill. That authority was expressly given to it by the Austraiian people.
– Particularly with your help. You are a great asset to the Labor Party.
-To the interjectors on my right I indicate, as I indicated in a previous debate, that their leaders issued a challenge and said that they wanted these matters tested. The test has been given, and it is of little use for the Leader of the Opposition to say that he will keep on knocking the legislation back, as his vote here is only symbolic in that way in any case. I refer now to the policy speech which I gave -
– It is about the first time we have ever heard it.
– I am sure that Senator Jessop has not heard of it. He does not see anything but a little narrow path ahead of him which leads to the Liberal-Country League. He can see little more than that. As I said earlier, obviously his attitude on this issue has already contaminated his views on other matters. In the policy speech which I gave in the Unley Town Hall on 1 May 1974 I said:
We are not at all sure this is the right election at the right time for Australia.
It could be that politicians in Canberra, out of touch with their electorates have misread the popular mood. If the LCP coalition wins, the gamble of using the Senate to force an election will have paid off.
If it fails, however, the result will be catastrophic for the non-Labor cause.
As I have said, the Labor Party won the election and it has the authority to proceed with this Bill. On other occasions people have spoken about obstructive attitudes of the Senate, and I believe that this relates quite clearly to the passage of this Bill. I should like to quote from an article by L. F. Crisp titled ‘Australian National GovernmentParliament: The Senate’ in which the following statement is attributed to the then Senator J. G. Gorton, who was later Prime Minister of Australia: . . ‘the problem of preventing the Senate from inhibiting and frustrating government can be solved’ by 2 constitutional changes: ‘Fust, deprive the Senate of the power to reject Supply, for if it is to defeat a Government it should do so on a specific measure, not on general grounds of dislike. Second, if the Senate does defeat a Government on a specific measure, then instead of a double dissolution, the Senate alone should go to the people . . . This would prevent an Opposition with a majority in the Senate from using that majority capriciously, because no party would jeopardise such an advantage except on a matter of fundamental importance.’
Sir Robert Menzies has had quite a lot to say about obstruction by the Senate. He does not support the view that the Senate can continue to frustrate the will of the people beyond an election expressly held for the purpose of resolving the previous negative views of the Senate. In 1959 the Joint Committee on Constitutional Review also dealt with this question and made recommendations which were designed to alter the Constitution in order to overcome the type of attitude which is now prevalent in this chamber. It appears that Opposition senators are still intent on frustrating the people’s view. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden) has made statements on this Bill in another place. He has spoken authoritatively for the Opposition. He said:
He then went on to cite some problems concerning country areas in Australia. He then said:
Our purpose is to maintain, as far as is practicable and fair, the principle of one vote one value.
I assume that that is what this Bill is about, one vote one value; to bring in an electoral system which will as near as practicable give an equal say to all electors, whether they are in the country or the city, in the conduct of the affairs of their country which personally affect them. The Leader of the Opposition then said:
The potential movement of population is fundamental to the proper establishment of electorates.
He then developed the argument that a 10 per cent variation is not sufficient properly to anticipate movements in population between redistributions. That is the only argument that I have been able to read, or certainly have heard advanced in this place, which has been in any way a form of coherent opposition to this Bill. I have heard of no other argument on any ethical, moral or practical grounds, except that a margin of 20 per cent may not allow a sufficient difference between electorates between redistributions, without electorates getting too far out of phase. Whether that statement is correct or not is another matter, but it is the only legitimate argument that I have heard which stands up to any test on ethical or moral grounds. Mr Anthony made statements which were very much in accord with, and I believe echoed, the statements which were made by Senator Drake-Brockman on behalf of the Country Party today. He quoted a statement made by the Minister for Services and Property (Mr Daly) who introduced this Bill in another place. The Minister said:
There can be no doubt whatever that a man is entitled to equal representation whether he lives in the city or the country.
Mr Anthony said:
The Country Party agrees with that.
Of course, the general public in reading that statement would believe that the Leader of the Country Party was quite in accord with the proposition that all electors should have an equality of say in their national affairs. But when one reads further in Mr Anthony’s speech one finds an adventure in semantics. One finds that Mr Anthony’s reference to equal representation does not mean an equal say in relation to the value of a vote; it is apparently some equal voice. It does not refer to equal representation in a division of electors. Mr Anthony then went on to say:
But is it the mathematical value of a person’s vote that should be the be all and end all or is it the value of representation he is able to receive in this Parliament? Equality of representation should be seen to be far more important than mere mathematical equality of votes.
So the Leader of the Country Party does not see equality of representation as a mathematical division of voters. It is something quite different, something which has never even begun to be adequately explained- to the public or to any Parliament. It is nonsense and has no meaning other than that the Country Party believes quite openly, when the matter is looked at, in a very severe weighting for country areas. Mr Anthony went on to say that the present 20 per cent tolerance is not great enough to give the equality that he desires. That is the substance of his remarks to the Parliament.
The South Australian situation ought to teach anyone in Australia the problems of a party which relies on an unequal distribution and on the weighting of electorates. In that State the Liberal-Country League rested on unequal boundaries for very many years. I remember that in 1963 when the situation had got to something like 8 to 1 in relative values the Party met and decided to reform. I remember saying to the Party in those days, as a fairly green country member, that I could not support anything greater than 2 to 1 in weighting for the country. I was obliterated in the Party room for that suggestion. Dare I suggest that we go as far as giving the city half the value of the country. So a scheme was put up to provide for something like 3 to 1. The Labor Party rejected the scheme because is was able to deny a constitutional majority in the South Australian House of Assembly at that time. Eventually, in 1969-70, a scheme was brought in which gave a weighting of 10 to 16, which was as far as the Liberal-Country League could go without blowing up at that time. The Labor Party accepted it because it was such a great advance over 10 and 1 1 to 1. Of course, the LCL did blow up a few years later over that very same thing translated into the franchise of the Legislative Council.
– It did not blow up.
-It blew up and it is still blowing up. The pieces are still flying. Anyone should understand from that argument how fruitless it has been for that Party to rely for so long on keeping everything to itself. It now has lost everything, and to such a degree that there is no opposition in South Australia. The junior senator from South Australia, Senator Jessop, who is interjecting, was lucky to hold his position. He knows that but for the Liberal Movement there would have been 6 Labor Party senators representing South Australia, so weak are the fragments of the Party to which he still adheres. The situation in South Australia has been that of a Party under siege. I relate that siege philosophy to what I have heard put today. Thank goodness, Mr Deputy President, that it is not an argument about the divergencies which I have seen in past political history. We are talking about a fairly small thing, namely, whether the variation shall be 20 per cent or 10 per cent. Certainly no-one can argue that 10 per cent is less fair than is 20 per cent. One can argue the merits of being able to apportion districts, and the convenience of so apportioning them, but even Senator Jessop could not argue that a 10 per cent variation is less fair than 20 per cent. Nor could he agree with the quite fatuous statement of his Leader that it is dishonest. I leave it to the public to decide, if the Leader of his Party says that it is dishonest to bring in 10 per cent, just who is being dishonest and who is twisting the English language to make nonsense of ordinary words and ordinary meanings? So much has this embittered Senator Jessop ‘s Party that on Friday morning a member of his Party in the House of Representatives, Dr Forbes, appeared on television in our State and made quite a lot of inaccurate statements. He said that I gave the South Australian Government to Mr Dunstan 18 months ahead of its time.
– Sixteen months.
-Senator Jessop says that it was 16 months. He does not realise that the limit was 1 1 months. So accurate are the members of the LCL in South Australia that he forgets that 1 1 months was all that was possible. He forgets also that Dr Forbes always has supported the conservatives in South Australia, and always will, and simply is not acceptable to the metropolitan community. It is the attitude of continuing to vilify anyone who wants reform which has brought South Australia to such a low respect politically on the non-Labor side around Australia. Dr Forbes, incidentally, is a shadow Minister who is supposed to attract the people of this country. What this attitude does, of course, is to undersell the country people in Australia. I have never heard a greater insult to country people than to suggest that for some disability they need special provisions in the Electoral Act. That is the greatest disservice that political parties can do to country people. The country people who believe this do so only because they have been misled for so long by so-called Liberals or by Country Party members.
I have a very recent experience of within 2 years educating a conservative country electorate in a State sphere to accept a policy of one vote one value, and to vote vehemently for it. Senator Jessop ‘s Party was obliterated in that particular electorate. You get the attitude of always blaming someone else, always looking for a scapegoat but never at yourself. Not since 1933 has the honourable senator’s Party ever honestly assessed itself as a Party. So it continues selling to the community this criticism of any Party and any politician which says that country people should be equal with city people in electoral weighting. I am pleased to say that at least in South Australia there is one country district which vehemently has adopted a fair electoral policy. I suggest that the countryside in the rest of Australia would also adopt a fair electoral policy if it were properly explained. To set country people aside as being different and as being unable to fully participate in the electoral scene is to do them an enormous disservice.
I refer honourable senators to the notice paper of this House and the various subjects included in it. On it is the Health Insurance Bill and the Petroleum and Minerals Authority Bill. There is a proposal relating to the Senate Select Committee on Securities and Exchange. Another proposal is for the States to be provided with adequate and assured sources of revenue. Another subject relates to the Government’s inability to properly and responsibly manage the economy. Another refers to the development of new inland cities with large populations. Another deals with migrants and the Croatian community. The Senate also is to deal with motions relating to a system of imposed regionalism and discrimination against rural industries, Aborigines, rural policy, grants to the States, and so on. Why should any person in Australia have a bigger say than anyone else on any one of those subjects? It is utter absurdity to say that any person geographically placed anywhere in Australia should speak with a louder voice than does another person. The entire scope of the business of this House relates to Australia as a whole. It is divisive and fostering class warfare in this community to say that anyone is at a disability and should have a bigger electoral weighting than another person.
On that basis I will support this Bill. I say quite clearly that if the resulting redrawing of boundaries is unfair I will vote against that redrawing. I believe that any honourable senator would reserve that right. I would expect the Distribution Commissioners to be fair and just and without favour in redrawing boundaries. As I have said, if they are recognisably not so the Government can expect not to achieve the results which it desires from this Bill. I listen to the mutterings of South Australian senators. They should hang their heads in shame because of the system for which they have stood for so many years and because of the attitudes of their Legislative Councillors in South Australia whom they no doubt will support. They should hang their heads in shame when any electoral reform is mentioned in the Senate.
The Senate should pass this Bill. I do not want to encroach on other Bills. Obviously new senators will want to express their opinions. I certainly do. I do not want to be bound by decisions taken when I was not a senator. So I will vote on other Bills as I see fit. I believe in the general principle that the Senate should recognise the authority of the Government and the view of prominent and expert members of the nonLabor side of politics who for many years have said that the Senate should not obstruct, beyond being a general House of review, but that matters should be decided by the Australian public. It is certainly my view that the Senate should not be obstructive for obstruction’s sake. I refer again to the statement by Dr Forbes in South Australia on Friday morning that if we, the Independents, vote with the Opposition the Senate can continue to frustrate the Government’s program. I have never heard more clearly expressed the negativism of some of my ex-colleagues from South Australia. I support the Bill.
– It is a great pity that Senator Steele Hall’s experiences appear to have scarred his soul. He seems to have come to this place with a gigantic chip on his shoulder and this seems to have had some grave effect upon his logic. Despite his comments, I intend to oppose this Bill and to vote against it. I am not voting against electoral reform. We should look at what the Government is attempting to reform. Despite the Government’s honeyed and pious words in the second reading speech which tried to indicate that it has some dedication to parliamentary democracy, this Bill is not intended to produce a just and equitable electoral system. We should ignore also the vitriolic attack by the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam), supported by the Minister for Services and Property (Mr Daly), on the present electoral system. I commend to Senator Steele Hall an examination of the facts. When they are examined one can conclude only that the purpose of the highly emotional nature of the attacks is to deceive electors as to the true intentions of the Government.
The essential test of an electoral system is its fairness. The test of fairness is whether the party that polls a majority of votes wins a majority of seats. I do not think that anybody would deny the fairness of that test. Before we come to that question and test it, let me say that it is never possible, it never has been possible and it never will be possible to ensure that the value of a single vote is the same in every electorate. All electorates could be even on a certain day, but they would vary greatly within months. I will quote statistics to prove that point. Some electorates grow, others decline and some remain stagnant. I shall quote the population increases in one or two selected electorates. Between 1968 and 1972 the increase in the electorate of Chifley was 41.2 per cent, in Mackellar it was 24.2 per cent and m Robertson it was 36.3 per cent. In Victoria, in Bruce, the seat which is held by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden), the increase was 30.9 per cent and in Flinders it was 32.3 per cent. In Stirling in Western Australia the increase was 30.6 per cent. I shall quote now some enrolment decreases for the same period. The population of Grayndler, the seat of the Minister for Services and Property (Mr Daly), decreased by 12. 13 percent.
– That was understandable.
– Yes, people wanted to leave the electorate. In 1968 it was 14.01 per cent above the quota. In 1972 the enrolments were 7.77 per cent below the quota. In Sydney the enrolment decline between 1968 and 1972 was 13.45 per cent. It was 13.56 per cent above the quota in 1968, and 9.5 1 per cent below in 1972. 1 could give other examples. All these divisions were created with an excess of 10 per cent of the quota in 1 968. The latter ones which I have mentioned have now lost population and are at the point at which they would be below a quota worked out on the enrolment figures at the time of the 1972 election.
It is quite clear that, with the wide variations of population increases and decreases in Australia, a tolerance of more than the proposed 10 per cent is necessary if distortions and inequities are to be avoided. On those figures, the 20 per cent tolerance is necessary to enable commissioners to judge enrolment trends and to move towards, not away from, quotas. It is rather interesting to note that the former Labor Government in Western Australia, on the advice of the State Redistribution Commissioners, amended the electoral legislation to increase the tolerance from 10 per cent to 20 per cent because they found the same problems that we are finding in the Federal sphere.
– Distances are so important there.
– The northern seats are separate cases. They are fixed by legislation which no government, Liberal or Labor, has attempted to alter. I think it is also worth noting that the maximum tolerance is used only in exceptional cases. A perusal of the statistics shows that after the 1968 redistribution only 6 seats were given enrolments 15 per cent above or below the quota. We have seen what happened to some of those seats. Twenty-seven seats were given enrolments in excess of 10 per cent but less than 15 per cent. Ninety seats were within 10 per cent above or below the quota. It is completely misleading and, 1 might say, dishonest for the Government to argue that the present Act is designed to permit gross inequalities which favour one side of politics or the other. It is a completely false argument.
The record shows that the present system produced a fair result. The Leader of the Opposition in the Senate (Senator Withers) gave some figures covering the years 1949 to 1972. He said that only once in that period, in 1954, did the Labor Party receive more than 50 per cent of the votes and not form a government. His figures are worth quoting again. At the last election the Labor Party received 49.3 per cent of the votes and won 51.96 per cent of the seats. I am sorry that Senator Steele Hall is not here to say whether such a result shows that the system is in need of reform. Perhaps the Opposition should say that that is unfair and that that result indicates gross inequalities. If my memory is correct the Australian Labor Party obtained 49.9 per cent of the vote in the previous election in 1972 and won just over 52 per cent of the seats. Is that unfair? Does that indicate gross inequalities and distortions? If it does let the Labor Party say so. In the last election the Liberal and Country Parties received 45.6 per cent of the formal votes and won 48.03 per cent of the seats. Is that fair? We have no quarrel with that result. The figures expressed as a ratio of the percentage of seats to the percentage of votes are 1.0539 for the Labor Party and 1.0526 for the Liberal and Country Parties. Surely that is as close to an equitable result as one could wish. Indeed it slightly favours the Australian Labor Party. Again I ask the Government: What quarrels does it have with those figures? Let us have a look at the Western Australian result. Senator Withers has referred to the fact that the Liberal and Country Parties received 52 per cent of the vote in Western Australia and the Labor Party received 46.3 per cent.
– There was no Country Party over there; there was a National Alliance.
– I am not going to quibble over little things like that. Only mean minds would quibble over little things like that. I repeat for Senator McLaren’s benefit that the Liberal and Country Parties received 52 per cent of the vote in Western Australia and the Australian Labor Party received 46.3 per cent, yet each won 5 seats. But for losing by 1 1 votes in the electorate of Stirling, the Labor Party would have won 6 seats on that percentage. Is that fair and equitable? I have not heard any complaints from the Labor Party about that.
I believe that it is worth while looking at international examples. The United Kingdom is held up as the greatest example of parliamentary democracy in the world. Constituencies in the United Kingdom vary in size from 40,000 to 80,000 electors. That discrepancy is not considered in the United Kingdom to be irregular. Constituencies in France range in size from 25,000 electors to 150,000 electors. There is a tolerence of only 5 per cent in New Zealand but that produces difficulties and redistributions are frequent. Mr Daly went to Canada recently to study the Canadian electoral system and he came back full of praise for many features of it, but he did not point out that the tolerance in Canada is 25 per cent. In many countries that are regarded as parliamentary democracies and that are held up as examples there is a far greater variation than there is in Australia.
Let us have a look at the 1974 election results in the United Kingdom. I digress for a moment to say that the Prime Minister said at one stage of the game that he favoured the concept of one vote one value as being a true indication. In 1974 the Conservatives polled 38. 1 per cent of the vote and won 46.7 per cent of the seats and the Labour Party polled 37.2 per cent of the vote and won 47.5 per cent of the seats. Is that equitable? The Liberal Party polled 19.3 per cent of the vote and won 2.2 per cent of the seats. Other parties and individuals polled 5.4 per cent of the vote and won 3.6 per cent of the seats. Was an equitable result achieved under the system that the Prime Minister has been talking about of first past the post voting? Further examples could be cited, but I shall cite merely one. There has been argument- Senator Steele Hall referred to itabout the inequality of city and country electorates. In the past, the Distribution Commissioners have given careful consideration to the special problems of the remote regions of Australia. It is interesting to note that the electorates in the north-west and Kimberley areas of Western Australia are fixed by statute and no Western Australian government has chosen to amend that statute simply because all Western Australian governments have taken note of the special considerations of remote areas.
Let us have a look at the concept of one vote one value. In New South Wales, for example, there are 17 extra-metropolitan divisions, including division of Darling, which encompasses a huge area and which, like the division of Kalgoorlie in Western Australia, is an exceptional area. Those 17 divisions cast 1,024,333 formal votes averaging 60,254 formal votes for each division. Excluding the division of Darling, the other 16 divisions cast 977,079 formal votes on an average of 61,067 for each division. The 28 metropolitan divisions in New South Wales cast 1,810,858 votes or 64,673 for each division. The value of the extra-metropolitan area votes is equal to that of 1.07 metropolitan voters or 1.05 metropolitan voters if the division of Darling is excluded. In that instance there is very close to the concept of one vote one value. As I said earlier, in 1968 the variation in 90 of the 123 divisions, excluding the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory, was below 10 per cent, but the fact is that the Distribution Commissioners have not always found it possible to limit themselves to a 10 per cent tolerance because of the factors to which I have referred. No one is arguing that electoral divisions should not be substantially equal or as near to being substantially equal as is practicable in terms of their voting population. But it is clear from the figures I have quoted and it is clear from the Western Australian example that 10 per cent is not a sufficient margin to allow for population changes or for those regions with special problems that have in the past been recognised by all parties. No one can argue on those statistics that the present system is a distortion or a gerrymander.
Such allegations are palpably untrue. One cannot escape from the conclusion that the Government ‘s motive for bringing in this legislation is other than fairness and equality. Senator Withers has suggested that the motive is a fiddle.
– As honourable senators are aware this measure has been before the House before. I think it was before the House as early as May 1 973. This measure has been fully debated and canvassed. One would have thought that under normal circumstances it would have been quickly put to a vote in this chamber and that the Parliament would have been allowed to proceed to a joint sitting so that the Government can get on with its legislative program. But, as Senator Baume pointed out to the chamber in his maiden speech, there are 15 new members of this chamber. He quite properly claimed that the 1 5 new senators are entitled to debate this measure. It is for that reason that we on the Government side are engaging in the debate. We will endeavour to place before the new senators five or six good reasons why this measure is desirable and why it should receive the support of the Senate.
Before I debate the Bill I would be remiss if I did not mention the unwarranted attack on the Public Service of Western Australia which was made this afternoon by the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate (Senator Withers). I believe that not only was the attack unwarranted; it was also distasteful, deplorable and extraordinary to say the least. Senator Withers not only reflected on the integrity of the poll clerks but he also reflected on the returning officers and the Australian Electoral Officer for Western Australia. He made his attack on these officers after they had been engaged in an election, the like of which had never before been seen in this country because the double dissolution of the Parliament culminated in an election for the House of Representatives and an election for the Senate as well as the referendum questions which were put to the people. All honourable senators here know that all those electoral officers were overworked. Some of them collapsed. Therefore, I believe, as do all honourable senators on this side of the chamber, that the attack was unnecessary. We dissociate ourselves from it. We have the highest respect for the poll clerks, the returning officers and all those associated with electoral control in this country. We believe they are people of integrity and impartiality, and that elections conducted by them are in good hands.
The Government proposes this Bill because we feel it is a step forward in the long and difficult journey of parliamentary democracy. In such a case I believe that we must return to first principles and attempt to understand the foundations of our system. The essence of democracy, as I have always known it, is that the will of the people must prevail, that government must rest on the consent of the governed and that no voter must be favoured or discriminated against in the exercise of his vote. I believe that democracy must rest on the principle of majority rule. I believe that that principle presupposes that as far as practicable each vote cast to elect members to any representative assembly, whether it be national, State or municipal, must be equal in value to the vote of any other citizen. I know it has been said that there is nothing sacred about the principle of majority rule, that it is a principle of order rather than exact justice. But I also know that there is no other principle which on the one hand provides an alternative to autocratic rule and, on the other hand, anarchy. It is clear that if this principle is to prevail, the principle of one vote one value must also prevail. That is the underlying factor and the moral principle behind this legislation. I was pleased to hear it referred to in this manner by the new senator from South Australia, Senator Steele Hall. Both of these principles are inseparable principles and in practice merely represent different ways of saying the same thing.
We believe that only very special exceptions can be made to this basic principle and that they must be recognised as exceptions, not taken for granted as the general rule. That is why we on this side of the chamber believe that the Senate must support this measure. It upholds the principle of electoral equality- the principle of one vote one value. I remind honourable senators opposite that this used to be the situation prior to 1965. It was the situation that existed from the first day of Federation until 1965 when the then Liberal-Country Party Coalition Government brought about, under the influence of and pressure by the then Minister for the Interior, the present Leader of the Australian Country Party (Mr Anthony) in the other place, the first alteration since Federation to section 19 of the Electoral Act. That alteration was the very alteration which destroyed the principle of one vote one value. That high principle in electoral matters was abandoned from that day. Despite what was said here this afternoon by Senator DrakeBrockman about the intentions of the Country Party in 1 965 when it brought in its amendments to the Electoral Act, and despite the fact that the then Minister for the Interior, Mr Anthony, who was the Minister in charge of the Bill, was very reticent in his second reading speech in the Parliament on 24 May 1 965 and dismissed the bill as being of no real significance, let us have no doubt about the intentions of the Country Party. Fortunately for members of the Australian Labor Party, we did not have to rely on intuition or on guesswork as to the real intention of the Leader of the Australian Country Party on that occasion because he was most forthright at a Country Party dinner at Murwillumbah when he made the following statements which appear in the Murwillumbah ‘Daily News’, that great organ of public opinion, of 15 June 1964. I know the newspaper because I do not live very far from where it is published. I do not think that the Leader of the Australian Country Party in the other place, or any of his supporters on the Opposition benches in this place, will question the accuracy of what I am about to say because at the time referred to this newspaper was owned by his family. This is the report of what he said in his speech:
The Minister for the Interior, Mr J. D. Anthony, told a Country Party dinner at Murwillumbah, that in carrying out the proposed redistribution of Federal seats, he would make sure that fewer people were required to elect representatives in country areas than in the cities. He said, ‘Australia’s electoral system was the finest in the world but lacked territorial representation. Representation was now based on population, not area, with the result that power in Parliament was confined to the heavily populated areas’.
Mr Anthony said the task of electoral reform was probably one of his worst jobs as Minister for the Interior and one on which his political future hinged.
I think you will agree, Mr Deputy President, that what I have said is a statement of such engaging frankness that comment from me would be superfluous. But let us examine the philosophy behind Mr Anthony’s statement which must be taken as the philosophy of the Country Party at that time. He complains that representation is based on population, not area. In other words, he complains that this Parliament is elected by people, not acres. At the time he made that statement at the Country Party dinner at Muwillumbah the Liberal Party of Australia was a member of the coalition government. From his reference to territorial representation one can only come to the conclusion that he feels there are too many Liberals in the coalition. If they are elected on the basis of the population in the city areas and are not elected on the basis of acres in country areas one can only draw the conclusion that he is objecting to the number of Liberal members in the coalition. Yet we have heard Senator Withers, a Liberal, supported by other Liberals on the Opposition front bench, saying that the Opposition will reject this proposal, one which they know is in keeping with their own political philosophy on electoral reform. One never ceases to wonder what pressure there is on the Liberal Party or what the Country Party has over the Liberal Party so that it is not game to stand on its own feet and give expression to its own feelings in this place.
We on this side all know, and I believe all on the other side know, that territorial representation is the direct opposite of one vote one value, the principle of this Bill we are introducing. We are introducing it because we believe in the principle of one vote one value and we believe that if it is accepted by this chamber and becomes law it will get rid of the obnoxious legislation that is now weighted in favour of the Country Party allowing voting on the basis of acres and not people. As I said at the outset, for the benefit of new senators in this chamber we will place before them four or five reasons why the Government is proceeding with these proposals. Reference was made earlier by a senator to a report of the Joint Committee on Constitutional Review which gave great attention to these matters. The Joint Committee on Constitutional Review was formed on 24 May 1956 and was composed of some of the most distinguished members of both Houses of Parliament. It made an in-depth study of electoral and other constitutional matters affecting the Commonwealth. Its considerations extended over a period of 3 years and it finally brought in its report on 1 October 1958.
Before I proceed to tell honourable senators of some of its findings, I think it would be opportune to acquaint the new senators of the people who comprised this committee. Its members included Sir Neil O’sullivan, who was the Attorney-General in this Parliament before he retired; Senator Wright, who is still with us but not with us on this vote; Senator McKenna; Senator Kennelly; Mr Drummond, the then member for New England and a distinguished member of the Parliament-
– A Country Party man.
– Yes, a Country Party member. The Committee also included Mr Hamilton, the then member for Canning and a distinguished member of the Parliament and a Country Party man also; Mr Downer, a former Minister and a former Australian High Commissioner; Mr Joske, who later became Mr Justice Joske; Mr Whitiam, now Prime Minister of Australia; Mr Ward; Mr Pollard; Mr Calwell. There were 2 Country Party members, 4 Liberals, all of whom were lawyers, 6 Labor men, of whom two were lawyers, and four were former
Ministers of the Crown. This Committee agreed unanimously- and all of its members, including Senator Wright, were signatories to its conclusions- to support the principle of one vote one value.
The Committee came to this conclusion after examining 7 previous redistributions in the history of the Federal Parliament. But the important thing is that not only did it support the principle of one vote one value but it also supported the reduction of the quota from one-fifth to onetenth. So strongly did the Committee feel about the matter that its members did not suggest that there should be a mere alteration to the Commonwealth Electoral Act. They felt so strongly about the matter that they considered these principles should be enshrined in the Constitution of this country. So what the Labor Party and the Labor Government is proposing today is what was contained in a report prepared by an allparty committee- the Country Party, Liberal Party and Labor Party- which made unanimous decisions in 1958. If the new senators want some more opinions on these proposals that are before us they may be interested to note some very revealing cases on the same subject heard in the high courts of some other countries. I heard, and I feel I heard him correctly, Senator DrakeBrockman say that these electoral reforms are not sought in other countries. I believe that they are because in the Supreme Court of the United States of America in the case of Gray v. Sanders in March 1963, the majority opinion said:
The idea that every voter is equal to every other voter in his State, when he casts his ballot in favour of one of several competing candidates, underlies many of our decisions.
It continued: and once the class of voters is chosen and their qualifications specified, we see no constitutional way by which equality of voting may be evaded.
In the High Court of Ireland, the judgment of Mr Justice Budd in the case of O ‘Donovan v. the Attorney-General in February 1961 stated:
A democratic State is one where government by the people prevails. In modern usage of the words I believe it correct to say a ‘democratic State’ denotes one in which all citizens have equal political rights. The equality is not maintained if the vote of a person in one part of the country has a greater effect in securing parliamentary representation than the vote of a person in another part of the country.
Again in the United States Supreme Court in June 1964 in the case of Reynolds v. Sims, the Chief Justice in delivering the opinion of the Court said:
Wesberry clearly established that the fundamental principle of representative government in this country is one of equal representation for equal numbers of people without regard to race, sex, economic status, or place or residence within a State. Legislators represent people not trees or acres.
So there it is. lt is not only a suggestion that has been advanced by the Australian Labor Party in government but also is the thinking, and the intelligent thinking, of the members who comprise the joint Committee on Constitutional Review. It also is the basis of the 3 judicial opinions of the eminent judges of the highest courts of the United States and Ireland. Of course we know that they all can be pious conclusions but we on this side of the chamber are nevertheless not deterred. We know that what we are advancing is right in principle and is morally correct. That is why we are bringing the measures forward. With the possible exception of Tasmania, which has 5 Federal electorates from which 7 State members are elected under the Hare-Clark system, it can be correctly said that all States have been notorious for their gerrymanders. Senator Steele Hall took the lid off and told us what used to happen in South Australia when a Liberal-Country Party Government was in office.
For the benefit of the uninitiated who do not know what happens in Queensland under a Liberal-Country Party regime, I will very quickly give some statistics of the last election held in that State in 1972. The Australian Labor Party polled 430,476 votes or received 48 per cent of the votes for 33 seats. The Liberal Party polled 2 10,608 votes or 22.2 per cent of the votes for 2 1 seats. The Australian Country Party polled 181,288 votes or 20 per cent of the votes for 26 seats. The combination of the Liberal Party and Country Party coalition votes represented 42.2 per cent of the vote for 47 seats. The Australian Labor Party received 48 per cent of the vote for 33 seats. I think those figures are worth repeating. The coalition Government in Queensland received 42.2 per cent of the votes for 47 seats and the Australian Labor Party received 48 per cent of the votes for 33 seats. In other words, it took 13,000 electors to elect an Australian Labor Party member and 6,500 electors to elect a Country Party member.
Mr President, I note that there are other speakers who want to make a contribution in this debate and I have had an opportunity previously to make a contribution. I believe that the measures that are being brought forward by the Government are sound and that they are worthy of the support of all honourable senators. They are not just imaginative measures introduced by the Australian Labor Party; they are measures that have been advocated by the Joint Committee on Constitutional Review and are supported by judicial opinion throughout other lands.
In conclusion I appeal to honourable senators, particularly the new senators who sought the opportunity to have this debate on electoral matters, to do the right thing. I appeal to them to weigh up the matters carefully in their minds and to think them over. If they do that, I know that as common sense and intelligent senators they will come down on the side of the Government in these measures.
– I desire to make a short contribution to the debate on the Commonwealth Electoral Bill (No. 2) 1973. Even though there has been a double dissolution of the Parliament and it has been claimed that the Government has some sort of a mandate to have this Bill passed, my opinion has not changed. The 20 per cent tolerance above or below the quotas for electorates of the House of Representatives of which mention has been made has been in operation since Federation- a period of over 70 years. It has not caused any great difficulties and it has not, to my way of thinking, caused any great injustices, as has been claimed by some of the speakers in the debate. It is proposed in this Bill to vary section 25 (2) (b) of the principal Act to provide that a redistribution may be directed whenever in one-fourth of the divisions of a State the number of electors differs from the quota by one-tenth, in lieu of one-fifth. At the rate our population trends change with patterns of growth in this country, we could have a redistribution in some States every 3 years, if the term of the Parliament runs that long. People would be very confused. They would not know which electorate they were in and they would not know who was their Federal member of Parliament. It would cost a lot of money and make for a lot of extra work.
I would like to refer briefly to the position in the United Kingdom. We have heard the United Kingdom Parliament quoted as the Mother of Parliaments. Most democratic parliamentary institutions throughout the world are more or less patterned on the Westminster system in Great Britain. But what is the position in regard to electoral distribution at Westminster? Under the House of Commons (Redistribution of Seats) Act of 1958 the constituency boundaries must be revised at intervals of not less than 7 years and not more than 15 years. There are some inequalities in the distribution but these are accepted as being fair since to change them would mean ignoring some of the natural unities of towns or cities or of areas unified by easy communications. In an electoral system where there are only single member constituencies these kinds of inequalities must be expected.
I have here the complete list of electorates in the UK and the enrolments in those electorates. I would like to cite some of them. This is the latest list, taken from Whitaker’s Almanac of 1974. The electorate of Ladywood has an enrolment of 18,884 persons; the electorate of Glasgow Central has enrolment of 20,309 persons; the electorate of Bedford South has an enrolment of 101,942 persons; and the electorate of Epping in Essex has an enrolment of 1 1 6,354 persons. So that is the pattern of democracy set by the Mother of Parliaments, which retains the principle of one vote, one value. It seems to be able to get away with such differences in the size of electorates. There are many electorates which have 30,000 voters and a few which have over 90,000 or 100,000 voters. I would like to cite the position in Canada. It has been given to us previously. The Minister for Services and Property (Mr Daly) went over there to look at the Canadian electoral system. He came back to Australia very enthusiastic about the Canadian system. Let me give the latest electoral enrolments in Canada; I presume that they are figures upon which the last election was fought. The electorate Laprairie in Quebec had an enrolment of 59,73 1 voters. The electorate of Dallard in Quebec had 59,219 voters. The electorate of Etobicoke in metropolitan Toronto had an enrolment of 71,562 voters. The electorate of York Scarborough had an enrolment of 79,786 voters. The we come to some other electorates such as Meadow Lake in Saskatchewan, with 25,700 electorates, Cor.degan on Prince Edward Island with 12,810 electors and another electorate in New Brunswick with 24,1 13 electors. Government senators speak of one vote one value. But the member for the Yukon in the Canadian Parliament has 7,559 electors on his roll and the member for the Northwest Territories has 13,807 electors. Is our system in Australia terribly wrong compared with those systems?
– Would you agree that that does not make our system right?
– I suggest that reducing the permissible variation in electorates from 20 per cent to 10 per cent is very unfair and will prove to be quite unworkable because of the enormous redistribution, the enormous changes that will have to be made in the electoral system and the great cost involved.
I would also like to draw attention to some of the remarks of previous speakers. They have mentioned the principle of one vote, one value quite often. The principle of one vote, one value could at the best apply only to the House of
Representatives if it could be brought into operation. Our founding fathers in Australia saw to it that the Senate had an equal number of senators from each State. Indeed, the value of a vote cast in Tasmania is worth more than the value of a vote cast in say, New South Wales-
– Not to the people of Tasmania.
– I do not know what the people of Tasmania think, but Tasmania came into the Federation only because of this protection to save it being swamped by sheer weight of numbers of the larger States. Is it not logical to apply this argument to the less populous areas of the States- the areas further away from the big centres of population? I refer also to some of the statements made in the Senate by Senator Steele Hall. He represents a State that has about half the voting strength of New South Wales or Victoria. Did he complain about that? Did he say that to be elected he should require as many votes as are required in New South Wales or Victoria to elect a senator? No. He was elected from South Australia with fewer than half the voting strength of New South Wales or Victoria.
– But the people of South Australia had an equal opportunity surely.
– Well, why not be consistent? To cite the United States situation which has been mentioned several times by other honourable senators, the United States House of Representatives is elected by a quota system as nearly as possible equal in each State but the Senate has 2 senators from every State. Thus the State of Alaska has the same say in the United States Senate as the more populous States of California, New York State and others. The Hawaiian Islands also have 2 senators. I would like to refer also to the criticism that has been levelled at Queensland by several honourable senators and, more recently, by Senator McAuliffe. I can remember that the Labor Government not long ago when it was last in power in Queensland had a redistribution in which it gave considerable preference to the areas in the western part of the State. There were 10 seats of which the Labor Government held 9 with an enrolment of 4,000 voters.
– You never said that when ex-Senator Gair was here.
– I did say it when he was here. Anyway, that Government had about 30 seats with an enrolment of 7,000 each in our State and 30 more in the Brisbane metropolitan area with an enrolment of 12,000 each. Is that not the principle that we are trying to support now, with a bigger tolerance for the less favoured areas of the State? This would enable people to have access to their member and to enable the member to service his electorate much more easily. He would not have to travel so much and would be able to visit the various parts of his electorate more often? If we get to this stage, which we suggest the Government is supporting, of every electorate having nearly the same number of electors, we will have the spectacle of many Australian electorates becoming like Kalgoorlie and covering the great bulk of the area of the State. No member can adequately represent such an area. It has been said that cows and trees are being represented. That is not the case. I think that we should stick to the 20 per cent tolerance- I am supporting that principle- and continue to have redistributions as we have had in the past. I am opposing this Bill, as I did before and I have stated my reasons. I hope that a majority of honourable senators will oppose it on this occasion.
– Firstly, if I may, I would like to congratulate those new senators who have made their maiden speech. This is the first time I have spoken since many of them have made their speeches and I would like to say that I was very impressed by many of them from both sides of the House. I would like also to say something very briefly about my general attitude in this Senate, if the Senate will bear with me. While I do not regard the Government’s small winning margin in the House of Representatives as constituting a very firm mandate, it remains true -
– It was 200,000 votes.
Senator TOWNLEY If the honourable senator would be quiet and not get his feathers ruffled quite so often he might learn and not lay so many eggs. It remains true that the Whitlam Government is charged with the same executive responsibility as it had before the election. To oppose its legislation just for opposition’s sake would, I believe, be to act irresponsibly. The Bill that we are dealing with tonight is of course the Commonwealth Electoral Bill (No. 2) 1973. Mr Daly, the Minister for Services and Property, when introducing the Bill in the other place on 10 July said:
The Australian Labor Government is more determined than ever to ensure that the permissible variation in numbers of electors between electorates which is presently allowed should not be permitted to remain in force.
I wondered when I read that why the Minister should be more determined than ever. I have always been a little bit suspicious of any government that would take the opportunity of using its brute force of numbers to force something through rather than use persuasion to sway this House. Mr Daly also said on that same day:
The essential purpose of the Bill is to ensure that a greater degree of equity is introduced into and retained in the Australian electoral system.
I am not sure that this will be the effect of the Bill. Let us have a look at what the likely outcome of this Bill will be. What have we seen so far? In the last 18 months we saw a redistribution in Western Australia, which was due following the last census. We also saw a redistribution in the Australian Capital Territory. Both resulted in a win for the Government. It won 2 extra seats and almost won another in Western Australian when a Mr Reece was nearly elected to the House of Representatives. Perhaps this is why Mr Daly sees the urgent need to alter the system. One Labor member of this place has already said to me that he does not think that this Parliament will go its full term, and at times I am inclined to agree with him. But perhaps the Government wants to alter the system so that if there is a swing against it in the next few months any redistribution will favour it and make it a little easier for it to get back into office. Senator Mulvihill said a little while ago that this is a normal adjustment. I do not see that it is a normal adjustment at this stage. History shows that there is no need yet for a redistribution. A redistribution is due, I think, in a couple of years if it follows the usual 10-year pattern. Admittedly we now have a 5-year census. Perhaps therefore we should have a major redistribution every 10 years and a minor one in the States that require it every 5 years. If this Bill is passed I think we will see 2 things. I think we will see, firstly, a need for a redistribution every 3 years. The effect of this first trick, which is what I would call this Bill, I think, will be that Labor will be in office for at least another 12 years. Although a Labor senator interjects ‘Hear, hear’ to that, and I am sure that they all would say it -
– We are all decent chaps.
-It was not you, Senator Mulvihill; you have had your mention. This Bill, I feel, is being introduced for selfish party motives which will lead to a possible gerrymander that can be arranged every 3 years.
– That was thoroughly unchristian of you to say that, senator.
-That is the honourable senator’s judgment. I have not been really in accord with some of the honourable senator’s judgments over the last few weeks, either. Now we get onto whether the Government has a mandate to do this. At the last election the Government’s share of the vote for the House of Representatives election fell and its majority in that House was reduced in spite of the fact that it won extra seats in the Australian Capital Territory and Western Australia. It did not win control of the Senate in spite of one of the senators opposite having promised all sorts of ministerial jobs and such saying that Labor would win 6 Senate seats in Tasmania and all this rubbish.
- Mr Killen said: We did not lose, they won.
-I am not saying that one party did not lose. I am saying that the Labor Party did not win and it lost four out of four referendum questions.
– Deal in facts.
– I am dealing in facts. The Government put up 4 referendum questions last time and it lost the four of them. It could not have done better if it had been trying. Let us talk about what would happen if this Bill were put up at a referendum. I know what would happen to it. The people of Australia would kick it out on its ear. Senator Mcintosh is interjecting. He has not been here long enough to interrupt.
– I can still interrupt.
-I know, but I cannot understand you.
– He did not sit here for 1 8 months without speaking like you did.
-I will never be able to understand you.
– Order! The honourable senator will address the Chair.
– I am sorry, Mr President. I am being distracted by the honourable senators around me. We have dealt with what would happen if this Bill were put to the people at a referendum. But what would happen if this Bill were passed? I would say that this would be only the first one of the tricks that the Labor Party would bring along. I think the next one would be optional preferential voting for the House of Representatives. Then, perhaps, there would be first past the post voting and I would not then be surprised to see the Government try to bring in legislation so that taxpayers’ money could pay for election expenses which we all know are getting more and more expensive.
– We all do not have a chain of chemist shops.
-No, neither have I, unfortunately.
– Legend has it that you have several.
-Well, several is not a chain. How many links are needed for a chain?
– It makes you independent of your parliamentary salary.
Senator TOWNLEY I beg your pardon.
– If you want to argue about members’ election expenses, Senator, look at it through your own eyes.
-Thank you, Mr President. I would love to have answered Senator Mulvihill even though he has had his turn but we have only a moment or two before the suspension of the sitting for dinner and I would like to finish by then. I think that no government would attempt to alter the electoral system unless the alteration were going to tend to keep it in office. No party will change the electoral system unless the change makes its chance of winning better, particularly when it is not called for.
I am against gradual changes that keep a socialist government in power. I am against the way this Government is calling these things ‘electoral reforms’. I do not think they are reforms; I think they are electoral gerrymanders. I will not vote to help keep the Government in power at a time when it is not necessary to have a redistribution. Therefore, I will vote against the Bill.
-We have heard quite a lot of debate in regard to this particular piece of legislation. I feel that it is a type of legislation which should be opposed. It is not being opposed because of any indoctrination that has come to me through the Legislative Council of South Australia. I would not know very much about that particular chamber. I am surprised that Senator Hall thinks that the South Australian Legislative Council has such an influence beyond his own State. I oppose the Bill because I believe that the Government is introducing it, not on the basis of the high sounding phrases that have been given to us but, as Senator Townley has said, in order to dig itself into office for a longer period.
As one who has been round about the political field for quite a long time it is no insult to say that parties, when in office, try to keep themselves in office for a longer period. No party, despite what has been said about other States, did more to try to achieve this in the way of gerrymanders than did the Queensland Labor Government. The
Queensland Labor Government set this example in no uncertain terms. Senator Lawrie mentioned 10 seats on the western boundary which had about 4,000 voters to each electorate.
- Sir Thomas Playford was not bad in South Australia either.
-He may not have been bad, Senator Brown, but this example was set before Thomas Playford came into the political situation. Therefore I think that anybody who is fair will say that the Queensland Labor Government was one which set the example.
Sitting suspended from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.
-Mr President, before the suspension of the sitting I was speaking on the Commonwealth Electoral Bill. I had remarked that it was suggested that we on the Opposition side had no doubt been tainted or affected by the Legislative Council of South Australia. With all due respect to my colleague from South Australia, Senator Davidson, who is sitting beside me, those of us who come from Queensland would not know much about the Legislative Council in South Australia. I think that honourable senators must give due regard to the importance of these various areas of politics.
I also mentioned that there was a suggestion about gerrymanders. It was suggested that the reason why we support the retention of the 20 per cent allowance in the division of electorates is because of a gerrymander idea that we have. I pointed out that from my experience in public life I believed that the champions of gerrymanders came from my own State of Queensland when a Labor government was in office for a very long period. I illustrated that by giving the classic example of the 10 seats in western Queensland which the Labor government created not with the idea of giving that area greater representation but because it had a remarkable leaning towards Labor. If 1 remember correctly, the people in all 10 seats returned Labor parliamentarians. Of course, we have received some advice in this chamber. The newly elected Senator Hall has more or less told us that we on this side of the chamber do not know very much about political matters and political thinking and that we are all astray.
– He is more than a senator; he is also a former Premier of a State.
-I know that he is a former Premier, but that does not mean that he has a complete monopoly on political nous and political thinking. I listened to the reprimand that he gave us- not that he has heard everybody on this side of the chamber speak on this matter. If Senator Hall takes the view that this Bill has been introduced with the highest idealistic political intentions, it might well be said that he is a little bit naive because with all due respect -
– What a shocking thing to say.
– Of course it is a shocking thing to say. Honourable senators opposite think that most things we say in politics are shocking, but when we say those things it is often a case of rocking the boat on the Government side. But really one has to have a little bit more political nous than to suggest that there was an idealistic intention in introducing this Bill. We have to admit that when parties get into Government their aim is to keep themselves in Government for as long as possible. I do not think that there is any lack of intention in that direction on the part of the present Government. I regard the Minister for Services and Property (Mr Daly) as a very good Minister and I think that he carries out his duties in a very capable manner, but I do not think that if he were to speak from his heart he would argue with you if you said that he was what is termed a ‘numbers’ man. There is no question about that. What he said about this legislation giving the Country Party a few headaches or heartaches was an indication of his intention in this regard. Therefore, I believe that we have to look at this question in a deeper way than the way in which it has been presented to us by some parliamentarians who would like to see the present electoral situation changed.
Senator Hall also mentioned that we went to an election and that the people returned the Government with this mandate, or whatever it is termed. It is true that the people returned the Government, but the election that took place was an election for both Houses of the Parliament, not for one House of the Parliament. The Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) himself requested the double dissolution. I think we have to recognise that this chamber operates not in a spirit of obstruction but in a spirit of what the Senate is here for. The people of this Commonwealth elected this chamber, and the Government did not get a majority in the Senate. The people who vote for members of the Senate are the same people who vote for members of the House of Representatives. As the parties in the Senate have been returned evenly divided, no one can say that this chamber has been told by the public that they want it to pass these Bills, nor can it be said that this chamber is offering undue obstruction if it persists with or believes that a certain stand should be taken on this Commonwealth Electoral Bill. I know that a lot has been said about mandates and policies. I will not mention the name of the person concerned, but I had a talk with a very intelligent and learned person from the Government side after the 1972 election and -
– It could have been any one of 29.
– With all due respect, I think that there are some very capable senators on the Government side. I spoke to this particular gentleman about the 1972 policy of the Labor Party. I have had arguments about this matter with members of my own Party and with many other people. The trouble is that too few of our parliamentarians are down to earth and talk to the people. I asked this gentleman whether he could tell me the main points of the 1972 policy put forward by the Prime Minister. If I remember rightly, more than 100 points of policy were put forward. After scratching his head he looked embarrassed and said: ‘As a matter of fact, I cannot tell you ‘.
– You are a great fan of the Prime Minister.
– This is not against the Prime Minister. It is a question of how the public view these things. I have talked to people after policy speeches have been given by leaders not only on the Government side but also on my side. I have asked them: ‘What part of the policy do you remember’? Other than those who have a specific interest in politics, mostly people cannot tell you what part of a policy they remember. Can anybody tell me that the Bill that is before us tonight and the rest of the Bills in respect of which the Prime Minister sought a double dissolution were issues in the last election? Of course they were not. Who talked about them? The situation arose as a result of the Senate intending to disallow a money Bill because of the Gair episode. Then it shifted to the granting of a double dissolution on the ground that the Senate had rejected these Bills. Was the Gair affair talked about much during the election campaign? Were these Bills talked about much during the election campaign? Of course they were not. Actually, our side of politics made inflation the issue, and this question was later taken up by the Government. Inflation was the great issue in the election. What I am trying to say is that it is about time that we learned a little more about what the people think. The average person in the community could not tell you much about these Bills or about what is contained in policy speeches.
People make up their minds on general factors in party politics. People say: ‘You are a good chap’, or they like your Party, or something like that. What we have to remember is that the Australian electorate is not a greatly sophisticated electorate. The people are simple in their political thinking. It is unfortunate that most people do not take a closer interest in political matters.
Therefore, under these circumstances I have no hesitation in looking at this Bill in the same way as I looked at it previously. The composition of the Senate is exactly the same as it was before the election in that the Government has not got a majority in this chamber. Then I am entitled to ask: ‘Is this Bill what I think it should be from the electoral distribution point of view’? If I think it is not, then I should say so. It is not a matter of obstruction; it is a matter of thinking. As regards the distribution of electorates represented in the other chamber, I make no bones about saying that it is not just a matter of the number of electorates; it is not just a matter of one vote one value; it is a matter of taking the amalgamation effect of the electorates of this Commonwealth. I believe it is not just individuals that should be counted. Various factors need to be considered. As a consequence, our electorates should be made up in such a way that they represent not only the interests of the various people but also the effect of the various industries in them, so that there is an affinity of interest between the electors, the electorate and the industries concerned.
Consider my own State of Queensland. It is a large State and we know in it are certain areas that have an intense interest in one industry. In another area, as Senator McAuliffe, a fellow Queenslander would know, there is a completely different outlook as far as industry is concerned. In designating those electorates it is not just a matter of considering equal numbers of people; it is the people associated with those industries and their livelihood. We have to recognise the fact that industries in country areas do not, in the main, create the density of population that you get in the cities where industries are more particularly of the manufacturing type. I do not believe that any electoral system should be devised in such a way that the people of the large capital cities dominate the political thinking in our parliamentary chambers and more or less push other areas, such as primary areas, into the position of having practically no voice in our Parliament.
Primary industries can be, and have been, of vital value to this country. In days gone by we fought to earn enough oversea credits. One of the very great difficulties facing us was to have enough overseas credits. It is the same as an individual who does not earn enough to pay his or her way. This country has to earn enough overseas in order to pay for the things we want to buy from overseas. Primary industries have played a very important part and are still doing so. I refer not only to our rural and agricultural primary industries, the growing of crops and livestock, but also to mining which has done a remarkable job in helping to build up overseas credits for this country. If it were not for our rural industry and our mining industry I think that this country would be in a very difficult position.
Therefore anybody who has a fair mind about representation in this Parliament should realise that despite the sparsity of population in some areas the people living there should have some weighting in their favour in electing people to this Parliament. If that is not done we will find, as I said before, that the great concentration of population in particular the large capital cities will mean that people in country areas will hardly have a voice in this Parliament. I do not think that any honourable senator, considering this matter in a fair minded manner, would feel that it would be right for people in our country areas not to have such a voice. I am sure that any of us who were associated with some industry that had no chance of representation in this Parliament would feel the same way.
Phrases like ‘one man one vote ‘ sound good. It can be said that they are the ideal but you can never get the ideal. The Government could set out the electorates tomorrow in such a way as to represent one man one vote. If it could be made perfect, the Government would do so but it would not be very long before the expiration of the 3 years that honourable senators on the Government side are talking about and that redistribution would have lost its effect because of the changes that take place in the distribution of our population. We have to recognise that the principle of one man one vote is one of the dreams that you cannot hold to all the time.
I want to demonstrate to honourable senators that the Government does not believe that what is represented in this Bill is the perfect thing so far as electorates are concerned. I refer to the referendum which this Government put to the people. By that referendum the Government wanted to bring in not just the electors but everybody who lived in the electorates- man, woman and child, whether voters or not. That was what was put before the people. We realise that the Government, in bringing this legislation forward, is moving half way towards what it wants but it would have preferred to go much further the other way and to have everybody, adults and children, counted in the electorates. When you consider this matter clearly you find that there are very serious defects. Once again you would find a greater concentration of electorates in the capital cities. You would find a greater proportion of seats in the capital city areas with fewer voters in proportion to other areas because unquestionably they would contain more people of non-voting status than would electorates in country areas.
– Why would that happen?
– Because you get an aggregation of population there. You have more families and more migrants. You have a greater concentration of people looking for work because there are more opportunities for work in those areas. There is no question that one of the unfortunate things that has been happening in country areas is that people have been drifting from them to the cities because of the opportunities offered for work, the convenience, and so on. I think that the concentration of electoral power in the capital cities will have an increasing adverse effect on country areas. If there is not to be a fair balance in the distribution of electoral representation between country and city areas, there will be fewer voices speaking for the country and more people moving to city areas.
I feel that this Bill is not really in the true interests of this nation. The present margin in determining the size of electorates provides an opportunity for reasonable representation. I know that there is anxiety on the part of the Government to get this legislation through. I have noticed over a period of years that governments often introduce what might be called gerrymanders, things that are slightly in their favour. But things do not always turn out in the way that they are expected to do. I can remember when the change was made to provide for the members of this House to be elected by proportional representation. I think that was a very good move. However some of us are not political fools. We are not infants and we do not go around with our eyes and ears shut. We know that at that time the then Government thought that it was making this House safe for a long time for the Labor Party.
– What was it like before?
– I agree that was a very good move. It was the best thing that had happened from the point of view of this chamber. The dogs are barking and a few people are talking, but there is no question that some very decent fellows in the Labor Party felt that by bringing in proportional representation the Labor Party would remain in office in this chamber for a long time. But what happened? The whole question comes down to political thinking, a bit of political nous and a little bit of experience. We often find when these things are done that there is a surge and suddenly there is a landslide, and when landslides take place mountain tops move. Even though a government carries a gerrymander, sooner or later a crisis arises and it goes out of office.
A redistribution should be carried out on a reasonably fair basis in order to get the best possible effect. To my way of thinking, electorates based on the variation that we now have give the sparsely populated areas more chance of representation than would be the case under the system that the Government now proposes. I think that those people are deserving of consideration and that they should have in this Parliament a voice which more directly expresses their views than would be the case, in the main, if their representatives came from a greater aggregation of population and did not really convey their interests. I want to remind you, Mr President, that this Bill was not fought over during the debates before the double dissolution. It was not talked about. Under those circumstances we on this side of the Senate can be chided, I suppose, for lacking in political nous and experience. New people are inclined to lecture and so on, but I think we have a right to speak for the people who elected us. I believe that this Bill is not the right type of Bill for a redistribution of electorates. The existing system is the one that gives a reasonably fair opportunity for the people to be represented.
– What is the policy of your Party?
– My Party policy is so good, as Senator Milliner knows, that as leader of the Senate team in Queensland I was successful in having 6 senators elected.
– He voted for you.
– I am sure that he must have.
– What is your policy on this issue?
-My policy is the retention of the existing style of distribution of electors. I oppose the Bill. I have no hesitation in saying so. I do not feel that I am an obstructionist. I am expressing the views which I sincerely hold.
-The Senate is dealing with the Commonwealth Electoral Bill (No. 2) 1973. The vote on this Bill is of immense importance and will be of historical importance to the Senate. We have an indication that the sides are firmly set for this vote, and it appears that the Bill will be passed by the Senate. There is grave doubt in my mind as to whether it should be passed. I believe that several points should be made. Firstly, we are dealing with Australia’s electoral laws, something which each honourable senator would hesitate to vary. In the public mind the idea of one vote one value can generally be said to be accepted, but the words ‘one vote one value’ are one of the gimmicks which the Australian Labor Party has used to influence a great many people over the past few years about the electoral system. I mentioned that fact only because of the comment made by our former Governor-General at his farewell dinner. He raised some query about the ethics of using gimmicks such as the Labor Party has used recently. Those gimmicks were put forward by a multi-national American based advertising corporation and probably brought the worst of the American electoral system, through the Labor Party, to Australia.
The Labor Party put the proposition of one vote one value. One cannot but agree with the general principle. It sounds good. Mr Whitlam has made other comments about first past the post. That principle sounds good. To anybody who has bet on a racehorse, that principle is correct. Nevertheless, electorally, it is not correct. This year that staunch section of the Labor Party policy which, in my understanding, had been held for so many years was changed at the whim of the Prime Minister to state that we need an electoral system, which was apparently thought up by Gough Whitlam, in which electorates ought to be based on population. It is a new thought by which the Australian electorate can be made a Labor province for all time. Let us hear from the Labor Party that it was ever Labor policy. In the last 3 months the Prime Minister said that it was the ultimate for the Australian electoral system. I am pleased that no senator on either side agrees with the one vote one value principle. Even Senator Steele Hall does not agree with it. The Minister for Repatriation and Compensation (Senator Wheeldon), who is at the table, does not agree with it because he and the Labor Party now propose a 20 per cent disparity. They do not agree with the principle. They suggest that it is impossible to bring about, much as they would like to see it brought about.
They feel that the best that they can get is a 10 per cent disparity. That is the purpose of the Bill.
The electoral laws of Australia have been held to a 20 per cent disparity since 1900, but the Whitlam Government proposes to alter the laws. It says: ‘We agree with one vote one value’. It then denies that principle by saying: ‘We think that we should have a 20 per cent disparity’. That suffices for the Labor Party. The attitude of my Party has been expressed by others. I believe that statements and speeches made by Labor members contain the general principle of a right to equal representation of the constituent. As I see it, that principle is more important than saying ‘one vote one value’. I well recall, as all who have been involved in policies recall, that the variation to the quota for all electorates is a matter to be argued. I remember my wonderful father, who was a member of the Victorian Parliament, saying to me many years ago, when he was in parliament in the 1940s: ‘I remember walking with the Honourable Archie Michaelis’- who represented, I think, St Kilda. Archie Michaelis said: ‘These mothers’ clubs! I have 2 large schools in my electorate. The mothers drive me silly with the work that they require from me’. My father, who represented a large country electorate, said: ‘I can understand your problem. I have 55 schools in my electorate’. That statement highlights the need for equality of representation. Is the citizen in the country able to get access to his member of Parliament equal to the access of his city friend? Is the country member of Parliament able to get access and give representation to the constituent equally throughout the whole of the electorate if there is a one quota electorate?
-The senator from Queensland speaks incorrectly. He knows the problems in the great electorates in Queensland. In Western Australia the Labor Party held Kalgoorlie.
– What has that to do with Queensland?
-Open your mouth and you will get words out of it. The electorate of Kalgoorlie is five-sixths of Western Australia. If one asked Mr Collard whether he really believed in the proposition contained in the Bill he would honestly answer no because of the amount of work that he has to do to represent that great area of Kalgoorlie properly. Australia has fine electoral laws which have stood us in good stead and which have made us the country with the most modern electoral system. We were the first country to have secret ballots- something which the Minister may not want but something which some of us certainly feel that we would like to have. Australia has those laws.
The Labor Party’s proposal contains the possibility of a gerrymander in our Federal electoral system. I believe that there should not be a gerrymander. It has not been possible because of what has been written into our electoral laws during previous years. So we have a situation in which the fundamental right of every Australian is to have equal representation in our national Parliament. That principle can be endorsed. The distribution commissioners have been required, whilst holding to a quota, to take into account those things that made representation equal- the physical features of an electorate, the means of communication, the area of an electorate and the sparseness of population. Those things were imperative in attempting to bring about an equality of representation.
The principle of one vote one value has been put forward as a gimmick. Although that principle has been advocated by the Labor Party it does not believe in it. Indeed the Labor Party has demonstrated that it does not believe in it by saying that it thinks that there should be a 10 per cent variation either way. Once it is agreed that there should be a disparity from a quota the question arises as to what degree there should be a disparity. The degree of disparity can be open to argument. Apparently the degree of disparity in Canada is 25 per cent. The very honest Minister for Services and Property, Mr Daly- my friend Mr Daly- went to Canada recently to look at the Canadian electoral laws -
– The honourable senator is reflecting upon a Minister.
-He is a friend of mine. I have spent delightful times in the past with Mr Daly. I am not reflecting upon him, as has been suggested by the Minister for Repatriation and Compensation, who is sitting at the table. Did Mr Daly, who is the Minister in charge of Australia’s electoral laws, say shortly after his return from Canada: ‘I took myself off to Canada to have a look at its modern electoral laws and to see whether it had any laws that could apply to the Australian electoral system. I found that there was a 25 per cent disparity in Canada. I think that the Australian electoral laws should be amended to provide for a further 5 percent disparity’? No, he did not. He came back with a proposal that is only an attempt to entrench the Labor Party in office. I believe that the comments that have been made by the Labor Party about the principle of one vote one value have been made purely as a gimmick. May I say to the Minister for Repatriation and Compensation that it has been as successful as some of the other gimmicks that the Labor Party has used.
One of the important votes to be cast in this chamber will be that cast by Senator Steele Hall on this measure. I believe that I have much for which to thank Senator Steele Hall. I am certain that his support earned me the position of Chairman of Committees and I thank him publicly for it. But I am in disagreement with his views on this measure, as I am on several of the opinions that he has expressed in the 2 speeches he has made in this place. Senator Steele Hall referred to the fairness of the electoral system. He advised the Senate that at one stage, which I took to be when he was Leader of the Liberal-Country League in South Australia, he advocated at a conference- 1 noted his words today- that the size of city electorates should be perhaps double the size of country electorates and that he castigated his Party because it would not agree to that.
– Who said that?
– In his speech this afternoon Senator Steele Hall said that he had advocated that the size of country electorates should be half the size of city electorates but that the Liberal-Country League had disagreed with him and he regretted that that was so. But he has now come into the Senate and said that a Commonwealth electoral provision which allows for a 20 per cent disparity should be thrown out and replaced by a provision which allows for a 10 per cent disparity. I cannot agree with Senator Steele Hall in that respect. I do not think that the argument that he has advanced for such a proposition is a sound one. Senator Steele Hall took the Australian Country Party to task about equal representation. He is quite entitled to do that. But I take it that in mouthing the one vote one value gimmick Senator Steele Hall has apparently decided that it would be impossible to bring about a one vote one value situation. However, he will not have a 5 per cent disparity and he will not have a 7% per cent disparity. He will break the tradition of 74 years with respect to elections for the House of Representatives and agree with the Labor Party on a 10 per cent disparity. I do not feel that that is a responsible attitude in a person who claims to be more on the Liberal side in voting matters. I disagree entirely with that proposal.
Senator Steele Hall said that it is a case of under selling the people of country electorates to suggest that they should be other than entirely equal with those in city electorates and that the electorates in rural areas should be other than the same as those in city areas. I should have thought that he, as a former Premier of South Australia, would have had sufficient knowledge of some of the Federal electorates in his own State to realise that if one wants to get an equality of representation and if one is going to say that ideally there should be 60,000 or 50,000 electors in every electorate it would mean that one electorate would be half the size of South Australia and another electorate- one that is on the banks of the River Torrens- would be size of a pocket handkerchief.
There is one further comment I wish to make about Senator Steele Hall’s remarks. I listened very closely to him when he made the point that the Labor Party has the authority to pass this Bill. Senator McAuliffe, who pays close attention to what is said in this chamber, indicates that that is right. Senator Steele Hall then went on to say in his closing remarks that he did not want to be bound by his decision on this legislation to a similar decision on other legislation but that he will vote as he thinks fit. I congratulate him for saying that. But it is useless for him to say that the Labor Party has a mandate to push this Bill through this place and then to say that he feels free to vote as he wishes on certain other legislation. Senator Steele Hall must come down at this stage and say whether he thinks the Labor Party has a right to push all of the legislation to which he referred through the Upper House of this Parliament. The Senate has just been returned by a vote of the people as up to date as that applying to the House of Representatives but it is not under the control of the Labor Party. The Senate has a perfect right to reject this legislation. Senator Steele Hall must know that as well as I do. To say, as he did, that the Labor Party has the authority of the people to have this Bill passed by the Parliament is a complete renunciation of his role as an honourable senator.
I wish to draw the attention of the Senate to one other matter that I feel is important. One could be encouraged by writings in the newspapers to say, if the Opposition in the Senate were to oppose certain legislation, that it is frustrating the Government. The Labor Party has used those words to great advantage in encouraging the Press to go along with it. Of course, the Labor Party has no mandate in the Senate. It was returned to Government on a vote which did not put it in control of the Senate. That vote was taken at exactly the same time as a vote was taken for the House of Representatives. I hope that the Senate will remain in its present state for many years.
I wish to draw the attention of honourable senators to the arguments that the Labor Party put forward when it put one of its referendum proposals to the people. The Labour Party attempted in the Constitutional Alteration (Democratic Elections) Bill to mislead the people by suggesting that the referendum proposal to which it referred provided some ability for it to pass through the Parliament the type of legislation that we have in the Commonwealth Electoral Bill (No. 2). Let us examine the case for a yes vote that was prepared by the Labor Party. I do not know whether it was prepared in only 2 days, but that was the time that the Government gave the Opposition in which to prepare a case on the referendum proposals. The case for a yes vote, which was prepared by the Labor Party, stated arguments in favour of the proposed law and used words which I have attempted to use in saying what should be the basis not of a concept of one vote one value but of equality of representation, which is what we want to bring to the people. The words used were:
There is no right more fundamental than the right of every Australian to equal representation in our national and State parliaments. The questions you face are . . . Do you believe all Australians are entitled to equal representation in national and State parliaments?
What was the answer to the referendum proposal that was directly put to the people as to whether they believed in equal representation in the way in which the Labor Party had put it? It was a definite no. Is the Labor Party going to go against the wishes of the people? Is it now trying to hoodwink the people by pushing through some law at a joint sitting because it has the power to do so? The Labor Party is not only hoodwinking the people, it is also misleading them. It is attempting to fool the people by bringing down this legislation and pushing it through. At the recent referendum the people of Australia specifically rejected this question which the Labor Party posed to them: ‘Do you believe all Australians are entitled to equal representation?’ The Labor Party advised them to vote yes. The people voted no. That should be sufficient reason why this legislation should never go through this Federal Parliament. It is a matter of immense importance when the Labor Party accords the people of Australia such little intelligence that it seeks to force through the Parliament a Bill such as the one we have before us, the Commonwealth Electoral Bill (No. 2) 1973. I will have great pleasure in voting against it.
– I also rise to oppose this measure. I do so because I sense that the real difference between the Government and the Opposition is less one of principle than one of the application of a principle. I believe in the principle of one vote one value, and I always have believed in it. But one vote one value cannot operate unless it is practicable and made to work within the confines of a single member constituency. In short, where you have a number of constituencies the ultimate result in the electorate- supposing that that electorate consists of 127 electorates of a lesser number or a greater number- may lead to disparities when you take electorate by electorate. For example, the Labor Party in my own State of Victoria has a preponderance of voters in the northern and western suburbs of the metropolitan area of Melbourne. It will be found that those electorates are won handsomely with overwhelming majorities. But in the eastern and south-eastern suburbs of Melbourne, at least until recently, there was a preponderance of Liberal Party voters and those seats were won handsomely. That can lead to a distortion overall.
But the main point that we want to achieve is that there is in each electorate roughly the same number of electors. You do not want to have an enormous disparity so that in country electorates or in certain types of metropolitan electorates there is only a fraction of the number of voters which is to be found in more populous electorates. We have in Australia’s history seen that situation develop. We have not seen it develop in the Commonwealth electorates. We saw it in the State of Queensland; we saw it in the State of Western Australia; we saw it in the State of South Australia. In each case the government which lent itself to that type of practice ultimately received a verdict from the people which had, I think in each case, the effect of putting the respective party into the wilderness for a number of years. I believe it is totally unfair to apply to the Commonwealth Parliament that sort of situation and the analogies and the arguments which can apply from those State situations because we have had essentially the same fair system in the Commonwealth Parliament since the Commonwealth Electoral Act was established in 1902
What the Labor Party is now seeking to do is to remove one of the requirements which was placed in the Commonwealth Electoral Act in 1902. I believe it is unreal to remove that provision. The provision which is sought to be removed is a provision which permits the distribution commissioners when they draw the boundaries of the electorates to allow a margin of 20 per cent above or below what should be the quota of electors in every electorate within the State. That was a provision inserted in 1902. It has not operated to produce an unfair system over the past 72 years. The Labor Party seeks to remove it and to replace it with a tolerance- a permitted movement above or below the quota -of 10 per cent.
– Things have changed in 70 years, and surely 10 per cent would meet the needs of the times right now. We do not need the 20 per cent any more.
– I do not accept that proposition and I do not think the proposition could be demonstrated. After all, you could never have at any one time an exact one vote one value. There are always persons going on to the electoral role on any day of the year, and if you tried to get an absolute mathematical precision that effort would be defeated because you never could achieve it. You would likewise not be able to achieve it because you would have to draw the lines and draw the boundaries half-way down a street and alongside fences. Maybe you could not take account of the landlord-tenant licensorlicensee relationship which particular persons might have within the area. One vote one value in terms of absolute precision is unattainable. Furthermore, having regard to the movements of population which characterise any city, these movements will always be creating disparities and interfering with the basic concept. This has been allowed for in the Electoral Act from the time it was instituted.
There have always been guidelines for the commissioners as to how they should draw the boundaries. In the Act as it stands at the moment the commissioners shall have regard to the community of interests within the division, that is the electoral division, including economic, social and regional interests. It is a wide concept but it is for the commissioners themselves to apply. A second requirement is that they shall have regard to the means of communication and travel within the division with special reference to disabilities arising out of remoteness or distance. I would have thought that they were reasonable considerations to have regard to. The commissioners are to have regard to the trend of population changes within the State; they are to have regard to the density or sparsity of population of the division; they are to have regard to the area of the division; they are to have regard to the physical features of the division, and they are to have regard to the existing boundaries of divisions and sub-divisions.
When the distribution commissioners charged with the duty of drawing the boundaries have regard to all those matters, then they will necessarily place more electors in one division than they will in another. That has been demonstrated with the mass of figures which have been shown and referred to in the course of this debate. Mr Daly’s electorate of Grayndler is a striking example because when the last redistribution was drawn he had a number of electors above the quota- I forget the actual percentage but it was something like 7 per cent as I recall it-and when the 1972 election was occurring the number of electors in his electorate had fallen below the quota because there had been a movement of people out of his electorate. The distribution commissioners had endeavoured to make allowance for that and possibly the movement of population was greater in a shorter time than they had allowed for, therefore a disparity appeared.
But these are considerations which the commissioners have to bear in mind and that is why originally a 20 per cent tolerance above or below the quota was permitted. It is not a mandatory requirement. There is no obligation on the commissioners to go to the limit of the 20 per cent either way. In no case in 1968 when the last redistribution occurred did the commissioners go to the 20 per cent above or below. There were a few electorates above 10 per cent; there were a few below 20 per cent. It was obvious in each case why that quota tolerance had been permitted. In those areas where the margin was low the commissioners had regard to particular physical characteristics as statutorally they were obliged to take care of or because they recognised that there was a growing area in which population would be moving in rapidly and in no time there would be an influx of population which would bring the electors in that division up to the quota. Likewise in other electorates they appreciated that there would be a movement of population out of the electorate and therefore the numbers in the electorate would come down closer to the quota. The reason for a 20 per cent tolerance is, I think, self-evident, and the only difference that exists fundamentally between the Government and the Opposition on this issue is whether the margin above or below the quota which ought to be permitted should be 20 per cent or 10 per cent. We in the Opposition -
– Why all this woeful outburst from the Country Party corner if that is the case?
– I think Senator Georges is very unkind, because I would imagine a very clear and persuasive argument was put by Senator Webster, and I thoroughly agree with all that Senator Webster said. He made substantially the point that it is a matter of degree- and it is a matter of degree. That 20 per cent I believe permits the Distribution Commissioners to do their statutory duty with a reasonableness which allows them to take into account all their statutory obligations and which also ensures that there will not be a greater disparity between electorates occurring within a relatively short time. If there is an area of 20 per cent above or below the quota then over a greater period of time one can allow for the movements in population which will occur. On the other hand, if there is a disparity of 10 per cent above or below the quota one will not have the same opportunity to allow for the movements in population which may occur over the same period of time. Accordingly I fear that one of the consequences of a tolerance of 10 per cent above or below the quota will be that the need for a redistribution-although I do not say it will occur-will become much more readily apparent in a short period of time. If we were to endeavour to maintain the concept of one vote one value we could be, or we should be, having a redistribution every 3 years. I believe that that destroys the effectiveness of representation in single member constituencies.
The second point which I think ought to be referred to because it is the second point which is contained in the Bill is the withdrawal from the present legislation of those matters to which the Distribution Commissioners ought to have regard when drawing the boundaries. What the Labor Party is proposing is that the Distribution Commissioners shall no longer have regard to the disabilities which arise out of remoteness or distance. They shall no longer have regard to the density or sparsity of the population of the electorate. They shall no longer have regard to the area of the division.
It seems anomalous of course that approximately the whole of Western Australia, apart from the metropolitan area and its southern environments, should come within the electorate of Kalgoorlie, which comprises something like nine-tenths of the State. Maybe there is no other way in which the lines can be effectively drawn in Western Australia but the Distribution Commissioners under what Labor is now proposing will not be entitled to have regard to the area of the division or to endeavour to cut down on large areas so that members representing a constituency may have some facility in moving around their electorate. It is inevitable that there will be some large electorates in the country but it is not a specific requirement which the Distribution Commissioners are to have regard to with a view to cutting them down. Likewise it seems to me unreasonable that the Distribution Commissioners ought not be able to give what the Act now requires, special consideration to disabilities arising out of remoteness or distance.
All these are proper matters to be taken into consideration in the course of examination of this Bill and I believe that on the counts which I have mentioned the Bill seeks to impose an unreasonable and virtually an impossible standard upon the Distribution Commissioners. It is not a standard which will serve this nation and this Parliament as well as the preceding provisions have done. I said at the outset that I believed in the principle of one vote one value, and that originally was the concept which the Labor Party advanced when it introduced this measure. Some fine rhetoric was used by the Minister for Services and Property (Mr Daly) when he introduced this Bill in March 1973. He said, for example:
Free elections are basic to a democratic society. But free elections by themselves are not enough- the results must reflect the will of the majority both in individual constituencies and throughout the nation. If the electoral laws do not result in the Government desired by the majority- if they are manipulated to reflect the political interest of persons or partiesit would be a denial of the very essence of democracy and a travesty of the electoral process.
I would not disagree with those words of Mr Daly, but it is a question of what is designed to secure that result. I believe that an examination of results of elections for the Commonwealth Parliament since the Commonwealth Electoral Act was enacted in 1902 will not disclose that that standard has been departed from. The results do not disclose that there has been such a travesty of the electoral process that the will of the majority has not been recognised by the results. As one earlier speaker in this debate has indicated, it seems incongruous for the Government which has won the last 2 elections to claim that the electoral system under which it has won those elections is in some way a travesty of the electoral process. It is not a sound or constructive argument, nor does it have the element of sincerity attaching to it.
– You agree with your leader. You did not lose, you had a wonderful loss.
– All I am saying is that the Labor Party won the last 2 elections, and won them under an electoral system which it ought not to say is weighted against it, particularly since in neither case did the Labor Party secure 50 per cent of the votes. A system which operates in that way can hardly be said to be a system which operates against it or is in any way unfair. This is not the only point that may be made. Senator Webster referred to the arguments which were advanced during the course of the referendum debates. Let us not forget that at the beginning of last year the Labor Party argued for one vote one value. When the Bill was defeated it came again and argued for one vote one value. And when a referendum was put to the people of Australia it was not a referendum which sought to promote one vote one value; it sought to promote a disparity greater than exists at the present time, and the Government put forward a referendum Bill designed to ensure that the electorates would be divided on the basis of population. Under such a system we could have an electorate in which there was broadly an equality of population, but again we could have in one electorate 80,000 electors and in another electorate 30,000 or 40,000 electors. That is the antithesis of one vote one value. Yet, as Senator Webster said, the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) and spokesmen on behalf of the Labor Party went to the people and said that it was a matter of giving equal voting rights. In his national broadcast on 10 March 1974 the Prime Minister spoke these words, and they are not what the Bill which he was advancing in fact provided for.
There is nothing in the Constitution to guarantee that all Parliaments must be elected directly and democratically by the people. There is nothing to guarantee equal voting rights for all Australians. So the Government has decided, by means of these referendums, to allow the people to establish these rights once and for all.
Then there was a judgment by the Australian people who realised that what was being promised was not what the Bills contained. Fortunately they rejected what was contained in those Bills and the misrepresentation of their content by the Prime Minister. I mention these matters only to indicate what I regard as the hypocrisy and double standard of the Labor Party in its approach to this matter. When it could not get one vote one value earlier in its lifetime as a Government, it put forward a totally different proposal which the Australian people rejected. Now the Government claims to be the upholders of a one vote one value system which it was prepared to depart from when it suited its book. Is it any wonder that members of the Opposition are suspicious of the genuineness and the motives of the Australian Labor Party?
– The honourable senator is fearful of change.
-Certainly, we are fearful of a change which is designed to perpetuate in power, if the system will permit it, a government which is so devoid of principle and standards as this Government has shown itself to be. We find other arguments which are totally misleading being utilised in support of this measure. Both Mr Daly and Senator Murphy have argued that the Supreme Court of the United States of America has declared that any form of malapportionment within a State is unconstitutional under the American Constitution. I know that there has been a development of doctrine in the United States of America since the cases of Reynolds v. Sims and Westberry v. Sanders which suggests that if you do not have equal electorates you are denying to people the equal protection which the American Constitution vests in them.
But what Mr Daly and Senator Murphy ignored was the most recent decisions of the Supreme Court of the United States which had been given before these Bills were introduced in 1973. Those decisions indicated that there could be disparities- in the particular case, a disparity of 16 per cent- above or below the quota. I refer to the case of Mahan v. Howell. If anyone is interested in the source to which I am referring it is the Harvard Law Review, volume 87 of 1 973. The note of the decision states:
In Mahan v. Howell, the constitutionality of the statute redistricting the Virginia House of Delegates was challenged on the ground that it established districts with excessive population disparity. The Supreme Court, in a 5-3 decision, upheld the plan, which entailed a maximum deviation in district population of at least 16.4 percent.
The comment at the end of the article is:
The Court’s redefinition of the individual ‘s voting interest provides a means of limiting court involvement in the inherently legislative and political redistricting process to cases which threaten to divest majorities of political control.
– Is that a Supreme Court decision?
-That is a decision of the Supreme Court of the United States of America. I read again from the judgment:
Justice Rehnquist, writing for the Court, argued that prior cases condemning smaller deviations were distinguishable because they applied standards for congressional districting drawn from article I, section 2 of the Constitution. Those standards, the Court held, are inapplicable when state legislative districting is challenged under the equal protection clause. Relying on dictum in Reynolds v. Sims, the initial state legislative districting case, Justice Rehnquist found that more flexibility [is] constitutionally permissible with respect to state legislative reapportionment’ m order to enable states to pursue rational policy objectives.
It makes nonsense and more of statements consistently made by spokesmen on behalf of the Labor Party to the effect that in some way what is happening in Australia is inconsistent with what ought to be the law as disclosed by the United States Supreme Court. Let us recognise that the United States Supreme Court, applying a different constitution from that which applies in Australia has, in fact, held that a margin of at least 16 per cent is consistent with equal protection and equal rights. We have a system which claims that if a tolerance of up to 20 per cent either way is permitted, there is no interference with equal protection and equal rights. Let us have regard to the fact that in other countries in which we have accepted that there are democratic systems- countries such as Canada and the United Kingdom- there are far greater disparities in the sizes of electorates than those which exist in the Commonwealth Parliament at the present time. Let us not forget also that when the Joint Committee on Constitutional Review delivered its report in 1959, irrespective of the 10 per cent variation recommendation which members of that Committee gave at that time, the advice of those disinterested distribution commissioners- those who had experience in recommending and drawing up boundaries and managing the electoral system- was that there should be a 20 per cent tolerance. Let us never forget that it is a system which has operated in this country since 1 902 and has not denied to the majority of the people of this country the right to get the government which they choose.
So, Mr President, one looks to see what it is that has prompted the Labor Party to be more determined than ever, after having won 2 successive elections, to change the electoral system. It is not unreasonable to suppose that the change will be in that Party’s favour and that it is to the Party’s advantage that its members are seeking this change. I recall the speech of Mr Daly, the Minister for Services and Property, as he delivered it in the House of Representatives and as I have since read it when he introduced this Bill originally in March 1973. He had a tremendous time, fresh as a Minister, expatiating upon the vices of the Country Party and indicating that he now had the Party where he wanted it. His address was replete with instances of that character. He finished up by saying that he was not going to perpetuate a system which was designed simply to benefit the Country Party. We heard Senator Douglas McClelland, the Minister for the Media, only last week deliver the second reading speech in support of this Bill. He asked us to believe, in the words that he himself used, that:
The Bill is not, as it has been claimed, specifically aimed against country divisions, particularly those represented by the Australian Country Party.
No one with any sense of objectivity who read the initial second reading speech when this Bill was first introduced could believe what Senator Douglas McClelland now says. It is a Bill which is designed to settle scores for the Labor Party, to enable it to build up its strength and, if the Western Australian redistribution is any example, so to create electorates that there is a decided advantage to the Labor Party. Ultimately, of course, whether that happens depends upon the distribution commissioners and upon the reactions of the Houses of Parliament to the boundaries which have been drawn. That, as so many speakers have said, is a matter to be examined when the distribution commissioners produce their material to the Parliament. I rose to speak to this legislation tonight for the first time on the 3 occasions that it has been before the Parliament to express a point of view which I believe ought to be expressed and to expose the double standards of a Labor Party which is not prepared to maintain a consistent line and which ought to be condemned. This Bill, far from improving the electoral process and far from improving the fairness of that process, is more than likely going to create an element of unfairness which has never before characterised the electoral system under which members of the House of Representatives have been elected.
– I had not intended to enter the debate on the Commonwealth Electoral Bill (No. 2) 1 973. 1 have no intention now to cover the whole Bill. But some points have been raised in the debate by Labor Party speakers to which I am obliged to refer. Senator McAuliffe in particular referred to the unanimous recommendation of the Joint Committee on Constitutional Review to incorporate into the Constitution a provision for electoral law with a limit of 10 per cent variation in the quota. It should be known that there were various matters contained in that report, some of which went so far that I felt obliged to dissent from them. I agreed upon this recommendation because I do not profess to have an intense interest in it or an understanding of it. I was prepared to compromise this proposition if, as was the view of eleven out of twelve of the members of the committee that the whole industrial law should be conceded to the central Parliament. I believe that if the industrial law of this country had ceased to be divided between the State and Federal governments years ago, our industrial situation would be ever so much improved. We were a compromising Committee. All sides of the Parliament were represented on it. Our purpose was to get the maximum area of agreement. I think it is necessary for the record to put that recommendation in its proper focus.
While I am on my feet I wish to take the opportunity of congratulating Senator Webster for the speech of clarity and fact that he made tonight. I wish to make the point also that if there is a senator in this Parliament who spoke in the debate- he is not here now- and who cannot see that from the point of view of effective parliamentary representation the size of an electorate, be it 400 square miles or 4 square miles, is a factor to be taken into account in considering the genuiness of the fact of representation, then I lament. I just think we should be sorry that there is a senator who does not recognise that the factors of distance and area of representation deny to the outback people, with long distances to traverse, the same degree of representation as is enjoyed by a city dweller in a confined city block. That of itself shows the falsity of the idea that arithmetically one vote should be considered as of one value for the purpose of making quotas exactly equal. But the honourable senator I mentioned went on to deny the propriety of those on this side of the Senate expressing the opinion of this side on these matters. Taking that fundamental fallacy, that speech by Senator Steele Hall, who has just returned to the chamber, entirely ignored consideration or understanding of the fact that at the last election the Government put forward a referendum not for one vote one value but for electorates to be divided according to quotas of population including qualified electors and unqualified electors. I would have thought that was like putting poison into wine if one were drinking at the fountain of the dogma of one vote one value. I suppose that Senator Steele Hall treated his electors to a discussion of that referendum. The referendum was defeated, and the Labor Government, which at one time espoused the principle of one vote one value and which at the election espoused the cause of electorates equal in population, was defeated in the Senate where Senator Steele Hall and I have our responsibilities to cast our vote. I did not come here to desert the people who gave the vote negativing that referendum and who refused to give the Government which put forward that referendum a majority in this chamber. 1, having for 25 years stood for the rights of this Senate and for the authority of this Senate, weep to think that we have an outlook that says that defensive principles in those circumstances are denying the right of the Government to the absolute passage of this Bill, it having been defeated at the referendum and the Government having been denied a majority in this chamber.
Anybody who is true to the cause that he put forward to the electors opposing that referendum and denying the Government a majority in this chamber is bound, I submit, to cast his vote against this Bill, not in a spirit of obstruction but from the point of view of registering the principle upon which stand the rights of those people who voted for the senators who are not of the Government Party. For these reasons I join with the others on this side of the House who have spoken so ably in opposition to the Bill.
– in replySenator Wright closed by saying that other honourable senators had spoken ably on this Bill. They should have done so; they have had 3 opportunities to practise and they have said the same thing over and over again. This Bill has now been put up for debate 6 times in this Parliament- 3 times in another place and 3 times here. As I say, members of the Opposition have had plenty of practice. They have said the same thing each time, so they ought to be getting good at it. The Bill that we are debating is based on the question of whether there should be a tolerance of 20 per cent or 10 per cent and the other things that follow, including how the numbers should be distributed and the instructions to be given to the electoral officer. Senator Greenwood went through those considerations very well.
The 20 per cent variation came in first in 1902 when there were 4 million Australians, when 1 8- year - olds did not have the vote, when we did not have telecommunications or communications by road, rail and air and that sort of thing that we have today. Today we have a vastly different situation. The argument against the BUI seems to me to waffle. Honourable senators opposite have not quite made up their minds why it is that somebody in the country doing exactly the same work as somebody in the city is doing should have a vote which is two, three or four times the value of the person in the city. Firstly, honourable senators in the Australian Country Party, if I can define this, seem to say that country people are better citizens and that they ought to get this sort of arrangement. On the other hand, Senator Wright went closer to saying, evidently, that the member of Parliament should be in closer contact with his electors and the electors in closer contact with him. That argument, I think, would have been valid in 1902. 1 do not think it is valid today. Anybody with a grievance or with a genuine reason for approaching his member of Parliament can surely get in touch with him more conveniently now, because of the differences in communication, than he could during the first decade of the century.
Senator Wood made the point that this was not really an issue at the election, that the people had voted on all sorts or things-whether they liked the colour of one’s tie or eyes or something like that. However, I do not think that Senator Wood would argue that this Bill was not pretty well thrashed out prior to and during the election. This, after all, was one of the 6 Bills on which the Governor-General gave the double dissolution to the Australian people. This is one of the Bills and others are associated with it. So I do not think anyone can really argue that this was not in the consciousness of the Australian people and that they did not vote quite clearly on this issue.
The other argument that I have detected coming through, and I should say that I have detected it before in the debates, was that this would produce a situation where we would have frequent redistributions. What is wrong with that if it is going to give justice, if it is to keep as near as possible to one vote one value, to result in electorates of equal number? I do not know how people are going to vote, but I do not think that we want to get back to the situation that existed prior to the 1968 redistribution where in one State alone- Victoria- the seat of Melbourne had 31,000 electors and the seat of Bruce 130,000 electors. It seems to me that that sort of argument suggests that we ought to have more frequent redistributions than we have under the present system.
I do not intend to speak for very long because, as I say, I would be doing what everybody else has done- reiterating and going back over old ground. This is a very clear situation which has been put before the Australian people. If the Opposition, as I have said, is going to vote against it I think that the sooner we have a vote the sooner we can carry out the rest of the constitutional processes to resolve this after our masters, the people, have spoken. It should be done quickly.
I regret very much the remarks of the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Withers) when he referred to the seat of Stirling in Western Australia, the election for which resulted in a very close vote. He said there were fascinating errors in such a close election. That is a very clear smear against the civil servants who were counting the votes and who, as far as I have seen them over the years I have been associated with them, no matter how they themselves might have voted, have been devoted civil servants. I think that on reflection the honourable senator would regret what he said. He shakes his head and says that he does not regret it. I regret it very much. I condemn his saying it. It is a cowardly attack because the people against whom the attack was made cannot answer for themselves. It is a smear to say that because the 2 errors were made they are fascinating errors in such a close election.
– It is a matter to which attention should be drawn.
-I do not think it should be drawn in such a manner as to suggest that at least there could have been corruption or that there could have been a deliberate error.
– It was drawn in a most delicate manner.
– I ask honourable senators to judge whether that is so when it was said that the 2 errors were fascinating errors in such a close election. I leave it to any fair minded person to make up his mind what he thinks about it. It is character assassination. I believe that members of Parliament should be very careful about attacking people who cannot reply- and civil servants are in that unenviable position.
The whole of this argument relates to whether there should be some electoral advantage to somebody. Senator Wood rather contradicted this when he pointed to the tremendous swings that occur in the Australian electorate. We have seen such swings in some seats even in the recent election. They have occurred in years including 1943, 1949, 1961 and 1972. There are tremendous swings. There is no such thing as putting a fence around yourself and saying: ‘This is my seat forever’. I know that parliamentarians are very optimistic people. I have associated with them for a long time. A lot of those optimists are now outside the Parliament looking in because they thought that they were in seats from which they could never be shifted. I do not know, and I do not believe anybody else knows, how a person will vote. It does not matter whether they vote in an electorate which has one vote one value or whether their vote is worth 5 times that of somebody else. It is for the individual himself to say whether the Labor Party, the Liberal Party or the Country Party will benefit. It is sheer fantasy for anyone to say that they know how a person will vote. They do not know.
We are trying to write into legislation some fair system that could be stood before the bar of world opinion. We often talk very glibly about some of the more unfortunate countries and we talk about the corruption that is rife in their daily life. It is corruption in high places when governments gerrymander a system to keep themselves in government. That is corruption with the backing of a government. There is no higher form of corruption. What the Labor Party has done, by calling a double dissolution in regard to this Bill, is to throw the shame of corruption and the shame of gerrymander for all time, we would hope, from the backs of the Austraiian people.
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The Senate divided. (The President- Senator the Hon. Justin O’Byrne)
Question so resolved in the negative.
Debate resumed from 1 1 July (vide page 85), on motion by Senator Willesee:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– This is the second of the Bills which the Government has indicated it is bringing before the Senate for the third time as a preliminary, if the Senate should reject the Bill a third time, to submitting advice to the Governor-General that there should be a joint sitting. I think it ought to be appreciated, with the imminence of a joint sitting and the likely result of submitting matters to that joint sitting, that this Bill is probably as significant a Bill as any of the six which have been presented to the Houses of Parliament over the past 1 2 months. It is a Bill which has far-reaching implications, many of which have not been canvassed or had the opportunity of debate. I stress that point notwithstanding that there has been a limited opportunity, and only a limited opportunity, in each House of the Parliament to deal with this measure. I appreciate that this is a Bill which seeks to ensure that there will be elected from the Northern Territory and from the Australian Capital Territory 2 senators who will take their places in this chamber and will have all the rights which the members of this chamber have. The only way in which their rights will be diminished is that they will not have the tenure of office that other honourable senators have. They will have a tenure determined by the life of the term of office of members of the House of Representatives. So the term of membership of the senators who come from the Territories will be fixed according to the life of the House of Representatives. This measure raises a number of factors, and I therefore move the following amendment to the motion that the Bill be now read a second time.
Delete all words after ‘ that ‘ and insert: having regard to
the fact that 25 per cent of the membership of the Senate has changed since the Bill was last before the Senate; the Bill bc referred to a Select Committee of the Senate to inquire into and report to the Senate on or before 3 1 July 1974 on whether
I appreciate that this course was not followed by the Opposition Parties on the earlier occasions when this Bill came before the Senate, although some of the matters to which the amendment adverts were referred to in the course of the debate. But now we are faced with a situation different from the situation with which the Senate was confronted when the Bill was earlier before it. We see the likely result of an attitude adopted in this place which amounts to a negation of this measure. In those circumstances it ought to be the Senate’s concern as to whether what is being proposed will rebound to the benefit of the Senate, will preserve the status of the Senate as contemplated by the founders of the Constitution, and will, if the arguments in favour of giving representation to the Territories are accepted, provide the most efficacious representation to the residents of the Territories.
The first matter to which I refer is whether this measure, if carried, will be constitutional. Will it be consistent with the provisions of the Constitution? I appreciate that the general purport of the Constitution is to confer upon the High Court of Australia the power to make decisions as to whether or not laws passed by this Parliament are or are not constitutionally valid. I would anticipate, although one could appreciate arguments which could be advanced, that the power of the High Court to pass judgment upon the validity of this measure could be questioned. Of course, if the question does arise that is for the High Court to decide. But I think it would be an unnecessary and imprudent restriction upon this chamber or upon the House of Representatives to withdraw from discussion or controversy the question whether or not the measure which was before the chamber was in accordance with the Constitution. The views which may be expressed in this chamber are for the edification of members of the public. These views cannot influence the judges of the Court, nor can they determine the validity or invalidity or legislation. But it is appropriate to question, particularly when the future of this Senate is possibly being challenged, whether the Senate should give its assent to a measure of this character. I do not question that the Government is relying upon section 122 of the Constitution to justify this piece of legislation. Section 122 states:
The Parliament may make laws for the government of any territory surrendered by any State to and accepted by the Commonwealth, or of any Territory placed by the Queen under the authority of and accepted by the Commonwealth, or otherwise acquired by the Commonwealth, and may allow the representation of such territory in either House of the Parliament to the extent and on the terms which it thinks fit.
From a perusal of what has been said by the Ministers who introduced this measure into both chambers, it appears to me that section 122 is relied upon as conferring upon the Parliament the ability to allow a territory of the Commonwealth representation in either House of the Parliament to the extent and on the terms which the Parliament thinks fit. There may be a question whether or not representation of that character could be, in the full sense, a complete ability equal to the existing ability of senators or of members of the House of Representatives to exercise those same abilities. It may be that the argument is not an appealing argument, but it is at least a question which might fairly be raised by the terms of the section. But a further 2 points must be considered. One arises from a perusal of the provisions in chapter 1 of the Constitution and the other arises from an examination of chapter 8 of the Constitution. If one examines chapter 1, one sees a reference to the Senate. Section 7 of the Constitution states:
The Senate shall be composed of senators for each State, directly chosen by the people of the State, voting, until the Parliament otherwise provides, as one electorate.
Then there is a provision which reads:
But until the Parliament of the Commonwealth otherwise provides, the Parliament of the State of Queensland, if that State be an original State, may make laws dividing the State into divisions and determining the number of senators to be chosen for each division, and in the absence of such provision the State shall be one electorate.
That, of course, was a particular provision which was necessary at the time of Federation for the State of Queensland. Section 7 continues:
Until the Parliament otherwise provides there shall be 6 senators for each Original State.
Honourable senators can appreciate that in 1948 the Parliament did otherwise provide, and there are now 10 senators for each Original State. The section continues:
The Parliament may make laws increasing or diminishing the number of senators for each State, but so that equal representation of the several Original States shall be maintained and that no Original State shall have less than 6 senators.
The senators shall be chosen for a term of six years, and the names of the senators chosen for each State shall be certified by the Governor to the Governor-General.
In sections 8, 9, 10 and 1 1 there are provisions relating to the qualification of the electors in each State and the method of the election of senators, again in the absence of particular provisions by the Commonwealth as required by each State. Section 1 0 of the the Constitution provides:
Until the Parliament otherwise provides, but subject to this Constitution, the laws in force in each State, for the time being, relating to elections for the more numerous House of the Parliament of the State shall, as nearly as practicable, apply to elections of senators for the State.
Significantly there is a provision in section 1 1 which states:
The Senate may proceed to the despatch of business, notwithstanding the failure of any State to provide for its representation in the Senate.
I do not doubt that an argument of some weight can be advanced that the provisions of the Constitution, as outlined in the sections I have read and the other sections in Part II of chapter I of the Constitution, suggest that the Senate is, as a matter of law, the States House which the founders of the Constitution contemplated that it would be. In those circumstances can the functions of the States House, can the purposes of the States House, can the ability of the States House to act, as is contemplated by the Constitution be overcome by an Act of the Parliament which simply swamps the Senate with representatives from each of the several Territories of the Commonwealth? I am not suggesting that the Bill before the Senate is one which seeks to swamp the Senate with representatives from the Territories.
The real question in the argument I am addressing to the Senate is not whether this Bill has that effect but whether the basic principle on which the Bill must rest would permit that to be done at some time in the future. If it can be done, this is a matter which ought to be of concern to members of the Senate- I suggest to members on both sides of the chamber- who recognise the value of this chamber as an institution and would, as far as they are able within the confines of their party rules, protect the integrity of this chamber. It may be arguable, therefore, that the absolute terms of the provision in section 122 of the Constitution are to be qualified by the implication that the Senate shall consist as a States House and that any representation of the Territories in the Senate must have regard to the purposes for which the Senate was constituted. It may be possible to argue successfully that a limitation which ought to be imposed is a limitation which restricts the right of Territory representatives in the Senate to talk upon and vote upon matters relating to the Territory, and that it goes no further. I do no more than advance the type of argument which, without elaboration or without that type of consideration which those who might have to argue before the High Court would give to it, may be able to be raised.
In section 128 of Chapter VIII of the Constitution there is a significant provision which is seldom adverted to. That section prescribes the procedure under which the Constitution may be amended. I refer to the final paragraph of section 128 which states:
No alteration diminishing the proportionate representation of any State in either House of the Parliament, or the minimum number of representatives of a State in the House of Representatives, or increasing, diminishing, or otherwise altering the limits of the State, or in any manner affecting the provisions of the Constitution in relation thereto, shall become law unless the majority of the electors voting in that State approve the proposed law.
It may be a question, therefore, of whether, in the case of each of the original States, the approval of the electors in that State is not required before an amendment of the character proposed by this Bill becomes operative. I am not saying that that must be the position but again I suggest to the Senate that this is an area in which an argument could be raised. The amendment I have moved on behalf of the Opposition proposes that this question of the constitutionality of the legislation be looked at in a way in which it has not been looked at in the course of the debates which hitherto have taken place. I am suggesting that the Senate ought to consider whether there is a prima facie case of lack of constitutionality, and in the light of what is decided by the proposed committee, or what is reported to the Senate by the proposed committee, to take such action in the light of that report as the Senate deems to be appropriate. I envisage that the proposed committee could have access to the law officers of the Commonwealth who surely must have advised in this area but whose advice has not been provided for the Parliament. The proposed committee could draw upon the advice and opinions of others whom it thought would assist it or those persons who, without invitation from the proposed committee, felt that their advice or opinion would be helpful to the Senate. There is an area of activity, an area of advice and opinion, on which the Senate could draw. I think it is a significant enough question for the Senate not to regard the necessity, as stressed by the Government, to pass this legislation forthwith as so overbearing that the delay which is contemplatedit is not a long delay; it is merely 14 days while the matter is referred to the proposed committee- could not be accepted.
There are other matters which the proposed committee could examine. The second matter which is suggested is whether the number of senators proposed to be elected from each Territory is appropriate. I think the Government recognises a certain desire to have a representation from each Territory, which is acceptable to both sides of the Parliament, in the proposition that has been put forward; namely, that there should be 2 senators from each of the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory. I recognise what has been said- certainly originally when the measure was introduced- and that that would enable each side of the Parliament to be represented. Probably that result would ensue although, of course, questions could arise which could alter that equality if there were an expiration of the term of service of either of the senators before that term concluded in the ordinary course of time. In those circumstances a pattern which is able to be recognised and adhered to by the Parliaments of the States in filling any vacancy with a senator of the same political complexion as the senator whose place has been vacated would not be able to apply, and that possibility is one thing which cannot be ignored. But it may be that a Senate committee could have other views as to the way in which the Territories could be represented and as to what would be an appropriate number of senators. It certainly is a matter which ought to have some consideration additional to the consideration that may have been given to it by the Government.
– Even from the point of view of considering the principle of one vote one value.
– I appreciate what Senator Wright has said. Tempting as it is to explore the labyrinthine passages which that question raises in this area- a Senate committee might like to go into the question-I do not think it is a necessary part of the inquiry. If a Senate committee felt that it had the time to do so, it could do so.
– You are divided again.
-No, we are in very happy harmony and I suggest the honorable senator ought to promote that state among members of his Party, particularly when we consider those tremendously important questions upon which we see such differing views at the moment- matters such as inflation and employment and whether one is necessary to solve the other.
– I understand that his Party is quite unanimous about high interest rates.
– Only to support the legal profession.
– I am not tempted to proceed further into that matter. The third matter which the committee could examine is whether senators elected to represent a Territory should be restricted to voting only on matters affecting that Territory. I think that this significant area is one which ought to be examined. Initially, when the House of Representatives accorded to the representatives of the Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory the right to be represented in that chamber, the right was a restricted one. It was a right to speak and to vote on matters related to the affairs of the Territory which they represented. It is only in quite recent times that that right has been extended.
The extension of the right in recent times could likewise be open to a judgment which the Senate would be expressing if it were interested in pursuing this matter, but it appears, when one considers the purposes for which the Senate is constituted, that a representation of the Territories in the Senate was and hereafter ought to be a representation for the purpose of representing the Territories. After all, the Territories are not States, and the interests of the Territories cannot be regarded as the interests of the States. They do not have elected assemblies with authority conferred by the Commonwealth Constitution and they do not have legislation of the Imperial Parliament, as the States have at present. There is a vast difference in their powers and abilities. Whether the representation of the Territories should be the same as the representation of the States is a question that ought to be examined in a way in which it has not been examined on the occasions that this Bill has been before the Houses of Parliament previously.
There is one other matter to which I refer, and it relates possibly to the constitutionality of the legislation and possibly to the propriety of the Senate, having regard to parliamentary usage, further considering these Bills. It ought to be recalled that the Parliament was prorogued in February of this year. ‘May’s Parliamentary Practice’, eighteenth edition, at page 57, states:
The effect of a prorogation is that every Bill must be renewed after a prorogation, as if it had never been introduced.
One consequence of the prorogation in February of this year was that no action in a parliamentary sense, and possibly in a legal sense, could properly be taken with regard to Bills that had ceased to exist at the prorogation. I know that the argument has some attractions to some people steeped in parliamentary usage. The argument might be attended to by the Senate committee with a view to expressing an opinion for the guidance of the Senate. I have raised these matters with the authority of the Opposition. I have raised them because we recognise the threshhold at which we are now standing. The future of the Senate will depend upon the decision made on this Bill, presumably by the joint sitting in due course but conceivably by the Senate tonight.
Arguments which are not properly addressed to the amendment but which are addressed to the Bill may suggest that if the vote of senators from the Territories is to be a crucial vote in this chamber it is far too amenable to the exercise of patronage by the Executive to be given such a pre-eminent place in the workings of this Parliament. It cannot be denied, for example, that the Australian Capital Territory is essentially- not wholly but primarily- a Public Service city. The welfare and prosperity of this city depend upon the largess and patronage of government. It is not beyond the ability of any government to recognise the influence that it could exercise, when it has such largess to bestow, in determining who will be the members of a particular electorate.
Similar arguments could be advanced, particularly in the light of recent and current Government policies, with regard to the Northern Territory. It would not be a wise or prudent course for the Senate to accept that the final decision of tins chamber should be open to be influenced by a government which, through the patronage it was able to bestow, could determine a significant section of the membership of the chamber. These matters ought to be referred to because of the sense we have of the steps we are about to take. I hope that the Senate will give consideration to this amendment and will provide some opportunity for there to be aired throughout the community, and certainly in the minds of senators and members of the House of Representatives, the enormous import of this Bill.
– It is not my intention to delay the Senate on this Bill because I spoke at length on it on 14 November 1973. For those new senators who may be interested in the debate at that time, my speech is recorded at page 1790 of the Senate Hansard of that date. This is the third time that the Bill has been before the Senate, and the Government does not intend to take the time of the Senate in useless debate because there has been ample opportunity on previous occasions to ventilate fully the matters affecting this Bill.
Senator Greenwood has moved an amendment which is designed to frustrate the Government in its desire to give the residents of both Territories a voice in this place. His amendment is nothing but pure humbug. It may be said that it is just a legal ploy by Senator Greenwood to prevent the matter being dealt with at a joint sitting of both Houses. The amendment distinctly states that the Bill be referred to a select committee of the Senate for inquiry and report to the Senate on or before 31 July 1974. Senator Greenwood is well aware that the Government wants the joint sitting to be over and done with and to have the 6 Bills dealt with by that time. He is a legal man of some renown, but he has moved this amendment. He is concerned that this measure should go before a select committee, but he has been a senator long enough to know that it has been before the Parliament on many occasions. He would be well aware of that fact and that is why I say that his amendment is just a legal ploy. I remind him that the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam), when Leader of the Opposition, introduced private members Bills on this matter in 1968 and in 1970. They sought to provide representation of the Territories in the Senate. Both Bills were taken to the second reading stage, but no vote on either Bill was allowed.
– Those Bills were different from this one.
– They sought to give to the Territories representation in the Senate. Last year the Government introduced a Bill on this matter in the other place. At that time members of the Australian Country Party in the other place supported it. They crossed the floor and voted with the Government on that measure. When the Bill came over to this place on that occasion why did Senator Greenwood not take the same step as he has now taken? Why did he not do that early last year? Why did he not do it when the matter came over to this chamber in November of last year? He did not even speak on it because he realised that it could not go through as the Opposition had the numbers in the Senate. Today it has not got the numbers; so it is panicking. What is the Opposition trying to do? It is trying to have the Bill referred to a select committee. In that way the Opposition hopes to destroy it. But the Government is not going to fall for that trick; it is going to oppose the Opposition’s amendment.
As one of his arguments Senator Greenwood used the fact that 25 per cent of the membership of the Senate has changed since the Bill was last before the Senate. I have had a look at the list of speakers for the Opposition on this matter and have noticed that not one of the Opposition’s new senators is listed as being down to speak. Not one of them is mentioned in the list on the President’s desk. One has only to look at the measure on which a vote was taken earlier tonight to see how the new senators voted. How did they vote? They voted on party lines. I am willing to wager a small amount that they are going to vote on party lines on this measure. So it is no good Senator Greenwood coming in here and putting up a red herring like that. It might fool some of the new members of the Senate but it will not fool those of us who have been here for a little longer.
The Opposition has also proposed in its amendment that the right to vote of any senators elected by the electors in the Territories should be restricted to matters affecting the Territories. Does the Opposition want to turn back the clock? It has already mentioned what used to happen in the other place when the honourable member for the Northern Territory was allowed to vote only on matters affecting the Northern Territory. He now has the same voting rights as any other member of the other place. If this amendment were carried and the proposed Senate select committee were to agree with the Opposition’s amendment would the Opposition want to take back those rights from the honourable member for the Northern Territory in the other place? In all fairness it would have to do so. If the Opposition would not allow the elected representatives in this chamber to deliberate on all matters it could not very well allow the honourable member for the Northern Territory in the other place to deliberate on the matters which come into this chamber and on which the Opposition has been quite prepared to deliberate- in fact, which it has been quite prepared to throw out on many occasions.
It was not so long ago that the Opposition moved for the disallowance of an ordinance relating to the acquisition of 32 square miles of land in the Northern Territory. The Opposition was quite prepared to deliberate then on matters in which it had no interest and which affected the Northern Territory but it wants to deny to the people of the Northern Territory the right to vote. By denying them the right to vote the Opposition is also doing them a grave injustice because the population of the Northern Territory is made up of a great many people who, in years gone by, have enjoyed the right in the States to vote at Senate elections and referendums and who, because they have decided to go the the Northern Territory and help in its development, have lost those voting rights and have been disenfranchised. In effect the people who sit on the Opposition benches in this place are classing the people of the Territories as second class citizens. The Australian Labor Party is not going to agree to that. It has been endeavouring ever since 1 968 to give to the people in the Territories the justice to which they are entitled, that is, the right to stand up and speak for themselves on matters affecting the Territories and to have a say in this place.
I wish to refer to what the action of the Opposition has been in recent times on this measure. The Opposition has opposed it in the Senate twice, although the Country Party voted for it in the other place on 29 May. For the benefit of the new members of this chamber I wish to refer to the House of Representatives Hansard of 29 May. An examination of the vote taken at page 2815 of the House of Representatives Hansard of that date shows that there were 78 votes in favour of the measure and 35 votes against it. From where did the votes in favour of the measure come to bolster the number to 78. They came from the members of the Country Party who crossed the floor and voted for the measure. What happened when the Bill came into this chamber? As reported at page 2525 of the Senate Hansard of 7 June the Leader of the Australian Country Party in the Senate (Senator DrakeBrockman), as he was then although I understand that he is now the Leader of the National Alliance, having been elected as such at the recent election, said at the conclusion of his speech: Therefore we in the Country Party oppose this legislation’. He said that despite the fact that the member of the Country Party who represents the electorate of the Northern Territory in the other place has gone on record time and again and claimed credit for being elected on the promise that he would fight for senatorial representation for the Northern Territory. He has even gone so far as to claim that he was the first man to have mentioned it in the Parliament. That is completely untrue because we know that the present Administrator of the Northern Territory, Jock Nelson, brought the matter up time and again when he was the honourable member for the Northern Territory.
The people on the other side of the Parliament talk about divisions on this side of the House. What about the divisions on their side of the House, particularly in the Country Party? The honourable member for the Northern Territory has been elected on each occasion on the platform that he will fight for Senate representation for the Northern Territory but when such a proposal has been put forward in this chamber the members of his Party in this place have deserted him and voted the other way. They are endeavouring to deprive the residents of the Territories of their rights. I am speaking more about the Northern Territory because I am a member of the Joint Committee on the Northern Territory and I have some regard for the people who live in the far flung places up there and about whom Senator Drake-Brockman spoke in relation to another measure earlier today when he said that because of it the Government was depriving the people of the outlying and far flung areas of the right to vote and to be represented. Is that not just what we have here?
Of course it is. The Opposition is depriving those who live thousands of” miles from this place of the right to have a representative stand up here and put forward a case on their behalf.
This is the third occasion on which this Bill has been before the Senate. I want to refer briefly to the Bill itself. In his second reading speech the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Senator Willesee) said:
The purpose of this Bill is to provide a measure of representation for the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory in the Senate giving some meaningful expression to section 122 of the Constitution in respect of the Senate as an integral part of this Parliament. Such representation is clearly permissible.
He went on to quote section 122. 1 have already stated that the Prime Minister had endeavoured in 1968 and 1970 when he was Leader of the Opposition to get a measure through the other place that sought to do just what the Government is endeavouring to do now. That is why I asked earlier why Senator Greenwood, if he is so concerned about the legal problems that may exist in relation to this legislation, did not move to have the matter brought before a Senate committee previously. His amendment is nothing more than a delaying tactic. I hope it is not going to be successful. In our system of government, whereby all measures must pass through both Houses of the Parliament before becoming law, it is quite extraordinary that the people of the Territories should be allowed representation in one chamber but denied it in the other. As I said earlier, citizens moving to the Territories from the other States have lost their right to representation and in effect have become second class citizens. They have not become second class citizens because of the will of the present Government; they have become second class citizens because of the will of the Opposition. The Government believes that the people of the Territories should have a voice in the Senate when it debates motions concerning the Territories and that senators from the Austraiian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory should sit on parliamentary committees which deal with matters affecting the Territories.
As I said earlier, I am a member of the Joint Committee on the Northern Territory. When the Committee has been in the Northern Territory and has been questioning witnesses on the subject of the giving to the people of the Northern Territory of a fully elected legislative council I have asked every witness I have questioned what their impressions or desires were about Senate representation and with only about 2 exceptions they have all agreed that they have been disenfranchised by not having Senate representation. Members of all political parties in the Northern Territory have agreed that they should have Senate representation. The Committee took evidence from Mr O’Brien of the Department of the Northern Territory. At page 63 of the transcript of evidence taken by the Committee he is reported as saying that the Department of the Northern Territory, which he was representing at the inquiry, was in favour of Senate representation because it would give the Northern Territory a stronger voice. Mrs Lawrie, the member for Nightcliffe is reported at page 999 of the transcript of evidence as saying that Senate representation is highly desirable. Mr Kentish, a member of the Country Party in the Northern Territory, is reported at page 1014 of the transcript of evidence as saying that Senate representation would be desirable. Those are all opinions that were given in answer to questions that I put to those people as a member of the Joint Committee on the Northern Territory.
Mr Giese said that the Northern Territory should get Senate representation but that he did not see any reason why the Australian Capital Territory should get it. Those are the very words the honourable member for the Northern Territory used in a debate in the other place last week. He is quite in favour of Senate representation for the Northern Territory but he does not want the people of the Australian Capital Territory to have a voice in the Senate. It cannot be said that that is fair. Early tonight honourable senators on the other side of the chamber debated the fairness of certain electoral matters. Of course, it would not be fair to the Country Party for the Australian Capital Territory to have Senate representation because it would not be able to get a member of its Party elected as a senator for the Australian Capital Territory, but it would be able to get one elected as a senator for the Northern Territory.
– Why does the honourable senator leave out Norfolk Island?
– It is quite in keeping with the attitude of honourable senators from the other side of the chamber, particularly members of the Country Party, to talk about Norfolk Island. They like to have people in here who are speaking on behalf of a handful of constituents. That is just a stupid argument. It was put up in this place by an honourable senator during the previous debate on this legislation and it was put up by the honourable member for Moreton (Mr Killen) in the other place. But if they were to read the second reading speech of the Minister they would realise that if at some future time the population of Norfolk Island is such that they should have representation in this place, then I am sure the Parliament would give it to them. That is, of course, once we get this legislation through the Parliament.
We have heard some members talking about Thursday Island and a few other islands about the same size off the coast. They did not say that those islands should have Senate representation, but they did say that if the Territories were granted representation in the Senate those islands might come along and claim that they were entitled to representation as well. If the population on those islands grows to the extent that it has in the Australian Capital Territory and in the Northern Territory, I am quite sure that the Parliament would be prepared to give them a voice in this place at some future date. But the red herring which those honourable senators opposite draw across the argument which has been put by the Government is similar to the amendment which has been brought forward tonight by Senator Greenwood.
In giving evidence to the Joint Committee on the Northern Territory Dr Deleuil is recorded on page 1152 of the transcript of evidence as advocating Senate representation for the Northern Territory. Mr Forrest, the representative of the Darwin Chamber of Commerce, was also in favour of Senate representation for the Territory. Mr Hooper of the Master Builders Association is recorded at page 1412 as supporting Senate representation. I am sure that Senator Marriott who is in the chamber would agree that all of these people whom I have questioned in the Territory have agreed that there should be Senate representation for the Northern Territory. What I am saying can be verified by looking at the record of evidence. We also have supporting Senate representation one of the greatest identities in the Northern Territory-none other than Tiger Brennan, the Mayor of Darwin. Tiger is on record as saying that the Northern Territory has been very much at a loss and disadvantaged over the years because it has not had a voice in this place, and he having been a member of the Northern Territory Legislative Council which deals with ordinances was very disturbed about ordinances that were passed by the Legislative Council being disallowed when they reached the Senate. Tiger was most adamant that we should give Senate representation to the people in the Northern Territory. The honourable member for the Northern Territory is recorded as saying during the course of his speech in the other place on 29 May 1973:
In speaking to this Bill I point out that in 1966 Senate representation for the Northern Territory was on my platform and it has been ever since.
I referred to that statement a few minutes ago. I said that it was on his platform. That just demonstrates the divisions which exist within the country Party, the National Alliance or whatever one likes to call it. At least he won back his seat in this Parliament under the flag of the Country Party, unlike some other members, particularly those in this chamber, who got their seat back under the flag of the National Alliance and who all of a sudden, because it was so unpopular, changed back to the Country Party.
– We got 3 senators in Queensland.
– You should not be mentioning anything about Queensland because you will recall that when it looked like there would be an election for half of the Senate, you divided and formed an alliance with the Democratic Labor Party. But when the double dissolution came along you scuttled for cover and you got back under the wing of the Liberal Party to ensure your return to this place. Be that as it may, the honourable member for the Northern Territory did fly under his true flag and was returned to the Opposition. I am very pleased to see that the honourable member is now gracing us with his presence. I will refer again for his information to what I said earlier, that is, that when he claimed that he was the first person to advocate in the other place Senate representation for the Northern Territory Dr Patterson quickly pointed out to him that he was a long long way from being the first because the name of Nelson is recorded in the journals of this Senate going back many years when there was an endeavour to get Senate representation for the Territory.
– He was never a member of the Senate so how could his name be recorded in the journals of the Senate?
– I will correct myself and say that Nelson is recorded in the journals of the Parliament as having pushed for representation for the Northern Territory in the Senate. It ill behoves those people who are trying now to deny this right to the people w the Northern Territory to do such a thing. For Senator Greenwood to bring in this amendment- I will repeat what I said- is nothing short of pure humbug and it should meet the fate that it deserves. I want to go on further and refer again to some of the evidence that was given by a leading member of the Country Party in the Northern Territory. In his submission to the Joint Committee on the Northern Territory Mr Kilgariff said:
Finally, I support the principle of Senate representation for the Northern Territory, and believe at the first opportunity a further electorate for a second seat in the House of Representatives should be created.
I asked Mr Kilgariff, the member for Alice Springs in the Legislative Council, a question on his submission.
– Why do you not have all the evidence of the Committee incorporated in Hansard?
– The honourable senator would be well aware that I am quoting only portions of the evidence given to the Joint Committee on the Northern Territory which deals with Senate representation for the Northern Territory. The honourable senator is not going to distract me. On page 1 842 of the Hansard record of evidence I refer to the submission of Mr Kilgariff, the Country Party member for Alice Springs in the Legislative Council. The following appears:
– You say in the last paragraph on the last page of your submission that you support the principle of Senate representation for the Northern Territory and you also believe that at the first opportunity a further electorate for a second seat in the House of Representatives should be created. You are no doubt aware that the present Government has endeavoured to give you Senate representation here and that legislation was defeated in the Senate?
Mr Kilgariff; Yes.
– I asked similar questions of representatives of other organisations in Darwin the last time we were up here and they agreed that they would be prepared to make some moves to get support for that legislation if it were reintroduced at an early date. Would you be prepared to do that also, to make representations to people in your Party to support legislation to give you Senate representation?
Senator Kilgariff; My understanding is that they have already done this.
This will be put to the test in this place tonight.
– Who asked the question?
– I asked the question of Mr Kilgariff. It will be put to the test tonight because we have already seen that the honourable member for the Northern Territory has a different opinion from that held by his Party. Yet Mr Kilgariff, a leading member of the Country Party in the Northern Territory, is on record as saying that his Party in the Territory has already made representations to the parent Party to give the Territory Senate representation. I will be very interested to see, when the vote is taken tonight, whether the Country Party or the National Alliance again turn their backs on the representatives of the Country Party in the Northern Territory. I am hoping that this Bill will -
– What are you going to do about it?
– There is nothing much I can do about it except to keep on speaking up and pointing out to the people in the Northern Territory that honourable senators speak with one tongue when they are in the Northern Territory and when they come down here they vote differently. They have been doing it for years and no doubt will continue to do it tonight. However, I am sure that the amendment will be defeated. This legislation will go to a joint sitting and the people in the Northern Territory and in the Australian Capital Territory will then get that right which has been denied them for so long, that is, to have representatives in this chamber who can vote on all matters affecting the Commonwealth of Australia.
– I realise there are only about 10 minutes left for the debate tonight on this very important piece of legislation. However, I think I can spend the next 10 minutes dealing with our friend on the other side, Senator McLaren, with particular reference to his comments on the Northern Territory. Labor Party policy on the Northern Territory has always been interesting. The Labor Party has always opposed voting rights for the member of the Northern Territory in the other place. The Labor Party does not believe in statehood for the Northern Territory. It does not believe in States. For purely political reasons the Labor Party is now prepared to give territorial representation because it thinks that it might win another 2 seats. This has a dual purpose, not only of stacking the Senate to get control of it but also to destroy this chamber as a States House. Is the Government prepared to grant statehood to the Northern Territory? Of course it is not. I have never heard the Government at any stage prepared to suggest that the Northern Territory should reach statehood. Just look at what the Government is doing today. The Government is stacking it with bureaucrats for one purpose, that is, to keep it under the centralist control of Canberra.
– We have heard this before.
– Honourable senators opposite certainly have heard it all before. They have heard it in their own Party room before and they have heard it in their own electorates before because that is their policy. This is exactly what the Government is doing. We in the Country Party, the National Party, call it what you like -
– You call it what you like. Leave us out of it.
-I will call it what I like. We are prepared to advance the Northern Territory to Statehood but not by stacking it with bureaucrats but by developing its resources, the mining resources and pastoral resources of that great area. We would not populate it with bureaucrats from Canberra who are under the Government’s control, which is what the Government is doing. The Government will not allow our mining industries and interests to develop the Northern Territory. It uses all sorts of arguments to make sure that it, as a centralist government in Canberra, will develop the Northern Territory to its own plan. We in the National Party-and I believe I can speak for the Liberal Party and the whole Opposition herebelieve that the Northern Territory has to be developed to the stage of Statehood and that, having been developed to that stage, it should not send just 2 senators down here, but that it should be entitled to 10 senators, as is every other State.
What a ridiculous situation we have here, with the Labor Party saying: ‘OK, as on the previous Bill we want one vote one value’ and this sort of thing. It is amazing that the Government should suggest that 2 representatives of the Northern Territory come into this chamber while there is only one representative from the Northern Territory in the House of Representatives. Normally there would be two in the House of Representatives to one in this chamber.
– Move an amendment and make it ten instead of two.
– What is your argument, that you have 2 senators for the Northern Territory with something like 30,000 electors and ten for New South Wales with 2.5 million electors? Where is there one vote one value in that argument? The Government’s argument is down the drain. It wants 2 senators from the Northern Territory for one purpose. It wants to satisfy the people of the Northern Territory that they have representation and do not need Statehood. The Northern Territory Legislative Council will not be advanced to Statehood; it will be just a rubber stamp for Canberra control. And that is all the Government is interested in, a rubber stamp for Canberra control. The Government gives the people of the Northern Territory this sop of having 2 senators in this Parliament.
– Mini-senators- I do not know what you would call them. Then tomorrow the Government is to bring in a supplementary Bill which says that these senators cannot have much say in the chamber and that every time the House of Representatives goes out, even if it goes out every 12 months as it can if it wishes, these mini-senators have to go out at the same time. Is the Government really giving the Northern Territory representation in the Parliament of Australia? Senator McLaren said they are second-class citizens up there.
– I said that is what you are making them.
-That is what Senator McLaren would give them, second-class citizenship. We will not support something which will break down the States House- and this is a States House. The Government should be prepared to develop the Northern Territory until it achieves Statehood, and then as a State it can have representation in this chamber. Did any of the Government supporters consult the other States to see whether they wanted Northern Territory representation in the States House? Did any of them say to the Premier of Queensland, the Premier of New South Wales or that great Premier from South Australia- what is his name again- ‘Is the Northern Territory entitled to it?’
– Hall is his name.
-I am pleased to note that we have a new Premier there. Did the Government ask those State Premiers that question? Did it go to any of the States and ask: ‘Are you prepared to let the Northern Territory into the States House’?
– I am asking whether the Government did. The Government is prepared to have 2 senators from the Northern Territory. Then we come to the Australian Capital Territory. No one here has supported that argument in relation to the Australian Capital Territory because we all realise it is a Government city. I have not heard anyone here suggest that the Australian Capital Territory should become a State and take on the responsibilities of a State. I have heard that there are people in the Australian Capital Territory who are prepared to take on the responsibilities of local government, particularly in those areas of the national capital’s administration which are not financed by taxpayers from all over Australia. In other words, they would take over sewerage, water supply and electricity supply and all the other facilities that they pay for. They may even take over the Aboriginal embassy, but that is another question. I have never heard of people from the
Australian Capital Territory saying: ‘I think we should have Statehood here’. But the Government is suggesting that the Australian Capital Territory should have representation in the States House. Surely this is completely opposite to the Government’s policy. We all know why the Government wants representation for the Northern Territory.
– Why? Because we could win.
– Because the Government wants to stack this place so that it can control this chamber and just forget about the States. Representation from the States will even out as it has always done. It has always been fairly close. And the Government might be able to get its 2 senators from the Northern Territory. If it stacks the Territory enough with bureaucrats it will get them, and if it stacks the Australian Capital Territory enough it will get them, and so it will have the balance of power and control in this House. But the amazing thing is that the Government wants to destroy the Senate. The policy of the Labor Party is to destroy the Senate and it has always been its policy. If a committee does not work and if one does not want it to work one stacks it with enough members to make it unworkable and that is the way to defeat it. I can see the day when we will not finish up with just 2 senators from the Australian Capital Territory or 2 from the Northern Territory because there is nothing in this Bill which says that there cannot be thirty from the Australian Capital Territory or the Northern Territory. Then we can give representation to Norfolk Island and Cocos Island. We could have in this Senate 60 senators representing the States and as many from everywhere else, including the islands, and that would be the quickest way to destroy the Senate and its responsibilities. There is no doubt in my mind that this is the purpose of the legislation in respect of which honourable senators opposite say: ‘We are going to give representation to the Australian Capital Territory and to the Northern Territory’. Honourable members opposite are not interested -
– What does Mr Calder say?
-Mr Calder agrees with me. If it was not for our side of politics he would not have a vote in the other House.
– Give him the right to speak.
- Senator Georges has had his right to speak before today but we will not talk about demonstrations now. Mr Deputy President, we are getting very close to time when the Senate will adjourn and there is a little bit of noise coming from honourable senators opposite. It is a bit late now for me to get on to the real speech I intended to make. I would suggest that if my friends in the Opposition would like to come back tomorrow- I do not know what time this legislation will be before the House but I imagine it would be around about 4 o’clock- I will come in here and deliver -
– A first-class speech.
– Yes, and I will put forward our argument as to why we believe that this legislation should be thrown out. I have answered Senator McLaren who has endeavoured to justify what he has been doing on a so-called committee. As someone else said in this chamber, why does he not give all the evidence? Why does he not have it incorporated in Hansard and we can read the whole lot of it, and not just what he quoted. I am sure that when we come back tomorrow I can explain to the Senate and justify why we believe -
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Webster)- Order! In conformity with the sessional order relating to the adjournment of the Senate, I formally put the question:
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– I am prompted to speak in the adjournment debate tonight because Senator Maunsell has referred to State nouses of parliament and responsibilities. The 2 submissions that I make will be relatively brief. I have in my hand a letter that I received from the late Senator McKellar when he was Minister for the Army in 1966 in which he referred to what had gone on for 10 years, that is, the impasse between successive New South Wales and Federal governments on the failure of the Army to release the Moore Park engineers depot which should be called- I think Senator Douglas McClelland would agree with me- Sydney’s shame. I refer in particular to our inability to have a first class sports stadium comparable to those in Melbourne and Adelaide. We blame the Army for this delay. During that period of time I have met 3 Ministers for the Army. A former Minister for the Army, the present honourable member for Kooyong, Mr Peacock, told me that we were on the verge of getting the land released and the redoubtable Brigadier Greville also said the same. Without wearying the Senate, I state that after 8 years of agitation the people of Sydney are entitled to know when this new stadium will be erected. When I look at my illustrious colleague from Queensland, Senator McAuliffe, I think that he will know -
-What about me?
-I am talking about Senator McAuliffe because I cannot help feeling that the existence of Lang Park in Brisbane represents another illustration of the way in which Sydney has been denied a worthy football stadium because of the protracted discussions with the Army. I hope that Senator Bishop will be able to give the people of Sydney a confident response.
I raise the other matter because of overtures I have received from the Australian Professional Golfers Association about allegations that were made in the ‘Australian’ newspaper last Saturday which were to the effect that certain Australian golfers, Bob Shearer and Ian Stanley, had competed in the British Open Golf tournament, but when it came to inducing Australian and non-Australian golfers to come to Australia for major Australian events it was stated that Qantas Airways Ltd, in the person of its agent, Mr Grainger, was denying Australian golfersthese 2 professional golfers who made the statementany concessional fare arrangements when certain inferior non-Australian golfers were offered fare concessions. I might say, Mr Minister, that like you and I, these golfers make the point that they travel with Qantas on most occasions. But if fare concessions are to be granted, I think that the Australian professional golfers should be entitled to share in those privileges which apparently were given to other professional golfers. I await with interest the response from each of the Ministers to whom I have directed my remarks.
– I can only say in response to Senator Mulvihill that even last week Mr Barnard met representatives of the New South Wales Government to consider the position of Moore Park and other matters. As a result I would think that he would be able to give the senator a reply within weeks. I do not know how long it will be, but I can tell the honourable senator that the Army is currently considering alternatives. Of course, as Senator Mulvihill points out, what has been put to previous Ministers has only recently been put to Mr Barnard. While I can appreciate that some action should be taken more speedily, the facts are that the facilities at Moore Park are presently useful to the CMF and to the RAA. I am told that Mr Barnard considered an offer from the State Government for an exchange facility. I think that within a number of weeks Mr Barnard could respond to the request of Senator Mulvihill. I do not think there will be the sort of delay to which the honourable senator has referred. As soon as I have some more concrete proposal I will give Senator Mulvihill a reply on the matter.
- Senator Mulvihill asks for an explanation, I take it from the Minister for Transport (Mr Charles Jones), of allegations that Australian professional golfers, Bob Shearer and Ian Stanley, were discriminated against as Australian golf professionals by the actions of Qantas Airways Ltd, through its agent Mr Rick Grainger, in regard to travel concessions. The explanation is that the author of the newspaper article did not know what he was talking about. I do not think I could give a more satisfactory answer than that. Qantas is involved in the promotion of the Australian open golf championship. However, this involvement does not include the provision by Qantas of consession fares to any of the competitors in the forthcoming championship. The article states that the championship offers overseas competitors assistance in their travel costs. This would not be provided in any form by Qantas. The airline has never agreed to this and does not provide cheap concession fares for the golfers although it is involved in the promotion of the Australian open golf championship.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 10.36 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 16 July 1974, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1974/19740716_senate_29_s60/>.