29th Parliament · 1st Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Justin O’Byrne) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
-I present the following petition from 275 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:
That we are concerned at the wastage of taxpayers money in providing unemployment relief to able bodied persons who refuse to accept work which is offering.
Whereas we agree that where possible people should be provided with job opportunities in vocations for which they have been trained, it is our opinion that in such cases where there are no job vacancies and where other work is available, the Federal Government should not approve the payment of unemployment benefits.
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:
That whereas our National Anthem, ‘God Save the Queen’, is a perpetual reminder of the Monarchy as a major feature of our Constitutional heritage;
And whereas the changing of the National Anthem without consulting all the people would deprive the electors of their right to a free choice on such a major question;
Therefore your Petitioners most humbly pray that the Senate, in Parliament assembled, will take the most urgent steps to ensure the right of every Australian elector to have a vote at a National Referendum, Senate or Federal Elections for the retention of the present National Anthem ‘God Save The Queen’, before the Commonwealth Government attempts to substitute a new Anthem.
And your Petitioners as in duly bound will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
– I present the following petition from 271 citizens of Australia:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled: The Petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That inflation which now besets so many countries today and in Australia is now at the rate of 14.4 per cent per annum and is most seriously affecting and making life intolerable for those least able to take corrective action to maintain their position, namely, pensioners and those now retired living on fixed incomes.
Whilst the Australian Government is giving effect to its election policy of making $1.50 per week pension increases each Autumn and Spring such actions have been completely nullified by the stated rate of inflation.
This fact of life impels your petitioners to call on the Australian Government as a matter of urgency to:
Make a cash loading of $5 per week to those pensioners who have little means other than the present inadequate pension eroded by inflation.
That each Autumn and Spring the increase in social security pension payments be not less than $3 per week to ensure that within a reasonable period the Government’s policy pledge to affix all pensions at 25 per cent of the average weekly earnings be achieved.
In order that money may go to areas of greater need the Tapered Means Test ceilings of income and assets be frozen.
To allay the concern of social security recipients as to their future when in 1975 the means test has been abolished and replaced by a National Superannuation Act that there be an assurance by the Australian Government that the said Act will provide a guaranteed minimum income to social security recipients based on the policy of the Australian Commonwealth Pensioners’ Federation and that of the Australian Council of Trade Unions, namely, the payment of 30 per cent of average weekly earnings adjusted from time to time in accordance with figures issued by the Commonwealth Statistician and published quarterly.
And your petitioners in duty bound will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
– I present the following petition from 46 citizens of Australia:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled: The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the undersigned men and women of Australia believe in a Christian way of life; and that no democracy can thrive unless its citizens are responsible and law abiding.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the members in Parliament assembled will see that the powerful communicator, television, is used to build into the nation those qualities of character which make a democracy work- integrity, teamwork and a sense of purpose by serving, and that television be used to bring faith in God to the heart of the family and national life.
And your petitioners, as in duty bound, will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
– I present the following petition from 20 citizens of Australia:
To the Honourable 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 for 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 ever pray.
Petition received and read.
-I give notice that on the next day of sitting I shall move:
That leave be given to introduce a Bill for an Act to determine the site of the new and permanent Parliament House, and to provide for the grounds in the vicinity of the Parliament to be controlled by the Parliament.
-My question is directed to the Minister representing the Treasurer. It concerns the reported loss of an Australian Government cheque for $ 12.5m payable to the Victorian Government. Will the Minister inform the Senate whether such a cheque was ever drawn? If it was so drawn, when was it sent to the Victorian Government? How was this cheque for $ 12.5m dispatched? Was it by ordinary mail, priority paid or registered mail? What steps, if any, has the Government taken to find this cheque?
-I shall have to ascertain from my colleague the Treasurer whether there was such a cheque, and I shall do so.
– I have a question for the Attorney-General. It refers to people standing for elections who purport to represent a particular Party and who, upon being elected, repudiate that Party and claim to represent some other Party, as National Alliance candidates in Western Australia have done. Can any action be taken under the existing Commonwealth Electoral Act to prevent candidates from wearing false political labels when contesting an election?
-I do not think that any action can be taken under the Commonwealth Electoral Act- more is the pity. Everyone would agree that such people ought to be ashamed of themselves.
– My question is directed to the Postmaster-General. I refer to an answer which he gave me last week about tabling the Vernon Committee report. He stated that it was not being tabled because the Government was still considering it. In view of the Government’s commitment to open government and in view of the fact that a number of other reports are tabled before and during consideration by the Government, why is the Government taking this attitude to the tabling of the Vernon report? Is this the real reason why the Government has not tabled the report? If not, what is the real reason?
– In this matter our Government is not making any new departure. Senator Durack’s Government, when it was in office, always had reports considered by its Cabinet before they were presented to the Parliament. While they were the property of the Cabinet they were not available to the Parliament. I have told him that the Cabinet has not yet finished considering the report. As soon as it is available he will be one of the first persons to get a copy because he is a shadow Minister. I can only give him that assurance. I will ensure that he gets all the papers relating to it as soon as Cabinet has finished with the report and then the Parliament will have access to it.
-Does not the Minister for Repatriation and Compensation think that the current political turbulence in Cyprus justifies early consideration of my long-standing request for full repatriation benefit coverage for members of Australian police forces serving under the United Nations banner in that region?
– In the past Senator Mulvihill has asked a number of questions on this and similar matters. It is a serious matter because obviously policemen who are at present on duty in Cyprus are subject to the same sort of hazards as those to which members of the defence forces would be subject when doing similar duties. I must confess that I am not aware of all the problems involved or of the benefits which are available to members of police forces as part of their entitlements as members of those police forces. However, I shall make inquiries and as soon as I am in a position to give a thorough answer to the question asked by Senator Mulvihill I shall do so.
-Is the Minister for Agriculture aware that the current strike tying up the
Australian Endeavour’ involves a trial shipment of 25,000 cases of South Australian and Victorian oranges destined for New Zealand? Is the Minister aware also that the hold-up could adversely affect this trial shipment, resulting in New Zealand’s making future purchases elsewhere with the consequent loss of an important potential market worth about $2m to South Australian and Victorian citrus growers? Will the Minister have a discussion with the Minister for Transport to effect the early sailing of the ‘Australian Endeavour ‘?
– It was my impression that the industrial dispute which was holding up the Australian Endeavour’ had been resolved. It is true that the trial shipment was delayed during that dispute, but it is my understanding that the matter was resolved last Friday, I think, and that the ship is now proceeding to New Zealand. It is true that disputes of this nature have a harmful effect, especially when exporters are trying to establish new markets, as was the case with this particular shipment. I can say only that the Government does all it can to overcome the problems as they arise and I certainly would continue to have any necessary further discussions with the Minister for Transport should there be a similar situation in the future.
– I preface my question, which I direct to the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, by referring to reports from New Zealand that defence authorities may investigate allegations that 4 New Zealand soldiers shot dead 6 American soldiers found torturing Vietnamese civilians. Is the Minister aware that last night a man telephoned Channel 7 television station in Melbourne and made allegations to a senior reporter that he had been involved in a similar incident involving Australian soldiers serving in Vietnam? Will the Minister investigate the man’s allegations that while serving as a lance-corporal of 6 Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment, in the Mekong delta about 2 years ago his company approached a Vietnamese village and was fired upon by American troops who apparently were torturing Vietnamese civilians? Will he also inquire into allegations by the lance-corporal that a lengthy engagement ensued with the Australian forces finally destroying a Vietnamese hut from which the American soldiers were directing fire at them, and that this was accomplished by using an M72 rocket bazooka?
– I wish to raise a point of order. The honourable senator is giving information and not asking a question. This is in defiance of the Standing Orders.
– I was just about to request the honourable senator to ask his question.
– Will the Minister also direct that inquiries be made into allegations- I use the word ‘allegations’ advisedly- by the man that inside the hut they found 3 dead Vietnamese women who had been tortured and raped by the Americans, and also found a number of dead American soldiers nearby? Will the defence authorities inquire into whether the telephone caller told the Channel 7 reporter that if he were given a guarantee of indemnity for his involvement he would be willing to give his name and detailed evidence of the incident? In view of the New Zealand allegations and the allegations now made by the telephone caller in Melbourne will the Minister consider setting up a full scale inquiry into the important question of whether many incidents of this kind occurred and whether Australian troops or their American allies were involved in torture and atrocities which led to fatal gun fights between the allied troops?
– Before I came into this chamber this afternoon I asked Mr Barnard’s office whether it knew about the allegations by a New Zealander. I asked what information the office had, including any information in relation to our armed forces. At present we have no other information about this matter. Perhaps I should reply to the question in 2 parts. Certainly the Minister will investigate the claim that has been made by a person alleged to be a corporal in the 6th Royal Australian Regiment in relation to the matters complained about by Senator Poyser. The claim will be properly investigated. As I said, no information was given to me prior to entering the chamber today. As to the inquiries which Mr Barnard’s office has made, the Minister states that he has been advised that the Australian Army has had no report of the incident described in the article in the ‘Canberra Times’ of 17 July 1974. New Zealand troops were integrated with some Australian Army units in Vietnam from 1965 to 1972. During the period New Zealand also independently deployed some small elements. It is understood that the New Zealand Minister for Defence has announced that an investigation into the allegations will be prosecuted vigorously. So far as the Australian Army is concerned, it is not feasible to investigate the allegations until information such as unit identity, date, place and so on is forthcoming.
-I preface my question to the Minister representing the Prime Minister in this place by pointing out that Tasmania has taken just about all it can in the way of penalties due to recent mainland industrial disputes. My question relates to the present strike by meteorological officers. If the strike escalates to involve those meteorological officers who forecast the weather for civil aviation, will the Prime Minister intervene so that flights to and from Tasmania are not interfered with because, as I have said, Tasmania has had just about all it can take from these disputes due to mainland industrial action?
– As honourable senators know, there is in Australia a system of conciliation and arbitration. Various statutory bodies deal with these industrial disputes. For the most part they are left to those bodies to attend to but I take note of the seriousness of the issue raised by the honourable senator and I will pass to the Prime Minister the suggestion which has been made by the honourable senator.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Agriculture. Has the Minister seen reports of a speech, highly critical of the Government’s rural policies, made yesterday to the United Farmers and Woolgrowers Association of New South Wales by its past President, Mr C. Renshaw? Is it true that Mr Renshaw is a member of the Australian Wool Corporation? Is Mr Renshaw ‘s attitude in direct conflict with the expressed views of other farming organisations?
-I did see a report of the remarks made by Mr Renshaw. Yes, he is a member of the Australian Wool Corporation. I think his remarks were intemperate, provocative and certainly at variance with comments made by other rural organisations. In particular his criticism of the Government’s tariff policy certainly is in conflict with the statement of Mr John White, an officer from the Graziers Association of New South Wales which I quoted here in the Senate only last week and also with the statements made by the President of the Victorian Farmers Union. Mr Renshaw seems to be determined to engage in these rather futile criticisms of the Government, but I think in many respects he is out on his own at the present time.
-My question is addressed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate in his capacity as the Minister representing the Prime Minister. Is he aware that the Minister for Northern Development has advised the Western Australian Premier that no funds will be made available at this stage for further development of the Ord River agricultural project under the present agreement? Is this because of the Prime Minister’s call for restraint on public works programs? If so, will the Government consider tabling a list of other major works programs now being delayed for the same reason?
– I think that the question asked by the Leader of whatever it is that he is -
-The Australian Country Party; the honourable senator should know that.
-I am told that it is the Country Party today. The ex-Leader of the National Alliance would do better to address this question to the Minister for Agriculture. That is something which falls within his area of responsibility.
– Can the PostmasterGeneral inform the Senate whether any action has been taken by his Department to establish a national satellite communications network to cater for the Australian internal communications need?
-The Post Office has been looking into this question since 1966. Atone time an interdepartmental committee was set up. The Post Office is completing an economic evaluation of a possible satellite system. A member of the satellite task group is visiting overseas countries this year to ascertain the current situation in those countries which have provided with or are implementing national satellite systems. When that information is obtained a report will be made to the Government in respect of such systems.
– I direct a question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Has the Prime Minister agreed to the request of the State Premiers for a special Premiers conference to discuss State initiatives to fight inflation? If not, what is the reason for the delay on a matter of such urgency?
-I ask the honourable senator to place the question on the notice paper so that a reply may be received directly from the Prime Minister.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Customs and Excise. To what extent are the congestion and delay at Sydney container depots a result of customs procedures?
-I am informed that the customs examinations are in no way responsible for the serious delays that are occurring. At container depots, as well as at other cargo delivery points, delays by the customs officers are kept to an absolute minimum by the full time attendance of officers at busy stations and the adherence to a system of appointments. Since container shipping commenced, the Department has been complimented on many occasions upon the way in which it has helped to smooth these procedures. Investigations by the computer at the Department show that delays in the clearance and delivery of cargo are kept to a minimum. I might say that there are a number of other ways in which the Department co-operates with all those concerned- the shippers, the agents and so forth- to minimise these delays. There are delays but they are not the fault of the Customs Department.
-Can the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs inform the Senate what will be the financial gain to the State governments that shirk their responsibility for Aboriginal affairs and hand this responsibility to the Australian Government?
-I would hope that there would be no financial gains by State governments shirking a responsibility. The main issue involved in handing over those areas of control of Aboriginals is to permit the Australian Government to put into operation the mandate that was given to it in the 1967 referendum on the belief of the Australian people that the Australian Government could better handle the question of Aboriginal affairs. All Premiers, with the exception of one, agree with this, and in that case his view is not necessarily the same as that of his Government. If that Premier’s vested or political interest in this question is greater that his wish to assist the Aboriginal people in his particular State, obviously he will see political gain in trying to retain control over them. It is evident that in a State where the oppression of Aborigines and restrictions on them are more severe than anywhere else, political interests are regarded as superior to the interests of the Aboriginals. I hope that the will of the Premier to whom I refer will not become the expression of the Parliament of his State and that we will see the will of the Australian people, as expressed in the 1967 referendum, operating under Australian Government control for the betterment of Aboriginals.
– Is the Attorney-General aware of Press reports this morning that 5 police officers from the Australian contingent serving in Cyprus are stationed in the fishing village of Paphos on the island and that fighting is taking place near the village? Has he taken any steps to make further inquiries about the safety of” the Australian contingent?
-There are 35 policemen in the Australian contingent stationed in Cyprus. The Commissioner of Commonwealth Police received a cable yesterday stating that the members of the contingent were in the United Nations quarters on the island and were on standby. The cable stressed that the police were not in any immediate danger. Following the newspaper report today the Commissioner has sent another cable to the Australian police commander asking him to clarify the position. The information which we have is that as at yesterday the police were not in any danger.
– I address my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Transport. As King Island has been almost entirely dependent on air freight for essential requirements for many recent months I ask: Has the Minister any idea when the runways at the King Island aerodrome will be improved so that aircraft like the Argosy air freighter can be used? Is the Minister aware that should this aircraft be used at the present time it would be limited to about 75 per cent of its capacity payload of 24,0001b.
– I have no knowledge of when the airstrip will be available for use at King Island. I shall refer the question to the Minister for Transport and obtain a reply for the honourable senator.
-Will the AttorneyGeneral inform the House whether all applicants for permanent employment in the Australian Public Service are subjected to an Australian Security Intelligence Organisation security check, irrespective of the nature of their proposed employment? Do such checks involve inquiry as to whether the person concerned has had radical political associations in the past? If such checks are conducted by ASIO, will the Minister tell the House what justification there is for the continuation of this practice?
-To put it in simple terms, not all persons are the subject of a security check. In November last year I answered a question on notice from Senator Gietzelt on this subject. If I might digress slightly, that answer was perhaps the most detailed answer that has been given publicly, on this subject, but it did not appear to receive any publicity whatever. Perhaps the way to avoid publicity is to answer questions on notice in the Senate. When a security check is requested by those in charge of a department or instrumentality ASIO makes a report to those persons. The decision on the matter is then taken by the body concerned. In some cases it is the Public Service Board and in others it might be the head of a department or the Minister. Obviously reports are not made in respect of all personsit would be absurd if they were- such as, say, persons employed by the City Parks branch: They would hardly warrant a security check. Checks are closely related to the question of access to secret information, that which is called classified material.
The next part of the honourable senator’s question concerned radical political associations, and in the sense that the honourable senator is using it as referring to political views, it would be improper of course to take into account a person’s political views as such, leaving aside the cases of persons whose views might extend to, say, assassination or some such things. I think that therefore it is not necessary to answer the third party of the question about why the practice should continue. Directives have been given to ensure that in carrying out its functions ASIO observes its charter and that the civil liberties of the citizens concerned are protected.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Agriculture. I preface it by saying that I believe that the Minister’s answer to a question asked yesterday by Senator Maunsell revealed his concern at this critical stage for the wool industry and for the operations of the Australian Wool Corporation. I share his concern. In view of his reply yesterday I ask the Minister whether he considers that criticism of the Australian Wool Corporation by the member for Eden-Monaro in another place last night was untimely and potentially damaging to the Corporation’s operations.
-The quickest and the truthful way to answer the question is to say that I have not seen the comments made by my colleague in another place and for that reason I cannot comment on them.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Transport. Is the Minister aware that in the past charter flights have been operated by Qantas Airways Ltd and other airlines between Australia and several eastern European countries? Will the Minister tell the Senate whether there are any proposals for the introduction of direct scheduled air services between Australia and countries in that region?
-I had a discussion on Monday about charter flights between Australia and other countries when I represented the Minister for Transport at the celebrations for the 25th anniversary of Canadian Pacific Airlines at the international airport in Sydney. So I have become somewhat conversant with the question of flights between Australia and several countries in eastern Europe. Qantas Airways Ltd does not at present operate services to countries in that region. However, Yugoslav authorities have expressed a very strong desire for such a service from Australia to Yugoslavia. In fact, a Yugoslav service has been prominent in operating charter flights between Australia and Yugoslavia. Studies are being currently undertaken by Qantas with Yugoslav air interests concerning the commercial feasibility of introducing a scheduled service between the 2 countries. The Government is awaiting a report from Qantas and further action will be considered in the light of the recommendations in that report. Yugoslavia is the only eastern European country that has been considered for regular services by Qantas at present.
– My question is directed to the Minister for the Media in his capacity as Manager of Government Business in the Senate.
I refer to the projected joint sitting of the Commonwealth Parliament and to newspaper reports that the Minister, together with other Ministers and officials, had reached decisions on the format, venue, proceedings and, presumably, the Standing Orders to be adopted for the joint sitting. I refer too to the responsibilities and privileges of the Senate provided in the Commonwealth Constitution and expressed also in existing Senate Standing Orders. I ask: Will the Minister make a detailed statement of the proposed proceedings? Will he ensure that the Senate has an early and adequate opportunity to debate such recommendations and to formulate its own determinations to apply to such joint sittings? Finally, will the Minister assure the Senate that he and his colleagues will do everything possible to ensure that the rights of the Senate are fully asserted and upheld?
-My colleague the Minister for Services and Property, who is also the Leader of the House in the House of Representatives, and I had discussions on Friday with the Clerks of the House of Representatives and on Monday with the Clerks of the House of Representatives and the Clerks of the Senate concerning the possibility of a joint sitting of both Houses of Parliament being held in the event of the Senate rejecting the legislation that has come from the House of Representatives. Those discussions were merely of an explanatory nature. They were held to ascertain what commonality could be reached between Mr Daly and myself and the Clerks of the House of Representatives and the Clerks of the Senate. The Minister for Services and Property and I held a Press conference at 2 o ‘clock this afternoon at which we said that tentatively, procedural arrangements were being drawn up. If it was found necessary to hold a joint sitting after debate by the Senate on all the double dissolution Bills, I understand proposed joint rules will be submitted for consideration by the House of Representatives and the Senate and the 2 Houses will be able to debate and discuss them.
-I address my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Defence. I refer to an article which appears in the Australian’ of today’s date and which states that the Minister for Defence will be leaving Australia next week to visit Germany and that while there he will study the union concept in West Germany where trades unions are permitted to operate in its military organisations. Can the Minister advise whether the Government is intending to institute a similar arrangement for the Australian armed Services?
- Mr Barnard is to go overseas later in the year, not next week. As honourable senators might guess, the Minister’s visit will relate to procurement and other matters. While he is overseas and in West Germany in particular, he intends to make inquiries into the arrangements made in the German army for what is called a trade union organisation to see how it operates. The Minister has taken this view not only because some consideration has been given to this matter- it is Labor Party policy-but because he has found in recent trips to Service establishments that there is quite a lot of interest in such an organisation. There have been some reported moves on the part of servicemen to form their own unions, although such moves have not developed. Whilst the Minister considers that it would be appropriate for the servicemen themselves to initiate such an organisation, he will obtain information on the German system and report to the Government. Nothing, of course, will be done until the Government considers the matter.
– I refer the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs to the Press release issued by his Department on 4 July concerning the meeting held recently with members of the National Aboriginal Congress. The release asserted that the Congress would continue to have mainly an advisory role but that it would also have some executive functions. I ask the Minister. What will these executive functions be that the Congress will exercise? Will they be of a token nature only?
– The Congress is concerned about its continuation should there be a change of Government or should there be a different attitude on the part of this Government The Congress wants a constitution that will permit it to continue as an organisation with or without Government support. Members of the Congress have agreed to a constitution which preserves a continuation of its role of advising the Minister and the Department. Do not give away the idea that the Congress may have sources of finance itself other than Government finance and it feels that it should have the exclusive right to determine the way in which it uses such finances. Therefore, as far as that is concerned the Congress will have an executive role, but its main function will be to act as an advisory body and to liaise from time to time between the Aboriginal people and the Government. There will be very little difference in its role, but it will have a continuing role, though perhaps on a diminishing scale if Government support for it slackens.
-I address my question to the Minister for the Media. As it has been frequently reported that the Minister has drawn attention to the fact that Channel 0 in Brisbane does not provide even a news service for viewers, has anything been done about this, and has any attempt been made to encourage regional commercial stations to carry a local news service?
– It is true that for most of the time since its inception station TVQ Channel 0 in Brisbane has operated without providing an evening news service. Shortly after this Government came into office and at the time of the renewal of the channel ‘s licence in March 1973, 1 requested the Australian Broadcasting Control Board, in granting renewal of the channel’s licence, to express concern that the Channel had been operating as a station for a number of years without providing an evening news service. The station undertook to acquire one. I had discussions with Mr Archer, the General Manager of the station, and shortly after March of this year- I think it was in April- the station came on air with a full length news service. I understand that this service, in conjunction with broadcasting station 4IP, is responsible for the employment of about 10 journalists.
As a result of this request the station now is providing a news service- I think the program is called ‘News Watch ‘-for the benefit of the citizens of Brisbane. With respect to the latter part of the honourable senator’s question I can say that recently the question of the renewal of the licence of station TNQ Townsville came before me. I noted that that station was providing, I think from recollection, only one hour a week of news to its viewers. I have requested the Broadcasting Control Board to express my concern to that station, bearing in mind the station’s reasonable profitability and the inadequacy of its news service, and my hope that that situation will improve in the future.
– I address my question to the Attorney-General. In respect of his Press statement of 10 June relating to a telephone bugging claim in Sydney, will the Attorney-General inform the Senate when he will receive a report from the investigation which he has ordered and when that report will be made public?
– The honourable senator is referring to the claim that was made some weeks ago that a device had been found in the telephone of one of the candidates in an election in Sydney. I think that election is due to be held this weekend. A device was found and an investigation has taken place. I have received a number of reports from which it is clear that the suggestion that a device was placed in the telephone and that telephone conversations were intercepted by political opponents can be entirely discounted. It seems clear that the device was placed in the telephone in order that it would be found. Regrettably, we are not in a position to be able to lay charges against the person responsible.
– I direct my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Transport. As the maintenance of an air service to Lord Howe Island remains the subject of continued speculation in the Press, can the Minister advise what action the Government has taken to overcome the situation that has developed?
-The flying boat service to Lord Howe Island is to terminate on 10 September, I think. I believe that one of the difficulties in operating the service is the traffic on Sydney Harbour. In the meantime I believe that the Department of the Army is constructing an airfield on Lord Howe Island. I think that as from 10 September Airlines of New South Wales will operate a limited service to the new airstrip at Lord Howe Island using either its own aircraft or aircraft on charter from Connair Pty Ltd. The Minister for Transport recognises that there will have to be a heavy subsidy on this route of some $30,000 to $50,000 a year despite the fact that there will be an increase in fares. The fare to Lord Howe Island will rise from $54 to $60. The Government is trying to meet the requirements of the island following the cessation of the flying boat service and the introduction of aircraft.
-Is the Minister for the Media able to give any information as to the reasons for the decision of the Prices Justification Tribunal to hold a public inquiry into the cost of colour television sets? Did the company Philips Industries Holdings submit the required information relating to prices of the new products to the Tribunal and is the inquiry the result of a refusal by the company to accept a decision of the Tribunal relating to price? Will the Tribunal also investigate prices of television sets wholly or partly imported? Is it envisaged that there will be any dislocation of the program to introduce colour television through what must inevitably become another major inquiry into this industry?
Senator DOUGLAS McCLELLANDMinisterial responsibility for the Prices Justification Tribunal lies within the ambit of the Prime Minister and therefore that aspect of the question is not for me to answer. The price of colour television sets as charged to the consumer falls within the ministerial responsibility of my colleague, the Minister for Science, who is responsible for setting consumer standards. Therefore all I can do is direct the 2 aspects raised in the question to the Prime Minister and the Minister for Science.
– My question, addressed to the Minister for the Media, also relates to colour television. Does the Minister remember being asked questions last Thursday, I think, concerning the possible collapse of the Australian electronics industry, with possible consequential adverse effects on the television industry? Did the Minister see reference in the Press the next daythat was last Friday- indicating that a Japanese company, Nippon Electric, was joining with Rank Australia to form a company to manufacture colour television sets and also to engage in the electronics industry? Has the Minister also seen a report that certainly until 5 July Philips Industries was recruiting labour through the Department of Labor and Immigration? Finally, will the Minister agree that these details would seem to indicate that the gloomy prediction that the Australian electronics industry faces total collapse is exaggerated, ill-founded and can only succeed in creating unwarranted panic in the industry?
-Yes, I recall the questions put to me last Thursday. Frankly, I adhere to the view I expressed then, namely that the expression of concern about the collapse of the Australian electronics industry appears to me to be exaggerated. As the honourable senator has said, I did see a report the day after the question was directed to me that the Japanese firm, Nippon Electric, had negotiated with Rank Australia to form a company to engage in the production of colour television sets and to engage in the electronics industry generally by establishing a factory at, I think, Penrith, New South Wales, which is expected to employ some hundreds of Australians. I also saw a reference- I think it was in the ‘National Times’ last Sunday- to the fact that Philips Industries as late as 5 July was recruiting labour through the Department of Labor and Immigration.
In my ministerial capacity I have to approve of contractual arrangements which are desired to be entered into by the Australian Broadcasting Commission for amounts above $100,000. Going on the number of these contractual arrangements which come to me for my approval for and on behalf of the ABC relating to the purchase of electronic equipment, bearing in mind the amount of electronic equipment required by the Post Office, the Overseas Telecommunications Commission and the Department of Defence and realising that the introduction of frequency modulation broadcasting is being considered, that cable television has yet to be introduced in Australia and that the Government has recently opened up the AM broadcasting spectrum, the Australian electronics industry has very little to fear so far as its future development is concerned.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Foreign Affairs. I refer to Press reports of a lecture delivered in Perth on Monday by the Director of the Australian Institute of International Affairs who claimed that a fleet of 30 Russian ships was on station very close to the Australian coast. Can the Minister give the Senate any further information on this report? Has the Government any plans in mind to speed up the development of the Cockburn Sound base, as the Director suggested?
– I saw the Press reports of Dr Millar’s statement; I have not seen the context of his lecture. I think it is well known that for many years the Soviet Navy has been deploying ships in the Indian Ocean off the north-west coast of Western Australia. My information is that they do not come very close to the Australian coast. Russia also deploys ships on oceanographic research in both the Indian and Pacific oceans, as well as in Antarctica and elsewhere. I understand that Dr Millar’s overall figures are broadly correct.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Foreign Affairs. Events in Cyprus are moving with great rapidity. Has he any further information that he can give to the Senate concerning the situation there?
– Earlier Senator Murphy informed the Senate that our police force there reports that its members are quite safe and well and are not in any danger. The situation is still extremely fluid. The United Nations Security Council has met and, unfortunately, has adjourned without coming to any conclusions. We believe that the most immediate objective is to bring about a cease-fire and to get the position back to what the constitution was all about in 1 960. The second objective is to work for the restitution of constitutional government in Cyprus. I do not think that there is any doubt that Archbishop Makarios is still the constitutionally elected President. I do not think that there is any doubt that he still commands great support in Cyprus. One would hope that the nations which have special rights under the constitution of 1960- namely, Greece, Turkey and the United Kingdom- play their part responsibly and hold themselves in great restraint during what must be a tremendously difficult time. The British Foreign Minister has informed the House of Commons that Great Britain will inform the Greek Government that it would help to reduce tension if the Greek Government were to withdraw the Greek officers of the Cypriot National Guard from Cyprus, and the Australian Government agrees that this step would be a sound one. As I say, the situation is still extremely fluid. We are watching events very closely. I shall certainly let Senator Georges know if there are any further particulars from the Security Council.
– I direct a question to the Attorney-General. It will be recalled that on 2 1 March the former Governor-General signed a Minute of Approval relating to the appointment of one Senator Vincent Gair to an office in Ireland. My information is that the aforesaid senator received his emoluments from that date until the dissolution of Parliament on 14 April. I ask the Minister to verify that fact and then to tell me whether he does not consider that his contention that forfeiture of the office had occurred on 2 1 March is of such importance, inconsistent as it is with the payment to which I have referred, as to bring the matter before the High Court for judicial decision?
-As to the last part of the question, I think there was some endeavour by a Queensland citizen to bring the case before the High Court. In fact, I think the proceedings had actually been instituted. The matter would have arisen in relation to whether there would be five or six vacancies for Queensland senators. But then the double dissolution intervened and in effect the case became moot. I do not know the answer to the question about the payment of money but it rather strikes me that the honourable senator is somewhat inconsistent in his approaches to this matter. I remember his complaining bitterly about Senator Gair’s sitting in the chamber when he was not supposed to be sitting here, and joining others in criticising him.
Then the honourable senator was party, as I recall it, to a decision by the Senate that Senator Gair was still a senator and therefore was entitled to sit in the Senate. It having thus been resolved that Senator Gair was a senator, am I to understand that the honourable senator’s complaint now is that the Government of the country has in some way taken notice of the Senate and the decision that it made? Is he complaining about that? Is the honourable senator saying that we should not act in accordance with the decision of the Senate? I really would like to understand what the honourable senator wants the Government to do. Does he want the Government to pay attention to the decision of the Senate or not to pay attention to the decision of the Senate?
– My question is directed to the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. By way of brief preface I refer to the fact that yesterday the Minister said in reply to a question by me that the Woodward Aboriginal Land Rights Commission report was not being discussed with Aborigines or their organisations outside the Northern Territory. I now ask: In view of the fact that the Commonwealth has assumed responsibility in Aboriginal affairs in some States and is negotiating for the taking over of that responsibility in other States, will the Minister institute steps to arrange for those discussions to be extended to include all appropriate Aboriginal organisations so that their views may be given full weight in moving towards a national agreement on this question? If he will not, why will he not?
– I would be sorry if I said yesterday that the Woodward Commission report is not being discussed by Aboriginal groups outside the Northern Territory. I think it is being discussed by Aboriginal groups right throughout Australia. I intended to say that the report dealt with the Northern Territory and adjacent areas and recommended that the acquiring of land or settlement of land upon Aboriginal communities should be in accordance with discussions with the communities. In that area we have proceeded to refer it to the Central and Northern Lands Commissions. These points will be encompassed in a statement that I intend to make this afternoon when tabling the Woodward Commission report. Of course, the Government has decided that I should take up negotiations with the responsible State Ministers now to see how much agreement we can get towards using the Woodward Commission report as the framework for application to the various States of the principles it contains. That shall be done immediately the Parliament goes into recess.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Repatriation and Compensation. Can the Minister inform the Parliament what arrangements have been made for determining authorities under the Repatriation Act to give the reasons for their decisions?
-The War Pensions Entitlement Appeal Tribunals began recording their reasons and making available the reasons for their decisions as from 1 June 1974. It is proposed that other determining authorities acting within the framework of the Repatriation Act also should give the reasons for their decisions. The Government believes it is desirable that people whose applications for repatriation benefits have been rejected should know why the tribunal has rejected their applications. The Repatriation Commission is at the moment evolving arrangements so that all of the other tribunals and determining authorities under the Repatriation Act will also be giving the reasons for their determinations in the same way as is already being done by the War Pensions Entitlement Appeal Tribunals.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Social Security. Has the Government received from the Social Welfare Commission proposals for the development of day care facilities for children which were requested by the Government in February 1974? If it has not yet received the report, when is the report expected? If the report has been received, when will it be released by the Government?
-No doubt the Senate will not be very surprised to learn that I do not know the answer to that question. But if the honourable senator will put it on notice I will ensure that an answer is obtained for him.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Agriculture. When will the Minister announce the names of the Chairman and members of the new Australian Apple and Pear Corporation? What additional powers will the Corporation have compared with the Australian Apple and Pear Board which it will replace?
– I will be making an announcement on the weekend of the composition of the new Corporation. Essentially the difference between the new Corporation and the old Board will be that the Corporation will have power to trade in its own right, especially on a government to government basis. It will have additional marketing powers in Australia and powers over general promotion and marketing which did not apply under the constitution of the old Apple and Pear Board.
-My question to the Minister for Agriculture refers to 2 matters. Firstly, it relates to the very expensive advertising in daily newspapers aimed at the abolition of the quota on the production of table margarine which has been set from time to time by the Australian Agricultural Council. Secondly, it refers to the publication ‘Rural Policy in Australia’ which is now known as the rural Green Paper. I ask: Does the Green Paper correctly reflect the Government’s attitude towards the quota production of margarine? Does the Minister agree with the proposal referred to in the Green Paper and supported by Sir John Crawford that there should be an inquiry into this matter?
-I think most people would agree that there have been sufficient inquiries and delays over the question of margarine quotas. The Australian Agricultural Council normally is the body which determines the quota for the States. Currently the quota is set at 22,000 tons. This is regarded by most sections of the industry as being adequate for Australian consumer requirements. However, the Government will be making a firm decision on its attitude in respect of this matter very shortly and before the next Agricultural Council meeting. I would think that the recommendations in the Green Paper would be the views shared by most Australians insofar as it states that continued restrictions on the production of a product to defend another product cannot be justified. Nevertheless, when the decision is taken, whichever way it will go as far as the Agricultural Council meeting is concerned, it is proper that the industry affected, namely the dairy industry, be given adequate warning of any complete suspension of quotas.
-Has the attention of the Minister for Repatriation and Compensation been drawn to the criticism that the extension of repatriation benefits to members of the defence forces has changed the whole concept of war service underlying repatriation?
-Yes, my attention has been drawn to this. It seems to be a rather curious criticism that has been offered. In fact, what the Government has done in regard to the increase in the eligibility of persons who may receive repatriation benefits has been to provide that members of the defence forces serving in time of peace are now entitled to the same benefits as those available to ex-servicemen who served in non-combat areas in time of war. But the benefits which are available have not been diminished in any way. On the contrary, what the Government has done is to extend the range of benefits to members of the defence forces serving in peace time. It seems to be very strange indeed that there should have been the criticisms which apparently there have been of this extension of repatriation benefits by the Government.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister for the Media, is prompted by the Minister’s action in relation to Channel 0 television station in Brisbane. Is it a fact that radio station 4KQ in Brisbane is owned by the Australian Labor Party? Is it a fact that this station does not have a news service or employ journalists, but instead takes the Australian Broadcasting Commission news on relay? In view of 4KQ’s high profitability, will the Minister take steps to ensure that this station begins a news service on the same lines as that provided by 4IP-Channel 0
– I can tell the honourable senator that radio station 4KQ gives an outstanding service to the people of Brisbane. As a matter of fact, by purchasing news from the Australian Broadcasting Commission it substantially relieves the burden imposed on consolidated revenue. I can also tell the honourable senator that in the report presented to me last year by the Australian Broadcasting Control Board for the renewal of the licence of 4KQ, the Board commended the station on the excellent manner in which it conducted its affairs and said frankly that it was one of the broadcasting stations that should be looked at because it sets an example to the rest of the broadcasting industry.
- Mr President, I think that that is a good note upon which to finish question time. I ask that further questions be placed on the notice paper.
– I understand that Senator Bishop has an answer to a question which was asked by Senator Greenwood yesterday.
– Yesterday Senator Greenwood asked a number of questions about Mr Albert Langer in relation to his employment with the Australian Post Office. I have the following answer with me which I will read as I promised that I would try to get it today. Mr Albert Langer applied on 7 March 1974 to sit for an examination for an appointment as a linesmanintraining. On 6 April 1 974 he sat and passed exam No. 6561 conducted by the Austraiian Post Office. After undergoing the normal medical examination the Australian Public Service inspector in Victoria approved the appointment, on probation, of Mr Langer as a linesmanintraining on Provident Account conditions. This decision was reached by the Public Service Inspector yesterday. Mr Langer was informed of it this morning. The Australian Post Office is waiting Mr Langer ‘s decision on whether he will accept the appointment.
While waiting for notification of his appointment Mr Langer applied at Blackburn Post Office for employment as a postman in answer to local advertisements. It is anticipated that Mr Langer will continue as a temporary postman for the time being or until he decides to accept his appointment. In answer to Senator Greenwood ‘s reference to Mr Langer ‘s academic qualifications I state that there is nothing to prevent any person applying for employment in the Australian Post Office for an occupation requiring less qualifications than he may possess. A person’s academic qualifications have no bearing on his appointment as a linesman-in-training as the method of entry is by a competitive examination. The Australian Post Office treats all applicants equally, irrespective of their qualifications. Mr Langer received the normal treatment given to any applicant. As to whether Mr Langer ‘s publicly stated political beliefs should prevent his employment by the Australian Post Office- or for that matter, any other department- I point out that this Government believes in freedom of political beliefs. We do not believe that anybody should be denied employment opportunities because of those beliefs.
– For the information of honourable senators I present a report of the Committee on Integration of Data Systems which was forwarded to the Prime Minister, dated 31 March 1974.
– On behalf of my colleague the Minister for Education and for the information of honourable senators I present the preliminary report by the Commission on Advanced Education on NonGovernment Teachers Colleges.
– For the information of honourable senators I table the second report of the Aboriginal Land Rights Commission, together with a statement by the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs relating to the report, and ask for leave to have the statement incorporated in Hansard.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows)-
In the past 10 years the question of Aboriginal land rights became the most important issue in Aboriginal affairs- as important for the urban Aboriginals of the south and east as it was for those in the north who still live in or near their traditional territories. It was also a crucial test of Australia’s dealings with the Aboriginal people in the eyes of other nations. Convention No. 107 of the International Labor Organisation has, since 1957, been available as a standard by which to judge the policies of governments towards indigenous peoples. But for too long the principles it expressed were generally ignored by governments in this country. In relation to land the convention states that: The right of ownership, collective or individual, of the members of the populations concerned over the lands which these populations traditionally occupy shall be recognised and; no government in Australia had recognised any Aboriginal right of ownership of land, other than the ordinary rights of aboriginals as citizens to own land like any other person.
Mr Justice Woodward in this report effectively sums up the history of the rapid and often brutal process by which the Aboriginal people were dispossessed in 5 brief paragraphs:
At the beginning of the year 1788 the whole of Australia was occupied by the Aboriginal people of this country. It was divided between groups in a way which was understood and respected by all.
Over the last 1 86 years white settlers and their descendants have gradually taken over the occupation of most of the fertile or otherwise useful parts of the country. In doing so, they have shown scant regard for any rights in the land, legal or moral, of the Aboriginal people.
There are now about 100 white citizens of Australia for every one Aboriginal or partAboriginal.
These are the simple historical facts which provide the background for the Government’s expressed intention to recognise Aboriginal land rights in the most appropriate way possible.
These basic facts and the human tragedy which they represent are, I believe, not sufficiently understood by the Australian community.
When the Yirrkala clans sought to establish that they had a legally recognisable title to the lands they occupy in the Gove Peninsula, it was found that there was no basis for such a claim in Australian law. The significance of the judgment of Mr Justice Blackburn in the Northern Territory Supreme Court in 1971 was that it made it perfectly clear that if Aboriginals were to obtain land rights it would have to be by an Act of Government and not through the courts.
Some governments have sought to do something to redress past wrongs in relation to land. In South Australia in 1966 an Aboriginal Lands Trust was established whereby the remaining Aboriginal reserves could be vested in an allAboriginal body. The trust has progressively been assuming responsibility for more of the reserves. But in South Australia, as elsewhere in the south, all to little land remains reserved for Aboriginal use. In Victoria where two small reserves remained, the Government in 1970 established two corporations of the residents of the reserves and transferred to them ownership of the Lake Tyers and Framlingham reserves. In Western Australia and more recently New South Wales, Aboriginal land trusts similar to the
South Australian one have been established to own and manage Aboriginal lands. In the Northern Territory, more than anywhere else in Australia, the Aboriginal people had remained in effective possession of much of their lands, since about one fifth of the Territory had been reserved. In the areas of pastoral occupation many Aboriginals had been able to retain some of their links with their lands, living in small communities in or near the lands and important sites of their ancestors.
The campaign for land rights conducted by Aboriginal organisations and their supporters in the 1960s did not lack enthusiasm and the justice of the cause should have been apparent to all. But those involved did not really provide governments with any adequate indication of how land rights might properly be recognised and granted to the Aboriginal people. This Australian Government has not only acknowledged that the Aboriginal people were effectively the owners of the whole of this continent before the first white settlement but has expressed its determination to recognise in practical ways their rights to land. It was clear, however, that it would be difficult to devise a practical scheme which would meet Aboriginal wishes and needs within the framework of modern systems of law and land ownership. The Government therefore appointed a Royal Commission to investigate the problems and advise it on: ‘The appropriate means to recognise and establish the traditional rights and interests of the Aborigines in and in relation to land, and to satisfy in other ways the reasonable aspirations of the Aborigines to rights in or in relation to land’.
The Commission’s inquiry was limited to the Northern Territory where the Australian Government has full responsibility for land matters as well as for Aboriginal affairs. Later the Commission was asked to take into account also the neighbouring central Australian reserves in Western Australia and South Australia. The report proposes, in brief, that full ownership rights in the reserves and certain other lands should be vested in appropriate groups of Aboriginal trustees, holding title on behalf of the traditional owners of the land in Aboriginal law. Ownership would be communal and there would be a non-transferable title in fee simple. Twelve separate trusts are proposed.
The Northern and Central Land Councils, which were established originally to allow Aboriginals to discuss the issues raised in the Commission’s first report and develop proposals to put to the Commission, would assist in the administration of Aboriginal lands. The Land
Councils have done an excellent job in helping to form and express Aboriginal opinion on land matters in the past few months. It is envisaged that they would continue, with their own staff and independent funding, in order to negotiate on land matters and generally to guard Aboriginal interests and traditional rights in land. The Councils would in particular administer leases which could be granted where Aboriginals wish it and would handle negotiations with existing lease-holders whose interests would be preserved.
The report recommends that rights to minerals in Aboriginal lands should remain with the Government with 2 very important qualifications. Royalties will be paid to the Aboriginals and the consent of Aboriginals- of the relevant land councils, community councils and traditional owners- will be necessary before mineral exploration or development is allowed. The views of Aboriginals, it is proposed, should only be over-ridden where the national interest requires it as a matter of real necessity. In effect Aboriginals would enjoy most of the rights of owners of minerals.
For those Aboriginals who live outside the reserves, in towns and on pastoral properties, the Commission proposes various means to meet their land needs. It is proposed to establish a land commission to register Aboriginal claims and to advise Government on how such traditional claims might be dealt with. But the commission would also have the task of considering Aboriginal land needs and requests for land based on need as well as on traditional ownership. We hope to appoint an interim commissioner to begin dealing immediately with particularly urgent problems.
In the towns, where few groups would have recognisable traditional claims, many Aboriginals have urgent land needs, too often ignored or over-ridden in the past. The report proposes that appropriate areas for housing and camping purposes should be leased to Aboriginal groups. It endorses, in effect, the Government’s existing policies designed to meet land needs in the pastoral districts. The excision of areas for community residential purposes will be negotiated where Aboriginal groups on cattle stations want to establish themselves with some independence. In other cases, and particularly where whole tribal groups have no land base at all, properties should be purchased, using the Aboriginal Land Fund, for which I hope to introduce legislation soon. Developmental funds would also be provided by Government.
The Government is preparing to implement the recommendations of the report and, as indicated, 1 hope to introduce some relevant legislation in the next session. But one most important recommendation is that the Aboriginal people should be fully consulted on all action to be taken and should be given ‘every opportunity to consider and criticise proposals and to negotiate with the Government for changes in those proposals’. For this purpose the two Land Councils have already met with their expert and independent legal advisers- the Northern Land Council in May and the Central Land Council last month. The Northern Land Council is having the summary of recommendations in the report sent to all community councils and similar bodies and has already taken some initiatives in preparation for implementation of the report. It intends to meet again in about September to consider the views expressed by Aboriginal communities on the recommendations. We do not intend to put pressure on the Aboriginals of the Northern Territory to accept the recommendations in haste but at the same time we do not wish to see any undue delay in implementing policy which will at last give Aboriginals some rights to the land of their ancestors.
The report acknowledges that no scheme can be designed which will with any certainty meet future needs. What is proposed is no final settlement but an arrangement which seems just and appropriate for our time and which should be flexible enough ‘to allow for changing ideas and changing needs amongst Aboriginal people’. I should stress that this is a report about landabout traditional land rights and ways of recognising these and about land needs and ways of meeting them whether in towns and cities or in reserves, pastoral properties and vacant lands.
Mr Justice Woodward, referring to submissions urging that he consider the possibility of cash compensation, argues: That the only appropriate direct recompense for those who have lost their traditional lands is other land- together with finance to enable that land to be used appropriately, either for housing or for some economic purpose. Cash compensation in the pockets of this generation of Aborigines is no answer to the legitimate land claims of a people with a distinct past who want to maintain their separate identity in the future.
I endorse this view. Many will no doubt wish to press for cash compensation and this is reasonable and certainly understandable. But it is an issue which can be dealt with apart from action to meet land needs. It is an issue which raises questions about the way in which the needs of
Aboriginals as Australian citizens are met and about the ways in which Government expenditure in Aboriginal affairs is managed and the extent to which Aboriginals can and should control this expenditure. The Government’s provision for special Aboriginal programs may be seen as a kind of cash compensation and the programs as rehabilitation programs. I prefer to regard them as measures to meet present needs rather than as some kind of payment in compensation for past losses.
This report is, I believe, a historic document and one of the most important to be tabled in this chamber. The number of people directly affected by its recommendations may seem small- less than 30,000 Aboriginals in the Northern Territory. But it sets guidelines for action which could be taken in the states in the interests of all Aboriginals and this aspect I intend to discuss with State Ministers. The Commission’s analysis of the problems and its recommendations will, I have no doubt, have far reaching implications for the whole relationship between Aboriginal Australians and their fellow citizens, Mr Justice Woodward has dealt with a most complex and difficult problem in an admirably clear and comprehensive way. I commend the report to the attention of all Senators and indeed all Australians.
– I move:
-The Opposition wishes to debate and discuss this most important report. In view of the exigencies of the day, after discussion with Senator Cavanagh I have indicated that I am agreeable to making my remarks at a later stage. I seek leave to continue my remarks at a later stage.
Leave granted: Debate adjourned.
Motion (by Senator Murphy) agreed to:
That, in pursuance of section 13 of the Constitution of the Commonwealth, the senators chosen for each State shall be divided into 2 classes as follows:
The name of the senator first elected shall be placed first on the senator’s roll for each State and the name of the senator next elected shall be placed next and so on in rotation.
The senators whose names are placed first, second, third, fourth and fifth on the roll shall be senators of the second class, that is, the long-term senators; and senators whose names are placed sixth, seventh, eighth, ninth and tenth on the roll shall be senators of the first class, that is, the short-term senators.
Motion (by Senator Murphy) agreed to:
That leave be given to introduce a Bill for an Act relating to marriage and to divorce and matrimonial causes and, in relation thereto, parental rights and the custody and guardianship of infants, and certain other matters.
Suspension of Standing Orders
-Is it desired to postpone or rearrange the business?
– I seek leave to move a motion in connection with the tabling of an interim report of the Senate Select Committee on Securities and Exchange.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
Senator MURPHY (New South WalesAttorneyGeneral) I move:
– The question is that the motion be agreed to.
– I wish to support the motion -
– Order! The question is that the motion be agreed to.
– I wish to be assured, if this is to proceed and the debate is to take place tomorrow morning on the report that all senators shall have copies of that report before the tabling takes place.
- Mr President, if no one else wishes to speak, I would say in answer to the honourable senator that honourable senators certainly should not be supplied with copies of the report before it has been tabled in the Senate. However, I would think that everyone would expect that honourable senators would be given an opportunity to read the report before it was debated in the Senate.
– I seek leave to make a statement.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– I simply assure the Senate that copies will be available tomorrow to be distributed at the time it is tabled in the chamber.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from 16 July (vide page 1 89), on motion by Senator Willesee:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Upon which Senator Greenwood had moved by way of amendment: -Leave out all words after “That”, insert “, having regard to-
the fact that twenty-five per cent of the membership of the Senate has changed since the Bill was last before the Senate; the Bill be referred to a Select Committee of the Senate to inquire into and report to the Senate on or before 31 July 1974 on whether-
– As I indicated last night the whole future of this Senate could depend on whether or not this legislation is passed. Every honourable senator in this chamber represents a State, and if we are to have a situation whereby Territories are able to take over or to have representatives here then of course this will weaken the States’ representation. As I also indicated last night, there is little doubt that the Australian Labor Government in moving for territorial representation in this House had as its main aim either to destroy the effectiveness of the Senate or ultimately to destroy the Senate, which of course has been its policy. We in the Opposition oppose this legislation on other grounds besides those that I mentioned last night, they being mainly constitutional grounds concerning section 7 of the Constitution which states that the Senate shall be composed of senators for each State. There is little doubt that the Government is using section 122 of the Constitution in order to bring down this 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.
There is little doubt of course that the Government is using section 122 to justify this legislation. We believe that the legislation defies section 7 of the Constitution. As I said last night, the Northern Territory is not a State. There has been no indication that the Government intends to bring it to statehood- nor has there ever been any intention that the Australian Capital Territory should become a State. Of course, once the precedent has been set by two of the territories having representation in this House, the way is open for any government, whether it be the present government or any other government, in order to get control of this place, to do exactly the same thing with other territories that belong to this Commonwealth. There is little doubt that the more that this goes on the less effective will be this chamber as a States House. Government senators have argued that the Opposition is not interested in the Territories but that it treats the people in them as second class citizens. It is interesting to note that it was a government of our persuasion which legislated to give the member for the Northern Territory full voting rights in the House of Representatives. It was a Labor government which tried to strangle a move to set up the Northern Territory Legislative Council in 1930. This move was prevented by the then member for the Northern Territory, a Labor representative, who got support from our side of the House of Representatives. It was our side of the House of Representatives which in 1959, 1966 and 1968 gradually upgraded the voting power of the member for the Northern Territory and the member for the Australian Capital Territory to the full status of all other members. Admittedly these changes did not take place at the same time. So it is absolutely wrong for the Government to suggest that the Opposition is not interested in the Territories.
As I said last night, I am quite sure that there is no move by the Government to bring the Northern Territory to statehood. There is no move to increase the powers of the Legislative Council, which is the locally elected body of the Northern Territory. As I said, the only reason why the Government wants to bring senators into this place is for political purposes other than the looking after the interests of the Territories concerned. The amendment states:
Delete all words after ‘that’ and insert: having regard to
the possibility that the Bill will be the basis of a submission to the Governor-General for a joint sitting of both Houses at which, notwithstanding the opposition of a majority of members of the Senate, the Bill may be deemed to have passed the Senate if an absolute majority of the members of both Houses carry the Bill;
I think we are getting into a dangerous area when we can allow the other House to have a say as to whether we can admit other people into this place. The amendment continues:
Of course this refers to section 7 of the Constitution, which I mentioned before and which provides that the Senate is to be composed of representatives from the States. The amendment continues:
I believe that these matters which we hope a Senate committee will investigate are very pertinent to this place. I think it would be extremely wrong, in cases where money is being appropriated by the Government of Australia to a Territory which is receiving very beneficial treatment, for that Territory’s representative in this place to have the balance of power. Therefore I have much pleasure in supporting the amendment.
– The Senate is discussing a Bill which is designed to provide representation in this Senate of residents of the Australian Capital Territory, Jervis Bay and the Northern Territory. It is a simple Bill. It seeks to regularise the participation of the people in those Territories in the political life of this country and to place them on the same level of participation as every other citizen. If we are to believe the hoary stories of the Opposition if a person born and bred in Sydney or Cairns were to shift to the Northern Territory or to Canberra, he would be denied certain of his democratic rights which he would have had if he had remained in the State of his birth. Of course the Opposition is continuing the same tactics which we saw adopted prior to 18 May when on 4 occasions the House of Representatives and the Senate were involved in discussions of this same Bill. That is to say, the Bill went through the House of Representatives on 2 occasions and through this place on 2 occasions. Subsequent to that it was passed by the House of Representatives and is now before the Senate for its consideration.
One would have thought that the election on 18 May had not taken place. One would have thought that the mandate which was given to the Government on the second occasion would have been enough. It was clearly expressed in the policy speech of the Government and in the statements made by many of those involved in the election campaign that it was the intention of the Government, should it be returned to office, to give to the residents of the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory the same facilities as are given to residents in the rest of Australia as far as Senate representation is concerned. Of course we all recognise that whatever the result of the debate in this place today- assuming that we reach a decision today- the Government is committed to a joint sitting of both Houses at which this matter will be considered. So what we are involved in is largely an exercise in futility. It is another exercise in timewasting which has been characteristic of the Senate over the last 18 months or so during which the Labor Government has been in office.
It would appear that Opposition senators have not learned any lessons from the last 2 Federal elections and have not listened to the advice of the very many voices that have been raised within their own Party and on the periphery of their Party about approaching important Government legislation and constitutional matters in a fashion different from that which was followed in the previous Parliament. We have been subjected by honourable senators opposite to the usual farrago of nonsense, specious arguments and lawyers’ debate in an endeavour to establish some new point so that the Senate, on this occasion, may adopt the same negative attitude towards this Bill as it adopted previously. At one stage in the debate it appeared as though we were going to be subjected again to the filibuster tactic, but it appears that saner voices have prevailed on the Opposition side and that the Government is going to suffer only another one of the frustrations which have characterised the activities of the Senate since March 1 973.
The Bill has a very simple objective; it seeks to give the residents of the Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory equal rights in respect of representation in this place. A great deal has been said both in the other House and in this chamber suggesting that all sorts of abnormalities and anomalies will exist should the Senate or the joint sitting of both Houses permit the passage of the Bill. Honourable senators opposite spoke at great length about the difference in population in electorates. I put it to the Senate that if one examines the populations of New South Wales and Tasmania, one finds that the population of New South Wales is about 12 times greater than the population of Tasmania. One finds also that the proportional difference in population between, say, Tasmania and the Northern Territory is considerably different, it is considerably less. In that case I think the ratio is eight to one. The ratio between Tasmania and the Australian Capital Territory is only two to one. So if we are going to use the argument that there is a great divergence of population and therefore of representation between New South Wales and the Northern Territory, surely we are entitled to say that this divergence clearly exists between the major States and the smaller States in the existing Commonwealth situation.
I think it is true to say that in the Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory we are faced with an evolution. We are faced with a growth in population which is out of proportion to the growth in some of the smaller States, particularly Tasmania. Surely it is only a matter of time before the Parliament will come to the conclusion, more rationally than it appears to be doing on this occasion, that these Territories are entitled to be represented in this place, as they are represented in the House of Representatives. I draw to the attention of honourable senators the fact that it was not so many years ago that the representative for the Australian Capital Territory and the representative for the Northern Territory had limited rights even in the House of Representatives, but as the evolution has taken place those representatives have been recognised as full members of the Parliament and are now able to exercise their rights on all matters that come before the Parliament. We are seeking to extend this right in order to give the residents of the Territories who have particular and different problems the rights enjoyed by every other person in the Commonwealth.
An argument has been advanced to suggest that what we propose to do by this Bill could result in some change occurring in the balance of the forces within the Senate itself, but we will continue to have proportional representation. Does any honourable senator opposite seriously believe that the Labor Party, which at present cannot win the one House of Representatives seat for the Northern Territory, is going to win the 2 Senate vacancies in the Northern Territory, if they are created, or is the election to be decided on the basis of each party receiving more than 33 per cent of the vote which would be required to elect a senator? I suggest that the latter would be the predictable result from a contest between the Labor Party and probably the Country Party. Perhaps that is the reason why the Liberal Party does not want to go along with this proposal; it does not want to see the influence of the Country Party increased in this Chamber. I think that probably the same situation will develop in the Australian Capital Territory. Even though we might have hopes that the Government could do better in the Australian Capital Territory, surely no one doubts that it is a very formidable task to expect any one party or group to win 66 per cent of the votes, even in the Australian Capital Territory. So really the stories that have been coming from the Opposition benches, the notes of alarm and the attempts which have been made to suggest that this is a gerrymander have no substance at all as far as the logic of the argument is concerned.
The Labor Party’s position in this matter has been quite consistent. The original member for the Northern Territory, Mr Nelson, and Mr Whitlam himself have, for a number of years, consistently supported the principle of Senate representation for these 2 Territories. More recently we have seen the development of support for this proposal from areas even outside the influence of the Government. The Legislative Council in the Northern Territory, the Australian Capital Territory Advisory Council and more recently, I understand, even the conference of the Liberal Party in the Australian Capital Territory have seen fit to support the proposition that the people in the Territories should be regarded as having equal rights in this place with every other Australian.
Senator Greenwood has moved an amendment which certainly seeks only to delay the passage of the Bill by referring it for further consideration to a committee of the Senate which, as I understand it, has not yet been set up. Of course, this was the principal tactic adopted in the previous Parliament- referring matters of great political moment to committees for consideration in the knowledge that there would be little opportunity for those committees to carry out the sort of in-depth studies that were required to enable them to report back to the Senate.
– Did you not do that when you were in opposition?
– The party political lines have been drawn. We know quite well, Senator Greenwood, that the decisions of your Party have been made. What is the point of referring this Bill to some other body for consideration when the die has already been cast? When the motion for the second reading of this Bill was agreed to in the other place 16 or 1 7 members of the Country Party voted with the Government but, of course, the whips were drawn and pressure was exerted on the Country Party. The tactic adopted was that of delaying and frustrating the Government in this place.
I am grateful, Mr Acting Deputy President, for the breath of fresh air that has come into this Senate. I refer particularly to one of the independent senators who has tried to advise the Opposition to be a little more constructive in its attitude. That breath of fresh air caused me, in preparing for this speech, to read some of the debates that took place in the House of Representatives on the last occasion that this Bill was discussed. I would think that members of the Opposition would hang their heads in shame if they looked at the divisions and the way votes were recorded in the House of Representatives in the period from when the Parliament assembled on 28 February 1973 to the end of 1973. I was amazed to find the lethargy that existed within the Opposition ranks in that place. Only on one occasion during all the divisions on the 270-odd pieces of legislation dealt with during last year was the Liberal Party able to maintain its full strength in that place. I have noted the number of absentees there were on many occasions and they were as follows: 12, 13, 14, 11, 18, 19, 16, 20, 21, 17, 13 and 16. If honourable senators would like to check they would find that on every occasion the performance of the Opposition parties in that place was pathetic and unimaginative. Clearly the Opposition parties in this place have earned the rebuke given by one of the newly elected senators and certain individual members of the Opposition who said that there should be a more workmanlike approach from the Opposition parties to their parliamentary responsibilities. I refer not only to what Senator Steele Hall said but to what Mr Gorton, Mr Killen and the Federal President of the Liberal Party, Mr Southey, have said in respect to the denial of supply. I refer also to what Sir Robert Menzies and Mr Harold Holt had to say about these matters when they were Prime Ministers of this Country.
One would have imagined that as a result of that friendly advice being given to the Opposition some light would have broken through the darkness and that we would have had a more mature and responsible attitude from the Opposition parties. Is that the case? No. We are still going to be put through the torture of debating these Bills at the same length and hearing the same specious arguments. Largely the same senators will speak on these matters as spoke on the previous occasion, seeking to deny the results of the election and seeking to deny the Government the opportunity of bringing in even the simple Bill that is now before us.
Yesterday arguments were raised in the Senate to suggest that section 128 of the Constitution would prohibit the Bill becoming law because it would diminish the proportional representation of any State unless the majority of electors voting in each State approved the proposed law. I give Senator Greenwood credit for raising this argument which I think was used yesterday. The argument seems to be that by allowing the senators for the Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory to have equal votes with existing senators who claim to represent the States, the rights of those States would be reduced disproportionately.
I remember one of the early speeches I made in this House some two or three years ago about the vexed problem of Commonwealth/State relations. I put forward a plea for the Commonwealth to devise a more equitable means of distributing Commonwealth funds so that the States could carry out their proper public works functions. I was taken to task by Senator Webster for introducing party politics. By interjection I drew his attention to the fact that this House was supposed to represent the States and that that matter was part of our responsibility. He disagreed with me on that occasion and said that that was not our primary purpose; our purpose was to review the legislation of the House of Representatives. Yesterday we found that same honourable senator speaking about the power of the States when he made his contribution. In no way is the Government endeavouring to reduce the power of the States. In point of fact I think it was the Menzies administration that put a referendum to the people about breaking the nexus between the number of senators and the number of members in the House of Representatives.
– He was well and truly beaten.
– He was well and truly beaten. I am indebted to Senator Wood for endorsing what I was about to say. Let us look at the position. We now have 127 members in the House of Representatives and we still have 60 senators. Passage of this Bill would result in there being another 4 senators and that would regularise the arrangements between the Senate and the House of Representatives because, according to the Constitution, the House of Representatives should have twice as many members as the Senate. We know that there will be an electoral redistribution. Are we to tie the hands of the Electoral Commissioners and prevent them from dealing with the creation of new seats? At what stage is Senator Greenwood going to accuse this Government of some malpractice or improper attitude if the Commissioners suggest that there should be 130 members in the House of Representatives? This adds to the argument that the Government has been putting forward about the need to modernise our Constitution. We need to recognise the new factors that have developed in our country in recent years. We live in an entirely different world to that of the days when our founding fathers put certain restrictions in the Constitution. The world has changed. We have heard many senators from all sides of this House suggest that the time has arrived for some modernisation of our parliamentary system.
I was referring to the argument raised yesterday by Senator Greenwood. I suppose it is not the prerogative of a layman to throw legal opinion back to a lawyer but Quick and Garran were eminent in this field and they expressed a viewpoint on this very question. They said that section 128 in no way inhibits governments and parliaments from operating in respect of section 122. I just cannot understand the arguments produced by the Opposition, particularly by the last speaker, because section 122, as I read it as a layman, does not talk about States. It does not say that the Parliament is not able to pass legislation to give representation to other areas in Australia. In fact section 122, which is in chapter VI and which deals with new States and with the Senate specifically 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-
I think that the next phrase is what needs to be emphasised to the Australian people and put forward for, I hope, the good judgment of honourable senators: -to the extent and on the terms which it thinks fit.
I do not think there is any ambiguity about the matter. I do not imagine that anyone could say that section 128 supersedes section 122 or that it seeks to reduce the effectiveness of section 122. The learned constitutional authorities Quick and Garran made the point that section 128 does not have application to section 122. 1 know that lawyers will argue this until kingdom come and it is not my prerogative to say whether they are right or wrong. If the joint sitting passes this Bill, Senator Greenwood will probably be briefed by one of the rebel States in an endeavour to delay even further the passage of what is clearly a very minor and simple piece of legislation.
I do not believe that it was ever the intention of the founding fathers to place some Australian citizens in a different position from other Australian citizens. Their determination to have equal representation by the big and the smaller States was clearly designed to give every Australian citizen the right to be represented in the Senate. The citizens of the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory pay taxes to the Australian Government. It is the tactic of the Opposition to break precedent. It took steps in the last Parliament to deny Supply. It could refuse to pass any tax Bill or any money Bill in future. Is it seriously suggested by the Opposition that the 130,000 or 140,000 voters in the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory should have no say in this chamber in respect of such money or Supply Bills?
Let us recognise that the Northern Territory, whilst its population is still only about 30,000, is a very important part of Australia. It is a real treasure trove. It has problems which need ventilation in this place. Senator McLaren has spent a great deal of his time travelling around the Territory. On one occasion I was privileged to go with him to speak to people with a wide divergence of opinion- Liberals, members of the Country Party, people of all political trends- in the Northern Territory. A year or two ago, when I went with him, I did not meet a person who did not raise with me the right to have somebody representing that area in this place.
It is not our intention to try to argue this matter out in a reasoned debate because we know that in the other place when Mr Calder spoke on this Bill he expressed himself vocally on the need to have Senate representation of that region because of the geographies of the area. This argument was used by Opposition senators when opposing the Commonwealth Electoral Bill yesterday. They talked about the need to have more equitable redistributions in the House of Representatives electorates. They talked about this great area which had to be represented. Now they are rejecting the view of the representative of that area, Mr Calder, that the time has arrived for the Senate to have a representative from that region.
Having read the debates, it is clear to me that the Country Party in the House of Representatives last year had an entirely different attitude from that expressed yesterday by the Deputy Leader of the Country Party in the Senate, Senator Webster, and by Senator Maunsell, who I think is now a member of the Country Party. I am not sure about all the changes which have taken place in that grouping, but certainly he has an ideology close to that of the Country Party. We do not see the value of debating this matter to any major extent, but we think that the other point of view needs to be presented. We would hope that the Opposition would take a more mature position, would heed some of the advice which has been given it from friendly sources and would get with the mood of the Australian people, which is for change, modification and improvement to our whole way of life. This is the second occasion on which the Government has been elected by the people. We would hope that the Opposition would give the Government some sort of opportunity to implement the policies which it quite openly presented to the Australian people.
We cannot accept the delaying tactics which have been the characteristic of Senator Greenwood since we have been in government. We would hope that one or two senators opposite would be prepared to change their attitude to this Bill and to other Bills which are yet to come before the Senate, and rather than delay it for a week or so let us get on with the business now and carry out the mandate which we have been given. After all, everybody recognises that eventually the matters will be placed on Party lines before a joint sitting of the 2 Houses. We would hope that the Opposition would give the Government some opportunity to implement the policies on which it was elected to govern this country for the next 3 years and would give the people of the Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory representation in this chamber on the same basis as they are represented in the House of Representatives.
– I think that this is the third time that the Senate has discussed this Bill and the third time that I have had something to say about it. I recognise that the Australian Labor Party won the last election, that it has some right to introduce legislation into this place and that we should give it due and proper consideration. 1 remind the Government that on several occasions it has put before the people referenda proposals which sought to change the Constitution. Some of them have been electoral matters. They have been rejected quite convincingly by the electorate at large. Therefore, as a responsible member of the Senate, I believe that anything which will endanger this chamber in which we sit constitutionally and anything which will weaken the influence of the States- this place is a States House- ought to be rejected by any responsible member of this chamber.
Honourable senators opposite refer to the need for Senate representation of the Northern Territory and the Austraiian Capital Territory. Senator Gietzelt indicated that there seemed to be a great clamour throughout the Northern Territory for this representation. Senator McLaren never ceases to draw our attention to the activities of the honourable member for the Northern Territory (Mr Calder) in advocating that the Northern Territory have Senate representation. I think that Senator McLaren’s constant reminders probably emanate from a fit of pique by Labor Party members because we on this side of the Senate have the right to disagree with the collective thinking of our Party, not like members of the Labor Party who are always bound hand and foot by Caucus decisions.
– You are bound, too.
- Senator McLaren always rises to the bait, and I am very glad of that fact. In South Australia State Australian Labor Party members have not been able to put the views expressed by their electors because they have been bound by Caucus decisions. That is not so with respect to our Party.
We reject this Bill purely and simply because it would weaken this place as a States House. It seems quite incredible to me that the Government should put these proposals without consulting the States. It surely would be incumbent on any responsible government to seek the advice and the opinion of the Attorneys-General and the Solicitors-General of the States and to work out whether this Bill is acceptable constitutionally. I think Senator Greenwood highlighted this point very clearly yesterday, and that is the reason for moving the amendment. I believe that the Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory are being looked after very well. A special Minister of State deals with each of those areas, and a department is devoted entirely to the interests of each of those areas. lt seems to me to be quite reasonable to accept Senator Maunsell’s argument that when the Northern Territory gets to the stage at which it can be considered to be a State of Australia we should be prepared to look at the position then and not give it 2 senators, which would be the effect of this Bill, but give it 10 senators to which it would be entitled when full statehood is granted. I just cannot see that there is any argument at all to be put forward to change my mind about this measure. I think that the Labor Party can be likened unto white ants, because with this Bill they seem to be nibbling away at the very core of the Constitution that set up the Senate as a State’s House. I think it is valid to raise constitutional matters in this debate. Even a person such as myself without any great legal knowledge can see immediately that this measure could be challenged by the States if it was ever enacted.
Another point that needs to be raised concerns the catchcry one vote one value that is always howled at us by Government supporters. Let us consider the present ratio of members of the House of Representatives and the Senate to the electoral population. It will be noted that one member would represent 42,189 voters. On that average, the Australian Capital Territory with 101,757 voters would be entitled to 2.4 representatives, and not four. The Northern Territory would be entitled to one representative, not three. This seems to make rather a mockery of the catchcry of Government supporters and others about one vote one value. There is no doubt that effective representation of the States would be seriously weakened by half-baked Territory senators holding disproportionate sway in this House on voting matters. The people in the States convincingly rejected the Government’s referendum proposal for election of senators at the same time as members of the House of Representatives. Clearly this element of the Bill is unacceptable to the people of Australia. There is no way in which the granting of representation to other than the recognised States would improve our system of government. In fact, it would inevitably lead to claims by other territories. This has been ridiculed by honourable senators opposite.
– You are talking about penguins and seagulls.
– It is quite fair to suggest that the people of Norfolk Island, Christmas Island and other territories could be justified in asking for Senate representation and I would be very surprised if it did not happen. It is quite conceivable that Territory senators with only a 3-year term could hold the balance of power over the sovereign States, thereby thwarting the concept of the Senate as the proper House of review envisaged by the architects of our Constitution. This chamber would be seriously undermined as the protector of States rights. Last evening Senator Cavanagh interjected to state the belief of Government supporters that the Government would win the Senate vacancies created. This seemed to me to be quite significant. In my view this would certainly militate against the interests of the Senate and the States and would work towards the clearly stated policy of the Labor Party to abolish the Senate.
– You know that that cannot be done without a referendum. Do not try to fool the people.
-It is still in your policy and I notice that you are fairly sensitive about it. I support the amendment that has been proposed by Senator Greenwood that all these matters should be referred to a select committee for a report. I believe that this is a far better answer to the dilemma in which we find ourselves. It would give the States an opportunity to consider this matter.
- Senator Jessop made a rather short speech and I will follow his example by not taking too much time of the Senate in discussing a measure that we are debating for the third time. The matter went before the people at the recent election. In fact the Bill is one of those the rejection of which by the Senate led to the double dissolution. It appears to be one of the Bills that will lead to a joint sitting of the 2 Houses. It seems to me to be highly contradictory for members of the Opposition to argue one case in opposing electoral redistribution, as they did yesterday, calling in aid representation based on area, and then almost instantly to reverse their logic and argue against representation based on area, especially in dealing with representation for the Northern Territory. However, we have become used to contradiction from members of the Opposition and to the semantics employed by some of their better contributors. In fact, these tactics have led to a division in the ranks that became apparent during yesterday’s debate when the representative of one section of the Liberal Party in South Australia attacked representatives of the other section of the Liberal Party in South Australia, much to my enjoyment and amusement. I trust that we will be similarly entertained as the sitting progresses.
– Do you think that they would be capable of forming a government?
– I doubt it. It would be a strange sort of government. It would be a confused and motley crew that could not come to any agreement in the back rooms or even here in the forum. I return to the matter of representation of the Northern Territory. Perhaps I have more interest in representation of the Northern Territory than anyone else here. I was born in the Northern Territory in 1920 when the area was right on the edge of what is termed civilisation in this country. It was almost completely under the control of overseas interests, particularly meat interests. It is pleasing to see the development of the Northern Territory and that this Government has decided to give it representative government. Instead of the word ‘government’ perhaps I should say that the Northern Territory is to be given some elective process. Towards the end of this year elections will take place for the Northern Territory Legislative Council. To my mind this is keeping in step with the development of the Northern Territory and may even lead to what has been suggested by the OppositionState status. 1 believe that the Northern Territory will eventually reach the economic and population position which will achieve for it recognition as a State. This may seem to be paradoxical coming from me because I am a supporter of a central government. I believe a central government to be inevitable. As each day passes Australia becomes more involved in international decisions, and for that reason the responsibilities of the States will become fewer as the years go by. It will be some time before the States become redundant. Before that time is reached I believe that the Northern Territory will receive its full representation rights. When the States do become redundant the problem of the abolition of the Senate will then be solved because it has been statedperhaps I agree- that the Senate is a States’ House. As the responsibility of the States diminish the responsibility of this place as the States’ House will also diminish. Perhaps this place will take on a new role, a true role of a House of review, but that is a problem that other generations will have to solve.
This legislation gives to the Northern Territory some hope or support for what I am putting before the Senate, that is, that it will receive extra representation, although perhaps a little before time. It seems odd that we should give Senate representation to a voting electorate of 30,000, but that too will solve itself. There is no doubt that the population in the Northern Territory will grow and, as I said earlier, the economic position will improve. In fact its economic position will accelerate and gain greater momentum at the end of this century when the large pastoral leases are broken up. These large pastoral leases have been, in effect, a stranglehold on the territory. Do not say that the people with these leases pioneered the Territory. They did not pioneer the Northern Territory except perhaps in the earlier years of development. Over the past 20 years they have acted as a barrier to the development of the Territory. As these large leases are broken up and as more people move in to take advantage of the smaller leases the Northern Territory, with all its riches, will then increase its population, which will more than justify the representation that we are seeking to give today to the Territory under this legislation.
One may ask why we have proposed that there should be 2 representatives instead of one. It would be useless to have only one because I feel that there should be an opportunity for the 2 major political philosophies to be represented. When I talk about the political philosophy which is held by those on the other side of this chamber I include all the various crews, all the various people and all the various parties whether they be the National Alliance, the Country Party or the Liberal-Country league.
– The National Liberal Party.
– I had forgotten that one. These parties represent a potential political philosophy and they deserve the representation which fluctuates from time to time according to their record. If this legislation is passed the result of the Senate election for the Northern Territory will without any doubt be that the other side of this place will get one representative and this side of the House will get the other. Where is the sinister motive which Senator Jessop imputed? Where is this fantastic result of two on the Government side in a Senate election for the Northern Territory? After all, we could not even win the Northern Territory seat in the House of Representatives.
– It will be the same people.
-It will be the same people- the same voters. There is one thing that is likely to come out of what we are suggesting for the Northern Territory. We have, especially those on the Opposition side, for some time been congratulating ourselves on the presence in this place of an Aboriginal, Senator Bonner, who has performed his task so well in spite of the limitations imposed upon him by the philosophy which he supports.
– He supports it but he has his own ideas.
– I have noted that this has been stated from time to time. He often finds himself, even though he may not admit it, in conflict when he is exposing in a speech the problems which he has faced, is facing and will have to face for some time to come. But there is a bonus to be obtained out of what we are suggesting for the Northern Territory. As these people receive more assistance than has already been given by the Government it should be possible in this place to have a second member from the Aboriginal people, and that would not be too much before time. For the life of me I cannot understand why the simple proposition for increased representation for the people in the Northern Territory, people who have not got sufficient representation, should not be accepted. This move is an anticipation of their needs. I cannot understand why it is being resisted upon such flimsy grounds, such illogical grounds and such false expressions which have been put forward by members of the Opposition. It would be a simple matter to accept the advice of the new senator from South Australia, Senator Steele Hall, that the Opposition should become an opposition and support those things which are worth supporting but should not oppose propositions just for the sake of opposing them because the trap is that when you do that you find yourself putting forward false arguments, unsafe arguments and you leave yourself open to ridicule. The Opposition is at the present time open to ridicule. 1 shall look forward to future contributions from Senator Steele Hall. Once more I will look forward to further contributions from many of the new senators who have joined us in this place. I would say that the additional representatives here show promise of producing far better debate than we have become used to in this place. I think that we have allowed ourselves to descend too much into cross-fire argument by interjection. Senator Webster knows that I am a reformed sinner.
– I know the sin part,
-When I came to this place I was abrasive. I used to sit in the far corner to the left of the Chair and when the honourable senator was in the chair he was placed in a position slightly ahead of me. I am sure he was blind in the left eye or that he could not hear. But he did tell me at a later stage that he could see the improvement. The more he ignored me the less abrasive I became. As a matter of fact, I gave up in desperation. To get back to the point I was making, the contributions that the new senators have made in their maiden speeches have been of the highest order I have known in this place. I am certain that the debates which will take place in the future will be to the advantage of the Senate.
The electoral Bills which the Opposition is so determined to refuse passage will lead to a joint sitting of both Houses. I suggest to the Opposition that having reached the point where a joint sitting is inevitable it should accept the fact and should facilitate the holding of the joint sitting and also aid the Government in taking the decisions that will inevitably flow from that joint sitting. All that the Opposition is doing is stretching out the process. By stretching out the process there is an even chance, because we are so closely divided, that we could proceed well into the month of August and we could possibly be here at the time the Budget session is due to commence. If there is some reason for the delaying tactics then by all means use them. I am not one to back away from a fight and I am certain that my new colleagues who sit behind me will certainly not move away from a fight. But why not fight sensibly?
I should appeal to the 2 independent senators and say to them: ‘Well, you could make the position much easier. ‘ But only one of them has been convinced. The other senator, the independent senator from Tasmania, still seems determined to follow without much variation some irrational path of support for the Opposition. I suggest that it would be far better for the honourable senator, if this is to be the level of his independence, to formalise the matter, take out an application and join the Liberal Party of Australia, the National Alliance, the Liberal-Country League or the National Liberal Party or whatever may be the case. At least the honourable senator should formalise his position and join the Opposition parties so that we can clearly know without even the slightest doubt that we have at the present time that his place is with them and nowhere else.
– To whom is the honourable senator referring?
– I am referring to Senator Townley. Unfortunately he is not in the Senate chamber to receive the benefit of my advice. But I am suggesting to him that he ought to join the Opposition formally and completely. It would save us from the faint hope that we may be able to convince him that on matters that are important to this country he should vote with the Government. He ought to realise that there was an election in 1972 and an election again last May and that the Government won both those elections. If he is a truly independent senator he should simply support the Government on almost all occasions.
– I thought that he won.
– On his platform of opposing this Bill.
-He has won in an isolated position, in an isolated situation and in an isolated way. Nevertheless, if he is a reasonable man, as I hope he would be and as I believe Senator Hall has proved that he is a reasonable man, he would accept that the Government of the day- Senator Carrick would argue this alsohas a right to govern and has a right to continuity. Since these matters have been put to the test twice and an election held again because of their rejection, surely the honourable senator would accept that the Government has a right and- to use that horrid word- a mandate to-
– He was elected on his mandate.
-I am talking about responsibility to the nation to facilitate those inevitable decisions. Government decisions are inevitable and the honourable senator ought to accept the inevitability of the decision that will flow from these debates, that is, that these Bills will go through. When honourable senators opposite accept the inevitability of this, they will speed up the process. They should not carry out the delaying tactics, these tactics that are so patently obvious. They are used to buy time for the Opposition in case we make a mistake. That is my fear and we should not be given too much time in the Senate -
– That is very true. We will look at those words.
– The honourable senator may do so if he wishes.
– There has to be a possibility of a big mistake occurring.
-No, but I noticed when I was a member of the Opposition that if the Government was given sufficient time it was bound to fall into error because it was trying all the time to govern. The Labor Government is in more danger of error because it is trying harder.
It is trying to catch up for 23 years of nongovernment on the part of the present Opposition parties. Because it tries so hard, because it enacts so much legislation and because it endeavours to correct the iniquities of society, it is bound to make an error. What I am suggesting is that as a Government we should speed through our legislation.
– We could save you from your errors.
-The Opposition has a reasonable right to use whatever method it can conceive to embarrass the Government. But it has no right to engage in stupid, irrational and foolish opposition. That is exactly what it is doing at the present time. Because the decision is inevitable, I ask Opposition senators to save us the time. Vote for the proposition and allow the Bill to pass through the Senate. We can all leave Canberra much sooner. It may even save the trouble of rearranging King’s Hall for a joint sitting of the Houses. All this trouble could be saved if the Opposition were to accept that simple proposition, namely, that the Northern Territory deserves extra representation. The best way to give that extra representation- it is not possible to give it in the House of Representatives- is in the Senate. If Opposition senators passed this legislation, they would make themselves longlasting and accepted friends of the people in the Northern Territory. For that reason, I strongly suggest that we should cease delay. We should pass this proposition and we should get on to the business that the country needs us to consider.
– Before I call on Senator Hall to speak, I invite Senator Georges, as a mark of our appreciation of how much less abrasive he is now than he was earlier, to take the chair as Acting Deputy President.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Georges)- I call Senator Hall.
- Mr Acting Deputy President, I support the Senate (Representation of Territories) Bill 1973 and I oppose the amendment because I believe that the intentions contained in the Bill are quite reasonable and justifiable. 1 support it, Mr Acting Deputy President, despite the reasoning that you gave the Senate and despite the policies of your Party. I find it very paradoxical that a Labor party is increasing the numbers in the upper House. It seems to me that in all the contacts that I have had with Labor Party policy, it has always been the intention of the Labor Party to do away with the second chamber. Despite the scars that I bear politically from the effects of a second chamber in another State, I am still a supporter of the 2-house system of Parliament. For that reason I see no logic in opposing the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory having representation in the Senate.
If one were to take the view that the Opposition generally takes that this chamber is a second seat of government, there may be some reason for showing concern at disturbing the type of election of members to a second seat of government. But this is not so and this House is not so constituted. This is a House of review and, of course, theoretically a States’ House. I say theoretically’ because any person who has spent any time observing the conduct of the Senate, the business before it and the attitude of honourable senators, knows, that it is very seldom a States’ House. It is a deeply and sharply divided political place.
– You do not know what you are talking about.
-For the benefit of Senator Wood I will read a letter that his Leader had published in today’s ‘Australian’ newspaper. If Senator Wood has not read it, I think he had better read it to see what he is committed to -
– I do not care what he wrote.
– I am rather interested, and I am sure that Senator Withers, the Leader of the Opposition, will be interested in Senator Wood ‘s rebellious remarks. I will read only an excerpt from this letter because I am sure that the Senate would not want to be tired by my reading in full this rather lengthy letter:
– We have all read it.
– If any honourable senators have not read it, I advise them to do so. Senator Withers said:
No one then took exception to Opposition senators taking a stand on matters about which they or their party had strong convictions. They were, after all, representing their electors. Opposition senators today, in the same way, are representing their electors.
They are also part of the total Liberal Parliamentary Party. They are bound by decisions and policies made by that total party, and have the right and indeed the duty to try to see those decisions and policies are carried out.
I bring that letter to the notice of the Senate for the benefit of honourable senators and especially for the benefit of the junior senator from South Australia, Senator Jessop, who has left the Senate chamber. In words as current as this morning the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden), who leads the Liberal Party in this place, has claimed absolute loyalty from all his members whom he says are bound. From my memory of a study of the Labor Party document relating to these matters- I must admit I do not frequently study it, happily- I seem to remember the Labor Party using the same word. ‘Bound’, as I now understand it, is a term common to the Labor Party and the Liberal Party in relation to the loyalty which is demanded from their members. If Senator Wood repudiates his Leader’s statement, perhaps debates in the Senate could be more interesting in the future. I have little to add. I believe that the tactic of referring this Bill to a Select Committee on its third introduction to this House is obviously a delaying one. Why does the mover of the motion not say so? Three-quarters of the members of this chamber are experienced senators and certainly would know exactly the purpose of the move. The rest of us, who are not so experienced in the ways of the Senate, certainly suspect it. I suggest that if honourable senators wish to defeat the Bill they should vote to do so. They should not try to hide their motives in a very high minded approach to a future and, I am sure, rather lengthy study of the provisions of the Bill.
Surely the Liberal Party is very confused about electoral matters. It appears to me that it is knowingly going to try to delay the Bill and then oppose it. The Bill will go through a joint sitting. I suggest that whatever test is made of it in the future, it will become a law of this country. The Opposition side of the Senate- apparently twenty-nine thirtieths of the members of this chamber- after opposing the Bill on the 3 occasions that a vote has been taken on it and using a delaying tactic will put up candidates and go to those very people whom they said they did not want to have representation in this House and ask the people to trust them with that representation. All I can say is that those people who adopt this dual attitude are so confused and lost politically that they should, I suggest, at least accept reality in this case and stop trying to confuse the situation by delay. I support the Bill and oppose the amendment.
– It seems that on occasions I am the senator who speaks after Senator Steele Hall. I believe that the honourable senator made some incorrect statements. I am surprised that a former Premier of South Australia should have made the comment that this chamber is not a States’ House. Indeed it is entrenched very firmly in my mind that this is a States House. I need refer only to the independent minds on the Opposition side, particularly within the Liberal Party. Senator Wood, Sentor Wright and others have demonstrated their ability, when the Opposition parties were in government, to go very quickly to the other side of the chamber and vote with the Labor Party if they thought that an independent thought should be brought forward. This is a States House. We are debating a very important matter. It surprises me that a former Premier of a State, understanding the Constitution which was drawn up in 1900 and realising that the Senate was established on the even representation of the original States, should now believe that the Senate should be subverted by the addition of extra senators from wherever they may come. I believe that this is an important point and that anybody who debates this subject or has any regard for the integrity of this place must refer to it.
I wonder what Senator Steele Hall’s attitude would be if the present Bill made provision for 10 senators to be elected from the Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory. What would be his attitude if it were suggested that the demands of the people in the Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory for greater representation- we all agree with those demands- should be met by an extra 10 senators from each Territory? What would the senator consider was happening to the Upper House in Federal Parliament if that occurred.
– That is a hypothetical question.
– I do not doubt that the Labor Party would be able to think up some such scheme. It might suggest that 2 senators should be elected from the Territory of Norfolk Island. It might suggest that a number of senators should be elected from Cocos Island, because that is a territory that requires representation. Indeed, within the last 12 months an important constitutional matter was raised there and perhaps Senate representation would assist.
I refer now to the Constitution. Senator Steele Hall should read the Constitution as it relates to the House to which he has been elected. Part II, 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.
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.
– I would do you more credit if you quoted section 122.
– I intend quoting section 128 with which the honourable senator must be familiar. I shall deal with the honourable senator in a moment or two, if time permits. Section 128 of the Constitution should be impressive to the man who has been elected to this Senate and who is a former Premier of an important State. Section 128 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.
I predict to those honourable senators who have spoken before me that this Bill will not become law in Australia. This measure, in line with the proposals of the Labor Party, is one of the initial steps for the abolition of the Senate. It would have done Senator Steele Hall much more credit if he had begun by referring to the platform, constitution and rules of the Australian Labor Party.
– The honourable senators
– We hear the cackling coming from the feathered corner to explain what the honourable senator thinks. Why did he not say with all honesty, when he was speaking on this matter, that he hoped for the abolition of the Senate. It is because the honourable senator does not have enough stomach to say what his Party is aiming at.
– That is a nasty thing to say.
– It is a nasty thing to say, but it is quite true. For the benefit of the Minister at the table, the Minister for Repatriation and Compensation (Senator Wheeldon), I refer to the 1973 Surfers’ Paradise conference. We all know of some of the funny things that happened in Surfers’ Paradise.
– What are you talking about?
-One of the matters is shown as amendment 2 (a) to the Australian Constitution. The last Bill which has been put forward shows the double standard which the Labor Party holds on this matter. Item 3 relates to the abolition of the Senate. I know that you, Mr Acting Deputy President, must feel embarrassed by this point, that Labor senators come here dedicated to the abolition of this Senate and then have the hide to support a Bill intended to put more senators into this place. What hypocrisy we face from the Labor Government of this day! The Bill that we have before us is of immense importance. I place on record at this point what the Minister for Services and Property (Mr Daly) said in an explanatory memorandum when originally introducing this Bill last year. The Minister said:
The purpose of the Bill is to provide for senatorial representation on the basis of 2 senators each for the Australian Capital Territory (including the Jervis Bay Territory) and the Northern Territory.
The Minister goes on in his initial introduction to propose some voting method in which one is supposed to see sense. I have stated that there were no Ministers with sufficient honesty to say that Labor really believes that the Senate should be abolished, not added to. We find a different proposition before us today. Some honourable senators on this side of the chamber are incensed by this matter. It is interesting to note that as regards the referendum on this matter Senator Georges said this afternoon: ‘The Government has a mandate. The matters have been put to the test. This particular item is one of those for which we had a mandate from the people’. The last Bill that we dealt with- the Bill that was rejected last night- was in fact one that was ‘put to the people’, in the words of the Labor Party, at the referendum. It was defeated at the referendum.
– No, it was not. It was entirely different.
-The publicity which you attempted to use, Senator McLaren, was the publicity that spoke of a variation from 10 per cent to 20 per cent in the electoral quota. Perhaps the honourable senator would now like to admit that the ‘Yes’ case which his Party put was an attempt to deceive the people. Labor attempted to spread about the popularity of altering the quota to 20 per cent. Its members were saying: Please vote “Yes” for us on this referendum because this is a matter on which we feel you should vote “Yes” ‘. What the Government was trying to do was hoodwink the people- and Government senators know it very well. The Government is trying to hoodwink the people by this measure also. Senator Georges said there was a contradiction here. There is a great contradiction. He said also that the Opposition was confused. Surely it is the Government which is confused, since it believes in the abolition of the Senate but says it wants 4 more senators. What sort of a Labor proposition is that? Has it anything to do with numbers of electors and representatives in this place? Is it a fact, as may appeal to Senator Steele Hall, that if this Bill goes through and that then at the next Senate election 2 senators are elected from the Northern Territory there will be only one member of the
House of Representatives from the Northern Territory? Did it appeal to Senator Steele Hall that he should in fact be querying why it is that this class of government did not attempt to give the Northern Territory another member in the House of Representatives? I think the demands by the people of the Northern Territory are logical if, as we have heard Senator McLaren say, at every opportunity he has asked somebody up there: ‘Do you feel that you should have greater representation?’ and-
– And what was their answer?
-The answer was: ‘Yes, of course we do’. I too have heard it along with the honourable senator. But why give them 2 senators? The Government has given not one reason why there should be 2 senators from the Northern Territory and only one member of the House of Representatives. There is supposed to be as near as practicable twice the number of members of the House of Representatives as there are senators. The great hoodwink which the Government is attempting is to bring 2 senators from the Northern Territory into this place not on a basis of any representation of electors, not on a basis of any proportion of people and not on the great things it has claimed for one vote one value, which is said to be Labor Party policy. Labor says ‘No, we just think’-and I believe this is Labor’s aim- ‘of how it will subvert this Senate and how it will subvert the representation of the States’. That representation, as I have quoted from the Constitution, is to be an even representation in this place from every State. But now the Government seeks to have elected 2 senators from the Northern Territory and two from the Australian Capital Territory.
Regarding the Australian Capital Territory, I see it this way. If one asks people whether they want more representation, they naturally answer Yes’. But the Australian Capital Territory is very well represented. The Opposition agreed very readily that there should be 2 members of the House of Representatives for the Australian Capital Territory. There is a Minister for the Capital Territory- perhaps the Ministers are not doing their jobs- and he should be able to represent the constituents here very well. There has been a Minister under all classes of government and there is direct entry to and direct negotiation with Cabinet on that basis. There is a special committee-the Joint Committee on the Australian Capital Territory- which hears evidence from people and takes their views direct into this Parliament. It cannot be said that the people of the Australian Capital Territory are under-represented in this place. I do not think it is reasonable that one should agree that 2 senators from the Australian Capital Territory should be brought into the Senate. If there are to be more members I think they should be members of the House of Representatives.
My Party should be delighted with the suggestion that there should be senators for the Northern Territory. It is obvious that a Country Party man would win a seat. We have the great representation, which was accepted at the last election, of Mr Sam Calder, the present member for the Northern Territory. I think I heard a Labor man say it is obvious that the Country Party would get one of these Senate positions. In fact, it would not gain it without the backing of the Liberal Party in the Northern Territory. Whether the Labor Party would gain the other Senate position or not, I think that that is what the Labor Party is banking on. I could quite understand the attitude of the honourable member for the Northern Territory saying he believes with his people that there should be extra representation, whether it be in the House of Representatives or the Senate. But that is not my view. I have held very firmly to the view that this Senate should not be subverted by this very insipid first instance of bringing in 4 extra senators to the extent that we would have a House escalating away in the future perhaps to an extra 20 senators in this place. The Labor Party is trying to say to the people of the Northern Territory: ‘Look, we are attempting to give you extra representation. Look how interested we are in the Northern Territory’. If anybody had attended the opening of Parliament and heard some of the Labor men from the Territory speak they would have heard them say that since the central government, since Labor has been in office, it has taken unto itself nearly every power from both the Northern Territory Legislative Council and the Administrator’s Council. Government senators know it- that is why Senator McLaren is so quiet.
Let us consider Labor’s interest in the Northern Territory. Senator McLaren knows that immediately Labor came into office it withdrew the transport subsidy from the people of the Northern Territory. Why did Senator McLaren advocate that? Immediately Labor came into office it withdrew a $1,000 interest subsidy to people purchasing their own homes in the Northern Territory. Without bothering to make Senator McLaren blush, let me ask any other Labor senator why his Government did that. Does the Government love the Northern Territory? Why did it reduce this benefit that had been given to the people there? The Government has abolished taxation concessions. Only members of the Joint Committee on the Northern Territory which was set up by this present Government to advocate how it should act for a fully elected Legislative Council know that the Labor Party has stepped in over that Committee and has now sent Dr Paterson to say: ‘We will decide the terms of a fully elected Council in the Northern Territory’. It will be interesting to see whether Labor does as Senator Georges said and ensures Aboriginal representation in the Legislative Council. I see that the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Cavanagh) has just entered the chamber. It will be most interesting to see whether the great Labor principle of one vote one value and Aboriginal representation in that great area of the Northern Territory will be shown up by the present Labor Government’s declaration of what it wants in a fully elected Council. We have not heard the terms. But when we do they will be very interesting.
– What are you talking about?
-The Minister asks: What are you talking about’. We have heard that comment so often that it becomes sickening. I think that the Minister should try to get into the subject and learn about it if he possibly can. I believe that there are double standards in what the Labor Party is proposing. It has a philosophy to abolish the Senate but it attempts to bring in new senators. It claims to have the interests of the Northern Territorians at heart but it withdraws from them every concession that it has ever granted. I believe that any senator who respects the integrity of this Senate and considers that States representation is the basis of its operation must vote against this legislation. This is the first proposal submitted by the Labor Party to commence the erosion of the powers of this Senate.
The amendment moved on behalf of the Opposition is a genuine attempt to assist the Senate in this matter. This Bill has not been debated to any great extent on previous occasions. There was little debate on it when it was before the House of Representatives. I really know of no member in the House of Representatives who has the Senate at heart. But we here have. The Senate has set up a committee system whereby members from both sides of the Parliament can look at such matters. If a committee were set up in this case members from both sides of the Parliament could look at the proposition to see whether there would be a subversion of our Constitution if extra senators were brought in.
The Government proposes that the extra senators would be elected at a Senate election in 2 years time and would contest their election at the next House of Representatives election. This is a wonderful proposition. Do honourable senators remember Mr Whitlam saying: ‘We believe that there should be a synchronisation of the elections for the 2 Houses of Parliament’? What a wonderful opportunity this would be for the Prime Minister to cut his term short by a year and to synchronise the next House of Representatives election with the Senate election before July in 2 years time. But will he take this action? He proposed it; he said that this should happen. This would enable these senators, if they are to be elected, to be elected every 3 years. But no, under the proposals of the Labor Party, the senators will be elected in 2 years time, they will come up for election in another year and they will come up for election in another 2 years after that. The Labor Party is again displaying double standards in regard to the electoral system which it has put forward. It has a firm base of one vote one value, but in this legislation it has agreed to implement a proportional representation system.
The Government has proposed that 2 senators should be elected from each Territory. Why should the Australian Capital Territory, which has three or four times the population of the Northern Territory, be represented by 2 senators? Why should the Northern Territory have 2 senators on the basis of a declaration by the Labor Party? I believe that these matters should be firmly considered by a select committee composed of members from both sides of the Senate. Senator Withers expressed the great hope that the Opposition’s wish to have this matter referred to a Senate committee would not be construed as an attempt to delay this legislation. Indeed, it would be mandatory for the report of the committee to come into this House in 14 days from now. I hope that the Governor-General, if he ever looks at this matter, will see that what the Opposition proposes is that a report be made and not a rejection of this Bill. The Opposition’s proposal is that the committee should investigate whether a better electoral system or a better numbers game could be played in relation to the Government’s wish to have additional senators in this place.
I believe that the Government is setting out to get senators from wherever it can get them. We will have them here from the Cocos Islands, Norfolk Island, the Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory. If Senator McLaren, who is interjecting, can give me any reason why they will not come from these places I would ask him to give it. I hope that he will. I believe that this legislation is the first step towards the subversion of the Senate as a States House. This proposal should be referred to the States. But that is not being done. I oppose the Bill and support the amendment.
– I rise to support the Bill. Firstly may I say to Senator Webster that I made contact with Heard Island. I know that the pelicans do not want any representation. Senator Webster is interjecting. Obviously I got the bite that I sought. The Minister for Foreign Affairs (Senator Willesee), in his second reading speech on this Bill, said:
We believe that, while the national Parliament remains bicameral, the people of the Territories, like all the people of Australia should be represented in both chambers.
I want to contrast that objective with the remarks to which I was subjected yesterday, which I know were made in a low key, by Senator DrakeBrockman, the Leader of the Party to which Senator Webster belongs. Senator DrakeBrockman referred to people in distant areas and the new frontier. The Government, in proposing to give the Northern Territory Senate representation, is paying a tribute to the people of the Northern Territory. I do not think that representative Calder- and I would say the same thing if a member of the Labor Party held the seat of the Northern Territory- can do the job properly. I do not say that in any nasty way. However, I will give classic illustrations of why the Northern Territory should be represented by 2 senators. Well over 3 years ago I went to the Northern Territory with Senator Davidson and other senators who were members of the Senate Select Committee on Water Pollution. When we started our inquiry we found that pollution was rampant in the Finniss River as a result of the activities of the Australian Atomic Energy Commission. Frankly I found the situation there like the scene that one sometimes sees in old westerns. As a matter of fact, I appeared as a Randolph Scott character. In questioning certain witnesses about the criminal pollution of the Finniss River I was approached outside the hearing by a number of men who represented the cattle industry who commended me for what I was doing. One fellow who I suppose did not know his politics- I did have a hat on- said that no doubt I was a member of the Australian Country Party from the south. I do not know how I should have taken that, but the moral of the story is that if the Northern Territory had Senate representation those senators would have been vigilant and there would not have been the gigantic rape that has been indulged in in the Northern Territory by certain elements that operate there, whether they be mining interests, oil interests or any of those sorts of people. The point I am getting at is the Northern Territory needs these additional watchdogs.
The criticism has been made that the Government is accelerating the development of constitutional changes. Within the last month a very fine American senator died. He was four score and six years of age. His name was Senator Gruening My colleague Senator Wheeldon, who has a greater knowledge of American history than I have, might be able to correct me on the pronunciation of that senator’s name. But if one reads his life story one will find that for years and years he struggled to get adequate representation for Alaska, a distant area which is a long way from Washington. I think it is to the credit of this Government from Prime Minister Whitlam down that we are not waiting for history to be made; we are attempting to make it ourselves. If we are to be criticised for accelerating representation for the Northern Territory, I simply say that representation should be given so that there will be more watchdogs. The alternative is to wait for another 10 years during which time some of the city slickers and developers will have got in for their chop and will have ruined much of the Northern Territory or, if they have not ruined it, they will have obtained ironclad leases and the natural rights of the Territorians will have been denied. The salient point as far as I am concerned is that there is a need for additional watchdogs from the Northern Territory.
To take up the assertions made by Senator Webster, I remember that in the last Parliament there was an idea- it was actually implementedto have a joint committee on the environment and conservation. Dr Jenkins is presently the chairman of the committee which was set up. When the proposal to set up this committee came before the Senate people like Senator Georges, Senator Keeffe and I think Senator Davidson were prepared to play their part on the committee. But what happened? Some members of that unholy alliance between the Australian Democratic Labor Party, which has passed on, and Senator Webster’s party said: ‘Look, we have not got the big battalions like the big parties. We do not want a jount committee’. Therefore, honourable senators opposite would not play ball. My Leader, Senator Murphy, had to go back and say: ‘AH right’. Therefore, this committee was composed only of members of the House of Representatives. What happened on that occasion? This Senate was denied the opportunity to be represented on that committee. I do not doubt that people from the Northern Territory will say that they have one representative on this committee and that all the other members of the committee come from the south which could be changed by two Northern Territory senators. When Senator Davidson, the late Senator Ridley and I went to the Northern Territory we were able to expose river pollution which was caused by Baxter and the Australian Atomic Commission.
I am adopting an eminently practical attitude towards this matter. If honourable senators opposite give us 2 senators for the Northern Territory, I will not be worried about their political labels. I think that with the complexities of government these senators would be able to move around the Northern Territory and expose more of this shocking criminal folly that was committed by Baxter and the minions of the Atomic Energy Commission. I know that Senator Webster is an accountant by profession. He knows in his own heart that if he looks at the estimates for each of the last 2 years he will see that $50,000 was provided one year and $70,000 another year for regeneration of the Finnis River. Senator Webster and I know, as does Senator Wriedt, of the need for a viable cattle industry in the Northern Territory. Ours is an arid continent, but due to the stupidity of the bureaucrats one of our very few rivers in the Northern Territory was polluted. Senator Webster may ask me: ‘What are the virtues of representative Calder?’ Because of the size of the Territory, Mr Calder needs other assistance from what I might call mobile watchmen or senators, as they are called in strict constitutional terminology. If we gave 2 senators to the Northern Territory we would be making democracy a more living thing in the Territory, and that is all we are after.
It is true that there is a much smaller area in the Australian Capital Territory, but I sympathise with anyone who tries to get any electoral redress for the people of the Australian Capital Territory. I have a lot of sympathy for representatives Enderby and Fry because I know the multitude of departments that they have to go through in order to attend to matters. In any case, the proliferation of committees set up by the Government is part of government life. I think honourable senators opposite will agree with me when I say that these committees have a valuable role to play. But I believe that the greater the Senate manpower the better. I have heard many honourable senators from the Opposition side, particularly in the Country Party, say:
Look, we have only a limited number’. If I were Senator Webster I would grab with open arms this opportunity to enlarge the size of the Senate. If I were Senator Webster I would say: ‘I might get another Country Party senator’.
I return to the initial assertions that I made regarding this Bill. This is an honest attempt to provide a greater degree of government for the Territories. Once again I refer to the patience and tolerance which was used in securing additional statehood in the United States. I referred to Alaska, but the same position applied in some other States. People today are demanding much more rapid action. Sometimes people castigate us in relation to the question of industrial disruptions, but I am one of those who have said that a trade union secretary has not any sort of Moses appearance; he cannot sort of wave his hand and people will stop. Jack is as good as his master. The same attitude applies as far as the Northern Territory is concerned. Irrespective of the virtues of representative Calder- in Senator Webster’s mind they may be superior to anybody else’s- I think that the job is beyond him. I think that the only way in which we can assist him to do his job is to increase the representation for the Northern Territory, and this is all that we are trying to do. If we can bring more people to the seat of government, so much the better.
I suppose that honourable senators opposite might say: ‘Well, wait a bit longer’. But how can they reconcile that argument with the thesis that was expounded by Senator Drake-Brockman, that the Labor Party has an urban complex, that it is not interested in distant places? I think that our interest in distant places is the obvious reason why we have introduced this legislation which is designed to give greater parliamentary participation for the Territories. I will take the argument a little further. It may be argued that the Australian Capital Territory already has 2 members in the House of Representatives, but I say with all due respect that modest senators like Senator Milliner and Senator Devitt will not adopt a dog-in-the-manger attitude. They will be quite happy to welcome senators from the Australian Capital Territory to share some of their Australian Capital Territory Committee burdens. It will be like a relay race; the senators from the Australian Capital Territory will pick up the baton and carry on serving on particular committees.
We are wedded to the principle of broad representation. It is up to the people in the Territories to decide whom they will send here. But I think we want to believe that we can learn from the experience of other countries. I again refer the Senate to Senator Gruening, who waited, I think, for more than 40 years to get recognition for Alaska. I think that this Bill is a credit to the Whitlam Government. We are not asking the people who live in Darwin or Katherine or other big cities to wait so long. There are many areas in which there is a rising industrial work force. Honourable senators from all parties could go into those areas. 1 have never returned from these particular areas without some industrial matters having been raised. I have been delighted to take up those matters with Mr Clyde Cameron. In case honourable senators opposite think that I am fomenting industrial trouble, I point out that those matters have concerned the high incidence of dermatitis in a hot climate and certain oil lubricants. Perhaps honourable senators might say that they are pretty mundane things, but that is what a member of parliament is here for. In the instance to which I have referred Mr Clyde Cameron took up the matter on the basis of industrial hygiene.
There are many more of these things. I will take another one of them. There were some shocking industrial occurrences at Gove when a mobile crane driver was directed by a firm from the south to disobey normal safety regulations in order to perform a particular lift. This caused one of his workmates to be injured. He was dismissed when he refused to do it again and also faced court action over breaching safety regulations. There was a great hassle about compensation liability. I am only giving these as examples of the complexities in the Northern Territory which face any member of Parliament. There has been too much free-riding by firms from the south when they have tried to get away from these things. Although the member for the Northern Territory may not have to look after as many people as would a member who represented an electorate in metropolitan Sydney or Melbourne, the people in the Northern Territory have many diverse occupations and they are widely scattered.
I sum up by saying that I stand four-square for the principles that were espoused by Senator Willesee when he introduced this Bill. We want to bring greater representation to the Territories. We want to feel that we can look across the Pacific at the United States and say: ‘Well, we gave our people much better service in the avenue of parliamentary representation than you gave to Alaska’.
– The Senate is debating the Senate (Representation of Territories) Bill 1973. This is a particularly significant piece of legislation, the consequences of which would be far-reaching upon the structure of this Parliament and therefore on the democratic system of Australia. So it is as well to look in detail and with some thoroughness at what the Bill aims to do. Firstly, it sets out to provide representation in this Senate for the 2 Territories, the Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory, by providing 2 representatives- not senators- of the Territories in this place. The Bill denies to these representatives the totally essential functions of senators. It provides also that their method of election should be totally different from that of State senators. They are to be elected at their first election at the next Senate election, and thereafter as each House of Representatives election occurs two of them shall come out and stand for reelection. Of course, this is completely at odds with the method of electing the existing 60 senators. A subsequent Bill, the Representation Bill, provides that they shall not be counted in the number of senators to determine the size of the House of Representatives. If this Bill were carried it would mean that we would have 2 kinds of representatives in this chamber- we would have senators and representatives of Territories. We also would have 2 different systems of election to elect one body of Parliament. This in itself is fundamentally wrong.
I want to approach this question in no sense of antagonism. In my view in the long term the representation of those areas which are now the 2 Territories in both Houses of this Parliament must be a fundamental matter to be examined in detail and to be faced objectively by the Parliament and the people of Australia. But I want to take the argument of all Government senators and apply it. If I understand it, Mr President, Government senators have said that the Opposition should vote for this measure. They say that it has been submitted twice to the Senate prior to the double dissolution and twice rejected by the Senate Opposition. There was a double dissolution and the Labor Party was returned to office. Therefore Government senators say it is the will of the people that this legislation should be accepted. They say that there is a mandate to the Labor Government for its acceptance. This is plain nonsense. I want to examine this matter. I believe that if the will of the people, as expressed on Saturday, 18 May, is to be put into action, the Labor Government must withdraw this Bill or vote against it. Let me demonstrate what I say. I repeat: The whole gravamen of the argument of this Government for the last couple of days is that we must vote for these Bills because the people have expressed a will that they be carried.
– It was one of the Bills that caused the double dissolution.
-If Senator Cavanagh will contain his blood pressure perhaps he will go along with me. I want to ask Senator Cavanagh, through you, Mr President, a series of questions. Firstly, is it not a fact that in this Bill there is the fundamental principle that the representatives shall always, by law of this Parliament, be twinned with the Senate, that is, that the territorial Senate representatives shall always compulsorily be elected at the same time as the House of Representatives? He must answer yes to that question. I save him the trouble of doing so. Now I want to ask him this question: Did the people of Australia reject a referendum to have simultaneous elections for the Senate and the House of Representatives? The answer to that question is yes.
– This is the very Bill that went to the electors.
-Let Senator Cavanagh bite his fingernails if he wishes. A fundamental principle of this Bill was rejected by the people. The people expressed their will and gave a mandate to this Parliament saying that it must not compulsorily twin Senate and House of Representatives elections. Senator Steele Hall, the new independent senator from South Australia, has said that he will support measures of this kind because there is a mandate. If he applies that test he must vote against this measure.
I apply again the second test to this question because we have said that we are standing here as men and women of principle. The second point is that there is a Bill to say that in regard to this question of deciding, in the terms of section 24 of the Constitution, the size of the House of Representatives you are not to take into account the 4 proposed Territory representatives in the Senate. Section 24 of the Constitution states:
The House of Representatives shall be composed of members directly chosen by the people of the Commonwealth, and the number of such members shall be, as nearly as practicable, twice the number of the senators.
I would recall to those who seek the will of the people that in 1967 or 1968 the former Government sought a mandate to break that nexus and the people emphatically said ‘No, you will not break that nexus’. By mandate and by the will of the people the size of the House of Representatives shall be as nearly as practicable twice the number of senators. I leave aside the question of whether the Representation Bill is constitutional. I, as a poor lawyer, have the gravest doubts that it is constitutional. But, Mr President, this Senate does not rest only on the Constitution; it rests upon the will of the people as clearly expressed through the ballot box. Therefore I say that on 2 grounds this Bill should be withdrawn. Today we have heard speaker after speaker for the Government say that the Opposition is being vexatious in that we are standing here talking about the same Bill under the same circumstances as we spoke 2 months ago. They say that we are wasting time and that by moving an amendment we are trying to delay. I hope I have made quite clear to the Senate and to the people of Australia that we are not talking about the same Bill in the same circumstances. In that period of 2 months the people of Australia have said quite clearly that they will not have a bar of compulsory simultaneous elections. They said before that they would not have a bar of breaking the nexus. I remind the Senate of how silent Government supporters are now that the only argument that they have raised for the whole of this day has fallen to the ground.
What is the will of the people? The will of the people is that this Bill should not be carried. Let me approach this Bill in another way and draw as my witnesses the senators from this House. From this Opposition side of the chamber some 29 Liberal and Country Party senators went to the people and said that they opposed this and some other measures on which the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Cavanagh) says that the double dissolution was secured. I remind the Senate that so also did Senator Townley. I point out that 29 Liberal and Country Party senators, and Senator Townley making thirty, were reelected to this Senate on the basis that they opposed those Bills. Some 29 Labor Party senators said that they supported them. Senator Steele Hall has not made clear to us where he stood before the election in regard to the representation of these 4 proposed Senate representatives but he argues now about a Government mandate. I cannot believe that he would say to the people of South Australia: You, the people of a less populous State, who would be swamped if numbers were altered, are no longer to have equality with the other States inside the Senate. I, by my support for a diluting method, am going to alter the whole structure of the Senate.’ As I understand the honourable senator, he is a person of liberal faith. He supports federalism; he supports State rights; and I imagine he therefore supports the structure of the Senate. Whilst referring to that matter, when he spoke today he said that in his view the Senate was a House of review and not a States House. I want to place on record one of the really authoritative statements regarding this matter by quoting from ‘The Annotated Constitution of the Australian Commonwealth’ by Quick and Garran:
That the Senate is the Council of States in the Federal Parliament is proved by the words of this section. There are to be six senators for each Original State. That the States, and not the people, are actually represented in the Senate is shown by the requirement that the ‘equal representation of the several Original States shall be maintained.’ Equality of representation, it is argued, is a natural corollary of State representation . . .
Quite clearly the constitutional authorities, Sir Robert Garran and Sir John Quick, were saying: This was the intention. This is what the Senate is- essentially a States’ House and a council of the States’. They also said that the States and not the people are actually represented in the Senate. Let me pursue what I have said so far. I have said that if we take this debate in cold logic and if we apply the tests which we have been invited to apply by Government senators and by Senator Steele Hall- that is, we must obey the will of the people- on all tests, the Bill should be withdrawn.
The Opposition has moved an amendment which seeks to refer to a select committee a series of examinations of this Bill. Least it be thought that the amendment is a delaying tactic, a time limit of a fortnight has been imposed. So the committee is charged with looking at the reference and coming back in a fortnight with recommendations to the Senate. Does anyone say that the question of the change of the whole structure of the parliamentary system in this country does not merit a fortnight’s delay? Does anyone say that it is wrong to do this?
Let me approach the situation. For my part, I have the gravest doubts that what is sought to be done is constitutionally legal. But that is not a matter for the Senate; it is a matter for the High Court of Australia when interested persons will undoubtedly challenge the legislation if it should be carried. Anyone who reads the Constitution must reach the conclusion that Part II sets out quite clearly to establish a Senate which shall have certain inevitable lines which cannot be altered except by referendum. It must be a States’ House, there must be equality of representation between the States and there must be a general franchise. It seeks to establish that the representation should not be less than six per State. No one could argue other than that there is a rigidity in this situation which is reinforced by the reference to the Senate as having another function, and that is to provide a formula by which the size of the House of
Representatives shall be determined. The formula states that as nearly as practicable the House of Representatives shall be twice the size of the Senate. The Parliament can establish the size of the Senate at any number it likes, provided that we have the same number for each original State and provided that the House of Representatives has twice the number of members that the Senate has. The people of Australia said: ‘We want to maintain that nexus. We insist that this nexus be maintained in future’. The Government of the day is seeking to bypass the will of the people.
Later sections of the Constitution, sections 122, 123 and so on, provide that the Territories shall have the capacity for representation. Those of us who have looked at the debates of the convention in 1 897 and thereabouts and who have sought to find what was in the minds of our constitutional fathers have quite a clear view- we must have, from reading the debates of those years- that there was never any thought that there would be introduced into this chamber senators from the Territories who would have full voting rights and who would upset the formula of an equality of numbers from each State. Let me make quite clear that I am not attacking the future right of those areas to representation in the Senate. That is not my purpose in speaking. I am trying to articulate that the methodology contained in this Bill is not only against the will of the people but is fundamentally against the Constitution and is of such magnitude that before anything is done much more important steps should be taken.
I wonder why the Government of the day, when seeking to alter the structure of the Commonwealth Parliament, did not take this issue as a major issue to the Australian Constitutional Convention of last year and say to the States and to representatives of the Territories: ‘Let us have a massive discussion on how in future the various areas which are not States at this moment shall grow and shall be represented in the Commonwealth Parliament’. Why? Why not? Talk about trivia! The Labor Party brought a host of trivia but nothing of fundamental importance to the Constitutional Convention. I suggest that the primary function of the Constitutional Convention should be the initiation of a thorough discussion on this matter. Is the Labor Party content that the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory shall remain forever as Territories, as appendages of a Commonwealth or as appendages of a Labor Government which seeks to centralise all power in Canberra, which seeks to clutch them in its hands and which seeks to make them merely vassals of its central government? Is that the proposal? Honourable senators opposite smile, but they do not deny it.
The Government has made no statement foreshadowing any movement of these Territories to a status of a higher degree, such as that of a State. Is there a proposal to create a new State in future? My goodness, they were very articulate when they urged Papua New Guinea on to a state of nationhood and independence- very much so. They have all sorts of formulas for giving gratuitous advice to others, but they are silent on a program for saying to the Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory: ‘You areas of enormous potential growth, you areas which in the next 20 to 30 years will have a great population explosion ought to have a different status’. What ought to be the status of these 2 Territories? Long before we reach a conclusion on how they should be represented in this chamber we should be looking forward to a program for the evolution of their representation. I would earnestly say that the first thing to do is to establish a convention at which the States and the Territories will be represented, which will engage in what is a very great matter, that is, the future of these Territories and how, if at all, it is possible to create new States.
I remind the Senate that in Australia socialist governments have a massive habit of winding the clock back and of always being 50 years behind. We are moving towards centralism whereas the United Kingdom is now moving towards the giving of state parliaments to Scotland and Wales and towards decentralisation. The longer we live the wiser we are and the more sure we are that decentralisation of the diffusion of power is wiser than the centralisation of power. Therefore, in the light of the modern context and in the light of the fact that the people of Australia have said to this Government that a substantial part of this Bill is wrong and they will not have it, this Bill ought to be withdrawn. If it is not withdrawn, the Government of the day should agree to the establishment of a committee of a fortnight’s duration to inquire into these problems which concern us at the moment.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
– Within the next several weeks this Parliament is contemplating a joint sitting at which one or more pieces of legislation will be submitted. Certainly the Electoral Bill appears likely to be submitted. This measure and its accompanying Bill, the Representation Bill, may well be part of a joint sitting or sittings. Whether it is constitutionally legal to hold more than one joint sitting on more than one Bill is something that the High Court may determine in the future. Whether the Senate (Representation of Territories) Bill, the Bill we are now debating, is constitutionally legal is a matter for the future to determine. Certainly the Bill raises many apparent ambiguities and conflicts within the Commonwealth Constitution. What is not ambiguous is the point I have made, that the people of Australia have expressed through the ballot box their opposition to a fundamental part of this Bill. They have expressed through rejection of the referendum proposal the simultaneous election principle. In 1968 the people rejected the removal of the nexus between the Houses. They have expressed their view against the present intention of the Federal Government. The people having expressed their will, against a background in which there has not been full consultation the Opposition has moved for the referral of this matter to a select committee over a period of a fortnight so that there cannot be any unconscionable delays and so that the main ingredients can be examined.
I stress that this Bill is not just another piece of legislation. Its passage and implementation would change the face of the parliamentary structure of the Commonwealth. Its passage would have enormous effects upon the concept of the Senate as a States House. I have emphasised that I am not pressing any opposition at all to the long term representation in this or the other place of persons in the 2 areas concerned. What I have said is that I regret very much that the Commonwealth Government in bringing this measure to the Parliament has done nothing to bring to the constitutional convention of the States and the Territories a debate upon the long range future of the 2 Territories. I have urged that the first thing to be done is to contemplate the future of those Territories, whether they are to be States in their own right and, if so, whether in this Parliament part or whole of them could be absorbed by existing States. All of these things are apparently available within the Constitution and should be examined before we look towards representation.
The whole structure of the Senate rests at this moment on its being a States House. We should be looking to how this measure impinges upon that situation. It is against that background that I support the amendment moved by Senator Greenwood. I take no negative part. I am not arguing against or resisting future representation of such areas. I say in passing one thing about the arguments of the Government senators. Quite apart from the argument upon which the whole case of the Government senators rested- the will of the people, which I suggest has now been demolished by me- an incredible argument was put by Senator Mulvihill who preceded me in this debate. He argued that more representation of the huge areas of the Northern Territory and Australian Capital Territory was needed. But he belongs to the Party which is systematically bringing in a Bill to go before a joint sitting which will enlarge the electorates of Darling, Kalgoorlie, Kennedy and Leichhardt. Its aim is to make it impossible for a member of Parliament representing such areas to discharge his duty. It ever there was humbug and hypocrisy it was mouthed here as the only argument put up. If the Government wants representation of those extensive areas let it withdraw its Electoral Bill which has exactly the opposite aim. The people of those far flung areas should know that the Government has a vested interest in making it impossible for a member of the House of Representatives to represent those areas thoroughly. Against that background and against the fact that the will of the electors is that Bills such as that before us now are bad in their judgment, I commend the amendment and urge the Senate to vote for it and to reject the Bill.
– The purpose of the Bill is very clear; that is, to provide some measure of representation in this chamber for the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory as provided for in section 122 of the Constitution. That section provides for laws to be made with respect to the Territories, including the allowing of representation of such Territories in either House of Parliament to the extent and on the terms which this Parliament thinks fit. The arguments have been put time and again there is no need for me to go through them again. In discussing this simple democratic measure. An amendment has been proposed by the Opposition and is opposed by us.
The amendment is clearly designed to delay proceedings in this chamber in relation to the Bill by referring to a select committee questions which have been considered again and again. This measure has been passed on 3 occasions by the House of Representatives and has twice been rejected by the Senate. It was first introduced into the Senate on 31 May 1973, over 12 months ago. After debate it was defeated on 7 June 1 973. It was again introduced into this chamber on 9 October 1973 and on 14 November 1 973 was defeated here for the second time. Since then we have been through the double dissolution and the subsequent election which we all recall. The Opposition parties did not lose; they merely came second in the election. They have taken the attitude of refusing to recognise that this Bill is one of the measures on which the double dissolution was granted. It was granted on this Bill and 5 other Bills which formed the basis for the approach by the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) to the Governor-General for the granting of the double dissolution.
The terms of the proposed amendment should be considered. Paragraph (a) refers to the possibility that the Bill will be the basis of a submission to the Governor-General for a joint sitting of both Houses at which, ‘notwithstanding the opposition of a majority of members of the Senate, the Bill may be deemed to have passed the Senate if an absolute majority of the members of both Houses carry the Bill’. The amendment contains a deliberate reference to notwithstanding the opposition of a majority of members of the Senate’. It seems to imply what everyone here knows, that irrespective of any findings of a select committee the Opposition has already decided to oppose the passage of the Bill in this chamber for the third time. The amendment proposes that a select committee inquire into and report to the Senate on whether the provisions of the Bill are consistent with the provisions of the Constitution of the Commonwealth establishing the Senate. On views expressed by legal authorities it is clear beyond doubt that this Parliament has the power to provide senatorial representation for the Territories to the extent and on such terms and conditions as it thinks fit as provided by section 12 1 of the Constitution.
In an opinion dated 14 March 1973 concerning the proposal that each Territory have 2 senators and that there be a second member for the Australian Capital Territory in the House of Representatives, the then Solicitor-General stated in part:
There can be no doubt that the Australian Parliament has the power to allow the representation of each of these Territories, both in the Senate and the House of Representatives, in the numbers contemplated.
Perhaps I should mention that the honourable senator who moved the amendment to this legislation expressed an opinion on 1 1 April 1972 as the then Attorney-General concerning section 24 and section 122 of the Constitution. I remind him that on that occasion he said, inter alia:
In my opinion section 24 is concerned with the representation of the people of the States only and has no application to the representation of the people of the Territories under section 122 of the Constitution. In my view, therefore, an increase in the number of members of the Senate by adding senators for a Territory or territories would not require an increase in the number of the members of the House of Representatives, nor would it otherwise affect representation in the House of Representatives for the States.
– Who are you quoting?
– I have quoted the then Attorney-General, Senator Greenwood, who has moved the amendment. I did so to show that it seemed to be assumed that there was no real doubt about the constitutional position. The expression of view does not appear to cast any doubt as to the legality of providing territory senators. In the amendment 2 other matters were put forward for consideration by the proposed Senate committee. They relate to the number of senators proposed for each territory and whether the right of territory senators to vote should be restricted to matters affecting the territories. The reasons why the Government has proposed the 2 senators for each territory have been clearly explained. This matter has been carefully considered and debated in both Houses. A restriction on voting rights for territory senators is surely not seriously contemplated by the Opposition. Full voting rights for representatives of the territories in the other place have already been accepted by the Parliament and any suggestion of voting restrictions on territory senators would be inconsistent with this established concept.
We are faced with a continuation of the type of tactic that we had to put up with in 1973 and in 1974- the obstruction and rejection in this chamber of measures which have a clear mandate of the people- or else, and I think this is worse, an endeavour to play games in this place by seeking to send measures to select committees on the pretence that there will be some kind of proper inquiry, that the Bill is not understood by Opposition senators or the implications of the legislation are not understood. In regard to this legislation the amendment does not contemplate a second reading of the Bill and even before the second reading-indeed before the legislation reaches the Committee stage where the matters that are normally dealt with could be handledthe proposal will be chopped off and steered towards some committee in a bid to employ some sort of tactic. Perhaps it is a move to delay the holding of a joint sitting which the Opposition amendment contemplates will be held after it has rejected the Bill. I do not think it is in the best interests of democracy for the Opposition to employ this kind of tactic again. The Opposition is stalling, as I said in respect of a number of other measures which it failed to pass. Here is a Government which has twice put up a measure which has twice been obstructed by the
Opposition in the Senate. We sought and obtained a double dissolution of the Parliament. We went to the people. We came back here to find this absurd and wrongful tactic of attempting to delay and obstruct. A clear proposal has been put forward by the Government and it is up to the Opposition either to give the Bill a second reading or not. The Opposition did not face up to its responsibilities and the people of Australia had to make up their minds on this and associated measures and they did make up their minds.
– They certainly did and they rejected this proposition. Why do you not be truthful about it?
-They made up their minds and they re-elected the Government which had obtained a double dissolution in respect of 6 Bills, one of which we are now debating. Yet the Opposition does not have the moral courage to stand in this place and deal with the measure by voting on it. The Opposition will try to avoid a vote on the passage of this legislation and it will endeavour to steer it towards some committee. The Opposition is going ahead with this obstruction and nonsense. I will say now to the Opposition that it is the wish of the Government, which has been elected by the people to govern this country, that this measure be dealt with and that the Senate determine whether it will pass it. I will leave the Senate under no illusion as to how the Government regards this matter. If the Senate should choose not to deal with this measure but to send it to a committee, this will be regarded as a failure to pass the legislation.
– You are frightened to have it subjected to the scrutiny of a committee. The Government is weak.
– The proposal put by me is one of common sense. If the Senate chooses to pass a measure it is entitled to do so. If it chooses to reject a measure, that is all right. These choices are within its constitutional powers. Whether the course it adopts is politically right, whether it is in the interests of democracy or an affront to democracy is another question. But when the Senate has the power it does not involve any question of default on its part if it does not pass the Bill. But if it refuses to vote on a measure which the Government puts and requests a vote upon and instead steers it away by this tactical maneouvre simply to delay and obstruct, the Government’s attitude is that this would be a failure on the part of the Senate to pass it.
So much has been said on the pieces of legislation on the 3 occasions they have been before the Parliament that there is no point in going over the basic democracy which is involved. Even this amendment itself is, I suppose, small compared with what has been done in this chamber to undermine the system of government in this country. Honourable senators opposite think that by indulging in this kind of tactic- and they have indicated that they will continue to indulge in it throughout the life of this Parliament- they are undermining the Labor Government. They think that this is clever and that to obstruct and delay and distort the processes of Parliament is worth while because they are undermining a Labor government. They are engaging in an endeavour which is calculated not only to undermine the existing Government but also to undermine the system of government in this country. We saw the issue very clearly. This has happened despite the words that have been spoken to honourable senators opposite not only by the representatives of my Party but also by the representative, formerly of their own party in South Australia, now of the Liberal Movement, about their tactics and their foolish refusal to recognise that the people do not accept tactics. I think they will fail in their endeavour to undermine this Government. They will fail to undermine the system of Government because the people of Australia understand what is happening in the Parliament and they will reject these tactics. The next time the people of Australia are able to express their views on these matters they will further reduce the number of Opposition senators. There will be an obliteration, such as we saw at the last election, of many more honourable senators opposite if they insist in attempting to deny democracy. I ask that the Senate reject the amendment.
- Mr President, I rise to order. I refer to standing order 363 which reads:
A Document relating to public affairs quoted from by a Minister of the Crown, unless stated to be of a confidential nature, or such as should more properly be obtained by Address, may be called for and made a public Document.
That standing order is allied to standing order 364 which states:
A Document quoted from by a Senator not a Minister of the Crown may be ordered by the Senate to be laid upon the Table; such Order may be made without Notice immediately upon the conclusion of the speech of the Senator who has quoted therefrom.
In the circumstances, Senator Murphy as a Minister of the Crown is not amenable to an order of the Senate. But he referred to a document in which advice I had given as Attorney-General was sought to be used against a proposition alleged now to be put forward or about to be put forward by me. I do not recall the statement and I do not recall the context. I sought by way of interjection to have the context given to me. Quite properly, the Minister declined to respond to the interjection. Therefore, under standing order 363 1 call for the document.
- Mr President, may I be heard on the matter?
– Does the honourable senator wish to speak to the point of order?
– Yes. Of course, I spoke from the notes that I had. They do not contain the whole of the opinion that was given. I will endeavour to look into the matter. Probably we could let the honourable senator have the full opinion and the other material if he wishes it. I do not think that I have it here and I certainly did not quote from the actual document of which he is speaking.
– The standing order refers to a document relating to public affairs quoted from by a Minister of the Crown. My submission to you is that what was said was to remind me- I think these were the words that Senator Murphy used- of something which I had earlier said. In that case, surely the honourable senator is quoting from a document. I simply ask for the document to be produced as a public document. It is a sorry state of affairs if a document can be quoted from to show what a person previously said but when you ask for the document you are not shown it.
- Mr President, I ask to be heard again on the matter. The honourable senator asked whether he could have the document. I said that I did not have it with me. I was quoting not directly from the document but from the notes in which there was an extract of what the honourable senator said. I have said that I will look for the document. I do not see any reason why he should not have the document. The honourable senator will not be speaking again in this debate; so I think he could contain himself perhaps until a later hour tonight or tomorrow morning.
– It is really an argument which is relevant to the debate on the next Bill. I would like to see it before then.
– I will look to see whether I can get the document for the honourable senator.
- Senator Greenwood, is that satisfactory?
– Yes, thank you Mr President. It is an assurance that the Minister will do what he can to produce the document. If he does not produce it, we can possibly take up the matter at a later hour.
– I rise to speak in this debate with no spirit of tendentiousness and certainly with no purpose other than to defend a cause of substantial import on a constitutional basis. I speak in a Senate that was constituted under the Constitution of the Commonwealth of 1900, an indissoluble federal Commonwealth federating 6 States. The smirks of some of the advisers would be better replaced by thought. The 6 States undertook to agree to a federal Constitution of those 6 States. The fundamental proposition upon which the whole Constitution was laid was that each of the 6 States should have equal representation in the national Parliament- this Parliament which we operate 74 years later. The matter that will be discerned by every member of the Senate and every elector of Australia is this: In another place the Labor Government was given a modified majority in 1972 and a reduced majority in 1974. Having regard to the shambles into which it has reduced the economy and the industrial chaos in this country, I would think that, if every elector had the right to speak tonight, the Labor Party’s claim in another place to govern this country would disappear.
But it is of the essential nature of parliamentary government that causes are debated and maintained according to the purposefulness of the peoples’ representatives. That being the situation of the Whitlam Government in the House of Representatives, the situation in the Senate is that when we took a course of action in April that challenged the Whitlam Government to its authority in another place we went to the people ourselves.
– And got beaten.
-Senator McLaren says that we got beaten. The Labor Government came back into the Senate of 60 members with 29 representatives. The electorate gave some accord to Senator Steele Hall as it undoubtedly did in Tasmania to Senator Townley, and it gave 29 seats to the Opposition parties directly in opposition to the Labor Government. But the Whitlam Government was denied a majority in the Senate. If Senator Steele Hall stands for anything as a true Liberal, as I have heard him call himself, and if Senator Townley is, as I know he is, determined to be independent, the people of this country denied the Whitlam Government a majority in the Senate. That shows the discernment and the maturity of the Australian electorate today. The Australian electorate is prepared to give a reduced majority to Mr Whitlam, Mr Crean and Mr Clyde Cameron and to reveal their impulsive politicalisation of the country for another term, so long as the electorate has the assurance that in this chamber there will be a purposeful, moderating vote which will deny to the Government an avalanche of its silly, socialistic legislation. I have been in this chamber for nearly 25 years and -
– Too long.
– Too long.
– Yes, too long for some honourable senators, but there is life within me yet to sustain me for a little longer. I promise honourable senators that while I am here I will defend the Constitution and the Liberal purpose. The Constitution created this Senate of the States on the basis of 6 States, each with equal power in this place. Having been defeated below, the Murphys and the architects of manoeuvre see in section 122 of the Constitution a way in which to assail the Constitution. Section 122, after all the previous 121 sections had been devoted to the mutual relationship between the new national Parliament and the 6 federating States, reads:
The Parliament may make laws for the government of any territory . . . 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.
Although based upon a federation of 6 States, the Constitution did advert, of course, to other areas of its jurisdiction, namely the Territories. Having adverted to that so that we would be entitled to make laws for the Territories and so that we might, in our judgment, allow the representation of the Territories in either House of the Parliament to the extent and on such terms as the Parliament thinks fit, great distinction is drawn in the Constitution between the States and the Territories. In the field of interstate trade there is a remarkable distinction between the freedom accorded to interstate trade and territorial-State trade. With respect to judicial power there is a remarkable distinction between the degree of the jurisdiction of the Federal courts in the territorial areas and in the States. Throughout the whole of the Constitution the federation is shown basically and fundamentally as a federation of the States. The Parliament produced by that Federation is enabled in the language that I have read, to allow representation of the Territories in either House of the Parliament to the extent and on the terms that Parliament thinks fit. So with the Whitlam Labor Government having been defeated in the Senate election following the double dissolution, having gained 29 seats only out of 60, and with the people being entitled to expect the other 3 1 senators to defend the cause of senatorial constitutional integrity, we are bound, when this Bill is presented to us after the dissolution, to give it the best of our consideration. I put it to the most ingenious member of the Senate, as I do to the most vacuous member, that their consideration of the true meaning of section 122 cannot consciously produce a conviction that the Whitlam Government is entitled to bring in a measure whereby 2 representatives from the Australian Capital Territory and 2 representatives of the Northern Territory come into this chamber and pursue the purpose of Senator Murphy and the Whitlam Government, overawe the majority which the people gave to the Opposition and give to the Whitlam Government the majority which the people denied to it.
There are 101,757 electors in the Australian Capital Territory. That is one-third of the electors of Tasmania- the smallest State- which, on a basis of Statehood, was part of the fundamental Federal compact. I hope that there is no Tasmanian senator who will surrender the State’s right to equality in this place, despite its fewness of people. The Australian Capital Territory is an area of” Government servants who, by reason of their position and their pay, have more influence on this Government now than a million other Australians. The Whitlam Government takes them as a pretext to allow their 2 Australian representatives to come into this chamber. The Northern Territory, with 36,980 electors, is not equal to one quota on any basis of one vote one value or equality of quotas throughout Australia. This proposition seeks by this snide, diversionary manoeuvre under section 122 to bring into this chamber 2 representatives as senators. The Government hopes to over-awe the majority which the people gave to the Opposition and denied to the Government in this chamber. Therefore it is essential that senators in the States House should remind themselves that Territories are an appendage to the Commonwealth. They are to be improved and guided by this Commonwealth, but their representation in either House of Parliament must be without disrupting to any degree the essential principles of the basis of our Constitution. For the Northern Territory, with 36,000 electors to send to this place 2 senators and operate with an efficacy of vote one-fifth of the voting power of New South Wales which has 3 million population is just a denial, a defeating, of the fundamental basis upon which the Senate was constructed. I am not a disciple of the integrity of federation on this basis for all times, but I am satisfied that so determined are the people of Australia to rely upon their States primarily, and the central government secondarily only, that we would betray the true faith of the people of our States if we permitted the Territories to send representatives here on the same basis as the State senators, if we had the authority to do otherwise.
One can go through the Constitution and find provisions such as this: That the Senate shall be composed of senators of each State; and one can go to the provision that was debated this afternoon and which has been put in another Bill in the hope that it will escape attention. But one finds in section 7 that the Senate is composed of senators from each State on an equal basis; and it was also provided there that the House of Representatives should have as nearly as practicable twice the number of members as there are senators. That poses the fundamental proposition that this is the pivot of the Parliament. If, for the purposes of Territorial representation, representatives of the Territories are to come in here, they certainly cannot be permitted to come in here to diminish the proportionate value of the States’ votes- and that is the inevitable result of this Bill. Therefore any senator who represents the people of his State has, I think a most superficial understanding of the Constitution and really does not represent the purpose of the people of the State if he allows 36,000 people of the Northern Territory to send in here 2 Territorial representatives or senators- one-fifth of the number representing New South Walesand, having regard to the even balance of the Senate, probably to exercise the preponderant vote in the Senate.
Mr President, do these considerations conjure up in your mind or in the minds of the people the idea that I speak here in a spirit of obstruction? Am I not to be conceded the view that this Part of the Constitution deserves consideration by a select committee for at least a fortnight? I have known the High Court of Australia to reserve its judgment on simple matters for 15 months. Seven judges able to consult with each other day by day, yet needing 15 months before forming a conclusion. Is this Senate to yield in its determination to give full and deliberate consideration to this matter? Is it, in order to save a few of the superficial members of the Senate maybe two or three weeks in the course of a year, to fail to give this issue fuller, more fundamental thought and so prevent the Senate being undermined by a political manoeuvre whereby Whitlam, having expounded himself in the Chifley Memorial lecture on the cause of the Constitution versus Labor now comes to promote the cause of Labor against the Constitution? This is the most ingenious, cunning trick that has been conceived to subvert the Constitution. I speak in defence of a full-blooded, equal Senate for the purpose of the 6 federating States-meaning by that, their people.
-I have listened with a great deal of interest to the debate on this very important question which is fundamental to this House. Today I was amazed to hear a newcomer to this chamber, Senator Steele Hall of the Liberal Movement of South Australia, chastise us once again on the ground that this is not a States House. It is rather amazing that Senator Steele Hall has come into this chamber and that on each occasion that he has spoken he has spoken in a most bitter manner such as I think none of us in politics should indulge in. He has castigated senators generally about standards and about this and that and so on, and particularly those on this side of the House. Of course, sometimes people who are new here have a great opinion of themselves; but probably when they have been here for a certain length of time they will find their level. I am one who resents the bitter and caustic nature of his remarks. He stated that we on this side of the chamber, because our Leader happened to write something to the Press, are more or less bound hand and foot to a party decision. I have been in this chamber for the same length of time as Senator Wright and in that period of almost 25 years -
– It is time you got out.
– The people of Queensland did not say so.
– Theirs is a backward State.
-They are intelligent people. They have sunshine in their minds, they have very clear thinking and they are free of pollution generally in their State. Because of that, as the leader of the team in that State, I was the one leader who had 6 senators returned to this chamber. The people of Queensland still think that I have the right to be here. I am here. As I said before, I appreciated the statement today of the Chairman of Committees (Senator Webster) when in his speech he refuted Senator Hall’s accusations, made in his Labor style, in which he accused us of being just little lambs who abide by the party decision. My Victorian Country Party colleague instanced the fact that Senator Wright, who sits in front of me, and I on a number of occasions voted against our own Government when we were in office.
– But never when you could have put that Government in danger.
- Senator McLaren is also an infant in this chamber in terms of length of service. Whenever I voted against my Government I voted against it because I did not think it was right. In the 25 years that I have been here I have never sold my conscience. There has never been any Gair affair in my realm as far as my political life is concerned. I believe in honesty and service. I know that there are people of very good calibre and character on the Government side. I am not one who believes that everyone on our side is everything good. I believe there are good people on both sides. I want to say that the people on the other side will not do what I have done, that is, vote against their own Government even if they think their Government is wrong. Senator Hall just talked a lot of tripe; he does not know. He has been stuck in that little State of South Australia which seems to be so far removed from the movement of people along the eastern coast of Australia.
Throughout my years here I have stood up for the Senate. Instead of coming into this place and castigating the Senate as a new senator, I have always done in this place what I have done in municipal life and elsewhere. I have tried to leave it a better place than I have found it. My statement to Senator Hall would be that if he would concentrate on trying to develop the Senate chamber instead of being a critic of it we would get some positive results and some positive outlet from him.
– You are the only one criticising the Senate. You are afraid to get more members here.
– The Minister is not one of the blokes who I think is not a decent senator, because he has a good outlook on the Senate. But sometimes the honourable senator has to express a Party view. The Minister is an honest bloke and I know that he thinks what I am saying is true. The Minister was a member, and a very good member, of the Senate Standing Committee on Regulations and Ordinances when I was the Chairman.
Instead of trying to pull this place to pieces honourable senators ought to be trying to build it into an even better place. I believe that those of us who are opposing this legislation because of the need to preserve the Senate are taking a view more in keeping with what was intended by the people who drew up the Constitution of this country and set up the 2 Houses of Parliament. On 7 June last year I made a speech from which I ask to be allowed to make some copious extracts, because that speech did involve a lot of research. The Senate was established to protect the States and no compact would have been arrived at if the independence and sovereignty of the States were not recognised and preserved. The founding fathers ensured that the constitutional rights of the States were maintained and protected by providing in the Constitution equality of representation of the original States on the basis that the colonies prior to Federation were equal constitutionally and politically.
The Constitution provides in section 122 that the Parliament may allow representation of Commonwealth Territories ‘in either House of the Parliament to the extent and on the terms which it thinks fit’. But was it intended that Territories should be allowed full representation in the Senate? Certainly, under the proposed legislation, it is not suggested that any Territory representatives in the Senate should be taken into account in determining the number of members of the House of Representatives. In that respect any such representatives are not to be considered senators. But such Territory representatives in the Senate under this Bill are to have full voting rights and could as non-State representatives hold the balance of power in an institution set up to safeguard the interests of the States- a principle embodied in the Constitution without which Federation would not have been accomplished. Although provision was made in the Constitution for representation of Territories in the Parliament, our founding fathers did not envisage that such representatives would have voting rights. In fact, concern was expressed at the constitutional discussions that the provision did not preclude such representatives having the right to vote. Giants in those constitutional discussions such as Deakin, Brown, Barton and Braddon are recorded in convention debates which indicate that thinking.
– They were born over 100 years ago.
-It does not matter. They were the people who founded the Parliament. Practically every time the government of the day has gone to the country to alter the Constitution the people have said ‘No’. They said it in December and they said it again on 18 May. It is rather interesting that the question as to whether the Senate and House of Representatives elections should be held concurrently, which was one of the principal matters that the Government put before the people, was rejected. Yet the Government is trying, in this Bill, to apply that principle in regard to territorial representatives. The Government is trying to have the election of territorial senators held on the same day as the election for the House of Representatives. What an odd sort of position we would have if this were agreed to. We would have senators going out at one time and the intended territorian senators, as one might term them, coming out at another time.
Unlike our founding fathers who were concerned to establish the Senate as the Federal part of the Parliament- ‘the organ of the States, the visible representative of the continuity, independence, and reserved autonomy of the States, linking them together as integral parts of the Federal Union’- the present Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam leaves no doubt that, as one honourable member of another place expressed recently, he ‘is hell-bent on completely abolishing the States themselves’. Of course, in the process and incidental thereto, he is attempting to destroy this institution which was established to protect the interests of the States. Protection of those interests should be the first and foremost duty and responsibility of each and every person in this chamber who calls himself a senator.
The Bill is a political ruse to destroy the whole character of the Senate. It is an attempt to intrude non-State representatives into the Senate with terms of service the same as the terms of members of the House of Representatives, with elections to be held at the same time as general elections for the House of Representatives and with any vacancies of such representatives being filled at an election as though it were a byelection for a vacancy in the House of Representatives. This scheme must be seen as the real threat that it is to the independence of the Senate. It is the thin edge of an insidious wedge being relentlessly employed by those bent on the wrecking of our federal union and the destruction of our sovereign States. The Prime Minister has recently made it quite plain that he wants no truck with any of the States. He believes in a unitary system and his actions indicate that he is out to attain that end, if given the chance, in as short a time as possible.
If we allow this Bill to pass we will be sounding the death knell of the States and our federation. As well, we would be endorsing the present Government’s plan to emasculate the Senate and destroy its status, independence and continuity. This Bill, as already mentioned, requires the proposed representatives to be taken to election at each House of Representatives election. Such a proposal would make destitute the system of proportional representation instituted by a former Labor Government for Senate elections, which system has provided in the Senate a true reflection of the political feeling in the States. We know full well Prime Minister Whitlam ‘s burning desire to take half the Senate out at each House of Representatives electionor is it his intention to take all the Senate to election with the lower House and so completely destroy the Senate by making it a replica of the House of Representatives? Of course the people threw this back.
– You must be short of material.
– I am not short. It could be that such a move would suit the purpose of certain members of the Labor Party, which still retains in its platform its plank to abolish the Senate.
– Who said that?
-Senator Ian Wood, last year. I am repeating it.
– It is last year’s news.
– I am repeating it because it is material which should be re-recorded. Is it believed that altruistic considerations prompted the Government to initiate this legislation so as to enable the electorally discriminated against people of the Territories to be adequately represented in Parliament or could it be that the Government believes that it may be able to gain control of the Senate with the non-State representatives? Should this happen, of course, there would be no barrier- and this is importantto increasing, by amending legislation, the number of representatives for the Territories to whatever number was desired and thereby kill the identity of the Senate as a State’s House.
As honourable senators know, our parliamentary system is similar in many ways to the system in the United States. In the United States there is a Senate and a House of Representatives and there have been arguments about the Capital Territory there having representation in the Senate. This is a very important point. This Bill, by providing representation for Territories, could as effectively destroy the influence of the smaller States as it could accord more representation to larger States.
– Did you say that last year?
-Yes, and the honourable senator should have remembered it.
– Why not incorporate it in Hansard.
– It is too good to be incorporated in Hansard. This was the argument advanced in the United States- this is a very important point, particularly in relation to our own legislation- when it was proposed in 1967 that the District of Columbia, the Seat of Government of the United States with a population of over 800,000 people, be given representation in the United States Senate. The proposal was defeated, and in dissenting reports on the proposal before the United States House of Representatives Committee on the Judiciary -
- Mr President, a point of order. There must be some rule to prevent what Senator Wood is doing. Surely that rule must be that an honourable senator cannot read a speech in this place, especially since that speech has already been delivered. For that reason I think that you, Mr President, should direct the honourable senator to depend upon his memory rather than repeat a speech which he made last year.
– I have taken notice of the point of order, but Senator Wood is referring to copious notes.
- Mr President, I appreciate your ruling. This is a quotation connected with the argument that was advanced in the United States. As I was saying, the proposal was defeated, and in dissenting reports on the proposal before the United States House of Representatives Committee on the Judiciary it was stated:
The people of the District of Columbia should have both a voice and vote in the Congress. However, it is neither prudent nor practical to treat the District as a State. It is not a State. It should not be. It should remain the Capital City of all America.
The same applies in Canberra. The report continued:
So long as every State is like every other State, equality of suffrage is not destroyed by admitting a new State to the Union. But is the same true when a non-State is involved? The purpose of the proviso- no State, without its consent, shall be deprived of its equal Suffrage in the Senatewas to furnish a forum where States with smaller populations could yet exert influence. That purpose is defeated as effectively by according senatorial representation to a non-State as by according more representation to a larger State.
- Mr President, I rise to a point of order. Standing order 42 1 states:
The President or the Chairman of Committees may call the attention of the Senate or the Committee, as the case may be, to continued irrelevance or tedious repetition, and may direct a Senator to discontinue his speech.
My point is that this speech has already been delivered 12 months ago and it is contained in Hansard. The honourable senator is just repeating it word for word from Hansard. He could save the time of the Senate by asking for the speech to be incorporated in Hansard or, as was suggested earlier, he should rely on his memory or vary the speech in some way in order to make it more interesting or less tedious. So I appeal to you, Mr President, to uphold the point of order under standing order 42 1.
– I appreciate the merit in your drawing attention to this Standing Order. I ask Senator Wood to bear in mind the point that has been made and to continue his speech.
– Thank you, Mr President. As you know, I have been interspersing quotations with other observations. I had said that the last quotation came from the United States House of Representatives Committee on the Judiciary. Therefore, it is a very important quotation and one which a person would not be expected to recite from memory. It has particular importance in this debate because in that instance they wanted Senate representation for the District of Columbia, as they term it, but they did not get it because of the particular circumstances which applied there. Similar circumstances apply here in Canberra. Another small quotation is very interesting. It reads: the Senate represents States, the House represents people. This distinction is the foundation of our federal systemgovernments within a government, sovereignties within a sovereignty. This principle has served us too well to be eroded by an amendment such as that now before the House.
I believe that that applies to the Senate in this Australian Parliament. As I have said, we have a similar setup to America in that we have a House of Representatives and also a Senate. In America they apparently appreciate the necessity to keep their Senate on a true States basis, and if we representatives of the States have the true interests of the States, I believe that we should take cognisance of this fact. If we do what this legislation wants us to do, we will start to destroy the Senate as I believe it was intended to be established when the Constitution was framed. Although my colleagues on the Opposition side might have been a bit touched by the repetition of a quotation that I made in a speech a year ago, I think that it contains a lot of information of which honourable senators should be reminded so that they might get a clearer interpretation of what is suggested by this legislation. I believe that if they apply the right thinking to this legislation they will vote against it. I believe that there is a duty on those who are charged with the responsibility of looking after this chamber as was intended to vote against this legislation.
– I have been provoked into making a brief intervention in this debate by the forensic excesses of Senator Wright and by the quaint old fashioned irrelevancies that have just fallen from Senator Wood. Dealing firstly with Senator Wright, insofar as I could detect some sort of a theme in his over-excited outpourings from the aisle, he seemed to be putting the point that Territorians are not people unlike, presumably, Tasmanians, New South Welshmen or Victorians. I would like him to ponder just one point: From the State of Tasmania which he represents so vociferously, we have in this Parliament 1 5 representatives, counting the ten in the Senate and the five in the other place, for 240,000 voters. For the Northern Territory we have in the Parliament one representative for 30,000 voters. The able logician opposite evidently considers that this is a matter which should be perpetuated in the interests of justice. As they say in the courts, and I am sure Senator Wright would understand me, having said that, cadit quaestio
I turn now to the contribution that we had from Senator Wood. He is a man for whom I have respect and affection but I am afraid he has tried our patience a little beyond what we are prepared to stand tonight. All he has really proved to me by reading his speech is- I think all of us would have to concede this-that if we pick up Hansard tomorrow and look at the edited version of what we would like to have said today, all of us read a lot better than we sound. Another thing the honourable senator succeeded in proving tonight is that none of us improve with the passage of the years. What the honourable senator said last year did not sound to me at all that wise tonight. His glosses on what he said last year sounded a little inferior to what he said last year.
There is one other thing I would like to say to Senator Wood. Let us have done with this nonsense about the Senate being a States’ House and about the founding fathers having enshrined all the wisdom of the ages in what they did. What was appropriate to a small provincial country- a colony of what used to bc called the mother country 74 years ago- is almost irrelevant to the needs of today. Unfortunately we are stuck with a Constitution which those wise founding fathers made it almost impossible to alter. Let us try to change it to bring it up to date if we can. Let us not continue to trunk that in a modern industrial society the horse and buggy is good enough to travel about in. That is what those who praise the founding fathers would have us believe. If we do find it hard to change the Constitution let us not try to pretend that all the wisdom of the ages is enshrined in this already old fashioned document.
Reference has been made to the Senate as being the States ‘ House. Please, senators, did not everybody hear the Leader of the Opposition, Senator Withers, say last year that the Opposition has embarked on a deliberate course of bringing down the Government that had just been elected by the majority of the Australian voters? What was meant by that statement? Was it just a tender regard for the interests of the States or was it playing politics at its most blatant? So, Senator Wood and other honourable senators, let us have arguments about this or any other legislation that comes here but for God’s sake let us have done with this tired old cliche about the Senate being a States’ House. The Senate is a place where politics is played at its harshest, its most brutal, and where numbers count much more than States and much more than principles, judging by the way the game is played by honourable senators opposite. So let us discuss this legislation on its merits. Let us forget about this being a States’ House. Let us remember the only point that I really rose to make: It does not strike me as being a great defence of democracy to suggest that one representative is enough for 30,000 voters in a territory and that 15 representatives are appropriate for the State from which one happens to come.
– in reply- As we all know, this is the sixth time this Bill has been before the Parliament- 3 times in the other place and 3 times in the Senate- and the debate has not altered greatly. Senator Wood even read his speech of last year. At least he was more consistent and more accurate than anybody else and gave us word for word while other honourable senators relied on their memories. In the latter case perhaps the phraseology altered but the arguments did not. I have been listening to the debate, either here or by means of the speaker system in my office, but I have had to remind myself what this Bill is about. I think Senator James McClelland put well into place some of the extraneous arguments that have been raised about the Senate being a States’ House and all the rest. I might even have to remind you, Mr President, what this Bill is all about because you have listened to far more of the debate than I have. It is a very simple Bill relating to the election of 2 senators from each of 2 Territories of Australia, the Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory. This is perfectly valid constitutionally, as I stated in my second reading speech. I think Senator Wood adverted to this point and said that there is no argument about the constitutionality of this proposal.
There is no argument about the views held by the founding fathers, as we like to call them from time to time, because one of the things they did, at least, was to look forward far enough to realise that this situation would arise in Australia at some time in its history. It has arisen and we are dealing with it. The national Parliament is of a bicameral character- that is, we have members forming a House of Representatives and we have members forming a Senate- and we are merely saying that the people who live in the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory are Australians who pay the same taxes and have the same rights as everybody else even though they live in those Territories. Senator Wood seemed to think that it would be a terrible thing if, this Bill having been passed and there being 2 senators from each of the Territories, at some future time some government increased the number of senators representing Territories, because in some way that would destroy this chamber as a States’ House. I think one’s imagination has to be pretty keen to think that somehow or other 4 senators from 2 Territories are going to swamp 60 other senators. It is quite beyond my imagination to envisage such a thing.
The Government is doing a very simple thing. Australian Capital Territory and Northern Territory representation in the House of Representatives has evolved over a period of time. First the 2 representatives concerned had limited voting rights but finally they took their places in the House of Representatives in the same way as other members from electorates in the Australian States and now they have the same voting rights. What we are seeking in this Bill is to provide somewhat the same situation for the Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory as far as Senate representation is concerned. In other words, we are trying to treat the people in those Territories as Australians who are just the same as the Australians in the other States. That is all this Bill is about and it has taken the Senate a long time to recognise it. The debate certainly has strayed far and wide. It went back into the history of America and, for all I know, into the histories of a few other countries as well. All we are asking, Mr President, is that following a double dissolution- this was one of the Bills which was involved in the double dissolution, it was one of the Bills which was clearly in the minds of the Australian people and it was one of the Bills on which the Governor-General decided to give us a double dissolution- the Australian Capital
Territory and the Northern Territory be brought somewhere into kilter with the States.
I do not think there is any need for me to go over all the extraneous matters, Mr President. Knowing you, and you having known me for so long, you might be a little more harsh in your judgment and apply the Standing Orders against me. I suggest that the tripe that has been spoken in this debate is just nonsense. It is a simple Bill and it ought to be passed by the Senate, particularly in view of its history over the last 18 months.
That the words proposed to be left out (Senator Greenwood’s amendment) be left out.
The Senate divided. (The President- Senator the Hon. Justin O’Byrne)
Question so resolved in the negative.
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The Senate divided. (The President- Senator the Hon. JustinO ‘Byrne)
Question so resolved in the negative.
Copy of a Letter from the Attorney-General, Senator the Hon. Ivor J. Greenwood, to the Minister for the Interior, the Hon. Ralph J. Hunt, M.P., dated 1 1 April 1972.
Debate resumed from 1 1 July (vide page 86), on motion by Senator Willesee:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– The Opposition will oppose the second reading of this Bill. It is a Bill to amend the Representation Act. I think by common accord it is a companion Bill to the Senate (Representation of Territories) Bill to which the Senate has just denied a second reading. It would follow that as a matter of consistency if the major Bill is denied a second reading there is no purpose in amending the Representation Bill. Therefore the view which I express will be expressed quite shortly and, as I understand it, will represent the viewpoint of the Opposition parties. The basis upon which the Representation Bill is put forward is that the formula under the Constitution and also under the Representation Act whereby there is a nexus between the number of members of the House of Representatives and the number of senators is to be altered. In one sense it is difficult to appreciate the reasoning which lies behind the Government ‘s proposal. Let me put it this way: The Constitution states that the number of members of the House of Representatives shall be twice the number of senators. Then section 24 of the Constitution sets out a procedure whereby the number of members of the House of Representatives from each State is to be determined. That constitutional provision also gives power to the Parliament to provide how the number of members shall be chosen from each State. The Parliament has so provided and the means by which it has made provision is contained in the Representation Act 1905-64. The Government has said in the second reading speeches which have accompanied this Bill that on the legal advice available to the Government the people of the Territories are not to be included in the expression ‘the people of the Commonwealth’ in the Constitution.
I understand Senator Murphy to have referred to an opinion which I gave as Attorney-General in which I had adhered to the same view. I can imagine the circumstances in which that view would be held. I would have thought that if one were to examine the part of the Constitution in which section 24 appears one would find there sections dealing with the States and the representation of the States. A reference to the people of the Commonwealth would therefore naturally be limited by the context and would refer to the people of the States. Nothing in that part of the Constitution refers to the Territories or the representation of the Territories in the Senate.
The question which has arisen as a result of the measures now before the Parliament is whether the appointment of full-blooded Territory senators to the Senate, with all the rights of senators in terms of voting, requires that the people of the Territories should be brought into the compilation of ‘the people of the Commonwealth’ in section 24. 1 would have thought that prima facie section 24 is separate from the representation which might be given to Territory senators. However, I must say that that view is based upon an assumption that the representation given to Territory senators would not be the full and unqualified representation which is contemplated by the Government’s current measures. I would have thought that if there is to be a power in the Parliament to give to Territory senators a full vote as ordinary senators the nexus provision could well apply. It may be that that is the contemplation that the Government had in mind when it introduced the Representation Bill as a companion Bill to that which the Senate has just defeated.
One might shortly say that to attempt to remove the nexus in that way is to act contrary to the recently made decision of the people of the Commonwealth, because in 1967 a referendum sought to remove the nexus or tie which required the House of Representatives to have twice the number of members as the Senate. As I recall, the referendum was supported by the principal parties in the Commonwealth- the Liberal and Country parties which formed the Government, and the Australian Labor Party in Opposition. Notwithstanding what might have been regarded as the overwhelming opinion which the combination of those parties indicated the referendum was defeated quite significantly. My recollection is that in only one State was an affirmative vote carried, and that was in New South Wales.
– By a small majority.
-Senator Wright was one of the people who took the view that the nexus should not be altered. I suppose one can pardon him for claiming that it was only a small majority in the one State in which it was carried. We might have different views on whether it was a good or bad decision which the people of Australia made, but there is no doubt that they made their decision and made it quite emphatically. That is why I say that for the Government now to seek to remove the nexus in the way in which the Representation Bill suggests is to act contrary to a fairly clearly expressed decision of the people, even though the nexus which is sought to be removed is not the total nexus which has constitutional sanction.
To keep the nexus in position is to ensure that there is no enlargement of the Parliament beyond what is the reasonable anticipation of the founders of the Constitution and the thinking of the people of Australia. If the nexus is removed in the way that the Representation Bill provides there will be no barrier to the Senate’s being increased by, say, 10, 20, or 50 senators from each Territory and the House of Representatives being left as it is. If the nexus were to remain it would mean that if there was to be any increase in the number of Territory senators there would have to be a proportionate increase in the number of members of the House of Representatives. That fact in itself is a deterrent to any government which seek unreasonably to increase the number of Territory senators if ever the appointment of Territory senators in the full sense which the Government envisages was to be allowed. These are matters which are, as I say, ancillary to the acceptance of the principle contained in the Senate (Representation of Territories) Bill.
We in the Opposition have taken the view, for reasons which have earlier been advanced, that the principle contained in the Senate (Representation of Territories) Bill is a principle which ought not to be accepted. We have consistently maintained that view and it would be unreal, having regard to the mandate upon which each one of us was elected on this side of the chamber, to change a view which we previously have held. That is because that was the basis upon which we campaigned and that was the basis upon which we were elected. One does not change ones view as lightly as members of the Labor Party challenge us to change our views. We are here to express policies upon which we were elected, and that is what we are doing. Having rejected the Senate (Representation of Territories) Bill we now feel that it is entirely consistent and appropriate to oppose and to ask the Senate to reject the Representation Bill. In addition to the straightforward argument of consistency in measures which are interdependent there are the two further reasons which I have advanced which I think show some cogency in the argument in opposition.
– in replySenator Greenwood has stated what the Bill is all about. He advanced his own reasons on whether the Constitution is being applied. I hardly think that is the point. The point is that this Bill is the third of the Bills which are now before this Parliament for the third time. The Bills were the subject of the double dissolution. I think that by now we have gauged where the Opposition stands on this matter. I think by now the Opposition has gauged where we stand. The Constitution will have to be brought into effect finally to resolve something that the Opposition is not prepared to accept despite the decision of the people. I do not see any point in arguing this matter any further. I suggest that the question be put.
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The Senate divided. (The President- Senator the Hon. Justin 0 ‘Byrne)
Question so resolved in the negative.
Debate resumed from 11 July (vide page 104), on motion by Senator Wheeldon:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
-Mr President, I suggest that the Health Insurance Bill 1973 and the Health Insurance Commission Bill 1 973 be dealt with in a cognate debate.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, I will allow that course to be adopted.
– With the complete support of the Liberal Party and the Country Party senators I indicate our continued opposition to these 2 Bills. We realise that there is the possibility that they will be debated again at the joint sitting and we understand the consequences of the procedures with which we have already been involved. But this does not deter us from stating in the strongest terms that the Government’s attempt to introduce a nationalised health scheme does not have a single supporter in the Liberal Party and the Country Party in the Senate. No doubt the independent senators who have been elected to this House will speak for themselves in due course but I predict that the Australian people will not need to suffer the diminished health care which would result from this scheme. The simple fact is that Australia cannot undertake the economic commitment which is so openended and escalating under the proposal which has been put forward by the Government. In fact, the economic consequences of this scheme are so important that I propose later to quote from an actuarial study which has been made of the scheme based on all of the information that could be obtained.
In essence, the Labor Government’s scheme would lower the quality of medical care for Australian families. It would undoubtedly increase total costs for the Government and thus for the taxpayers. It would also increase total costs for the majority of taxpayers because they could maintain the present standard of their health care only by additional heavy commitments for private insurance. It would also reduce the freedom of choice which has been an essential part of Australian policies in health care for as far back as we care to remember. It would jeopardise the future of religious, private and country hospitals. We consider that this is an important element to be considered in the scheme which is being introduced. Overriding all the other considerations, by its very design, we believe that it is the first stage of nationalisation of health and medical care in Australia. In fact, the Scotton and Deeble report upon which the scheme has been based makes no recommendations which will significantly improve health care in Australia.
To talk of a free medical scheme, as has been loosely done in the past months, is quite ridiculous. Any service, whether we are talking of a professional one, whether we are talking of a personal one or a government service, costs money. In this case it is the money of the Australian people. To present to the people a program which talks of* free medical care is to overlook the fact that whether it is instituted by commandeering a certain percentage of each salary earner’s income to be appropriated specifically for health care or whether it is to be a government subsidy coming in a general way from one source or another, the money is still coming from the people of Australia. It is the people’s money, and what is different about the application of this system is that it is intended to remove the choice which has formerly been given to the Australian people.
Let us talk about some of the problems which we envisage in this health program. We have been talking all the time about redistribution of wealth since the Government was elected in 1972. But what we are really talking about as a problem is distribution of power. I think that this is best understood when it is related to a particular scheme such as the nationalised health program that has been introduced. In general terms, we would have to say that the diffusion of power through democracy is effective only when the voters take an interest in what policies are presented to them. The tyranny of the majority can be effective only if the people themselves refuse to take an interest and to show their interest in decisions that are being taken on their behalf. The decision by this Government to dismantle the present health care system is one on which the people of Australia have expressed their view quite forcefully at every opinion poll which has been offered to them. The majority of the people do not want to change the existing voluntary health care system.
If we allow the tyranny of numbers in a House of government to force upon the Australian people a new system of diminished health care, we are handing to the Government of the day a system of administration of health care and not one of delivery of health care. This is the important element which we say should be preserved in the system which has been developed in a purely Australian manner to serve this country. Why should this happen to medical and health care services in Australia in 1974? If we go back to the original questions which we asked ourselves when this scheme was promised to us long before this Government was elected, we have to ask: Who would pay for the scheme? Of course, it is the Australian people who would pay. Government is not a body which has some money it can hand out to people in certain forms without the people first having to give some of their funds to the Government to expend. In this case, the taxpayers in almost every instance would be disadvantaged by the scheme which has been proposed. What would we get under this national health care program?
– Good health.
– You cannot get good health under a system which has not been designed to deliver health care, lt is a system which has been designed in economic terms to hand power to the Government and to nationalise the whole of the medical and hospital system in Australia. What would we get? We would get costs which were much higher for most people, and we would get diminished service. Would we receive cover for ancillary services? No answer to this question has been presented to us in a form which would allow us to predict that the ancillary services would be covered to any greater extent than they have been able to be covered under the existing voluntary scheme. Another important question is whether national health would cost more. It is on that basis that I want to talk in more detail a little later. Would our health care suffer? These are the questions that had to be asked of the Australian people about this program and they are the questions upon which we have based our steadfast opposition to the whole of this program.
I want to talk in detail about some of the things that I think are important when we look at the Bill. I would like a response to this question when the Minister for Repatriation and Compensation (Senator Wheeldon) responds to the debate. Am I to understand that under clause 24 (3) of the Bill patients would be deprived of private psychiatric hospital care and health insurance benefits which would relate to that type of care. I refer also to clause 33 and ask for a response from the Minister which would enable me to feel that that clause does not permit the proposition that all private hospitals would become economically non-viable.
– We could deal with this in Committee after you have passed the Bill.
– The Committee of the Whole will not be dealing with this Bill. This is why I would like to have some response from the Minister on these points. Clause 34 is another clause which I find of interest. I wonder what the effect of this clause would be on the religious private hospitals and whether the economic relief which is offered to them under the clause would cause them a loss of autonomy. Clauses 30 to 32 seek to bring the State public hospitals under the direct control of the Commonwealth Government. These are the things which were questioned and we have received no answers from the Government on these specific points of this new health care program. Another point which should be highlighted as a distinct deficiency of the program is the daily bed payment of $16 for private hospitals which is made under clause 33 of the Bill. It is grossly inadequate. It is a ridiculous payment to make to people and it is ridiculous for the Government to say that it gives some choice as to whether people have private hospital care.
– You do not even believe that, senator.
– I believe that at $16 a day under the present system I would not have any opportunity to go into a private hospital and have cover for hospital insurance under the proposed program.
– What is the payment now?
– A 35 per cent increase in hospital costs has been announced quite recently. Yet there has been no change in the $16 a day cover which has been offered by the Government. To answer Senator Milliner’s question, the Victorian public hospitals will be charging $55 a day for single room accommodation as from 1 October of this year. This accentuates the futility of talking about rebates for private hospitals under this scheme and to pretend that there is an option for people in the type of hospital care that they seek. If people wish to have private hospital care they will need to insure privately outside the Government’s scheme, despite the fact that they have been compulsorily levied at this stage 1 .35 per cent of their taxable income. The Health Insurance Commission Bill incorporates the Government’s policy White Paper of November 1973. It is these massive economic disincentives which are contained in the program that make it very difficult for people to choose to be treated by their own doctor or enter a private hospital of their choice. These are the areas on which we find the greatest contention and the greatest disquiet in the minds of the Australian people.
In summary, these health Bills would remove the freedom of choice from the patient in regard to the hospital, doctor and type of care. A very significant statement contained in clause 7.15 at the end of the White Paper is as follows:
The total net cost to the budget, including the effect of tax deductions, will be approximately the same as would be the case under the existing Health Insurance Scheme.
This makes it clear that the Health Insurance Bills will not direct a greater proportion of tax income to health services but will, in fact, give a diminished service in the future.
I wish to direct some remarks to the matter of hospital care, because I believe that this is an important component of the new program which is envisaged. Private hospitals should be encouraged to continue to develop an important and independent role in Australia complementary to the public hospital system. Eighteen per cent of all beds throughout Australia are in private hospitals and some 22 per cent of patients in the year 1972-73 were cared for in private hospitals. I should like to think that the private hospitals throughout Australia are able to continue to provide a personal service to the patients whereby they are able to be treated by the doctor of their own choice and they are able to be treated in the hospital of their own choice, whether it be in an institution of a religious nature, which gives them spiritual support at the time of illness, or whether it be a private hospital chosen by them for any other personal reason.
The skilled nursing care which has been provided through the private hospital system is an important part of our medical care in Australia. The medical, surgical and nursing care for chronically ill patients has been a predominant role played by private hospitals. These are the areas which are challenged in their continuity by the scheme which has been proposed by the Government because there has been emphasis on the development of the public hospital system. It has developed to a point where we see a unitary hospital system in Australia in the future. The proposals within the program would make it extremely difficult for the private hospitals to continue and for the patients to have available to them the care of the private hospital system because of the costs which are involved but which are not covered by the Government’s nationalised health program. The Health Insurance Planning Committee’s report assessed the field of health care from a narrow economic view and had no intimate knowledge or showed no intimate knowledge of the practical working and healing professions and their institutions. It is clear, for example, that the Australian people have expressed a preference for the private hospital care. Yet, this care has been denied to them in the program which is outlined under the Government’s proposals.
Some interesting comments were made by Professor Garlick, who is a part-time professor at Monash University in Victoria, with regard to health care. He points out that in Victoria 30 per cent of patients are in public beds and 70 per cent are in private or intermediate beds. The standard accommodation which is referred to in the Government’s scheme is the public bed. The Deeble report refers to the standard accommodation in hospitals, that is, public beds in public hospitals. During the past 20 years in this country and especially over the past 3 years, there has been a major movement of patients from public to private and intermediate beds. Under the present voluntary health scheme patients have had this choice and they have shown that they have a preference for a private hospital system which allows them a variety of care suited to their needs in a particular illness. Our existing public hospitals are used for 3 types of patients. There are the pensioner patient and the low income families who use public hospitals most extensively; there are the accident and emergency illnesses; and there are the small numbers of people requiring highly specialised medical care, such as kidney transplants and open heart surgery- those skills which have been developed in the major hospitals in Australia. At present there are not enough beds in Australian public hospitals for these needs. To pretend that we can divert from the private hospital system to the public hospital system the enormous numbers of people under this program would be to overlook the inadequacy of the public hospital system to cope with this increased demand. To claim that patients in the public beds will have a free choice of doctor is not quite true. It overlooks the fact that only accredited doctors will be allowed to work in public hospitals and the patients will be cared for by the doctor on duty at the time they are admitted.
We have the experience of other countries which have had nationalised medicine and we have the sort of quotation from the USA which states that universal health insurance of this type creates a surge of demand that swamps the already inadequate delivery systems in major public hospitals. In the traditional fee for service system which we have had developed in Australia the fee itself regulates the flow into the system and there has not been a chaotic situation which I could foresee if we were to dismantle our existing system and try to deliver the sort of requirements that the Government’s program has covered.
I was interested to receive today in my office a report of a committee headed by Dr Sidney Sax. The report on nationalised hospitals and health services had been commissioned by the Government. I have not had time to read in depth the recommendations in that report but it would seem to me that it was necessary for the Government to have that information before it drew up the guidelines for the scheme which it has presented to the Australian people and which will leave such gaps in the accommodation which is available at present. For Ministers to make statements that they wish to see the private hospital system continue overlooks the fact that there is very little opportunity for this to occur. It overlooks the sorts of statements that have been made by the Minister, Mr Hayden. For instance, in November of 1 973 Mr Hayden said:
Private hospitals would want to enter into agreements with the Government when its proposed national health insurance scheme started. The agreements would be generous and would be entered into voluntarily. Hospitals would not keep beds empty just to stick to the principle of being private.
I think that statement over-simplifies the attitude and purpose of many of our hospitals in the private hospital system. To talk of hospitals entering voluntarily into agreements with a government is an infringement on the autonomy which they have developed and it over-simplifies what would be the future of the private hospital system. I wish to refer to a statement made by the present Prime Minister in May 1 97 1. He said:
A Labor Government will not and indeed cannot nationalise the medical profession, but it will nationalise public hospitals . . . Under Labor’s program, families will receive in return for a contribution equal to 1 1/4 per cent of their taxable income, with a SI 00 ceiling, free medical treatment and free hospital accommodation . . .
That is a statement of intent or objective of the Government in implementing a nationalised health scheme. Mr Hayden, in 1972, also before the Labor Party was elected to Government said:
We would in fact build good quality nursing homes at various points in the community according to various types of plans. We would not be plagued by a recognisable and resented dull uniformity but we would arrange for local authorities or voluntary agencies to staff these nursing homes . . .
The Government is not only going into business in minerals and all sorts of other things, such as pharmaceuticals, but also it is going into the business of nursing homes. These are the proposals of the Government and these are things which I question as being the type of health care program for the Australian people. Mr Hayden, in October 1972, also stated:
So, if we were able to have a universal cover for health insurance, the pensioner medical service and repatriation medical services under the Government’s scheme, the cost would be in the vicinity of $700m.
It is on that point that I wish to address some further remarks. The figure of $700m falls very far short of the sort of figure that is now being produced as the Government’s plan unfolds. To put this into perspective as far as I can I shall quote from a report prepared by certain individual actuaries based on the financial estimates of the proposed Australian health insurance program. It is based on the latest description of the program in the White Paper dated 7 November 1973 and gives, I believe, as much factual information as we are able to have prepared. It is a report which has used certain conventions actually to develop its figures. I can describe in more detail, if that is required, but I would like to have recorded in Hansard some of the figures produced in good faith by these actuaries on whatever information was available to them. I would say, firstly, that the report is based on the Government’s program of a 1.35 per cent levy and a ceiling of $ 1 50 for any taxpayer for health care, and on the cost for a full year’s program. It is also based on the fact that this set of figures from which I am quoting does not include any capital costs such as cost of construction of new hospitals or anything of that nature. It is acknowledged that the task was made more difficult by recent developments whereby fees for a variety of services were increased and new categories have been introduced. However, a range of figures has been provided in the report which give both a lower and an upper limit; and somewhere between these figures we would find the average of any costs which I quote. There are difficulties in defining costs for hospital services because these statistics, the latest available, relate to June 1 97 1 . It is difficult to have anything more up to date than that for hospital services. However, the fee for medical services, which has also been compiled, also presents difficulty. It has been simple enough to find the statistics for fee for medical services for insured persons but it has been extremely difficult to obtain estimates for services for people who were not insured under any of the voluntary health insurance schemes. For this reason there has been a projected cost of knowledge of medical programs and care which has been delivered to Australian people.
The projected costs of the medical services for the year 1974-75- these were taken when it was thought that the scheme would be introduced on 1 July this year- show somewhat interesting figures. They are based on a total number of medical services of some 80 million- here I am quoting only the lower limit of this range of figures- and for that 80 million medical services we have a total cost of scheduled fee levels of $650m. The total payments for medical services from the Australian Health Insurance Fund would be $585m. I want to relate this also to hospital services. The projected costs of hospital services to the community under the proposed program for the year ending 30 June 1 975 at the lower limit of costs are: Public hospitals would cost $l,250m, private hospitals $140m and public and private hospitals $ 1,390m. The figures which are shown as projected revenue figures of the Health Insurance Fund for 1974-75 are these: Medical benefits at the lower limit, $585m; hospital payments, $676m; health program grants, $3m. That is a total cost of $ 1,264m.
The interesting thing that should be considered when we review these figures is the way the $ 1,264m will be collected. There is a revenue from levy on taxable incomes of $425m revenue from levy on workers’ compensation and motor vehicle third party insurance premiums of $30m and a subsidy from consolidated revenue of $809m. That means that in this year, quite apart from the levy on the people of 1.35 per cent and the workers’ compensation and motor vehicle third party insurance, the Government will subsidise the program to the extent of $809m. It is an important figure to remember because when we are talking about introducing a system of health care, and the Government is picking up the tab, we cannot talk about one year only: We must project the cost into the future. To do this it would be realistic to look at, say, a 5-year program. The only way one can deal in terms of developing a scheme is to plan ahead to a point of, say, 5 years. We see some interesting figures in this because if we are to link the 1.35 per cent to the Consolidated Revenue figure which has to subsidise it, we find we would need between 1.9 and 2.2 times the amount of contribution from individual Australians to be subsidised by Government. Alternatively, if the rate of revenue were to be adjusted to obtain the originally anticipated program linkage of 1.5 times the rate of levy it would be between 1.57 per cent and 1.75 per cent. It must be remembered that it will be an escalating cost. Whilst the Government has said it will introduce the scheme with a levy of 1.35 per cent, if we project that to a 5-year program or even further ahead, then by, say, 1979-80 it could be creeping up to 1.61 per cent of taxable income. That is a very different cost from the 1.35 per cent promised.
The other thing that equally escalates is the Government contribution. If we take those figures further ahead, to 1990, the lowest rate that people could pay as a compulsory levy would be 2.02 per cent of their incomes. But the Government would be subsidising increasingly the health program it had designed for the Australian people. It is an important thing to consider when the economy of Australia is facing strain; and it is important to consider how we can afford to divert from the private sector, from private responsibility, increasing demands on Government expenditure.
To summarise what I have been saying I think I ought to give these figures in order to put the whole picture into perspective. The report of which I have been speaking actuarily assumes that if the scheme had been introduced on 1 July 1974 the cost would be between $ 1,264m and $ 1,405m. This is $252m more than the Government had estimated in the White Paper published in November last. That is an increase in these few months of some 25 per cent to 38 per cent, taking the upper and lower limits. The report estimates that between $2 10m and $320m of the cost of the program would be due to its free and universal nature. Any country which has had a nationalised health program has found an escalation in the use of every medical service provided. This estimate of increased cost is based partly on the increased use that would result because of the free and universal nature of the program. It is important therefore to put into our record the increase in cost which this will produce. To meet the cost of the program on the basis of the proposed 1.35 per cent levy the subsidy from consolidated revenue would have to be between 1.9 and 2.2 times that amount. Honourable senators will remember that 1.5 times that amount was promised as the Government contribution. Alternatively, if the subsidy from Consolidated Revenue was kept at the 1 to 1.5 ratio which was promised, you would find that there would be diminished health care. Either we are going to pay more money or we are going to have less health care. I would predict that in the economic situation in which we find ourselves in Australia it is more likely to be the latter situation which will be produced, that the Government will be unable to afford the allocation of funds and we will find that Australians will be receiving less health care in the programs which the Government will introduce.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Davidson)- Order! The honourable senator’s time has expired.
– I want to speak in support of the Health Insurance Bills. As members of the Senate are aware these pieces of legislation were before this chamber on 2 previous occasions. They have come back before us again, I would hope, to be passed by this House and to become law. But knowing the tenacity of members of the Opposition, who according to them did not lose the last election even if they did not win it, I believe that they are determined to delay and frustrate good government in this country. I respectfully suggest that on this Bill, as on other Bills, they are being dictated to by the multi-nationals, the wealthy drug companies, the old men of the Australian Medical Association and all other groupings in this category who are opposed to the ordinary people of the Australian community. Nobody can tell me that the Opposition has come back after being defeated for the second time in less than 2 years and put on a performance like the one it has put on last week and this week unless it is being paid in the background by someone or blackmailed by someone.
I do not like having to say: ‘My fair opponent’. I suppose sex does not come into this game.
– It would not anyway.
– I hope that the honourable senator is talking about me and not about my fair opponent. Politics is a rough and tumble game. I regret to say that the speech made by Senator Guilfoyle this evening apparently was written for her by the old men of the AMA.
– Get out of the gutter for once.
– Just because you happen to be in the gutter do not think I am coming over there to join you. I regret that some of the quotations used by Senator Guilfoyle are consistent with those that appeared in AMA journals and which I would think have been provided by the old men of the AMA. If Senator Marriott wants to wriggle around on the pavement sideline, he may do so. But let us have a look at the history of the last Parliament when the old men on Senator Marriott’s side of the chamber refused to believe that they had been defeated on 2 December 1972. The Opposition had a little group of monkeys over here in one corner- five of them. One was carried away with Irish mist and the other four have disappeared from the political stage for ever. Five old men have disappeared from that corner of the chamber.
Amongst the senator’s own group only 2 are left- one from Tasmania and one from Queensland. The rest of the old men in the honourable senator’s Party who thought that the previous Government had not been defeated on 2 December have also disappeared into the political limbo. Why do not honourable senators opposite face realities and realise that for the second time in less than 2 years the Labor Government has been elected and pass these Bills? The people will pass judgment in 3 years time. If we have done the wrong thing they will be the people who will pass judgment on the Government, not a little coterie of some 29 selfish people on the honourable senator’s side run by the multi-nationals.
Senator Guilfoyle said during her speech that there would be diminished health care, that we cannot afford the system, that people have a preference for private hospitals, and a whole lot of things which were copied from the documents which the AMA has been propagating in this country ever since 2 December 1 972 and even prior to then when they knew that there was going to be a change of government. If they think, in the same manner as people on that side of the chamber think, that the Australian people are behind them they are completely wrong. A majority of the doctors belonging to the AMA and the General Practitioners Society are not behind the old men who are leading them. Given half a chance they will be out with the Australian public, even though the representative of the AMA who is sitting bleakly alone behind the Opposition wags his head and laughs. He might be the first to need medical attention.
There are racketeers operating in the field of health as there are in so many other fields in this country and other countries. They are prepared to sacrifice the health of Australians on the altar of mammon. I regret that I have to be a little ruthless in some of my criticisms of what was said by Senator Guilfoyle.
– Oh, do not trouble yourself.
– We will not need a doctor for you; we will need a psychiatrist.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Davidson)- Order!
– I am not a doctor. I am not administering the treatment, Mr Acting Deputy President.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT- I suggest that the honourable senator should concentrate more directly on the Bill.
– One of the points made by Senator Guilfoyle was that today there were not enough beds to cover people who need specialist treatment. That is very true. The reason why there are not enough beds is that for so many years we have been operating under a Liberal Party system of health care. There are a few things that I propose to say about my own State of Queensland shortly. But as I have said, there is a general shortage of beds throughout this country. My fair opponent claimed that people have a preference for private and intermediate wards. They do not. The reason why they use private rooms and intermediate wards is that there are no public wards available. If they did not use private and intermediate wards in time of dire necessity hospital beds would not be available for them.
I want to refer now to the health problem as we see it in my State of Queensland. In the days of the State Labor Government we had a free hospital system that was second to none in the Southern Hemisphere. But between 1957, when the National Party- or the Country Party, the Liberal Party or the people’s party; whatever they called themselves at the time- assumed power, and now, it has whittled away the public bed system. It has whittled away the medical facilities that are needed. If one goes to places like Longreach or Muttaburra, which are away from the coastal area, one finds equipment that was installed by a Labor Government 20 years ago still being used. The situation is not much better in the provincial cities or the metropolitan area of Brisbane. There are doctors in Queensland who are prepared to join in and to co-operate with Labor’s medical scheme. I propose to read to honourable senators shortly a list of certain people who belong to the general practitioners organisation and the AMA.
Before doing so there are a number of points that I would like to make in regard to health care so far as Queensland is concerned. We need Labor’s health scheme if we are to maintain some standard of health for the Austraiian people. The health scheme has been running down now for a long time. Members of the Opposition admit themselves, or they did a few years ago, that they did not know where they were going. The AMA held them over a barrel at one stage on the problem of fees and finally did them, even though they made all sorts of noises and excuses at the time. From memory, I think Mr McMahon was the Prime Minister at the time. On one day he would make a statement and on the next day the AMA would make a statement for him. Those were the things to which he finally subscribed, as did the previous Government.
Senator Guilfoyle said that people in Australia are properly cared for. There are people dying in Australia because they are not able to afford health care under the system that the previous Government nurtured for so many years. This applies particularly to the fixed income groups, pensioners, widows, deserted wives, supporting mothers and those in the very low income bracket. More than 15 per cent of Australians do not belong to medical benefit schemes because they cannot afford to do so, and a large proportion of that percentage are migrants who have come to Australia in many instances from countries in which a government health scheme is operating. When they come here they find that when they get seriously ill they receive no treatment at all and they are not entitled to receive any treatment unless they pay for it. There are in this community today doctors who will not treat patients unless they get money over the counter, in the same way as some of the legal advisers in Senator Greenwood’s profession treat their poor patients.
– Now, now.
-Perhaps somewhat along the line Senator Wright did make a donation to some poor patient, but in the main there is a group of lawyers amongst the conservatives in this country, in the same way as there is a group of doctors amongst the conservatives, who will give nothing for nothing, and very little for the most common fee of $5.70, or whatever it may be.
– Obviously you have never been reared in a medical family. Otherwise you would know that that is completely untrue.
– I am sorry, Dr Cormack. I apologise for that statement if it is untrue. As a man of medicine I am sure that you would know all the answers. When the Labor Party was first elected to Government there were a number of doctors who said: ‘We are withdrawing from the pensioner medical scheme’. This was not a very large percentage of doctors. In some areas the percentage was fairly large, but in other areas hardly any doctor withdrew from the scheme. When protests were made by pensioner organisations and others in the lower income group these doctors said that they would treat pensioners for free. It has not happened. I will quote a few instances shortly. This group of doctors is now forcing pensioners to pay more than $100 per annum in order to get the barest of medical care. In addition, the pensioners do not get the full cost of the doctor’s fee back from the medical benefits organisations. I know that there are a few doctors who accept the repayments from medical benefit funds as the full fee, but they are in a very small minority. Other doctors grasp and grasp, and it does not matter to them whether a pensioner has reached the verge of death or not as long as they get their shiny nickels.
– Is that true of the doctors in Townsville?
– It is true of some doctors in Townsville, and I propose to quote their names shortly.
– Let us hear them.
– Give me time. I am making this speech. Senator Sir Magnus Cormack can talk later. I can quote the case of a pensioner in Townsville who came to my office. He needed fairly urgent specialist operative treatment. He was told by both his general practitioner and the specialist that if he joined the Medical Benefits Fund he would be able to get his treatment in 2 months, which is the qualifying period, but that if he did not join the fund he could wait 8 months for the treatment. He finally borrowed money in order to obtain the medical treatment. The name of that man is available, as well as the names of the people who refused to treat him unless he did what they wanted him to do.
This might satisfy Senator Sir Magnus Cormack: In Townsville there is a gentleman named Dr Scott Young- a doctor, politician, speculatorwho has denigrated Labor’s health scheme ever since it was first mooted; even before we became the Government. This man, in his great desire to help pensioners and in his speculating activities, buys old houses, renovates them and does very well. It is probably a tax dodge- or it used to be a tax dodge under the old taxation laws. In one particular instance he bought a block of 4 flats. Two of these flats were occupied by pensioners who at that time were paying a rental of about $14 a week. One of the pensioners came to my office and asked: ‘Do you think he will put us out?’ I said: ‘No, he would not do it’. He did not put them out. But what he did was to increase the rent to more than $30 a week. At that time the pension was about $20 a week. So he did not actually evict them from the premises, but he fixed the rent at such a price that the unfortunate pensioners could not pay it. He is one of these Christian doctors who say that the Labor Party’s medical scheme is no good and that we should stick to the private system. This doctor has done very well out of the private system, and he is continuing to do so.
I will now give the names of doctors in Townsville who have withdrawn from the pensioner medical scheme. The first is Dr M. C. Farrelly of French Street. Dr Farrelly- I have had numerous complaints about this doctor- has completely refused to treat pensioners unless they are members of a medical benefit organisation. This particular doctor was called to a house to treat a person who was visiting from the Brisbane area. This person was a young lady who was not able to move around unless she was carried or moved from place to place in a wheelchair. Before Dr Farrelly would treat this young woman, she said: I want $7 for a home visit’. That is Dr Farrelly. The family to which that young woman belonged was not a member of any medical benefit organisation, but in her home city one of the many doctors who have a humane outlook on life, who treat people as patients and who remember their sacred oath, treated this young woman under the pensioner medical scheme.
Some of the other doctors in Townsville who have withdrawn from the pensioner medical scheme are: Dr Doyle of 1 30 Charles Street, Dr Robertson of 172 Denham Street, and Dr Peach of the suburb of Belgian Gardens. Dr Peach is a leading official of one of the medical organisations which has been applying pressure to all the doctors in Townsville to get out of the pensioner medical scheme. And honourable senators opposite say that this is a humane attitude. This is political blackmail of the lowest form. These doctors are using as political footballs this section of the community that is least able to fight for itself- people on low incomes, pensioners, and others. The other doctors in Townsville who have withdrawn from the pensioner medical scheme are: Dr Horn of Iluka Street, Dr Branelly of Denham Street, Dr Joyner of Ross River Road, Dr Marshall of Maskell Street, Dr Ward of Bundock Street, Dr Hay of Bundock Street, and Dr Broadbent of Denham Street. Incidentally, Dr Broadbent has been very vocal. He is a delightful writer of letters to the editor. Those are the people who have abandoned the pensioner medical scheme and, in the same way, have abandoned the pensioners of that city. Thank God that there are in Townsville many doctors who remember their oath and who know that they have been trained in the field of medicine to help people and are prepared to carry on.
It is all very well for Senator Guilfoyle to say on behalf of her Party- and I know that she is the spokesman on health matters for her Party- that these Bills should not be passed. It is all very well for her to say that the Australian public does not want a health care system. The Australian public wants a health care system which is far better than the one that the previous Government, during the 23 years that it was in office, nurtured under the direction of the AMA. Senator Guilfoyle should consider that she receives a salary of more than $14,500 per annum and that a pensioner receives a pension of $26.50 a week. It is all very well for Senator Guilfoyle and those who sit behind her to be able to go to a doctor whenever they wish. There are no problems about it. They have a sufficiently high income to be able to pick and choose whenever they want to go. When they want to go there and need transport they always have a car. If they do not have their own private car they can get a Commonwealth car.
– Since when does a backbencher get a car to go to a doctor?
– I do not know but I have heard of people being seriously ill and getting a car.
– I certainly do not.
– You had better complain to the right circles. I think you might get a car to go to a doctor.
– Tell us what happened when you broke your arm? Did you get a Commonwealth car to pick you up?
-Apparently Senator Sir Magnus Cormack wants to get into a debate about some of these things. I do not know why he suddenly feels cranky about them.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Davidson)- Senator Keeffe, you should come back to the Bill which is before the Senate.
– If somebody makes an interjection, particularly a rude interjection, I have some right to reply. If you say that I do not have that right, I bow to your ruling. I quoted some instances but the honourable senator, speaking on behalf of the people sitting behind her, does not have to put up with these privations. If she has breakfast in the morning she no doubt has cereal, a good type of fruit juice, bacon and eggs, and toast and coffee, as she is entitled, but people in the pensioner category are lucky if they get toast and black tea.
-But you have free hospitalisation in Queensland.
– I explained to the honourable senator a while ago that that went out when the Country Party came to government in that State. Free hospitals do not exist any more. If the honourable senator thinks there are still free hospitals in Queensland he is kidding himself. I do not mind putting up with a logical sort of argument but the honourable senator has not looked at a hospital in Queensland since the Country Party was elected to office because that is when they disappeared.
-I have been using them ever since.
-That is right. No doubt you are a member of the Medical Benefits Fund or some other fund and are able to pay for hospitalisation. But if you want to get a public ward bed in the Townsville Hospital you will find it will not be there. If you can pay for it or are a member of the MBF a room will be found for you. That is not the fault of the hospital administration. Some of the best doctors in Australia are working in hospitals in the various States, as are some of the best nurses. The fault lies with the rotten Government in Queensland which is running the administration. It does not know where it is going. If the honourable senator can get a free bed tomorrow we will go to it and have a party there because it will be the only one in Queensland.
I could continue for quite a time by quoting further incidents but my time has almost expired. The Australian people want the Labor Government’s health care scheme. What honourable senators on the Opposition side are doing today represents nothing but continual frustration. I know that the Leader of the National Party or the Country Party, whatever you call him, in the other place has said that he wants a double dissolution before Christmas. Do honourable senators know why he wants that? It is because he could not deliver the goods at the last election when he promised the oil companies that he would obtain a certain amount extra for every barrel of oil they produced. He is one person who is helping to push honourable senators over the political brink. Do not make the mistake again. The next time these people attempt to push you over the political brink you will drown and you will not be back here.
– There is not a lot of time left for this debate tonight but I want to compliment Senator Guilfoyle on her clear and comprehensive resume of the effects of the proposed health Bills. It was staggering to me to find that the Government should put forward a senator from Queensland to speak in favour of these Bills. If ever there was a bunch of senators which had a clear mandate to vote against the Bills it is the senators from Queensland. These Bills will not only disadvantage every person in Australia and every State in Australia; they will particularly damage Queensland and every Queenslander, and that includes Senator Keeffe. I also was staggered to hear Senator Keeffe, who comes from Queensland, disparage so many of the doctors there- doctors who are fighting to see that these Bills are hot passed because they have an interest in their patients.
– While they let people die.
– I notice that the honourable senator reacts in a typical socialist way with ridicule. That is all that he has to fight with, apart from irrelevancies. He tried to frighten us by telling us that pensioners are dying, that doctors are leaving them in the gutters, probably bleeding to death. He said that there are widows and children lying like broken dolls. Those remarks are irrelevant and untrue. They do not represent the situation. All that has happened is that doctors in Queensland are refusing to accept Government money for the treatment of pensioners. They are not refusing to treat pensioners; they are still prescribing medicines and treatment under the national health scheme.
– Who is paying.
– The Government is paying. The Government accepted responsibility for the pensioners so why should it not pay for them and pay a proper fee? Senator Keeffe tried to say that these Bills are not a blueprint for nationalisation. They are. Schemes like this have been tried in lots of countries and they have always failed because they have only ever been tried by socialist governments. The Labor Government is trying to inflict it on us and we must not stand for it. The Government talks about honourable senators on this side of the chamber behaving in an old.fashioned way and says that the Senate must split in an ironclad fashion on party lines. That is not true. There are several precedents for senators voting for their States irrespective of the party line. If Senator Keeffe would read ‘Australian Senate Practice’ by our inimitable Clerk of the Senate, Mr Odgers, he would see that there are precedents for senators voting to protect their States.
– It has never happened in the Liberal Party since I have been here.
– I can recall a couple of instances. Senators from South Australia voted against the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Authority because it was going to rob them of the waters of the Murray River. On another occasion senators from Western Australia voted to protect their State in respect of a gold tax Bill.
– Such occasions are very rare.
– They are very rare but they are important. Health is important to everyone and these Bills are designed to rob people of their health care. I invite honourable senators to look at the Bills. I think there are 133 clauses in the Health Insurance Bill and 74 of them relate to restrictions and controls- anything to stop people from getting health service. Any health service must be designed to provide care for patients. It should not be a money business but these Bills relate to a money business. Patients must be looked after singly and individually. You cannot lump them together and say that there are so many of these cases and so many of those cases and then look after them on a massive scale. Health care is a single and individual business.
– Why have so many doctors established clinics?
– That is irrelevant but it is so that people can be looked after on an individual basis. The community health centres and clinics that Senator Georges talks about are an outcrop of the socialist scheme. The community health centre is a badly thought out and ill defined concept. In fact it has not even been defined. In England 44 were built over about the last 10 years and only 4 remain open today. That shows what a ridiculous concept they are. They have nothing to do with health care, only socialist health care, and that is what the Government is trying to introduce here.
One of the difficulties in trying to finance health care in this fashion is that only a small proportion of the population is sick at any one time and that proportion varies from day to day. I may be sick today and you may be sick tomorrow. This is one of the difficulties. Australia was on the verge of solving that difficulty but now, suddenly, we are faced with an insoluble problem- a problem which has proved insoluble overseas. Any plan geared to the assumption that all of us are going to be sick at any one time, particularly with catastrophic illness or illness involving long term intensive care, is doomed to failure. That is what this Bill promises. They are a few more of the shibboleths which have been raised. This Bill promises that it will give the patient freedom from worry and fear about the financial consequences of illness. Who is the patient? You and I are the patients. We will not be spared any of the financial consequences of illness. We will be bled white trying to pay for them. We have every reason to fear the financial consequences of illness. The Bill promises social equity in health insurance, on the ground that the rich pay less for their health insurance because they can claim their premiums as tax deductible. The rich are paying more tax anyway. A lot of that money comes back to the people in pension benefits, repatriation benefits and other health expenditure. There is not social inequity at the moment on the ground of tax deductibility.
It is claimed that the present insurance schemes are a waste of public moneys simply because it costs IS per cent of the premiums to collect the money. Does the Government think that it can do better? It certainly does. It says that it can halve this expenditure. I venture to say that that would not be everybody’s experience of Government expenditure. The Government claims that over one million people in Australia lack proper protection. The figure in the second reading speech varied from the figure which was presented earlier. In the second reading speech only half a million were claimed. As Senator Guilfoyle pointed out, the figure is actually unknown. In selling the scheme to the electorate, the Government claimed that one million people lacked proper protection. The degree of protection was only the Government’s view of what proper protection was, anyway. If you ask an insurance salesman about your insurance he will predict some dire mayhem in the future and will sell you more insurance.
Where are all these people who are lacking proper protection? There are certainly not any in Queensland, where everybody is covered free of a means test. Are they the migrants? I have numerous migrant patients who are not covered by medical benefit funds and who do not wish to be covered by medical benefit funds. They would rather have the freedom of choice as to where they put their money-into their homes, holidays or anywhere else. Usually they are building a future here but they choose not to join a medical benefit fund. The Labor Party will take away that right and the freedom to spend their money where they wish. That is what the Government will do compulsorily. By Government decree it will take the right and freedom from them. It is a typical socialist trick.
Are the poor lacking proper protection? It is certainly not the poor, particularly in Queensland. I heard in petitions that some poor people could not afford to pay the premiums. That is not right. The means test comes to their aid. In addition, there are subsidised health benefits on 3 levels, depending on the person’s income. If a person went to a doctor and said that he was too poor to pay the bill he would not be refused attention to his needs. No doctor would refuse a patient, particularly one who was in need. A patient might find it easier to get into the health scheme if he admitted it. He could still have his choice of specialist because, under the health scheme, the doctor would refer him to a specialist who had public beds in a hospital and who could treat him there.
– Certain doctors refuse to call unless the patient can pay cash. I can name certain areas in Brisbane in which doctors refuse to call.
-That is not true. I do not believe it. Are the Aborigines lacking proper protection? Are they to be numbered among these people? Certainly not. They are a proud and a noble people. They have a fierce independence regarding their health care. I work with Aborigines and I treat many more than those with whom I work. None of them are unhappy. None of them are dissatisfied. None of them are disadvantaged. Certainly we can do more for the Aborigines but we can do more for honourable senators opposite, too. Where is all the big public demand for a radical change in our health care system? Why should we put it into reverse gear and let it go backwards? Has anyone heard a public outcry that Australia’s health care system has gone to the dogs? Has anyone heard that it is costing too much or that patients cannot afford medical care? The only cries one hears come from the Government. They have not come from the patients. The Government is squealing.
– We represent the patients.
– I represent them, too. Private fees are high at the moment, but that is the fault of the Government. It has not increased its medical benefit rebates to patients. It has not increased payments to doctors for pensioner patients, repatriation patients or compensation claimants. The only way in which a doctor can compensate for that failure to increase payments to doctors is to increase his private fees. So they are high. Doctors charge a much reduced rate for pensioners, repatriation patients and compensation cases. We hear the squeals of some Ministers that the Government is subsidising the doctors. It is the other way round. Doctors are subsidising the Government. In the Senate we have heard the claim that the present scheme encourages unnecessary operations and encourages doctors to keep the patients sick.
– Who made that claim?
– It was made in a maiden speech.
– Have you read the Nimmo report?
– I rise to a point of order. Since Senator Sheil has been speaking there has been a consistent barrage of interjections from Government senators, for reasons best known to themselves. I submit that this is disorderly conduct on which you, Sir, have the power to take action. I submit that it is only right and fair that a person, particularly a new senator, be given the opportunity to speak as he wishes to speak. If his speech is objected to by Government senators, let them object to it outside the chamber but not in the chamber.
– I wish to speak to the point of order. The person who rose to the point of order is one of the worst offenders by way of interjection in the Senate. The pot is calling the kettle black.
– I take a point of order that Senator Poyser is in no terms advocating anything that relates to a point of order. He should be sat down.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Webster)- There is no substance in the point of order.
-Thank you, Mr Deputy President. The medical profession, which is a great profession, possesses the ability to police itself. On the whole, doctors are rugged individualists who take pride in their ability to cure. Imagine the organisation required by any doctor who wished to establish a practice by doing unnecessary operations. He would require a team of general practitioners sending him cannon fodder, a co-operative surgical assistant at the operations, as well as a co-operative anaesthetist, a co- operative operating theatre staff and hospital, including the pathology staff. Can anybody really suggest that at this time of shortage of doctors and shortage of beds and with plenty of other legitimate work to do, such an underground organisation could come into existence? Far from wanting to keep patients sick, a doctor’s livelihood and reputation depend upon his ability to cure people.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Webster)- In conformity with the sessional order relating to the adjournment of the Senate, I formally put the question:
That the Senate do now adjourn.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 11 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 17 July 1974, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1974/19740717_senate_29_s60/>.