29th Parliament · 1st Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Justin O’Byrne) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– I present the following petition from 24 citizens of the Commonwealth:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled: The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of the Commonwealth respectfully sheweth: that the present systems of financing of hospital and medical care in Australia are outdated, complex, unwieldy, and provide inadequate or no security against health care expenditure for a substantial proportion of the people of Australia; that the costs associated with the present schemes fall disproportionately on people having low and middle incomes: that there is an urgent need for a new national health insurance scheme, to which each person receiving an income should contribute an amount which is equitably calculated on the basis of that income, and which provides adequate security to each person against the costs of care for every kind of illness and injury.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the parliament will speedily pass appropriate legislation to bring the benefits of an equitably financed, universal, and comprehensive health insurance scheme to the people of Australia:
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
– I present the following petition from 25 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 1 4.4 per cent per annum 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 celling of income and assets be frozen.
To allay the concern of social security recipients as to their future when in 1 975 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 lime 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 give notice that on the next day of sitting I shall move:
-Does the Leader of the Government in the Senate believe that the increased postal and telephone charges announced on Tuesday night are anti-inflationary?
– I answered a question similar to this question yesterday. It is a simple proposition to ask the Government whether the increasing of any charge for any service is antiinflationary. I suppose that the commonsense answer to that question would be no. If you increase the charge for any service- and there may be some minor areas where this does not apply- one could speculate perhaps and say that this would tend to reduce the demand for services, and to that extent an increase in charges might be anti-inflationary. But I think that broadly the answer to the honourable senator’s question is that consistently with the policy of the previous Government, and also the conclusions of the Vernon Committee, whose report was tabled a few days ago, the view was held that the Post Office and the other branches of the communications service of the Postmaster-General ‘s Department should pay their way and that if charges were not increased there would be some necessity to subsidise them and that it was proper that charges should be increased so that those services could pay their way. That is the simple answer to the honourable senator’s question. It is very easy for the Leader of the Opposition or anybody else to put up these elementary kinds of propositions. But where do they lead anyone? Does he suggest that the various services of the Post Office should run at a loss and the loss be made up by means of taxation? This sort of thing will not provide the answer to inflation. The answer to this problem will not be resolved by this sort of quizzing across the table when the Leader of the Opposition knows the answer as well as I do.
-Can the PostmasterGeneral say whether it is a fact that the Australian Post Office has recently let a contract for $21m for electronic and telecommunications’ equipment, and that $13m was awarded to organisations which are substantially or wholly foreign owned?
-The Australian Post Office insists that 90 per cent of the equipment which it purchases should be produced in Australia by Australian workers. The fact is that about half of the equipment involved in the contract to which Senator Poyser has referred is to be supplied by companies which are not to any large extent Australian owned, but these firms are the only suppliers of the sort of equipment which the Post Office needs for its technical services.
– How terrible.
– If the honourable senator read the Veron Report he would see where the Commission -
-The hated international organisations.
– You see, he has not read the report; he does not know anything about it, yet hr is starting to tell me what my business is. If he had read the Vernon Report he would know that the Commission had inquired into the purchasing policies and industrial procedures of the Post Office in connection with the supply of such equipment, and that the Commission approved the present arrangements which exist with the manufacturers. I might point out for Senator Webster’s benefit that the consultants also made inquiries into these matters and they were satisfied as to the specialised activities of the Post Office which of course have been built up over a number of years.
-My question is directed to the Minister representing the Treasurer. The Minister has stated, and the Opposition agrees, that the Australian economy is in a dangerous position. Why then have not the Treasurer and the Government produced a resolute and sensible solution to the problem? Why have they contented themselves mostly with a transfer process which does little to grapple with the massive inflation which has been brought upon us by the Government’s pattern of over-expenditure and plain extravagance?
– The question is obviously purely political grandstanding. There is no specific substance in it. If the honourable senator would like to rephrase the question and ask me something which is specific and which I can answer I will endeavour to do so, but the question as phrased does not warrant an answer.
-Mr President, I wish to ask a supplementary question.
-I would be delighted to accept the invitation from the Minister because at some point we must have some elucidation from the Government as to wl”.at it intends to do.
-The Treasurer made it quite clear in his statement on Tuesday night that the measures which were enunciated in his address to the House of Reps were part of the Government’s plans to overcome the inflation in the economy. He said that these measures were to be taken in conjunction with the forthcoming steps which will be introduced by the Government in the Budget. The statement on Tuesday night was part of that overall plan. I suggest that the honourable senator ought to see the measures in that light.
– My question is directed to the Minister representi» the Minister for Education. It arises out of t’.e report of the Committee of Inquiry into the Citizen Military Forces which was tabled in Parliament yesterday and wherein it was reported that private schools which maintain their own military cadet units have the right to force students to join. I ask the Minister: Is cadet training only one of a range of extra-curricular activities requiring student participation? If it is not and if the said private schools literally conscript and force students to join the cadet units, what measures can the
Government take to have this intolerable imposition cease forthwith?
– I have briefly read the contents of the report to which the honourable senator refers but I am unaware of the extra-curricular activities which exist throughout educational institutions in Australia. I shall direct the question to my colleague the Minister for Education in another place and obtain a reply for the honourable senator.
-My question is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate, who represents the Prime Minister. In view of the concession which he made here today that the Government’s massive increases in postal and telephone charges are not antiinflationary, and in view of Senator Wriedt’s answer to Senator Cotton in which he said that the program announcing those charges was part of the Government’s campaign against inflation, I ask: How do these charges help that campaign against inflation?
– The Deputy Leader of the Opposition is an intelligent man but he is purporting not to understand what the Government is about. Everyone knows that the costs of providing telephone services and postal services have gone up. The same applies to any other services which the Government might provide. If the costs have gone up, I suppose that the only way the Government can act is either to increase the charges for those services or to provide for the loss by some kind of subsidy, or increased taxation and so on. The Government has a program of dealing with inflation in a particular way. In this instance, it has sought to do so by increasing charges for some services. It could have gone about the matter in some other way.
The move we have made is part of our program and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, together with everyone else, should understand a very simple proposition. What is the point in singling out something and saying: If the charge for a service has risen, how can that be antiinflationary in itself? It must be looked at as part of the Government’s program, otherwise anyone at all can look at any particular charge for any service and make the same kind of comment. They could say that the charge has risen and therefore the effects of it will spread in some way. Therefore it could be asked how it is anti-inflationary. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition is not doing justice to his own analytical approach to questions. I think that he should not try to confuse those outside the chamber because those inside can readily see through the questions he is putting.
-Has the Minister for Agriculture information, or can he obtain information, relating to the value and quantity of pineapple products exported from Australia, together with details of the countries purchasing the imports? Also will the Minister inform the Parliament as to the value and quantity of pineapple products imported, together with details of the countries from which the imports come?
-This is really a statistical matter. The control of pineapples does not come within the jurisdiction of my Department and I shall have to obtain the necessary information from the relevant source.
– I ask the Minister representing the Treasurer. In view of the hostile reception given to the mini-Budget through the media by industry, commerce, trade unions and the public generally, does the Government not have doubts that its new economic policies are the right ones or does the Government believe that these people have committed an error of judgment?
– I am sure it is not the first time in Australian political history that decisions taken by governments, including our predecessors, have been the subject of much criticism in the Press and by many sections of the community. However, a government if it believes it is right should not be deterred by such comments. We believe the course that we have taken is correct and we intend to stand by it.
-Will the Minister for the Media give the Senate information with regard to the new proposal for the allocation of commercial time given to the Federation of Australian Commercial Television Stations last week? Will the Minister advise the Senate of the present position between the television industry and the Australian Broadcasting Control Board? What was the basis of change proposed by the Board? How will this affect the planning of commercial operations in the industry?
– I assume the honorable senator is referring to discussions which took place last week between the Australian Broadcasting Control Board and the Federation of Australian Commercial Television
Stations concerning a request by the Federation for an extension of the commercial advertising time allowed to it on an hourly basis and rationalised over a period. The matter of course comes completely under the Broadcasting and Television Act- section 16 (3), I think. The Australian Broadcasting Control Board has the responsibility of determining program standards and also determining times relevant to advertising. I have not received a report on the matter yet. I understand the Board determined that no change would be made in the time permitted as at present. However, that is only speaking straight off the cuff. I shall get additional information for the honourable senator and provide her with more details.
– Will the Minister representing the Minister for Social Security indicate whether a calculation has been made of the percentage of average weekly earnings which will be represented by the new standard weekly pension rate which is to be introduced by the Australian Government?
-The new standard pension rate is $3 1 a week which is approximately 25 per cent of the average weekly earnings as calculated at the June quarter. This is the highest percentage of average weekly earnings since 1946 when there also was an Australian Labor Party Government. It compares very markedly with the level of 19 per cent to which the standard pension rate had fallen in 1971 under the previous discredited Liberal-Country Party Government.
-My question, which is addressed to the Minister representing the Treasurer, relates to the mini-Budget introduced by the Treasurer and read by the Minister last Tuesday night. Are the measures primarily designed as anti-inflationary actions? If so, in what specific ways and by what specific measures will they be anti-inflationary? Can he eludicate how the forced increase in prices and charges by Government action will result in lower prices? How do higher prices produce lower prices?
-Senator Murphy dealt adequately with an almost identical question asked by Senator Greenwood. The Treasurer’s statement is on the notice paper and will be the subject of debate in this Parliament. That will be the time to raise the matters to which Senator Carrick refers.
– My question is addressed to the Minister representing the Minister for Defence and follows the question asked by Senator Brown relating to school cadet training. Does the Minister have anything further to add to this matter?
– The Government’s policy has been announced several times by Mr Barnard. It is the view of the Government that such training should be voluntary. Schools with cadet units have been advised that if there is any compulsion official support will be withdrawn from those schools by the Government. I understand that there are some schools which could maintain cadet units at their own expense and in those circumstances perhaps they can apply their own rules. Only yesterday Mr Barnard pointed out that he had not finished his study of the report on school cadet units and that he had asked the Minister for Education, Mr Beazley, and the Minister for Tourism and Recreation, Mr Stewart, to consider it. Following their discussions there will be a submission to the Government in connection with the report.
– I refer the Minister representing the Treasurer to the request for Commonwealth Government assistance for the north-west regional water supply in Tasmania. An answer to this request is vital to a number of municipal councils because of the urgent need for improvement in water supply. Can the Minister indicate when a decision on this matter is likely to be made so as to obviate the need for unnecessary and duplicated capital expenditure?
– It is true, as Senator Bessell points out, that there is concern about this matter on the north-west coast of Tasmania. However, I shall have to obtain a detailed answer from the Treasurer and forward it to the honourable senator.
– Is the Minister for Customs and Excise aware that surveys show that importers and retailers have ripped off massive and excessive profits arising from the Government’s 25 per cent tariff reduction policy? Does this mean that endeavours of the Government to overcome the shortage of goods and to provide consumers with cheaper articles have been thwarted by avaricious entrepreneurs? Does the Minister agree that, following the tabling of the Senate Committee ‘s investigation into malpractice in share trading in Australia, this excessive profiteering is yet another blatant example of the ugly face of capitalism? Would the Minister consider licensing all those handling such goods following the introduction of the Government’s tariff reduction policies with a view to withdrawing consent to import and sell if the Government’s anti-inflation policies are subjected to excessive profiteering by importers and retailers?
– I have already informed the Senate that there was clear evidence that the benefits of the 25 per cent cut in tariffs had not been passed on, and on a considerable scale. The Prices Justification Tribunal has asked for the information, which is available through the Department of Customs and Excise and through the use of its computer. The information was supplied to a number of government departments. Certainly some method will need to be introduced to make sure that the benefits of government decisions such as that are passed on. The Prices Justification Tribunal can do so in some areas, but its jurisdiction is limited. There probably needs to be some better means of ensuring that the cuts are passed on fairly rapidly so that the benefits can be felt. I do not know whether the honourable senator’s suggestion is the best one. Certainly it is one which would be open. I think we would want some kind of flexible machinery which, as far as possible, was not a bureaucratic type approach. It is regrettable that in the operation of commerce the evident government desire and the evident public interest have not been observed by those engaged in this trade, many of whom are in business on a very large scale.
– I ask a question of the Minister representing the Minister for Social Security. How much money will the Government save by breaking its election promise to abolish the means test? Could not some of the extra money-the $ 1,500m or $2,000m-ripped off the taxpayer in extra tax be used to keep its promise to abolish the means test?
– I understand that the actual saving in Government expenditure on the postponement of the abolition of the means test will be about $40m. I regard the other questions as questions of policy, and I do not intend to enter into a debate with Senator Townley at question time. He can take up the matter at a later stage.
-Can the AttorneyGeneral inform the Senate of the progress which has been made towards the establishment of an Australian government legal aid office in Launceston, Tasmania, and when the services of this office are likely to be available?
– Launceston is definitely on the list. There has been some little difficulty in finding a suitable site, but I think that is being overcome. The recruitment of staff is well under way. I would hope to be able to announce to the Senate fairly soon the opening date of the office. As the honourable senator may know, I have a special attachment for Launceston.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Transport. It refers to the refresher course for mariners which is designed to improve their knowledge of ship stability, which was referred to in the statement of the Minister for Transport of 12 July last. I draw particular attention to that portion of the statement which states:
Many of the participants, in praising the course, agreed that they had been ‘somewhat rusty’ in many areas of ship stability and loading data.
Is the general tenor of the statement that mariners operating on the Australian coast are inadequately trained? Is one implication that safety standards and training are inadequate and that some recent disasters involving shipping have been the result of bad examining and licensing arrangements of ships ‘officers? If this is not the case, will the Minister state clearly the situation with regard to mariners’ knowledge, appreciation and application of safety standards? If there is a defect in the training of ships ‘ officers operating on the Australian coast, will the Minister make the retraining program a matter of the highest priority in the interests of safety of shipping in Australia?
– It is obvious that the question requires a detailed answer from the Minister. I would say that safety at sea is one of the things that are constantly under review on both an Australian basis and an international basis. Of course, it is unfortunate that from time to time fatalities occur in shipping activities, but on each occasion a marine court of inquiry is established for the purpose of investigating the incident, and the recommendations of those courts of inquiry, in the main, are adopted in order to make activities at sea safer. As regards the standard of efficiency of those working in the marine field at the present time, I will refer that matter to the Minister in order to get a statement containing his opinion of the present standard of efficiency.
-Is the Postmaster-General in a position to give information as to when the new mail exchange being constructed in Gouger Street, Adelaide, will be completed?
-It is expected that the construction of the building will be completed later this year, but because of the need to install a number of complex pieces of equipment, the facility as a whole will not come into operation until 1 975. The total cost will be about $ 1 5m, but the equipment itself is worth $8m. 1 might add that a number of matters have been put to me by the unions which will have members working in this building and, together with the DirectorGeneral of Posts and Telegraphs, I hope to have talks with the unions on the actual operation of the installation when it is completed.
-Has the AttorneyGeneral given any direction or instruction to the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation to remove the file or files held within that Organisation relating to any present member of the Australian Parliament?
-As I understood the question asked by the honourable senator, I think that the answer to it is clearly no, but I will check to see whether I misunderstood him. If he is suggesting that some inquiry is being made into any member of the Senate or of the House of Representatives, in simple terms the answer is no.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Defence. In view of protests made yesterday by workers at Government factories in Melbourne expressing concern that trade unions and workers have been excluded from talks on alternative work, will the Minister in future ensure that workers have representation at all discussions on these matters?
-I think that I should answer only that pan of the question in respect of which I have knowledge of what happened when these matters were first mooted. Really it is now a matter primarily for Senator Wriedt who, in this chamber, represents the Minister for Manufacturing Industry. Perhaps I could answer that part of the question and then Senator Wriedt might like to supplement it. When the defence vote was cut last year it had some effect on the defence factories. As soon as that became evident the Minister for Defence, Mr Barnard, advised the Australian Council of Trade Unions and the unions concerned of the cuts and what might happen. Senator Primmer might remember that, together with Mr Barnard, I took part in the talks with the unions, and as a result of those talks the so-called cuts were held. Since that time there have been no retrenchments. There has been some fall-off in the work force because of natural attrition. So the full impact of that was not as severe as had been first expected.
Because attention was drawn to this circumstance again this year the unions again came along, I think considering that there were to be some new cuts. Perhaps Senator Wriedt might like to add to what I am saying, but the Government and the Minister in particular have met the officials of the unions and are taking whatever steps they can to ensure that in relation to these matters there will be minimum effect on the work force.
-I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Health: Has the Government offered to help Indonesia control the outbreak of foot and mouth disease at Bali? If not, will the Government treat this as a matter of urgency in order to eradicate the disease in a neighbouring country and also prevent its dreaded entry into the Australian livestock industry?
-Yes. In fact the Australian Government has taken action on this very matter. The Indonesian Government asked the Australian Government for some assistance and a team of Australian experts went to Indonesia. They were there from 7 to 14 June last. The purpose of their visit was to find out what sort of assistance Australia could give to Indonesia. This team of experts has already made a report to the Government and it is hoped that on the basis of the report we shall soon be able to give some concrete assistance to the Indonesian Government in combating the foot and mouth disease outbreak in Bali.
– I am prompted to ask the Attorney-General a question supplementary to that asked by Senator Webster. I seek the Attorney-General’s guidance. If I, as a Government senator, had evidence that there has been collusion between earlier Immigration and
Attorney-General’s departments and the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation in denying people their Australian citizenship, and if the Government proposed that some form of inquiry should be conducted, even in camera, would I be permitted to submit that documentary evidence at such an inquiry if it took place?
-Depending upon the terms of reference of the inquiry, I suppose the answer would be yes.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister for Customs and Excise, refers to the subject matter of Senator Gietzelt ‘s question, namely, the suggestion that profiteering took place following the tariff reductions. Was there not in the Tariff Board Act a provision whereby the Board, through its officers, could make inquiries into any profiteering as a result of tariff movements? Is this provision carried over into the Industries Assistance Commission Act? Would not the Attorney-General consider it more persuasive to the Senate and more informative than generalisations to have put before the Senate specific reports on profiteering so as to identify the culprit and to establish in the public interest the real extent of the abuse?
– The honourable senator makes a good suggestion. Without going into the other technical questions of who can do what, I simply say that it may be that this Parliament could use, say, the Joint Committee on Prices or some similar body or mechanism in order at least to put the facts in relation to some of these events before the Parliament, so that they can be judged in the light of the actual specific material. I answered a similar question when Senator Gietzelt directed it to me, because he wanted information and asked for it in general terms as well as suggesting a remedy. I do not think there is reason to depart from what I said previously. I think the honourable senator’s suggestion is one that ought to be pursued, and I shall pursue it.
-Can the Minister for Repatriation and Compensation inform the Senate whether any steps are taken to ensure that exservicemen, particularly those living outside the metropolitan area, are kept informed of the benefits and treatment available to them from the Repatriation Commission?
-Probably one of the major difficulties with any plan of social security- I regard repatriation as being a particular kind of social service- is to see that people who are entitled to receive benefits are aware of the benefits that they are entitled to receive. In some respects, this is rather easier with matters relating to repatriation because there are records of ex-servicemen and of their dependants. Periodically, departmental publications and leaflets are prepared and distributed through exservicemen’s organisations and in other ways for the information of these people. Quite frequently, officers of the Department of Repatriation and Compensation personally visit country districts so that they can make known to potential recipients of repatriation benefits in the country districts precisely what are the benefits that are available to them. I think that even with the difficulties that are in this matter it would be very unusual to find that anybody was able to complain that he had problems in finding out from my Department what repatriation benefits he was entitled to receive.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Northern Development. Has agreement been reached with the Queensland Government for the construction of a number of beef roads in Queensland? If so, can the full details be supplied?
-I will have to refer the question to the Minister concerned and obtain an answer.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Agriculture. When can we expect to receive the report on the wood chip industry which is being prepared by a specialist working party? Is the report overdue?
– In conjunction with my Department, the Department of the Environment and Conservation has established a working group for the purposes of making a comprehensive report on the economic and environmental factors associated with the wood chip industry in Australia and also with the softwood planting program. It is true that the report is coming in later than we anticipated. But I feel confident that it will be available by November and will be tabled in the Parliament.
– My question, which is addressed to the Minister for the Media, relates to a statement made by the Minister in his former capacity as Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral. The question relates to the television reception in the St Helens area of Tasmania and the work which the Minister indicated would be undertaken to improve that reception. What steps are being taken to effect that improvement?
– I know that just recently I wrote to my colleague, the Minister for Defence, Mr Barnard, on the matter. I am speaking now purely from recollection because every day I receive a request for an improvement in reception in most parts of Australia. But from recollection, I understand that a survey had been made or was about to be made and that the results of it were to be considered and reported to me. I will take up the matter with the Australian Broadcasting Control Board and let the honourable senator know the results.
– In view of the quite dramatic events that have taken place in Greece in the last few days, is the Minister for Foreign Affairs in a position to advise the Senate of the current position in that country? Is he also in a position to give any sort of an indication of the likely effect of these events on the position on the island of Cyprus?
-It is still difficult to be dogmatic about what is happening on both the island of Cyprus and in Greece. But as I announced yesterday, Mr Constantine Karamanlis has returned from Paris to take over the Prime Ministership. He has announced his Foreign Minister. I hope that the name of the Foreign Minister is more pronounceable than the name of the present Foreign Minister and the Prime Minister of Greece. He has said that he will announce his Cabinet shortly. At the same time, on Cyprus, Mr Glafkos Clerides, who is a former president of the House of Representatives and one of the negotiators in the early intercommunal talks that took place between the Turks and the Greeks-a very highly respected man, our reports say- has said, I understand, that he would welcome the return of Archbishop Makarios. The interplay of these two would, I think, be to the good. I think everybody would welcome the change from a military government in Greece, since 1967, to what we hope will be a civilian one. From reports it seems that many prominent Greeks who have refused to live in their home country over some period of time have announced that they are returning. This sort of ground-swell would be welcomed by all
Australians if it should return Greece to some form of civilian government and, we would hope, to elections in due course.
– My question to the Minister representing the Minister for Labor and Immigration refers to the Government’s recently announced retraining scheme. Is it intended that under that scheme persons undergoing retraining through displacement or restructuring will not be classified either in fact or statistically as unemployed?
-I think I should get the Minister’s opinion on that. My own quick reaction would be that they would not be so classified because in fact they will be regrouped into a new industry. They are being retrained. My own opinion, and I state it only as my own opinion, is that they would not be included in the statistics. I might mention that, as the Senate probably knows, both the Statistician and the Department have some new method of calculating unemployment figures. In view of the significance of the question and the importance of the retraining scheme and the statistics I think I should ask Mr Cameron to supply an answer which I will give to the honourable senator.
– I address a question to the Minister representing the Prime Minister. I refer the Minister to the impasse which has arisen between the Australian Government and the medical profession over the staffing of hospitals and health centres in Canberra. Will the Minister urge the Prime Minister to intervene directly in the dispute with an aim to securing a compromise? Will he urge the Prime Minister to set up a process of conciliation and to bring his influence to bear in an effort to find the kind of solution which will benefit the people of the Australian Capital Territory, maintain the best possible standards of health care and protect the legitimate aspirations of the profession?
-Yes, I will refer the matter to the Prime Minister to see whether a satisfactory answer can be obtained.
– I direct my question to the Minister for Customs and Excise. Is he aware of the significant increases in imports of brandy over the last 12 months? In view of the fact that the ability of the small independent grape grower to dispose of his fruit is directly related to the volume of brandy production and distribution in Australia, will urgent consideration be given to curtailing the volume of imports? Further, will consideration be given to the reinstatement of the original excise differential in favour of Australian brandy as a means of encouraging consumer preference for the local product as against imported spirituous liquors generally?
– This is a very important question for those engaged in the industry, as the honourable senator well knows. I have given some attention to the matter. It comes within the field of a number of other Ministers. It may be sufficient simply to say that a great deal of attention has been given to this question which is of such importance.
– Can the Minister for Foreign Affairs say whether the treaty between Australia and Japan which the Prime Minister announced some time ago has been completed? If not, are negotiations sail proceeding? Are these activities related in any way to the migratory bird treaty to which I referred earlier this week?
-I think that the Nara treaty is the euphonious name given to the treaty referred to by the honourable senator. This treaty is, of course, of tremendous interest to both the Government of Japan and the Government of Australia. On 6 May the Japanese Government gave us a draft which was an answer to our draft which we put up on 14 December. In other words, we gave them a draft, they looked at it, and that began the negotiations which have been going on in Canberra for some time. We have had several interdepartmental committees to match the 2 drafts against one another. Australian officials start talks in Japan today on this matter which we assume will go on for about 3 days. Those talks are the next step in the negotiations.
The question of migratory birds is a separate one inasmuch as it is a treaty in itself.
From the way in which work on the draft is proceeding- although the Ministers of both countries have not yet seen the draft- it seems that a general umbrella-type arrangement will be put forward to cover not only such matters as migratory birds but also other matters such as trade, culture, exchange and foundations. But as I have mentioned, Australian officials are talking about these matters in Japan today.
– My question which I address to the Minister representing the Minister for Labor and Immigration also relates to the private industry retraining scheme. If there is a large scale diversion of employees to private industries for retraining as a result of widely spread unemployment, what provision has been made for the Prices Justification Tribunal to relate the training within industry to the productivity levels which the Tribunal stated would be one of the considerations in dealing with future price increases?
– I cannot answer the question at this stage. I can only undertake to have the matter examined not only by the Minister for Labor and Immigration but also by any other interested Minister. I will let the honourable senator know the answer.
- Senator Guilfoyle asked me a question earlier this morning about a discussion that had taken place between the Federation of Australian Commercial Television Stations and the Australian Broadcasting Control Board concerning the question of advertising. Since I answered the question I have had inquiries made and I am advised that the recent discussions between the 2 bodies took place in a working party in which no conclusions were reached, and it is expected that further discussions may well be involved. The Australian Broadcasting Control Board and the Federation of Australian Commercial Television Stations have an arrangement between them that when these working party discussions are in progress no statements will be made until such time as agreement or unanimity of opinion is reached.
– For the information of honourable senators I present the annual report on the Territory of Cocos (Keeling) Islands for the year ending 30 June 1973.
– Pursuant to section 36A of the Audit Act 1 90 1 - 1 969 (Advance to the Treasurer) I present the statement for the year 1 973-74 of heads of expenditure and the amounts charged thereto.
Senator WHEELDON (Western AustraliaMinister for Repatriation and Compensation)Pursuant to section 76A of the National Health Act 1953-1972, I present the second annual report on the operations of the Registered Medical Benefits and Hospital Benefits Organisations for the year ended 30 June 1 973.
Senator WHEELDON (Western AustraliaMinister for Repatriation and Compensation)For the information of honourable senators I present an evaluation report of the Dartmouth project, together with proceedings of the conference between the Australian Government and State Ministers (Water Resources) and a summary of decisions from the Steering Committee of the River Murray Working Party.
Senator BISHOP (South AustraliaPostmasterGeneral) For the information of honourable senators I present the report by the Committee of Inquiry into integration of the Medical Services of the Armed Forces, March 1971.
Senator BISHOP (South AustraliaPostmasterGeneral) I present the report by the Tertiary Education (Services’ Cadet Colleges) Committee, January 1970. Because of the limited availability of these reports, copies have been placed in the Parliamentary Library for perusal by honourable senators.
– For the information of honourable senators I present the agreement between the Government of the Commonwealth of Australia, the Government of the State of New South Wales and the Government of the State of Victoria in relation to financial assistance for the development of the Albury-Wodonga area.
– For the information of honourable senators I present the interim report from the Australian Government
Task Force to investigate modern housing techniques dated June 1974.
Motion (by Senator Douglas McClelland) agreed to:
That Government business take precedence over general business after 8 p.m. this day.
– I ask for leave to move a motion for the suspension of Standing Orders to enable Senator Wright’s notice of motion relating to the disapproval of determinations of the Remuneration Tribunal to be called on at 2.15 p.m. this day.
-Is leave granted?
– There being dissent, leave is not granted.
Suspension of Standing Orders
– Leave not being granted to move my previous motion I therefore move:
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent Senator Wright’s notice of motion given this day relating to the disapproval of determinations of the Remuneration Tribunal being called on at 2. 1 5 p.m. this day.
Frankly, I am surprised that when I sought leave to move a motion previously there were cries of no’ from the Opposition. Senator Wright spoke with some passion and obvious emotion and feeling on this matter yesterday. He regarded it as a matter of urgency. Last night some comments were made by another member of the Senate, I think on the adjournment debate. There was a bit of a wrangle between 2 honourable senators as to who would move the type of motion of which Senator Wright gave notice this morning. The Government believes- in view of the fact that a paper has been laid down and obviously the matter is one of public controversythat the matter should be aired and debated in this Parliament as expeditiously as possible. Therefore between now and 2.15 p.m., the time that we suggest the matter should come on for debate, honourable senators should have ample time thoroughly to study the report of the Tribunal and to make up their minds on their attitudes. Therefore, I have moved the suspension of so much of the Standing Orders as would prevent
Senator Wright ‘s notice of motion relating to disapproval of determinations of the Remuneration Tribunal being called on at 2. 1 5 p.m.
– May I first say to the Minister who is Manager of Government Business in the Senate (Senator McClelland) that it was not out of any discourtesy that I refused him leave? I think if I had agreed to leave being granted, only a simple majority would have been needed to pass the motion, whereas now, under standing order 448, votes will be needed to have the motion passed.
– The Senate has ruled on that twice. It requires a simple majority.
-1 still think that 3 1 votes would be needed. I suppose we could have a nice debate about that until 10.30 tonight. If we get into a nice procedural wrangle for the rest of the day it is likely that no other Government business will be dealt with this day at all.
– I deliberately made my remarks short.
-That is right. The Opposition will not agree with the motion for the suspension of Standing Orders moved by Senator Douglas McClelland. I say this in no derogatory sense to the Minister but we know why he has moved for the suspension of Standing Orders as well as he does. I do not think that members of the Government disclosed when they received the report from Mr Justice Campbell, but they certainly had it long before the Opposition did. We know that Cabinet had one of its blood baths on Monday. It had hours and hours of discussion. I would imagine that Cabinet discussed this matter on Monday. If Cabinet conducts its business in any sort of rational way, Ministers would have had the report prior to their meeting on the Monday. So there was ample opportunity for full Cabinet discussion. Whether the Government took that opportunity or not is none of my business. But certainly it had the full opportunity.
From reading the newspapers, one finds that the Labor Party Caucus had yesterday morning to go through one of its exercises in discussing the whole report. Mr Snedden, as Leader of the Opposition in the other place, informed me that he did not receive his copy until 10.50 a.m. yesterday.
– It takes only 10 minutes to read it.
-One would have thought that as this matter deals with Parliamentary salaries the Government and the Prime
Minister (Mr Whitlam) might even have paid Senator Drake-Brockman and myself the courtesy of giving us a copy also. But what happened? Mr Snedden and Mr Anthony were given a copy basically on the understanding that they were to tell nobody else what was in it because it was to be tabled in the House of Representatives after 8 o’clock that night. The first time that honourable senators on my side of the chamber knew what was in that report was at 8 p.m. last night. Other matters were before the Senate last night and we have been here since 10.30 a.m. today. I know that the Opposition is a lot better than the Government and that our members have a greater capacity to make decisions but the Government spent days and days dealing with this matter with its members. Cabinet members were cutting each other’s throats and abusing one another. Then they tried to grandstand in the Press. I understand, according to the media, that every member of the Government Party voted against the adoption of the recommendations; they are all scurrying for cover at the moment. Every one of them is saying: ‘ I voted against it. ‘
The Government now expects the Opposition Parties, having received this report at 8 p.m. last night, to be prepared to come to a decision by 2.15 p.m. today. The purpose of moving this motion for the suspension of standing orders is quite clear. The Government is on the hook, is it not? Every editorial is abusing the Government. The newspaper headlines refer to what the trade union leaders have said and the Government is not popular at all. As I see it at the moment, the Government’s only supporter is Mr Hawke. Not even the Prime Minister, not even the Deputy Prime Minister (Dr J. F. Cairns), supports the Labor Party’s decision. Honourable senators opposite do not want to bring this matter on this afternoon for the purpose of considered debate, not even for real determination. They wish to throw a smokescreen over all their troubles and to hide behind it. Why should we accommodate the Government and get it out of the mess into which it got itself? I had some amusement a while ago in reading a speech I made in the Senate on 13 December 1973 when this Bill was introduced. As I recall my speech, I wished the Government the best of luck but said that it was going to fail- and fail it did. Why should we of the Opposition help the Government to get out of the mess into which it got itself? It created its mess and must live with it. We are prepared to come back and debate this matter on the next sitting day.
– You supported the setting up of the tribunal. Do not shuffle.
-Yes, and I said it would not work.
– Why did you support it then?
-I wished you the best of luck but said it would not work and I have been proved right.
– Why has it not worked?
-Because the Government is in a political mess as a result of the findings. Now you expect to get out of it by diverting the attention of the Senate by moving for the suspension of standing orders. Senator Wright gave notice this morning that on the next day of sitting he wished to debate the report. The Government is not prepared to concede him his right to move a motion which would result in this report being debated on the next day of sitting. The Government does not want to do that but wants him to move his motion today. Honourable senators on the Government side want this question resolved before they go back and face their electorates this weekend. They do not want to go home and have their arms twisted by thenelectorate committees and their trade union leaders because they may well have to come back to caucus next week and agree with Senator Wright’s motion calling for disapproval of the report. That is why they want the whole thing resolved this afternoon. They can then go back and face their masters over the weekend and each of them can say: ‘We did our best but it is all over, fellows, and you cannot expect me to do anything else about it. I am off the hook. ‘ That is the only reason that Government supporters are pulling this motion on now- to get their Government and themselves as individuals off the hook. Why should we help? As far as I am concerned they can stay on the hook until next Tuesday.
-The matter being discussed is the motion of which I gave notice only this morning.
– Order! No, I understand that it is a motion for the suspension of standing orders which would allow your motion to come on for debate at some particular time.
– Yes, I meant it in that sense. It is a procedural motion. I am trying to introduce a little calm into the proceedings, Mr President, because I want it to be observed that I should be conceded control as to when this matter should come on for debate.
– The Senate might think otherwise.
– Other senators can move that matters in which they have an interest be dealt with. I do not know why Senator Steele Hall should interject. I am about to address my remarks to the substance of the matter. I think that there is a good deal of politicking taking place between the Australian Labor Party and Senator Steele Hall on the matter. I observed him moving about the Labor Party benches as this motion was moved by the Manager of Government Business in the Senate (Senator Douglas McClelland). I aver that there is much in Senator Withers ‘ statement about the desire of Labor Party members not to have to face their electors while this motion remains undecided.
– How about your people making up their minds?
– One would think that there was to be an election next Saturday.
-I put all that aside. It is immaterial to me when the debate commences. I put a forthright written submission to the tribunal 3 months ago and followed it up with the strongest oral advocacy that I could present, asserting that in the present dangerous inflationary situation no increase should be allowed. I do not speak in an emotional way, as the Manager of Government Business in the Senate did, but in a very firm and responsible way. My intentions in relation to this matter were indicated at the first opportunity last night when I said that either today or early next week I would give notice of motion. I have been a senator for a long time, and I am used to the procedures of the Senate. Under this statute there are 15 sitting days in which any senator may move a motion.
In a matter of this sort, which is inclined to be inflamed by criticism and publicity, I would desire each honourable senator to consider his responsibility soberly and in a little time. I have every reason to believe that, given that time, the support for my motion would generate strength. Therefore, I would be reluctant to see the Senate engage in an operation which brought this matter to a decision precipitately. I suggest that it would be less than the level of responsibility which has been indicated by the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) and the Deputy Prime Minister ( Dr J. F. Cairns), both of whom have been reported as saying that they consider that in the national interest this increase in parliamentary salaries should not be approved, to vote upon the matter today. I wish there to be an interval over the weekend when members who have become interested in this matter- I would hope that would include some members of the Labor
Party, as a result of the point of view of the Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister- can deliberate on the matter. The Senate has a responsibility. One chamber has the authority, under the statute, to disallow the determination which I believe will be most destructive. On Tuesday night we heard the Minister for Agriculture (Senator Wriedt), who is the representative of the Treasurer (Mr Crean), say it is a dangerous inflationary situation. We were told that during the last 12 months $ 1,000m in real value has been ripped off the savings bank depositors. I am not prepared to jettison the success of this motion when votes may be lost by precipitation. I would rather take the course of allowing each senator to give sober consideration to the matter and to bring it, in the ordinary course, to a decision on Tuesday.
-Mr President, the Minister for the Media and Manager of Government business in the Senate (Senator Douglas McClelland) has moved for the suspension of Standing Orders under standing order 448 which reads:
In cases or urgent necessity, any Standing or Sessional Order or Orders of the Senate may be suspended on Motion, duly made and seconded, without Notice: Provided that such Motion is carried by an absolute majority of the whole number of Senators.
This matter of salaries is attracting a great deal of public attention at the present time. It is my view that Senator Wright, who is correctly in charge of the substantive motion, should be permitted to have that motion called on for debate when he so desires. If he desires that the debate on his motion should take place next Tuesday so that proper consideration can be given to this matter, I find it a most unique happening that the Minister should move to have the matter brought on quickly today. Perhaps one can only question why the Minister should seek to do that.
This is a difficult matter for all members of the Federal Parliament. It takes into account not only the personal interests of members. For some members it involves the very stringent problems that they have to face at the present time and also the difficulty of evaluation of what they should do at this moment.
– They are the ones with sole incomes coming from their Parliamentary salaries.
-That is correct, and it is something which one must consider. It is not, as we see in the Press, simply a matter that all members of Parliament should, in these inflationary circumstances, deny themselves access to increased income. This matter requires some consideration. I was given a copy of this report some time after 8 o ‘clock last night. My survey of it has not been sufficient to enable me properly to come in and debate this matter.
– You would want 3 weeks.
– If the ability which you have shown in so many areas is typified by what the members of your Department say about you, I would go along with them.
– Do not get personal.
-Well, the Minister got personal with me. All the time Senator McLaren is wanting to take some point, but when a smart Minister tries to take a point he is not interested in hearing the reply to it.
- Senator Webster, address yourself to the motion before the Chair.
– Well, Mr President, you allowed the Minister to come in with some abuse of me without stopping him, and his Department had called him -
– Well, let us start off afresh now.
– I hope that the point is well taken and that the Minister will consider it.
– I do not know what you are talking about.
-No, you would not. I do not think you know much of what you are talking about at any stage. The fact is that this matter was raised late yesterday evening when one of my Country Party colleagues apparently was responsible, as far as I know, for allowing Senator Hall to speak on this matter in order to indicate an interest that he had in it. I think Senator Hall would agree that earlier Senator Wright had made a comment expressing his view on this matter. I see it as a most important matter for discussion and one which requires certainly more than some 12 hours consideration at a time when we are pressured, as we. are in the Senate, with other legislative matters. This report should receive greater consideration. Indeed, as a senator I hope to take some advice on this matter from the people within my State. Again I emphasise the problems that we face.
I think it is despicable that the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) and the Minister for Overseas Trade (Dr J. F. Cairns) should break Cabinet secrecy by coming out and saying: ‘We totally absolve ourselves from any of this proposition’. That is what has occurred today. The Prime Minister has been bold enough to stand up and say: I, Gough Whitlam, advocated that Caucus should not follow this procedure’. How proud the Labor Party must feel of that man. How proud the general members, the floor members, of the Labor Party must feel of their Deputy Prime Minister who left the dirty washing with them so that they could bear the whole of this responsibility, knowing that their Leader and their Deputy Leader had said: ‘We wash our hands clean of this matter’.
– I rise on a point of order, Mr President. May I draw your attention to the fact that the motion before the Chair is a motion to suspend Standing Orders, and I do not think that such a motion should be used as a vehicle for the purpose of discussing the merits of Senator Wright’s notice of motion which will come on for debate if Standing Orders are suspended. Nor do I think that this discussion should be used by an honourable senator as a vehicle for heaping personal abuse on individual members of another House.
– I uphold the point of order.
– With proper deference to you, Mr President, I suggest that this is a matter for your earnest consideration. The motion before the Chair is not the proposition of the Opposition; it is the proposition of the Minister for the Media. He wants to bring on much too early a matter for detailed and careful consideration by those who take it very seriously. Any considerations of personal attacks on people might well begin with Senator Cavanagh ‘s address and his remarks to Senator Webster in the first place.
– I said before that I uphold the point of order. I ask Senator Webster to confine his remarks to the motion before the Chair which is in these terms:
That so much or the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent Senator Wright’s notice of motion given this day relating to the disapproval of determinations of the Remuneration Tribunal being called on at 2. 1 5 p.m. this day.
– I accede to your request, Mr President, but at the same time noting- I think you would agree with me- that I am attempting to emphasise why honourable senators should be given the time sought to consider this matter rather than it coming on for debate in this chamber in the next hour or so. Because of what has been written in the newspapers and because of the statements which have been made by the Prime Minister, with which I was dealing, and because of the liberty that you gave to the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate (Senator Withers) and to Senator Wright in discussing the matter, I think I should be allowed to explain why the remarks that have been made make it mandatory for me at least to have sometime- perhaps the weekend- to consider the motion moved by the Minister for the Media. Indeed, as I have said, I wish to study the newspaper headlines to ascertain the lead the Prime Minister has given, the attitude of the Prime Minister, of the various unions, and perhaps of the chambers of commerce and the relationship of the report of the Tribunal to the business activity of the community. These are all particularly important matters. Perhaps the point can be overcome if I leave any further comment relating to the words used by the Prime Minister and the Minister for Overseas Trade, the Deputy Prime Minister, to be taken up by government senators who will want to have some say on this matter.
But I am interested in reading the Hansard report of the comments made by Senator Steele Hall last night. I have some regret in relation to the first point I raised. I do not use the word despise’, but if I could readily call to mind the word I would use it when describing anyone who rejects the demand for a higher salary for members of Parliament when such a person receives, as I do myself, finance from sources other than his parliamentary salary. If it is the wish of members of Parliament who are moving in this way, whether it be the Prime Minister on his cool $45,000-odd a year, to say: ‘I do not believe that the ordinary member of Parliament should receive any more’, I think that is a despicable attitude.
– You are a liar.
-Mr President, I rise to order. I ask you whether the salary of the Prime Minister is a subject that we hope to discuss later today or whether it may be discussed when we are debating the matter of salaries? I think that the honourable senator is in flagrant breach of your previous ruling on the matter.
- Mr President, I rise to order. Is it in order for Senator Milliner to shout across the chamber to Senator Webster that he is a liar?
– How do you know I said that?
– I heard you.
– Order! The Chair did not hear that remark which would be rather unparliamentary if it was made. I refer again to the point of order that has been raised by Senator Cavanagh. I again uphold the point of order. Senator Webster must not reflect personally on any senator or member by using strong descriptions of them on a personal level. I must also insist that the honourable senator speak to the motion for the suspension of Standing Orders and not the subject matter of a motion which will be brought on at some date to be fixed.
- Mr President, I bow to your ruling, but I argue with you that at no stage did I -
- Mr President, I rise to take another point of order. Is it permissible for the honourable senator to canvass your ruling?
– I uphold Senator Cavanagh ‘s point of order. I insist that my ruling be not canvassed. There is a procedure to be followed if an honourable senator disagrees with my ruling.
-Mr President, I do not canvass your ruling in any way. I think that a reference to Hansard tomorrow will show that at no stage did I reflect upon any senator or member of the House of Representatives. I hope that honourable senators will refer to Hansard tomorrow and see that that is the fact. But I say to members of Parliament who may speak against this motion, and who may be inclined to say that this matter should come on for debate immediately, that they should give it thought and that the matter should be put over until next Tuesday. I would be very interested to know whether that point does not get through to Senator Cavanagh, despite his appeals to the President. I was about to reiterate -
– You take a long time.
– I may take a long time because often it takes a long time to get through the mass of feathers in the minds of some honourable senators opposite. I was making the point that where an honourable member or an honourable senator who may be in receipt of a much higher income or benefits than the base member of Parliament -
– You would be in that category.
-I would be in that category.
– Of course you would.
– I would be in that category and I find it entirely wrong that any honourable member or honourable senator who happens to be receiving a higher income should feel that he is able to stand up and declare what salary the base member of Parliament should receive. How despicable it is for any member of Parliament to take this action when, in actual fact, a motion has been moved that would allow time to consider these matters. We will be discussing the increase in parliamentary salaries and also the increase in the salaries of some members of the Public Service and the judiciary. I expect that they also will be involved in this matter. I imagine that every Minister and nearly every member of Parliament would be in receipt of some income, and that not all of them would be in the position of one member of the other House who, having been on a parliamentary salary for most of his working life, finds that he has not sufficient money to afford a car or to pay off his house. I imagine that there is some investment -
-Order! I wish to draw the attention of Senator Webster to the substance of the motion before the Chair. It is for the suspension of Standing Orders. The motion that will be moved later will involve the area in which these matters can be discussed. But at the present time, I want to insist that the rules governing a debate on the motion for the suspension of Standing Orders be rigidly adhered to.
-Thank you, Mr President, for that ruling. I appreciate your comment very much and I bow to your ruling. I am attempting to advance the arguments as to why we should defer this matter. I think that you can follow the points that I am making. I would be anxious to see this matter debated next Tuesday after honourable senators have had an opportunity to evaluate some of the things which I am putting forward which make it so important that this matter should be given more than 2 hours consideration, as we have had proposed to us by the Minister for the Media (Senator Douglas McClelland). I was trying to make the point that I do not see that members who have an income other than their parliamentary salary should find themselves anxious to debate this matter immediately. That is the point I am attempting to make. I was attempting to say about Senator Steele Hal] that, if his view was that the effect of increased salaries was so important that it needed to be considered immediately because it would reflect in the inflationary situation in the community, I would be anxious for Senator Steele Hall to reflect on the demands that he made on the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) immediately he became a senator. These were beyond the ability of all of us. My understanding is that the Prime Minister granted him the equivalent of a $20,000 increase for a secretary.
– Order! I have ruled that you must not refer to the subject matter of the Tribunal’s report. I want you to confine your remarks to the motion for suspension of Standing
Orders. I have to warn you along those lines, Senator Webster.
-It is apparently your view, Mr President, that any discussion beyond speaking about 2.30 this afternoon and 11 o’clock on Tuesday morning is entirely out of order. I would say to you, Sir, only that you did allow the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Withers) and Senator Wright to canvass the general reasons -
– Order! You are canvassing my ruling. I did not allow that.
-May I say in short that the various things that have been put forward give very good reason why this matter should be deferred until Tuesday next.
– Senator Webster used the word despicable about some unnamed members of Parliament. Then he went on to use the most despicable of all arguments in supporting his own case by going into very personal references regarding a matter which has the widest of import to 13 million people. If we are to consider the salary determinations on the basis that Senator Webster adopts in this House, God help Australia. For heaven’s sake let us lift the vision of this place a little higher than that indicated by the speeches of Senator Withers and Senator Webster. They do nothing to enhance this House and they will hasten the day for further calls for its abolition if they continue on that line.
-They will. They will not stop it.
– You must know.
- Senator Webster has had his say.
-Yes, I believe that Senator Webster did have his say. I thought that he might have known a little better because of his position in this place than to keep on challenging the Presidents rulings. There is a great deal of urgency about this discussion because already attitudes in the community are being hardened and they will be quite firm and hard by this time next week. The public is extremely cynical about the apparent acceptance- and I say apparent’ because of the newspaper reportingby Parliament of the determinations at this particular time. It would seem to me that Senator Wood is very timid about the possible reactions of his colleagues by wanting to put it off until Tuesday. How on earth can anyone in this House say that he needs more time? What on earth is wrong? If members of this House want more time they certainly do not deserve the rises, because they are incapable of assessing moves which have been reported in the media for the last several weeks. Everyone knows what the moves were. If they say they did not know until yesterday what was the substance of the rises, then, quite frankly, they are not up with general reporting, if it takes so long to assess what the determinations mean to the economy then I suggest that honourable senators go out and ask the chambers of commerce to which Senator Webster referred. They were in touch with me this morning. Why have they not been in touch with Senator Webster? In fact I told them to get in touch with his Party because I had heard that his Party was dragging its feet on this issue. I said: For heaven’s sake get in touch with our side in politics which appears to be neglecting the public interest in the question ‘.
– Big Deal Steele.
– I cannot help it if Senator Young is somewhat upset. It is not my intention deliberately to upset him, but it does not worry me if he is upset. I am worried about the future of Australia in view of what the Treasurer (Mr Crean) said on Tuesday night was a most dangerous situation- that wage increases were completely out of control- and about a Parliament which is not able to grapple with this issue in a debate which is offered for the rest of the day after 2.15 p.m., I take it. The situation about the bringing in of this resolution had better be cleared up a bit because Senator Wood accused me- I do not know quite what the accusation means- of politicking with the Labor Party. I was out of this House dealing with other activities -
– You said Senator Wood. You mean Senator Wright.
– I beg the Senate’s pardon. My apologies to Senator Wood.
– I take a point of order. Senator Hall says I accused him of this and that in this chamber this morning. I want it to be known that I have not spoken in this chamber. I have not made a speech, but I will make a speech later. I want it to be known that Senator Hall must be dreaming; it is one of those South Australian dreams. I wish to draw attention to that and I ask him to withdraw his suggestion because I did not say it.
-Of course, I withdraw. 1 have no intention of maligning Senator Wood. It was Senator Wright, I understand, to whom I should have referred. I apologise to Senator Wood. I do not know whether he resents being mixed up with Senator Wright. They are both honourable gentlemen and I would not mind being mistaken for either of them. I hold them in some esteem.
-I like that.
– It is up to Senator Carrick to make up his own mind about that. I refer again to the cry that I had been politicking with the Labor Party. I was outside this place attending to other business and I came in and found this debate in progress. I went to the person who, I understood, has been designated as Manager of Government Business in the Senate and asked him what was going on. The bringing in of this motion ought to be discussed. I think it should quite rightly be discussed during this debate as to its urgency. Yesterday morning I set out to prepare a case to move for the disapproval of this determination if it came in in the form in which I understood it to be from reports in the media. I contacted a parliamentary counsel yesterday morning, I obtained from the Library a copy of the Bill setting up the Remuneration Tribunal, I scribbled down a few notes, and I awaited the introduction of the report. After the report had been laid before the House, with the assistance of a parliamentary officer I helped draw and had drawn for me a motion of 3 parts. Senator Wright this morning has moved a motion exactly word for word with my motion. Therefore I cannot complain. In fact, I congratulate Senator Wright in adopting word for word the quite lengthy motion which I had prepared.
– I take a point of order. That surely must be a sad reflection upon the integrity of your staff, Mr President. I sought the advice of your staff in the formulation of my motion without any knowledge whatever of anything that Senator Steele Hall had done except his impromptu attempt at 10 to 11 last night to get notoriety, an attempt that, by his ignorance of the procedures of the House failed. I had no knowledge of his manoeuvres. I spoke in the Senate last night at about 20 past 8 on the basis of a public statement, and the formulation of my motion was brought about with the assistance of the Clerks.
-To what point of order is Senator Wright speaking?
– I was about to ask Senator Wright that. As Senator Wright has resumed his seat, I call Senator Hall.
– I submit, Mr President, that it is out of order to reflect upon the staff of this
Senate and Senator Hall was implying that the staff had plagiarised his motion.
– If Senator Hall has reflected upon the staff I would like him to withdraw.
-Mr President, when I was rudely interrupted by Senator Wright I was about to say that I was reflecting on no one. My observation of parliamentary procedure is that if a motion is drawn up correctly there is only one motion. Obviously, if Senator Wright went to the parliamentary officers with a similar objective he would have been given the correct motion, which was the one prepared last night. There is no reflection on anyone. I cannot understand Senator Wright, who has apparently a long experience in this place, suggesting that there is some reflection on parliamentary officers. It is a pure bit of grandstanding and nonsense for him to say that there is. But I will not pursue that matter.
Mr President, I submit that the urgency to have this matter disposed of is very real. There can be no demand by honourable senators that they need more time. They know now what they will do. I do not know why they need some outside support or some outside crutch to make a decision here. They ought to be able to make that decision today. As I have said, I support the motion which was introduced by Senator Wright because it is the correct one. I am happy to support it. If Senator Wright recognises the urgency of this motion and proceeds with it I shall speak fully in support of him. I will be happy to second or do whatever is necessary with this motion. But I believe that Senator Wright does not have the moral authority of this House to block discussion. The reason I tried to have my motion accepted yesterday was that recognising the urgency of this matter I wanted to ensure that it was debated today without the necessity to suspend Standing Orders. Of course, the Senate did not give me permission to do so. I believe that it was Senator Wright’s side of the Senate which refused permission last night to allow the notice of motion to be proceeded with. So I believe that he could show some co-operation.
– What I am objecting to is that -
– I tried dispassionately to explain to Senator Wright the origins of the motion which he read. I suggest that we come to a truce on this matter because the move started before he took his action. But I do not care about that. What I am saying to Senator Wright is that it is futile for him to claim that he has a right to block discussion by refusing the Senate’s right in this very urgent matter to restore confidence in this place. I believe that it is good enough to be able to discuss a matter of prime importance. Senator Young says: ‘Phfff’.
– I beg your pardon. I said nothing.
– I apologise to Senator Young. There are so many ‘phfffs’ coming from the section of the chamber in which he is sitting that one cannot distinguish between the ‘phfffs’ I believe that there is little more to be said except to say that if senators do not think this matter is urgent they are not in touch with the public. They are simply out of touch with the public if they do not believe that this matter should be urgently dealt with now. I do not think Senator Wright has much evidence to back up the statement that the Government is getting off the hook. I would think that everyone would be willing this afternoon to face his .or her responsibility as a representative of his or her State. In mentioning the word ‘State’ may I say that I would think that all State governments would view this matter with great urgency because the arrangement of their budgets under the enormous pressure of wage control will be of extreme concern to them. If there is some last vestige of the claim that this is a States’ House I ask the Senate to agree with the motion to suspend Standing Orders and to get on with discussing some matters which will vitally affect the States.
– I believe that this matter has been canvassed sufficiently, and if honourable senators would only recall what they have had to say about it they would arrive at the same conclusion. At about 8 p.m. last night the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Senator Willesee) moved that the resumption of the debate on the report ofthe Remuneration Tribunal be made an order of the day for the next day of sitting. What do you think Senator Greenwood said to that? Senator Greenwood said:
If the Government wants to make the debate upon this statement an order of the day for the next day of sitting, so be it, we will not oppose that.
-What did Senator Wright say?
-I will quote first what Senator Greenwood had to say because I think, with due respect, he is more important that Senator Wright. Senator Greenwood said:
Now we are told that there is a report which is tabled. However, I have not seen the report. We are then told that there is to be a debate on the statement and that the debate is to take place on the next day of sitting.
Subsequently he said: ‘Yes, we will debate it at the next day of sitting’. Senator Wright is reported at page 422 of Hansard as having said:
I do not want to go into the merits. I am just trying to bring the mind of the Senate into the focus of the debate which will come to the crunch point as to whether we should make the debate on the matter under discussion an order of the day for the next day of sitting or immediately pronounce some opinion upon the matter.
Further on in the same speech he said: . . I say quite emphatically that I will move at the first appropriate opportunity for disapproval ofthe report
Surely, Mr President, they themselves are condemned by their own approach to the matter. I therefore move:
That the question be now put.
The Senate divided. (The President- Senator the Hon. Justin 0 ‘Byrne)
Question so resolved in the negative.
– The Manager of Government Business in the Senate (Senator Douglas McClelland) has moved the suspension of Standing Orders to enable immediate debate on the notice of motion given by Senator Wright for the disallowance of parliamentary salaries and allowances. The question is whether the suspension should be agreed to. The only urgency that can be argued is the desirability of reaching a decision by no later than next Wednesday because if disallowance is not effected by then, under the Remuneration Tribunal Act the salaries and allowances automatically operate from 1 August. So there is a sound basis to argue that there should be a debate on either Tuesday or Wednesday. One should try to analyse the reasons why the Australian Labor Party has acted so precipitately this morning. I think that Senator Steele Hall said that there was real urgency. I find no mystery about why the Labor Party has decided that this debate should occur immediately because the Labor Party fears more than any other single thing that time will be provided so that it cannot have an alibi in relation to calling another Caucus meeting.
The Labor Party does not want to have time to have another Caucus meeting because the predisposition of this matter is here at this moment if urgency is sustained. If there is no other Caucus meeting- I am blowing the gaff on this situationwe have a completely phoney presentation by the Labor Party. Under the rules of the Labor Party it is predisposed that every honourable senator of the Labor Party must come in and vote against this disallowance because, even though there is a division in the Labor Party Caucus on this matter at present, unless another Caucus meeting is held the Labor Party, lock, stock and barrel, is committed to the acceptance of these salaries. I only wish that Senator Steele Hall were here at this moment so that he could understand that if he votes with the Labor Party for an urgent debate he is saying to the people of Australia: ‘I will connive, however unwittingly, with the Labor Party to ensure that there can be no rethinking within the Labor Party Caucus. ‘ In fact he is acting, however inadvertently, as a Labor Party Caucus man. He is insisting on the greatest breach of parliamentary practice that can be effected. If there is one reason why there should be no debate today and why we should stand over this matter until Tuesday or Wednesday, it is so that the Labor Party has time and is without alibi; so that it cannot say: ‘We could not call another Caucus meeting and we could not rethink. ‘
Mr President, you will notice that deadly silence when I present the reason. The Minister is supine and silent because he knows that that is the reason why he comes forward with this motion. Since Senator Steele Hall has said that his stand is that there is urgency and that there is no need for more reflection I lay heavily on such people this charge: Does the honourable senator now say that we ought not to provide the Labor Party with another opportunity for recommittal to its Caucus? If he crosses the chamber that is the effect of his vote. Let us be quite clear on this. If a vote is taken today all 29 honourable senators of the Labor Party are forced by their Caucus decision to vote one way. Of course that is precisely what they are trying to force on themselves so that some Labor senators can go outside and say: ‘Of course, we did not vote for the increased salaries in Caucus but we did not have a chance to re-persuade. ‘ I call upon the Senate not to give an alibi to this minority of honourable senators in the Labor Party. If those honourable senators believe that they ought to persuade the majority in Caucus against this increase they should vote for the standing-over of this debate until Tuesday or Wednesday. Of course this ought to have regurgitation. There should be a chance for rethinking.
It is not for the Senate, however unwittingly, to do the work of people in the Labor Party and to give them a built-in alibi. That is not our job. If this matter is put over until Tuesday or Wednesday nobody in the Labor Party can say : ‘I was forced into this’. There is no basic urgency at all. I recite the simple situation that last night at 8 o’clock a document was tabled. In the normal procedures of this Parliament there is an adjournment of some days for honourable senators and for the public to study the document. The Government is showing the utmost arrogance and contempt if it considers that the review and consideration of documents of this Parliament should be carried out only by senators, and Labor senators at that. The great function of a second chamber throughout the world -
– What about -
– My goodness, Senator Cavanagh is getting lively and toey at this moment. He is the only one who has not told us how he voted in the Caucus. Everbody else has.
The fundamental principle of a house of review is not only that it should show the wisdom or unwisdom- as Labor is showing now in its term of unwisdom- of its own review but also it should allow a time- a synoptic break, as it were- so that the people of Australia can look at the document, study it and express their views. Let the Labor Party deny that, if it wishes. Let the Party say, as it is saying now, to the people of Australia: ‘We will not give you the chance. We revel in the fact that we are in a bind on our
Caucus vote and we want to stick to it. Those of us who voted against the decision wish to stick to it because we get the pay and we get the best of all worlds. We get the box and we say we did not mean it- it was the other fellow’. What a lot of humbug and cant.
Basically the whole principle of this Parliament is that between the tabling of a document and its debate an adequate time should be allowed for people to review it. All that the Opposition asks is that the debate should be deferred until Tuesday or perhaps Wednesday and then a full debate should take place. This is normal procedure. Senator Wright gave notice in the proper way and the normal procedure would have allowed debate to take place on Tuesday. The only point I wish to make is that the Government has raised this matter for an improper reason. It is an attempt to establish its own alibi of justification. It is a denial of the rights of the people. Everbody, including Senator Hall, should reconsider this matter in order to give senators, the public and the Labor Party Caucus adequate time to look at it.
– I am prompted to take part in this debate. I was hoping that it would come to a conclusion much earlier. But I shall endeavour to put an end to the humbug to which we have had to listen this morning. Last evening- the Hansard record clearly shows this- Opposition senators were prepared to have debate on this question practically immediately. They wanted it brought on at the first available opportunity. I am wondering whether the demonstration regarding consideration in which Senator Carrick has hysterically indulged, results from the fact that he and his Liberal senators do not know their position in this matter. They had a Party meeting this morning. A secret ballot was taken and they do not even know the result of it because the man who has the ballot papers is missing and their leader is not in the precincts of Parliament House. This is just a subterfuge and humbug to stall so that someone from another place can come here and tell them the result of the secret ballots concerning the three questions that honourable senators opposite had to answer this morning. This is why the Opposition is using delaying tactics.
Opposition members are in an area of indecision. They are leaderless. They do not know where they are going and what their position is on this matter. I am speaking of them collectively. Individually, they know what they want to do. But collectively they do not know what their Party decision is and they will not know until the result of the ballot is given to them. 1 feel that the change of face ofthe Opposition senators, from wanting to discuss this matter practically immediately last night to using delaying tactics and wanting to have it postponed until next Tuesday, should be recorded in Hansard. I feel this has occurred because they cannot get the decision of their Party which met this morning and they do not know what their stance in this matter should be.
– I enter this debate because I think there is a matter of parliamentary principle to be considered. Senator Wright has said:
I give notice that on the next day of sitting I shall move:
1 ) That the determination of the Remuneration Tribunal of allowances payable to Ministers of State tabled in the Senate on 24 July be disapproved;
That the determination of the Remuneration Tribunal of salaries and allowances payable to members of Parliament tabled in the Senate on 24 July be disapproved;
That the determination of the Remuneration Tribunal on the remuneration payable to officers of the First Division of the Public Service and holders of statutory offices tabled in the Senate on 24 July be disallowed.
The Remuneration Tribunal Act 1973 states:
If either House of the Parliament, within 1 5 sitting days of that House after a copy of determination has been laid before that House, passes a resolution disapproving of the determination, then-
if the determination has not come into operation- the determination shall not come into operation; or
if the determination has come into operation- the determination shall not have any force or effect in respect of a period on or after the day on which the resolution was passed.
Senator Wright last night indicated his intention to move a motion on this matter. I want to be quite frank that I had in my mind an intention to move a similar motion. I discussed it with my own leader last night and my intention was to move a motion this morning. Last night Senator Hall sought leave to move a motion just before the Senate adjourned but leave was not granted. Earlier in the evening when the Bill concerning this matter was before the Senator, Senator Wright indicated that he would move a motion. In those circumstances I felt that he should have the right to move a motion today. As I said, I intended myself moving a motion on this matter. But Senator Wright had indicated his intention earlier.
Because Senator Wright moved the motion I feel he should have some say as to when the matter is brought on for debate. Those of us who have served on the Senate Standing Committee on Regulations and Ordinances for many yearsmany of the Senators in this House have done so- will agree that whenever notice has been given for the disallowance of a regulation time has always given so that ample preparation could be made and various aspects could be looked at. I feel that in this particular case we have a similar characteristic. It has been said that this matter must be decided today. I do not know why there is such a terrific urgency. If a person desires to take a day or so to prepare his case, to go into the matter more fully and to study the subject I think that this Parliament should allow him to do so. I do not think it is incumbent upon us, if a senator does not wish to debate immediately a motion which he has moved, providing he is not hanging back unduly, to force him to debate the matter immediately. To me that is rather autocratic so far as the other senators are concerned. I feel that those of us who have known Senator Wright over the years and those who have served with him know that there is usually no hesitancy on his part in tackling any project which he has in mind. Furthermore I think it can be said of him that he has never shirked the responsibility of doing what he feels is the right thing. I feel that when he asks that this matter be deferred until Tuesday- I do not think it an unduly long time- for him to consider the matter he should be allowed to do so. In those circumstances I feel that we, as a chamber, should give him this consideration.
The particular question with which we are now dealing has been talked about and debated in various places for at least some days. I think that if other senators in this chamber have had the opportunity of looking into this matter, discussing and debating it for one or two days or longer, then in fairness we on this side of the House and senators generally should have the opportunity of going into this matter more fully. There is no doubt that some people take a long time to consider these things and to make up their minds. I have made up my mind because I regard this period and the situation that has developed is very dangerous as far as Australia is concerned. We have turned into a very difficult economic situation. Once inflation gets a gallop on in any country, it becomes very dangerous.
– Can you tell us what your Party’s attitude is?
-I believe that my Party’s attitude on this matter will be a sensible one.
– What is it? You cannot tell us. The bird has flown with the ballot papers.
– I do not want my friend Senator McAuliffe from Queensland to become misinformed. I heard the honourable senator and Senator Milliner make some interjections when I raised a point of order earlier. Senator Hall graciously withdrew the remark he made at that time and I accepted his withdrawal. I heard something about politicking and that I was an expert. The name Casey was mentioned, the name of a former Labor member of Mackay. I never supported Mr Casey on a matter of politics.
– But you had a secret ballot in your Party this morning.
– 1 was not there for any ballot but I believe that the party decision will be one of great moment to the people of this nation. I hope it will find approval in hearts and minds of the people of this country.
– Do you know what happened to the ballot papers?
– I was not there but I do not think there were any ballot papers. This is an extremely serious time as far as this country is concerned. If people are asked to give up certain things or to take certain actions in a time like this because of the seriousness of the situation, I believe it is right that each and every individual should have the fullest opportunity to think out these decisions for themselves and to come to the correct answer. If people are being asked to set a standard to make sacrifices or to set an example, I think it is necessary for each honourable senator to be given the opportunity to think out this matter fully because of the importance of what can ensue from any demonstration or example. Examples today can be of great importance if they are followed in the right way. Each and every one of us here should have uppermost in our minds the thought that what is best for the country should be best for each of us. There is a bit of a gallop in the direction of inflation at the moment and this is a time when we have to think deeply and seriously. We should think about saying no to things that we might accept normally.
Senator Wright gave notice of his motion and I believe that he should have the right to take sufficient time to give it proper consideration. Ultimately there should be a full debate in this chamber. In the past when we have moved for the disallowance of regulations we have had sufficient time to go fully into those questions. When the case was presented to the Senate it was fully presented, and generally it was successfully presented. The day or so involved in delaying the debate on this matter until next Tuesday will not turn the country upside down. If the debate is held on Tuesday and the right decision is made, the delay of a couple of days will not be of very great moment to this country.
– Every honourable senator in this chamber has the right to his own opinion and to make up his mind without being pressured- to some extent maligned- and without being instructed by people outside who have not the same interest or have not shown the same qualities of suggested forbearance.
– That is not the view of Caucus.
-I do not belong to Caucus and have no intention of joining it. Those who belong to Caucus have their own problems. We of the Opposition are entitled to speak for ourselves, unlike Government supporters, and speaking for myself I say that this is an extremely serious matter, one to which I must give mature consideration and I shall want the time suggested by Senator Wright in order to think it out very carefully. I shall want that time and I have no apologies to make for joining in a proposition to achieve that end. After all, honourable senators on this side ofthe chamber received this report last night. I received my copy of this rather large report at 8 p.m. yesterday. It is not a slender report and it needs evaluation.
Many other people are involved in the consideration of this report besides members of Parliament. I draw the attention of my colleagues to the order of contents of the report, the order of review, the areas canvassed and the recommendations made. The report deals with Ministers and their allowances. It deals in some detail with the salaries and allowances of members of the Parliament. It deals extensively with judges. It deals with the heads of departments of State in the First Division. It indicates remuneration changes of consequence for many holders of office in statutory corporations and companies owned by government, such as Qantas Airways Ltd and others. It deals with legislative propositions, procedure and general comments. It talks about members of Parliament. In a quick examination late last night and this morning my attention was drawn to a new proposition that members of parliamentary committees will not get any extra remuneration.
– Order! You must not canvass details of the proposition. We are discussing a proposal for the suspension of Standing Orders.
– I understand and I bow to your ruling. I was seeking only to illuminate the scene by arguing that I need time because there are many areas involved which call for consideration. The report calls for timely consideration and research help, something which I have long felt that we need. All kinds of other matters are involved. Nowhere in the report can I find any evaluation of the order of money involved in regard to the various classes of people who are subject to consideration in this report. In effect, how does the burden of increased remuneration in cost relate between judges, members of Parliament and statutory office holders? What will be the effect upon departments? In many ways you can isolate the remuneration of the Parliament and of members of the Parliament. It is much more difficult to isolate the consequential effects of a big increase to the head of a department or a statutory corporation, and the logical sequence of expansion ofthe cost over .’.ie whole area of a department. In the case of Qantas, salaries at the top level- at the board level- are rising and that company has something like 12,000 employees.
– Order! The honourable senator is impinging upon the subject matter of Senator Wright’s motion. I think it would be more appropriate to discuss those matters when the motion is before the chamber. The honourable senator should confine himself to the motion for the suspension of Standing Orders.
-Yes. I was trying to save my colleagues having to listen to a double speech. I am arguing that this matter needs calm and careful consideration. I suggest that the comments of Senator Hall about people taking a political attitude should be directed in the first place to himself and to Government supporters. Speaking only for myself, I do not take instructions about my behaviour from members of the Press or from people outside. I want time to consider this matter carefully and I intend, to the best of my ability, to get that time. I believe that the consequences of the action that comes out of this report will be major and dramatic across the entire economic scene in Australia.
Senator Sir KENNETH ANDERSON (New South Wales) ( 12.49)-Earlier today Senator Wright gave notice of a motion of which we are all very much aware as we now debate this motion for the suspension of Standing Orders. I think it needs to be repeated that in the preamble to the substance of the motion of which he gave notice he said: ‘On the next day of sitting I shall move’. Both you, Mr President, and I have been here for a long time. Senator Douglas McClelland, who moved that Standing Orders be suspended so that the matter could be brought on immediately, has been a senator for a long time also. His move was a little in conflict with what he knows have been the procedures in this place. Whenever a notice of the nature of Senator Wright’s notice has been given, the words ‘on the next day of sitting’ are included to give the Senate time to reflect upon the subject matter before coming to its final decision. I know, as all honourable senators know, that that has been the practice and the tradition of this Parliament. For 41/2 years I was Leader of the Government in the Senate. Often on the next day of sitting a senator was not ready to proceed with his motion. He would say to the Leader of the Government in the Senate, to the Whips or to whoever was in charge of the Senate: ‘Look, I am not ready to proceed today’. By tradition, if he was not ready to proceed, the matter was not called on. That is the history of this place.
Today there was a variation from tradition. The situation is completely aggravated because Senator Wright who gave the notice of motion said that he used the words ‘on the next day of sitting’ not only because of the tradition, the background and the history but he used them deliberately because he did not want to proceed with the matter today. A motion for suspension of Standing Orders was moved by Senator Douglas McClelland. It amazes me that he did so after Senator Wright had exercised all his rights as a senator. All honourable senators are equal in this matter. Senator Wright gave notice that he would move a motion on the next day of sitting. To substantiate his written words, he said that he did not want to proceed with the matter today. The Government persists in an attempt to make him proceed with it today. That point brings us to the inevitability of the matter.
There are some machinations in relation to it. There is some plot which is not completely apparent. Some honourable senators have expressed the view that it is an attempt to shift the impact of the problems which the Government has over its decision. That may be part of it. Like Senator Cotton, I believe that there is a case for reflection upon the matter. Mr President, I do not intend to canvass your very sound ruling in relation to the present motion, but I believe that we should study the report and all the implications in it. I refer to the implications in relation to the comparative variations, the implications in relation to the First Division officers of the Public Service, the implications in relation to all the variations in the report and the implications in relation to the threat which it may be to our committee system. We need and are entitled to reflect upon all those implications before we make a decision.
I find difficulty in understanding the point of view expressed by Senator Steele Hall in relation to this matter. If, as he said, it was his intention to move a motion in precisely the same terms as those used by Senator Wright, I would have thought, with great respect to him, that he would have wanted to give the Government and all honourable senators time to reflect upon the decision. We heard, saw and read about the Caucus decision. At half past 6 last night I was watching television. I saw the Deputy Prime Minister (Dr J. F. Cairns) actually give the voting figures. If Senator Steele Hall’s motion is to be identical to the one to be moved by Senator Wright, I thought that Senator Steele Hall would have wanted to give the Government an opportunity, if necessary, to judge whether its premature decision yesterday was a wise one. It would have given members of the Australian Labor Party the opportunity to go back to their electorates and get all the views of the people who elected them, and the views of their Party organisations. If the motion to suspend Standing Orders fails, we will be able to do that. The people will be able to make a judgment. The matter will be decided on the next day of sitting, which will be next Tuesday. I think that honourable senators opposite will be in a much stronger position to make a decision if they know the views of the electorate.
– But you will decide by 1 o’clock.
– I would like Senator Cavanagh to put to me by interjection the question which he put to a previous speaker about secret ballots. Put the question to me. I would like to have it on the record. He knows the question to which I am referring. If he puts to me the question about secret ballots, with your leave, Mr President, I will give him an answer. We have an opportunity to reflect upon this decision. I have been considering many aspects of it, as most other honourable senators have been, since I read the report last night. So far, some of the aspects of the ultimate decision which will have to be taken if we are to have -
– You have a meeting at 1 o’clock to decide it.
– Of course we have a meeting at 1 o’clock. Is having a meeting at 1 o’clock an oddity? I think that during the week you had a meeting at 1 o’clock, too. After we have a meeting our leaders and deputy leaders will not say what the vote was at that meeting. Make no bones about that. We have collective responsibility. We share the collective responsibility. We do not squib it. Honourable senators opposite have to learn the lesson of collective responsibility, as a government. They have not done so yet.
– And as a Cabinet.
-As a Cabinet. So do not come into that argument. Senator Wright, in the tradition of the Parliament, gave notice that on the next day of sitting he would move a motion. That has been the history of the Parliament. To substantiate his notice of motion and to make stronger the reasons for rejecting the motion to suspend Standing Orders, he said that he did not want the matter to proceed today. I cannot understand why the Government should be persisting with the matter, in the circumstances which I have mentioned.
– The Senate is debating a motion for the suspension of Standing Orders. I was interested to hear Senator Steele Hall’s remarks over the last few days about a commonsense approach to many problems and about the traditions of parliamentary practice and parliamentary democracy. I am not convinced that we should treat this matter as a matter of urgency. I wondered about the kinds of motions which one would treat as urgent motions. If there were some question of a pension being withheld unless we acted or if there were some question that urgent action was really required, I think that a case could be made out for suspending Standing Orders and proceeding with the matter, as has been suggested. But I can see no such situation in relation to this matter. One is forced to ask: What is the urgency? I am inclined to think that it is the urgency of newspaper deadlines, of television interviews and of making sure that one gets a good Press so that one can grandstand. I would think that the attitude of some honourable senators is determined by the amount of mileage that they can get out of an issue. This approach is entirely wrong. The Senate makes determinations on what is right and proper in relation to the question before it. If there is any urgency, it has to do with the issue. It does not have anything to do with the time at which a particular program might go to air in a certain State or the time at which certain newspaper men might want to see one so that one is well reported in the Press. I think that that kind of thing is happening in relation to this matter.
I am one of the new senators. I am sure that Senator Mcintosh, who is sitting opposite, feels as I do. I am very concerned that we should have the right to make up our minds on the facts, to examine the issues and to come back to this Parliament prepared to have our say and to vote on the issues before us. I do not think that the matter of urgency comes into it. Let us look at the situation. We will come to a decision on the matter. There is no way that we can avoid making a decision. It is being suggested that by not agreeing to debate the matter now we are in some way running away from it. I will not debate the substance of the matter now, but I will say that there is no way in which honourable senators on this side will run away from some kind of stand. We have our opinions, but we will present them in good and proper time. I think that previous speakers have said this.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.15 p.m.
– I draw the attention ofthe Senate to the terms ofthe motion which proposes that the notice of motion be called on at 2.15 p.m. As it is now 2.15 p.m. and the matter is unresolved, I advise the Senate that I interpret the terms of the motion as meaning 2.15 p.m. or as soon thereafter as the matter may be resolved.
-Mr President, before the suspension of the sitting I was discussing the motion for the suspension of Standing Orders. I had made the point that I considered that a motion for urgency had validity only under certain special conditions and that I could see nothing in the present circumstances to fulfil this set of conditions. I drew attention to the fact that there could be other reasons connected with publicity on television and in newspapers which could be motivating honourable senators to try to make this a matter of urgency. I remind you, Mr President, that I had moved on to the point where I had said that we will be debating and coming to a decision on this matter. There is no question of any honourable senator on this side of the chamber attempting to side-step or dodge or move away from this issue. What we are arguing about is whether this matter is of sufficient urgency to insist that it should come on for debate now.
I think that this is a matter of great importance, a matter of some substance. I should like to think that I had time to examine the issues, to examine the various points and to make a considered judgment. Some of my colleagues already have referred to this. Senator Cotton made some points on this very matter. I consider this to be an exceedingly important matter which we are being asked to decide, and I point out that if we look at it from another point of view there is no urgency. The date 1 August is the essential date that we have to consider, and before that date we have at least one more sitting day- next Tuesday- to debate and dispose of this matter. This would give us the opportunity to spend the weekend examining the various issues and what is involved in this matter and to take advice. I point out to honourable senators and to Senator Hall in particular that I would like to come back here well prepared, with expert advice, on some of the matters covered in the Remuneration Tribunal 1974 Review which do not relate specifically to our own salaries and allowances. I think that this is a matter which we have to consider.
The report came down at 8 p.m. last night. I remind honourable senators that when it was presented Senator Greenwood, speaking for our side, drew attention to the fact that we had not seen the report, that we had no prior knowledge of it, that we had no knowledge of its contents and that we had no means by which we could make any kind of an informed judgment. I remind honourable senators of what Senator Willesee said when he presented the report. He said: 1 am sorry that Senator Greenwood had not been informed of this matter. I had intended to break into the Senate’s time for about one minute. I thought that this arrangement had been made.
Clearly it had not been made. You will remember, Mr President, that last night we had to call for the report; we had to ask where it was. We were without the report. We had no way of knowing what the substance of it was or no way of knowing how we could form a view on these matters. I point out to honourable senators that this is a most extensive report. I will not canvass the actual subject matter of the report, Mr President, but with your permission I will just look at the index which shows the contents of the report, because when we are considering a matter of urgency we have the right to know what it is that we are being asked to bypass. The report contains a number of determinations. It covers the legislation and the salaries and allowances of members of Parliament, and it refers to judges, First Division officers of the Public Service, Permanent Heads of departments of state, unattached First Division officers, Permanent Heads of parliamentary departments and the holders of statutory offices. The Commissioners have gone to the trouble of providing appendices which contain 8 tables so that honourable senators and members of the House of Representatives can actually examine the data that was available to the Commissioners, to look at the means by which the Commissioners reached their conclusions, to form some judgment about the adequacy and appropriateness of the conclusions and to come back to this place next week and make a judgment of which we can be proud.
I repeat that we have no wish to dodge the issue. We have no wish to avoid coming to some kind of a vote in due course. We have never avoided coming to a vote on this kind of thing. There are deeper issues involved in this question of urgency. There is the question of what is the weight which should be attached to the findings of independent tribunals. I will not canvass that issue, but I will simply say that if we appoint a tribunal and it meets and puts down an extensive finding which affects many people, what kind of an attitude should we take to it? Surely it deserves adequate, considered and proper attention. We have to take proper note of the number of people who will be affected by the contents of the report which we will debate at another time, and how many people stand to lose or to gain from the report?
Of course, we have to look at the extent to which the decisions that we make now will be used by other people for purposes of which we do not particularly approve. For example, this morning I noticed that Mr Hawke is all for our accepting the contents of this Tribunal’s report. I am surprised, of course, that he has any knowledge of what is contained in the report. It came down only at 8 o’clock last night. I wonder how he got the details so quickly and had an opportunity to analyse them. 1 wonder whether the details were leaked to him. Was it only members of the Senate and members of the House of Representatives who were left until last to know what was contained in the report?
– I take a point of order, Mr President. The honourable senator has referred to a Press report of a debate that has taken place in this chamber. In this regard I rely on standing order 4 1 4 which states:
No Senator shall read extracts from newspapers or other Documents, except Hansard, referring to Debates in the Senate during the same Session.
- Mr President, I believe that I did not refer to any newspaper report.
– Yes. If you confine your remarks to the motion for the suspension of Standing Orders the Chair will be quite satisfied.
– Thank you, Mr President. I was just trying to outline some of the issues which are involved in our granting urgency to this matter. There are many implications connected with our decisions- implications which will affect our own future, which will affect many other people and which possibly will affect the general wage demands in our community. I believe that there are many options open to us and that there are many ways in which we can reach a decision and many ways in which we can dispose of or deal with the Tribunal’s findings. It would be less than just to the Tribunal to take a hasty view. I personally would like the weekend in which to consider the report so that I could come back to the Senate next Tuesday, within the time span, and discuss this matter more fully. I do not believe that any of the speakers in this debate have really established a case for urgency. I believe that no valid reason exists for approving of this motion to suspend Standing Orders.
– I should like to speak for a moment or two on the motion to suspend Standing Orders so that we can discuss the motion of which Senator Wright has given notice. I suggest that in the matter that is before the Senate, the members of the Press Gallery seem to have a privilege that is greater than that enjoyed by members of the Parliament, because for several weeks now I have been reading about what will happen regarding our salaries. It seems to me that members of the Press have had some information about this subject given to them. I get quite angry when I read in the Press from time to time about what action I might take regarding this matter. I read this in this morning’s Press that I and my colleagues would accept this increase.
Week after week the headlines in the Australian Press have blasted this question of salaries. They seem to have stirred up quite an amount of interest among the Australian public. This morning I received several telephone calls in which I have been asked for some details of the report that was presented to the Senate last night. I have not had a chance to read through it in great depth. I believe that this document needs to be carefully scrutinised. I do not think it matters two hoots whether we make a judgment on this matter now or whether we defer its consideration until next Tuesday because after all, as Senator Baume has mentioned, the salary increases would not have effect until 1 August.
Of course, the motion to suspend Standing Orders has presented honourable senators with an opportunity to express a point of view in relation to the various matters that will be raised when the report of the Remuneration Tribunal is discussed. I believe that Senator Sir Kenneth
Anderson and Senator Cotton have quite properly drawn attention to the fact that the report does not concern only the matter of parliamentary salaries but it goes wider and covers members of the judiciary and members of the Public Service. For this reason I want to be given a chance to have a look at this report so that I will be in a position to inform the people in South Australia, whom I represent and who are interested in this matter, as to the details of the report. I think it is important that members of the public should be given a few days in which they can view the report we have before us. For that reason I oppose the idea of suspending Standing Orders at this stage. I suggest to honourable senators that if we are responsible at all we ought to take this document home and study it very carefully over the weekend so that we can explain it in detail to those people who are interested. Then we can come back here prepared to debate the matter on Tuesday in a much more intelligent fashion.
– I wish to speak to this motion briefly because it raises some very fundamental questions. The first question was dealt with by Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson, namely, that an honourable senator who has a notice of motion on the notice paper has the right- this has been a long accepted principleto retain control of his own business, except in the case of urgency. It is obviously the responsibility of the Government to prove urgency, and the Government has not done so. It has not even attempted to prove urgency. This matter does not have to be resolved until 1 August. Indeed, it does not matter if it is not resolved by 1 August. It will be resolved; it must be resolved; and if the debate is left until next week to be taken up it leaves plenty of time to resolve it.
This report raises many fundamental issues. If the only consideration was that of parliamentary remuneration, it would not be so serious, but it raises -
– Ha, ha!
– The honourable senator might cackle, but in my view it would not be of great seriousness. However, the report involves also the First Division of the Public Service, various statutory bodies and the judiciary. They are all separate matters to be considered and they are all covered by Senator Wright’s notice of motion. 1 think we are entitled to give consideration to those 3 matters, if not necessarily to the matter of parliamentary salaries. But even leaving out the salary aspect, the report is concerned also with parliamentary committees, research assistance and many other matters in relation to which the report suggests or recommends changes in allowances. I think we are entitled to give some consideration to those matters and not be rushed into a debate merely, as Senator Withers pointed out, to get the Government off a hook of its own making. If the Press reports of the goings on in Caucus yesterday are correct, it sounds as though yesterday’s Caucus meeting turned into a tomcat fight. I do not think this is a problem of great urgency. So I am open to be convinced by the Minister for the Media (Senator Douglas McClelland) or honourable senators on the Government side that there is urgency. Until I am convinced otherwise, it is my intention to vote against the suspension of Standing Orders.
– I do not believe there is any intention whatsoever of sidestepping a most important issue that is before us today and which hopefully will be before us on Tuesday of next week. An immense amount of material has to be considered in this case. It is immense because the recommendations of the Remuneration Tribunal cover more than just the salaries of parliamentarians. The recommendations cover a considerable principle and a very wide area of salaries over a very wide range of levels. It is impossible and unreasonable that we should be expected at such extremely short notice to discuss and to debate intelligently this sort of important proposition. One must in this chamber be capable of providing evidence of responsibility. That must surely be the first yardstick with which we measure the effectiveness of this chamber. Many similar things are said on many occasions in many places, and this in itself does not detract from the importance, the nature or the authenticity of those things.
This House is, by definition, amongst other things, a House of review, and it is this function of review that we are being asked to exercise in this case. The purport of this discussion is whether this House, in the light of the knowledge and in the light of the brevity of the time in which it has had that knowledge, is in fact capable of making a responsible and proper examination of the situation with which it is faced. We in this country are in a situation of extreme urgency. But I do not believe that the urgency can be properly related to this matter before us this afternoon. We are in a condition of extreme urgency in many fields, and perhaps the most important field of all in which there is a great measure of urgency is the cynical outlook which has developed in almost the entire Australian community.
There is in the Australian community a cynicism and, indeed, a great measure of concern over most of the basic things that concern us as Australians operating what is, and hopefully what shall remain, a free enterprise democracy. There is a great measure of urgency on us as members of part of the Parliament to examine and resolve these matters, but that sort of urgency certainly does not apply to the question that is before us today.
We have a cynical and anxious public. To suggest that there is a greater urgency to discuss this question than there is to find a very greatly needed solution to the cynicism and anxiety that confronts the Australian people today is complete and utter rubbish. It is our province in this House to establish facts and attitudes and without those facts and attitudes we cannot be in a position to pass a proper balanced and responsible judgment on the matter that is before us this afternoon. It is for these reasons that I feel sure that, in the main, the Senate must agree that there is no urgency to carry this debate to a conclusion at this point. There is a far greater urgency to get on with the business of the nation. I urge that, in order to apply that sort of responsibility, this debate should be deferred until next Tuesday.
– I rise to take part in this debate and at the same time to express great concern at the attitude of the Government. I refer to last night when this report of the Remuneration Tribunal was presented to the Senate. Since I have been a senator it has been my understanding that on all occasions when ministerial statements or reports of this nature are presented, a 2-hour rule applies. That is, a copy of the statement or report is presented to the Opposition parties 2 hours before its presentation in the Parliament. Whether by misunderstanding or for some reason of which I am not aware, the first we knew about this report and its contents was when it was presented in the Senate by Senator Willesee. At that moment Senator Greenwood rose in this place and took exception to the way in which the report of the Tribunal had been presented to the Senate. Further, other forms of the Senate are being eroded. Today, shortly after Senator Wright gave notice of the fact that he intended to move a motion on the next day of sitting the Government suddenly attempted to suspend Standing Orders basically to bring on an immediate debate upon the report. It concerns me that this type of approach is being adopted in the Senate.
The practices of the Senate have been built up over many years. Not only have they been built up over many years, they also have been accepted as a form of the Senate over many years. Hence, I join with my colleagues who have today expressed their concern and criticism and express my deep concern because one wonders where we are going from here. This report is not a report of only one or two pages. It deals at length with a great many aspects concerning a great number of people. Perhaps Government supporters have had an opportunity to study the report because we know from Press statements that the Cabinet met on Monday for many hours, including Monday night. We also know that the Caucus met and discussed this report. Then, according to the Press, after the opportunity for thorough and intensive discussion by Cabinet, and after long and intensive discussion by Caucus we, as Her Majesty’s Opposition, were suddenly presented with the report last night. Then, we learned this morning that the Government wished to have an immediate debate upon it. I doubt whether this has ever happened previously in the Senate. I would be very surprised if it has.
I refer again to the depth of this report and the need for a close study of it. If one thing is essential in the Senate, it is responsibility. I do not know how anybody could make an immediate decision upon this report and honestly say that he or she had studied it in depth. Such a person would have had to sit up into the late hours of the night to do so. Irrespective of that, the expected respect for the responsibility of the Opposition should be such that the Opposition should be allowed time to study the report. It is all very well for the Government. It has had a week to look at the report. We have been given less than half a day.
Before I turn to a comment made by Senator Hall in the Senate, I wish to refer to what actually took place in the Senate chamber last night. The moment this report was tabled Senator Greenwood expressed his concern at the lack of application of the 2-hour rule. Senator Wright then rose and made a statement expressing his view on parliamentary salaries to the Senate. Yet, five minutes before the time appointed for the rising of the Senate last night another senator rose in his place
– What was his name?
-It was Senator Hall. He rose in the Senate and for reasons best known to himself, but for reasons that are probably not too hard to perceive, he then tried to move a motion regarding this report. I think that his action was immature and showed disrespect for another senator who, earlier that evening, had indicated what he intended to do. His action constituted what is commonly known as thunder-stealing. That is exactly what happened last night. I know that I am not alone in my criticism of what has happened. Many honourable senators opposite who have been political colleagues of mine in the Senate since I have been a member of it have a great respect for both the forms of the Senate and the responsibilities of individual senators. That is one of the great features of the Senate, and it is something that some honourable senators will have to learn.
Senator Hall again today was being very critical of some honourable senators on this side of the Senate chamber. He stated that there is a sense of urgency about this report. Granted, we want to know and the people want to know what will happen. But with all of the urgency associated with the matter there is something else that goes with it- responsibility. We have been elected to the Senate to conduct ourselves in a responsible manner, and it is essential that we do that.
– Then why do you not do it?
– I question Senator Cavanagh ‘s comment and I pose to him the question: ‘Why does not the Government give us an opportunity to be responsible before we have to make a decision upon this very vital and important report?’ Senator Cotton earlier today referred to much of what is contained in the report. One has only to look at the table of contents to see what is involved in it. There is a report on salaries payable to Ministers, a determination on allowances payable to Ministers and a determination on salaries and allowances payable to members of Parliament. There is a report upon the remuneration payable to the judiciary, a determination on remuneration payable to officers of the First Division of the Public Service and holders of statutory offices. There is an indicative determination on remuneration for certain public offices. The report goes on into a great deal of detail in many other areas setting out various aspects regarding remuneration for these officers whose classifications are covered by the report. But I did happen to notice one thing in this report; I cannot find it now, but I do know there is one area where there is something- this was mentioned by Senator Cotton- dealing with Senate Committees.
– Order! I think that the subject matter of Senate Committees is in another part of the report and should not be debated at this time.
– Thank you. Mr President. All I want to say on this -you can correct me if I am out of order- is that there is a great deal regarding Senate Committees in this report. This also should be given time and study before any of us is in a position where we can validly pass comment. I come back to the point again. The Government has had an opportunity to more than peruse the report, the Government has had the opportunity to study the report. We have hardly had the opportunity for a fair perusal. I think that if honourable senators opposite were honest they would openly admit that this is a game of tactics on their behalf and not one that gives an opportunity for responsibility to the Opposition senators in this place. When we come to the situation where a senator is prepared on his own initiative to rise in this place -
- Mr President, I must rise to a point of order. Standing order 42 1 reads:
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 . . .
This is the seventh time we have listened to Senator Young make this point. This is so tedious and boring that I think he should resume his seat and let some new subject come before this Senate.
-The Opposition would be happy to receive from the President his views on the conduct of this very important debate. I think it is your function, Mr President, to interpret these matters, not that of the Government Whip.
– I rise to this point of order. It is not only a question of Senator Young repeating himself which makes it tedious repetition; he is repeating the address that we have heard since the commencement of this debate. It must have been stereotyped for everyone is repeating it with no purpose other than to waste time. If we are to take a responsible attitude, I say that the Standing Orders made provision for that when they were formulated and that the time of honourable senators should not be wasted in this way. Honourable senators opposite have a purpose to serve in to carrying on this filibuster; they will not have to answer over the weekend for their actions since they have studied the report and decided what they are going to do about it.
– On the point or order raised by Senator Poyser, I rise to my feet only to intervene before you, Mr President, give a ruling on these matters. While it is quite proper for Senator Poyser to direct your attention to standing order 42 1, you are the President of the Senate and therefore the judge of how matters falling under this Standing Order or any other Standing Order should be ruled upon. But I go on to say that it is within one’s province, of course, to move that an honourable senator who has been forced by a point of order to resume his seat be further heard. I would just indicate that I would be prepared to do that.
– Order! Standing order 421 relates to continued irrelevance or tedious repetition. I just make the observation that it is very difficult to determine the tediousness or repetitiveness of a speech. At page 198 of Australian Senate Practice, Fourth Edition, the following appears:
The last case of this nature occurred on 22 August 1923, when the President directed Senator Findley to discontinue his speech on account of tedious repetition. President Givens, in directing the speaker to resume his seat, stated that any Senator had the right to move that Senator Findley be further heard. Thereupon Senator Needham moved- That Senator Findley be further heard, which motion was negatived on division.
However, an honourable senator must have the right to show how he proposes to connect his remarks to the subject under discussion. The subject is the suspension of Standing Orders. I ask Senator Young to connect his remarks to that subject.
– It is probably only because of his impatience that Senator Poyser beat me to the gun by some 30 seconds, because I was coming back to repeat the fact that Senator Wright had moved in this place that he be able to move a motion on the next day of sitting. We have got to the situation where the Government is trying to force something upon this Senate. That does concern me and I regret that it has taken this move.
- Mr President -
- Senator Durack, do you wish to speak still on the suspension of Standing Orders?
-Mr President, no one else was on his feet when I rose.
- Senator Durack, are you taking a point of order?
– No. I was about to get to my feet. I was moving into my seat -
-Mr President, I was on my feet. Obviously no other senator was on his feet and I received the call.
– I called Senator Douglas McClelland because he was the only one on his feet.
-in reply- At half past 11 this morning, some 4 hours ago, I moved the following motion:
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent Senator Wright’s notices of motion given this day relating to the disapproval of determinations of the Remuneration Tribunal being called on at 2. 1 5 p.m. this day.
Had that motion been carried prior to lunch and had the matter been called on, Senator Wright could have chosen, as he still can choose, to proceed or not to proceed with his motion, or to seek adjournment of his motion. We did not want to be accused of denying the Opposition the right to state a case on which it says it has not yet made up its mind, but if you look at the record within five minutes of the document being presented in this House last night at 8 o ‘clock, Senator Wright certainly had made up his mind because he said:
So this morning as soon as the honourable senator gave notice of motion that he would move on the next day of sitting for disapproval of the report, we said that in order to expedite a parliamentary hearing and to enable him to have a parliamentary discussion and to let the members of the public hear what are the Opposition’s desires in this regard are, we, the Government, would move the suspension of Standing Orders to enable the honourable senator, if he so chose, to bring the motion on at 2. 1 5. That was at 1 1 .30, and from 11.30 a.m. until 2.50 p.m., we have seen, I would say, certainly 10 if not 12 members of the Opposition getting up and objecting to Senator Wright being given permission to move his motions. It is one of the silliest filibusters that I have ever seen in my 13 years in this chamber. It is one of the greatest acts of political hypocrisy that I have ever seen, and certainly one of the worst acts of political irresponsibility. The filibuster has gone on only because if Senator Wright has made up his mind- and he needed only 5 minutes last night in which to make up his mind- then obviously the members of the Opposition collectively have not made up their minds. The reason for the filibuster is that members of the Opposition do not want to be smoked out. There was much talk this morning through the corridors and the lobbies about a secret ballot being held. I was told that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition in another place had been running around as though he was a mobile polling booth trying to pick up the ballot papers. Since then everyone has been trying to find out where the ballot papers had got to and what the numbers were.
Members of the Opposition say that we have not given them time. This debate commenced at 1 1.30 this morning. The report of the Remuneration Tribunal was tabled in this chamber at 8 o’clock last night by my colleague the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Senator Willesee). Members ofthe Opposition have had 19 hours since that time to make up their minds, and apparently they -
– Whether they want it or not.
-Yes they have had that amount of time to make up their minds whether or not they want to agree with the recommendations of the Tribunal. Not only have they had the opportunity to make up their minds but also they have now been given the opportunity to state their attitudes for public edification. We as a Government have been criticised by the Opposition for acts of political irresponsibility. The report which is the subject of the suspension motion is the report of an independent arbitral tribunal that was established unanimously by Parliament in December 1973. The Remuneration Tribunal, in accordance with its responsibilities as charged by the Act under which it was set up, has tendered its report to the Government. The Government received that report on Monday night and it was presented to this Parliament on Wednesday. Between late Monday night and Wednesday the Government considered the report and determined its attitude. The Opposition has had nearly as long to consider the report and to determine and state its attitude. But the Opposition has done none of these things.
We have heard much discussion in recent times about the need for wage restraint and matters of this kind. I remind the Opposition that very shortly the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) will be conferring with the Premiers at a Premiers Conference. The Prime Minister is entitled to be able to state on behalf of the Government to those Premiers what the attitude of the Australian Parliament is in regard to the salaries of members of Parliament, members of the judiciary, heads of government departments and statutory bodies of the Australian Government, because that attitude automatically must have some reflection on the salaries of State ministers and parliamentarians, members of the State judiciaries and members of State independent or statutory bodies. In addition, the Government will be attending what is known as the Moore Conference. This is a conference that has been convened by the President of the Australian Conciliation and Arbitration Commission to consider and discuss industrial relations. That conference is to be held shortly. Again the Government is entitled to be able to state to that conference what the attitude of the Australian Parliament is to the report of an independent tribunal that was established by this Parliament.
Last night Senator Wright stated quite emphatically that he would move at the first appropriate opportunity for the disapproval of the report. He gave notice this morning that he would so move. Now apparently he is pleading that he has not had time to consider his attitude. Mr President, I believe that the Senate should suspend the Standing Orders so that Senator Wright can either proceed immediately or determine what his course of action will be on the matter. Because the Government believes that in the public interest the public and the Parliament are entitled to know what the attitude of the Parliament is to be I have moved that the Standing Orders be suspended.
That the motion (Senator Douglas McClelland’s) be agreed to.
The Senate divided. (The President- Senator the Hon. Justin O “Byrne)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Motion to disapprove determination.
– I move:
I heard some suggestion from Senator Douglas McClelland, the Manager of Government Business in the Senate, that possibly Senator Wright would not proceed with his motion. I am sorry to belie those fond, foolish and puerile expectations on the part of the Minister. This morning I said that it was immaterial to me whether the matter came on today, tomorrow or Tuesday because I am prepared to address the chamber and to adduce sound reasons why this motion should be accepted. Of course it is obviously in the interests of the Australian Labor Party to create some want of support from this side of the chamber if it is to camouflage its betrayal of the country this week. This is not the first time that the Prime Minister, Mr Whitlam, has been overriden in Caucus. If he had an opportunity, on reflection, to gather Caucus together again he might have sufficient influence on the second vote to get his way. But that situation is denied to Mr Whitlam and the availability of further time to develop support for my motion is also denied to me. So if there is a genuine purpose on the part of those who have said that they had in mind a motion similar to mine, it is surprising to me that they voted for a precipitate debate on this subject.
We are dealing now with a motion which comes before us in a form which is dictated by the recent statute; that is, the Remuneration Tribunal Act. Under that Act we committed to a tribunal certain authority to make determinations but subject to disapproval by either House of Parliament.
– I would like the indulgence of the Senate to point out that 3 motions are before the Chair. I would like to have leave of the Senate for these 3 motions to be taken together but for separate votes to be taken at the conclusion of the debate. If this course is adopted we will know exactly that 3 motions are before the Chair but that we are debating them altogether.
-Mr President, I am obliged for your initiative on the subject. I would think that a matter of that sort would usually be referred to by the Manager of Government Business in the Senate in consultation with me. But I am obliged to you for your initiative on the subject. The matter had occurred to me. As far as I am concerned, if it is the wish of the Senate to have the 3 motions debated together I would be happy. But I wish them to be put as separate motions, subject to the right of supplementary debate if any honourable senator has not participated in the joint debate at the time the questions are being put.
-Is it the wish ofthe Senate that we proceed along those lines? There being no objection, that course will be adopted.
-Thank you, Mr President. As I said, authority was committed to the Tribunal to make determinations upon 3 matters. The first matter was the allowances payable to Ministers of State as distinct from those matters which have to be voted by Parliament. Ministers are in a special constitutional position, being provided for by Parliament as possible recipients of pay under the Crown. This matter is covered by an Act of Parliament but their allowances are determined by the Tribunal. The second matter committed to the Tribunal is called, in the Tribunal’s determination, salaries and allowances payable to members of Parliament. I think that accurately interprets the actual nature of the emoluments which the Tribunal determines should be payable to members of Parliament. Of course, under the Constitution, members of Parliament are entitled to receive only allowances. The third matter which the Tribunal is entitled to determine is the remuneration payable to officers of the First Division of the Public Service and holders of statutory offices.
The enumeration of these matters I should think would indicate to even the most thoughtless that the Tribunal’s jurisdiction was both immense and important. But in addition to authority to determine those matters the Tribunal has power to make recommendations with regard to the salaries of Ministers and also of judges. The whole scope of the Tribunal’s concern takes in Ministers, members of Parliament, heads of departments, occupants of statutory offices and judges. The importance of considering a report dealing with those matters needs no restatement. I am prepared, firstly, to put my point of view with regard to members of Parliament because that is the main subject upon which I feel we have a specific responsibility. I point out that this Tribunal has entered into very little economic discussion to justify its determination in this matter. I remind the Senate that early last year members of Parliament were on a salary of $9500 a year. This Tribunal recommends that their salary be increased to $20,000 a year. That is more than an increase of 100 per cent in a little over 12 months.
– What was the position prior to that?
-The position prior to that was that an increase had not been granted, I think, for some 4 years.
– It is a pity you had not said that first.
– There will be a pity about a lot of things that I do not say and also about about a lot of things I do say. On the other hand, when somebody else is on his feet he, too, may have some shortcomings. All I am saying is that the degree of increase is stunning.
The next thing I wish to observe is that by taking the parliamentary salary of $14,500 a year, which was fixed last year, as a basic starting point and having it reach $20,000 in the course of 12 months, to me, is to accord members of Parliament a very special privilege. The increase works out at about 38 per cent. In one jump there is an increase of $5,500 a year. As I said in my written submission to the Tribunal it is of the greatest importance, in my view, to maintain cohesion in the structure of society and that there should be a proper relativity between classes in increases of emoluments. I refer not only to those classes that receive emoluments from the public purse but also classes that earn their emoluments in private industry. As I have said, an increase of $5,500 a year represents an increase of 38 per cent. I doubt that any agreement or award giving an increase of 38 per cent or a straight out lump sum of $5,500 a year either in private industry or in the public sector of the economy has been made since the Remuneration Tribunal Act of last year came into force.
In my opinion, we have to recognise that an increase in wage costs is a very important factor in the economy of the country at present, and we have to recognise the responsibility of the Parliament not to award to itself an increase which is excessive when related to other classes in the community. The question is not whether the office of member of Parliament is in the abstract worth $20,000 a year. It is whether, relative to other sections of the community, that is the appropriate pay level to be determined. The levels of other classes’ earnings in the community as tabulated in statistics show that members of Parliament come within the upper 1 per cent, 2 per cent or 3 per cent of the population. Having regard to our claims that we are not the aristocracy but a cross-section of the community in every level which we represent, it is not a question of where we should go for that degree of preferment and salary reward that met with such retribution in 1789.
Members of Parliament are conscious that there are various levels or earning capacity in this Parliament. Some, from outside employment, would earn greater rewards than are fixed for the members’ salaries. But it is equally and undeniably true that others would earn less. It is the undeniable responsibility of Parliament to recognise that there is a common measure, not at the uppermost strata of the highest incomes, but at a proper level that represents a cross-section of the community, having regard to the responsibilities that members of Parliament have. So much for the amount, dealing specifically with members of Parliament. When I refer to the other sections of the Tribunal’s award and determination I shall ask honourable senators to consider the impact that a salary of $35,000 a year for heads of departments, First Division officers, in this country will make upon the economy of the Public Service and then upon the general economy. But I pass that matter by for the moment.
The next point I make is that if times were normal and the amount recommended were moderate I would not feel it my duty to take the initiative to disprove the Tribunal’s recommendations. I stress ‘if times were normal and if the amount were moderate ‘. When I speak of a moderate amount I have in mind an increase of $1,000 to $ 1,500 a year. But we are members of a parliament in which this week, most reluctantly, driven against his general outlook, and after a concealment campaign of 3 months, the Treasurer (Mr Crean) of this country has been forced to disclose certain matters. He said:
I say without exaggeration that the Australian economy now faces a highly dangerous situation.
It is not merely a dangerous situation but a highly dangerous situation. I ask honourable senators to couple those words of the Treasurer with the pronouncements by leading economists in the last 2 weeks. There has been more than usual unanimity among economists that the economic situation is not only challenging but also it is dangerous. Later in the Treasurer’s speech he was forced to make an admission. He said:
I do not prolong the point. We have a wages explosion which is damaging everyone, and wage-earners as well.
We have a wages explosion which is damaging everyone, and wage-earners as well.
We would be blind indeed and irresponsible to the degree of being ashamed if we had not assessed the trend in the wage explosion of the last 12 months, intensified and threatened in an unprecedented degree in the last 6 or 8 weeks. We must realise that there has been an emphasis on the part of Government front bench members since coming into office to desert the moderating influences of arbitration and assert the arbitrariness of collective bargaining. That arbitrariness of collective bargaining and the pressure of its combinations cannot be resisted unless you dislocate industry and employer undertakings cease to employ personnel. The adoption of that method of wage explosion and wage destruction of the economy is getting to a stage which fully justifies the Treasurer’s description of it being a highly dangerous situation.
I suppose that some people will come along and say that the amount involved in appropriations for the salaries of members of Parliament is just a drop in the ocean when compared with the excessively expanded expenditure that this Government undertook when it came into office and, like a gang of mad horses, announced in December 1972 an avalanche of irresponsible spending which increased Budget expenditure by 1 9 per cent in a period of 7 months. Total expenditure rose from $ 10,000m to well nigh $ 12,000m. It overtopped that mark, Mr President, for we had to make provision for Supply in the last part of the year. The significance of lifting the salaries of members of Parliament by 38 per cent, a rise of $5,500 in one hit, from the point of view of indicating irresponsibility to other sections in the community, which concede that they are entitled to improve their wages, is such that it should deprive a government of any vestige of authority.
If you go on from the significance of what is being done to consider the injustice of what is being done, these words from the Treasurer’s statement should be printed throughout the media of this country to indicate the gravity of the injustice of inflation. The Treasurer said:
The new taxes and charges I shall be announcing tonight have an annual revenue yield in the order of $270m. I have no illusions about what the newspaper headlines will say about that tomorrow. Yet in the last 12 months inflation has ripped off well over $ 1,000m from the real value of savings bank deposits- deposits owned for the most part by the little people, the ordinary people of this country. That hidden and insidious tax, which of course falls also on all other savings through financial assets, goes largely unremarked.
I repeat that statement and adopt every word the Treasurer said, particularly drawing attention to the degree by which inflation, by stealth and theft, reduces the savings bank depositors’ savings which such depositors think are their guarantee against the insecurity of life. It is an appalling reproach to government that a parliament is capable of anticipating the idea of raising salaries of $ 14,500 by 38 per cent to $20,000 in a time when our first duty is to correct the leakage of value from the savings of our people.
I have had the opportunity of giving only one perusal to the terms ofthe determination which I am criticising and which I will use every effort to destroy. I find no real discussion or statement of reasons in any part of that Tribunal’s determinations which takes these things into account. I feel more keenly about this matter because in response to its invitation I went along to its hearings during the early part of the election campaign, at great inconvenience because it took up time that I would have wished to devote to the campaign. I found myself before 3 members of the Tribunal without there being even a shorthand reporter present so that they and I would be faithfully reported. I at once put my point of view, as I did in my written submission, saying that a judge adds nothing to the judicial independence of a tribunal unless he acts as a judge, and the first thing that he is bound to do is to operate in public. When I said that, I was assured that the proceedings were open to the Press and that all submissions had been open to the Press. I had seen scant reference to any of them. The Labor Party submission would have shown what hungry hounds were sneaking around the Treasury gates at that time hoping that there would be as little publicity as possible and that they would get a recommendation in excess even of $20,000. Fancy a committee sitting almost in secret, unobserved, with no publicity given to its proceedings and no official record taken of either the oral submissions or the comments made to it. Therefore, Mr President, finding in the Tribunal ‘s report no discussion of relativities of value that have any weight with me, I must pronounce my intense disappointment at the method by which this Tribunal approached its task and the adequacy with which it stated any material that would justify its recommendations. Some will think that, however impeccably the Tribunal may have behaved, Parliament should not disapprove its determination because ofthe respect that we owe such a tribunal. I have not been confronted by any judge at any level of the judiciary against whose decision, if I felt that he went wrong and it was my duty to appeal, I did not appeal.
Obviously we have a duty to assert our differences in respect to this Tribunal. That was the condition upon which we, as a Parliament, gave any authority to the Tribunal last year. We specifically provided that a member of either House of Parliament would have the right to give notice to disapprove within 15 sitting days of the determination being tabled. So the statute under which the Tribunal operates does not relieve Parliament of its responsibility. It allows the Tri.bunal’s determination to become operative only if both Houses of Parliament do not disapprove. I do not take the view that some would take, from the constitution of the Tribunal, that its determination relieves us of the final responsibility to determine which part of the appropriation from public expenditure shall come to our pocket and what is relatively just when compared with other sections of the community, having regard to our responsibility, in my view, at a time of wage explosion now burgeoning and expanding in the next few months. If this country is to be saved from destruction of its economy, Parliament has the absolutely inescapable responsibility to deny a determination such as this.
So much for the salaries of members of Parliament. That section of the report which deals with members of Parliament contains a recommendation which I consider to be remarkably shortsighted, remarkably unwise, and one which I think would never have been contemplated by anyone who had allowed himself to gain an insight into the working of this Parliament. I refer to that part of the determination which deals with committee fees. The view is taken that a member of Parliament is remunerated on the basis of full time employment. Ergo, half the Parliament will spend all of its non-sitting time on committees; the rest will be at the Gold Coast, in the scrub or earning another living. There is not to be any special recognition for those members who give their services on committees and are so valuable to the Parliament. This matter is of special significance to the Senate. We have so built up our committee system that the public now looks to this place for inquiry and for informed report. Even sections of the Public Service and the Parliament wait until any relevant report is forthcoming. I believe that to put all members of Parliament, whether they work on committees or not, on a level basis of remuneration is hopelessly blind from the point of view of anybody who has seen the method of operation of our committees.
I have very little more to say, but two other things which I wish to say very briefly and bluntly are, in my view, important. The determination for heads of departments and officers of statutory corporations provides what should be the highest salaries paid from the public purse to those responsible officers. I said to the Tribunal: ‘You have this responsibility. You are the superior wage-fixing tribunal in this country, and within the ambit of your jurisdiction you are not limited, as the Arbitration Commission is limited, by constitutional limitations and definitions of disputes. You have a superior influence upon the two great wage-fixing agencies of the Federal Government, namely, the Public Service Board and the Public Service Arbitrator, and the Industrial Commission’. Where is there in the report anything to suggest that an advance in salary of, I think, $6000, from about $29,000 to $35,000, is justified by any degree of relativity? I submit that a leap forward in remuneration such as that to those who are close to the Government as its prime advisers, cannot be justified. There is nothing in the report which would remotely justify an increase of $6,000. Why do we contemplate annual increases in relation to either public servants or members of Parliament? The only justification for adjusting emoluments is on the basis of productivity. God forbid that anybody should urge that the productivity of members of parliaments would to to the assessment in any way, and God forbid that we should scrutinise the heads of the Public Service on a basis of productivity, although I am the first to acknowledge the invaluable talents which most of them bring to bear in relation to the Public Service. Why should they get an increase of $6,000 in one year?
I know many purposeful people who have spent years in training and who get $6,000, $7,000 or $7,500, and are rearing a family on that salary. They are educated people. They work long hours and have great responsibility. Their salary is the measure of the increase of this privileged class who sit next to the people who control the purse. Privilege and patronage must be avoided. Practically without a word of justification the Remuneration Tribunal has given such an increase in salar)’ to the heads of departments and to the holders of statutory offices. However, its determination does not apply to all heads of departments and all holders of statutory offices. I hope that statement is right. The Tribunal does not even tell you what was the figure on which it based the increase; it tells you only the limit that it determines. So I find great danger in the automatic acceptance of a recommendation relating to heads of departments that may gear up our own private advantage. Finally. I come to the judges. One grain of sense fell from Senator Douglas McClelland in his reply to the earlier debate this afternoon.
– That must have been by accident.
-No. I think that he slipped into one of these illogicalities that sometimes produce a modicum of common sense. He referred to judicial salaries and to the fact that the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) is about to go into a conference with the Premiers who have some responsibility for judicial salaries in the States as they have for salaries paid to the State public servants. He said that for the purposes of that discussion the Prime Minister should know at what rate the Federal Public Service and the Federal judiciary are being remunerated. That unwittingly acknowledges the immense breadth and importance of a determination of this sort in relation to judges. Without a word of explanation the salaries of judges are to go from I do not know what to $45,000 a year in the case of the Chief Justice of the High Court. To me that figure appears completely unreasonable and could be justified in the minds of those giving this matter the most transient consideration only if automatically but fallaciously the degree of graduated income tax on such a salary were taken into account as a justification for it. I assert that if you are to maintain your system of graduated income tax, performing the purpose for which it was enacted and, as far as I know, has been adopted in Federal politics by all parties during the last quarter of a century, you will simply destroy our economy if, in anticipation of a high income tax on a particular salary, you go ahead and increase the salary.
I believe it is true that the members of the Tribunal expressed themselves as having accepted my submission to them on that point. Of course, they do not acknowledge that I made that submission, but they say that they gave consideration to income tax but did not take it into account in recommending the high salaries. It is difficult to believe that the figure contemplated can be put forward except by recollecting the fact that it will be subject to the very high scale of income tax which, in my view, is an impermissible consideration in judging the matter. But in the time available to me I do not profess to give anything like an adequate address upon judicial or public service salaries. The reason why those who have manoeuvred to get the debate on today have done so is because they want to get into print in the newspapers while the salaries of members of Parliament are still being headlined. Upon that subject I hope that I have expressed adequate argument to indicate that notwithstanding their somewhat unworthy manoeuvres, I am fully in agreement with the condemnation of the amount of increase in salaries and of its introduction at this time. For that reason I hope that the Senate will support the motions that have been moved.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Milliner)- Order! The Senate has before it 3 cognate motions moved by Senator Wright. Is there a seconder to the motions?
– I second the motions.
- Mr Acting Deputy President, I rise to speak in this debate for a few minutes in order to try to put the record straight and to try to see where we are going and what we are doing. Perhaps the mover of the 3 cognate motions, when he replies, could perhaps assist us with a legal interpretation. The report of the Remuneration Tribunal refers to 4 determinations, and we seem to have motions which are designed to disallow three of them. There is an indicative determination on remuneration and significantly related matters for a certain public offices, and I do not know whether that will result in increased salaries. But it is signed by the 3 members of the Tribunal and is part of the report that has been tabled in this Parliament. So the motions do not relate to the elimination of the whole of the report; it would appear that one section of the report will remain.
There is also the question of increased judges’ salaries and ministerial salaries which do not become effective unless another motion is carried. I believe that as this matter is concerned with a money Bill, when the report was tabled it was the intention of the other place to move a motion which was designed to increase judges’ salaries. I have not seen whether that has been done. As no increase in ministerial salaries is involved it is not necessary to move a motion relating to that matter. The question as to whether judges are entitled to what is offered to them or whether they will receive what is offered to them will not be decided by the 3 motions that we are considering today; it will be decided by another motion which I would assume we will receive from the other place.
I have been in this Parliament for some 12 years. I think that this is the third occasion on which a motion has been moved relating to increases in parliamentary salaries. The Constitution provides that until Parliament otherwise decides, parliamentarians shall decide their own salaries. This is one of the unfortunate facts of political life because whenever politicians have determined their own salaries they have always been subjected to Press criticism and to eloquent and appealing speeches by minority groups who, although they oppose the increases, hope to God that they will be defeated in the vote when it is taken. Of course, we get very persuasive speeches, like Senator Wright’s convincing speech today. On the 3 occasions to which I have referred when an increase in parliamentary salaries has been proposed, Senator Wright has opposed the increase because he has said that the times were not normal and that the increase was too great. When is a normal time? That is the first question. What we have heard today is a repetition of what has been said on two previous occasions. We have heard about this undesirable increase in salaries being financed by the impoverished of Australia, but we have never heard of the money ever being refunded to the impoverished of Australia and it has not remained in the Treasury. So we can only presume that against his wishes, Senator Wright has got caught up in this machine to such an extent that he was compelled to take the increase that he did not desire. Of course, he was in the minority on each occasion.
On this occasion Senator Wright has competition from another honourable senator who is not tied to any party and who can see the opportunity to receive Press publicity. He sees the opportunity to become the great hero of the issue. He is competing with Senator Wright as to who should move the motion that will lead to a refusal of increased parliamentary salaries because times are not normal and the increase is too great. This is a matter that has always embarrassed politicians. We have searched for a way of preventing this situation from arising. We have tried to find a way in which politicians do not have to say: ‘Yes, I want $ 1 ,000 more or I should get $1,000 more’. For this purpose we set up a tribunal last year, and this is possibly the only way to get around the difficulty. The Tribunal was given the power to decide the issue so that there was the least possible discussion by the
Parliament. The Tribunal was requested to hold hearings and make an early determination, and then make further determinations every 12 months. We hoped that the Tribunal would act impartially. We hoped that it would act on the evidence presented to it. We hoped that it would give a just decision.
In order to assist the Tribunal in its deliberations the relevant Act provided in section 1 1 as follows:
We the Parliament, had faith in the Tribunal deciding for itself the way in which it should conduct its business. One of the reasons suggested for rejecting the Tribunal’s recommendations today was that Senator Wright went along to present his evidence and a stenographer was not provided to record that evidence. The Tribunal did not conduct its inquiry by taking formal evidence. There is no need for it to conduct a formal hearing. It can conduct its inquiries as it sees fit. But because there was no stenographer to take down Senator Wright ‘s evidence, he gives that as one of the reasons for urging us to reject the Tribunal’s recommendations. But the Tribunal did not act haphazardly. It did not neglect to perform the role we gave to it.
The introduction to the report states that the Remuneration Tribunal Act was assented to in December 1973 and the first meeting of the Tribunal was held in February 1974. The Tribunal advertised in the Press and sent letters to all politicians and to political parties asking them to give what evidence they could to the Tribunal. We find on page 3 of the report the information, that as a result the Tribunal received 35 written submissions from members of Parliament, including eleven from Ministers and five from office holders, and submissions from the parliamentary Labor Party and the parliamentary Country Party. Both of those parties asked the Tribunal for an increase. So in recommending that parliamentary salaries should be increased the Tribunal is carrying out the request of the Country Party and the Labor Party. It has brought down its determination, and we heard this morning the hypocrisy of Country Party senators who said that they have not studied the report and do not know whether they should accept its recommendations, even though this increase is being recommended at the present time at their very request.
– What were the written submissions of the Country Party?
-The written submission of the Country Party, which I believe was supported by oral submissions, was to the effect that there should be an increase in parliamentary salaries.
– The Chairman of the Tribunal does not say that.
– No, he may not say that, but what I am saying is that he said he received the submissions from the Labor Party and the Country Party, and the submission of the Country Party was known at the time. Both the Country Party and the Labor Party made an application for an increase in salary. Although the Country Party senators could get the increased salary for which they asked, we get, as I say, the hypocrisy which they have demonstrated today. They say: ‘We do not know whether we should take it’. In doing so they will destroy the organisation that was set up for the very purpose of taking this matter out of the political arena.
The Tribunal received 5 written submissions from judges, 24 submissions from First Division officers of the Public Service, and 103 submissions from holders of statutory offices. There were 5 written submissions from interested organisations and 96 submissions from members of the public. The Tribunal says that it had discussions with 26 members of the Parliament, including 5 Ministers and 11 office holders, 12 First Division officers, 18 holders of statutory offices, a representative of the Administrative and Clerical Officers Association and one member of the public. That one person represents the public interest. We fool ourselves about the public interest, of which I will say more directly. There is a newspaper interest but only one member of the public was interested enough to go along to the Tribunal. So the Tribunal did act responsibly. It did seek evidence. But we are told that we should reject its recommendations because it made a decision on the whole of the evidence instead of making a decision on the submission of Senator Wright who went along on the appropriate day but who was not provided with a stenographer. For this reason, he says, we should reject the Tribunal’s recommendations.
Having set up what we hope is an impartial tribunal, we then criticise its whole report when it is brought down. After all the evidence is heard and the Tribunal performs its task, Senator
Wright tells us, as if there were no other evidence presented, that it is ridiculous to pay the Chief Justice of the High Court of Australia $45,000 per annum, which possibly is not as high as the salary paid to the pilot of a Boeing 747 jet aircraft. This raises the whole question of how one evaluates a person’s salary on the basis of work value. As Sir George Bernard Shaw said, Joe Louis got more money for being able to punch another man unconscious in 3 minutes than the Archbishop of Canterbury received for preaching a sermon in Latin in London. But who is to say whether a person’s ability to knock a man unconscious in 3 minutes is of more value than another person’s ability to preach in Latin? Who can put a work value on the ability of a judge of the High Court, as compared with that of a pilot? The Tribunal tried to do it, having regard to all the evidence put before it. But we are told that the only persons who can do it, without the aid of any evidence, is Senator Wright. Apparently he is the authority on these things. He comes along here and says that we should reject the first report of the Tribunal which we set up. We are asked by Senator Wright today to reject that report, when he heard no evidence other than that which he submitted to the Tribunal.
– He was not very persuasive, was he?
– If he was not, he should have been, because this is the third occasion on which he has captured publicity by opposing salary increases for parliamentarians.
– You are quite wrong. I supported the increases last time.
– I do not think I am wrong. Opposing salary increases comes easy to him now. I come now to this very dangerous situation in Australia of wage inflation. I agree with the statements made by the Treasurer (Mr Crean), but the Australian Government has no power to peg wages. The referendum question was rejected and the States have not given us the power to do this. There has been some upward movement in prices. We have expressions of opinion in this regard from those politicians who receive an income in excess of the salary of a back bencher. I do not know what Senator Wright’s income may be, but at least for some years he was a Minister. I do not know what Senator Hall’s income is, but I do know that he is a member of a 2-income family and I also believe that he has a farming property. He is telling us that there should be no increase in the rate of pay for back bench members of Parliament, despite the fact that there has been a movement in prices. He says that it is too dangerous. Are we deciding that, or is the Tribunal deciding it? The Remuneration Tribunal states on page 4 of its report:
Before imposing on the groups whose incomes it determines salaries which are unjust in terms of accepted criteria of relative wage and salary fixation, a responsible tribunal would need considerably stronger indications than we have had, by way of Government submission or otherwise, that its lead would be followed and that institutional arrangements exist through which there is a high probability of genuine anti-inflationary gains being made.
If there is any default in this area, it lies with members ofthe Government who take the same attitude today as that adopted by the Tribunal but who will vote against these recommendations. The Tribunal stated that this is what it tried to do:
We have attempted to give to Members of Parliament, and to all the other persons with whose remuneration we are concerned, a just reward based upon their public services and the responsibility of office, and having regard to the totality of benefits, attractions and disadvantages ofthe positions they occupy. We have had regard to the form of recent wage and salary adjustments and, in particular, to the influence of the philosophy of wage compression on many arbitrated, and even some negotiated, variations.
Honourable senators can see that the Tribunal went into this question thoroughly and awarded a wage which it thought was a responsible wage in consideration of the duties and the positions that the officers under consideration occupy. I shall return to that matter in a moment. I want to state that while politicians have been selected as the ones to give the lead to others in wage restraint, there is great disagreement amongst economists as to whether wages are the big factor in inflation. Certainly, it is not the big factor today in regard to imported textiles. The tariff rate on imported textiles was reduced by 25 per cent but such textiles are selling at prices which are as high as they have ever been in Australia. There has been no increased wage factor in that case. A wage increase is brought about by a demand from the union concerned. It is awarded by way of arbitration or otherwise to compensate the employees concerned by an increase in their wages. There is no increase in prices until someone puts up the price of a commodity. The justification given for putting up the price of the commodity concerned is that wages have gone up. Has anyone considered the wage component in the increased price that is placed upon such a commodity? Has anyone considered the profit motives or the distribution costs that have also been added? Has anyone considered the control of monopolies? This is why we need trade practices legislation. We must try to stop this. Why is it that on all occasions there is a crisis in the country it is the workers who have to pay? It is the workers who have to pay with their blood in war time. It is the workers who have to pay with their cash in peace time because we are told that the time is never right for a wage increase.
Although the solidarity of the trade union movement today is having some success and is moving along where the Arbitration Court has failed, it is the leaders of this great country who will have to make the sacrifice and pay the penalty for the inflation that is occuring in Australia and other countries at the present time. Why do not we take a realistic attitude to this question and not seek to fight inflation with wage restraints, whether those restraints be placed on the wages of politicians or workers?
The other question I want to raise is one which I have raised consistently in the Senate, namely, the low public image and prestige of a politician. This has not been brought about as a result of high wages. It has been brought about as a result of the politician underwriting himself. Of all the politicians concerned with wage increases, only one went before the tribunal to give evidence in order to try to stop this increase. We have seen Press headlines that wages paid throughout the community will increase when politicians receive their increased wages. We have seen some of those perpetual letter writers to the Press making comparisons between what we receive and what pensioners receive. Part of the prestige of a politician, apart from the status of” office, is judged upon the reward that the country returns to him by way of income. Today, on an income basis, we politicians do not have the prestige of the members of the legal profession, the judiciary or the heads of our administration. Yet the back bench member of Parliament has the right to question heads of departments and under the committee system has the right to subject them to cross-examination and to demand appropriate replies. But they are receiving an office boy’s salary in comparison with the salaries received by the heads of the departments. This is the system which has developed under our wage tribunals. This is the system which we hoped we could rectify by the establishment of a tribunal. We are afraid to raise our status up to that level at which we will be respected and adequately remunerated for our responsibility and service to the country. We seek to underwrite ourselves because by so doing it will receive better headlines than those which would be given to the remarks of someone like me who wants to increase our prestige not by cheap publicity but by recognition that we are doing a job for Australia.
I was asked this morning how I voted in Caucus on this matter. I reply that what I have said today truly reflects the vote I cast in Caucus. On this or any other occasion when a tribunal makes such recommendations, honourable senators will know how I will vote. As I say, this is the first time we have taken the question of wages out of the political arena and the first time we gave it to a private body to investigate. But some honourable senators seek to destroy the first report of the Tribunal and to discourage those whose duty it is to give a just decision on the question. I that such actions could mean that we may get other than a just decision on future occasions and possibly destroy the machinery of the Act which sets up this Tribunal to make wage provisions from time to time.
– One realises after hearing Senator Cavanagh that he speaks with enormous sincerity and he would not argue a brief here if he did not believe everything he said. Senator Cavanagh, you had no need to tell us how you voted in Caucus because of the feeling that you put into your speech.
– You read the newspapers.
-The honourable senator is one of the most honest and sincere men on his side of the Senate. I was interested in Senator Cavanagh ‘s statement that the whole operation of this Remuneration Tribunal was to take the question of politicians’ salaries out of the realm of politics. Perhaps I am not a bad sort of prophet because on 13 December 1973 when the Bill first came into the Senate, I made certain remarks which appear on page 2853 of Hansard. For those who are interested, we must have been sitting late because I spoke at 6.26 p.m. and said that this was a Bill to take the salary of members of Parliament out of the realm of politics. I said:
This Bill, in spite of the way it may be wrapped up, is merely a device for the Parliament to escape its responsibility to set the salaries of members of the Parliament and Ministers and to push the task on to a tribunal.
I am well aware of the fact that no matter what method is used to do this there is always going to be a scream from the more ignorant parts of the public and from some parts of the misinformed media about the desire or capacity of anybody to set the salaries and remuneration of members of this place.
I think that is a fair statement. I went on to say:
I have a personal view that one is sent here to take decisions.
I still hold that view. I went on:
One is sent here to vote and one ought to accept one’s responsibility right to the ultimate of even setting one’s own salary.
I still hold to that view. I then said:
I know that there are many philosophical arguments against that view but in spite of them I hold it. The Government has said all along that it wishes to try the method provided by this Bill. I wish it luck. I do not think it will have any more success in quieting the public criticism and abuse that we always hear when members of this place get what we think is a reasonable reward or somebody else thinks is a reasonable reward. This is not the way that I would like to see the salaries set but it is the way that the Government wants it done. I do not know of any satisfactory method of doing it but 1 wish the Government well with this legislation.
For a piece of legislation whose sole purpose was to take the heat of political and media debate out of the -
– It was not the sole purpose.
-It was one of the reasons.
– It was not.
-Of course it was.
– You are on the wrong base.
-No, it was one of the reasons. I suppose this report of the Tribunal has caused as much political heat and as much media criticism as any of the previous methods of attempting to deal with salaries of members of this place and the other place.
– Who put the political heat into it?
-If the honourable senator wants me to indulge in a political speech I will oblige him. Actually, I thought the politics were put into this by an 11-16 Cabinet vote and bywhat was it?- a 5 1 -60 Caucus vote. I thought that was where the politics erupted into this. But I rather understand that once Government supporters went into the public area all 90 members of Caucus voted against it. I notice that most members of the House of Representatives seem to be saying that they did vote against it. I suppose that honourable senators who are insulated and isolated from the electorate for long terms had the courage of their convictions in Caucus.
– What was the vote in your Caucus?
– We do not have votes.
– You had a secret ballot.
-Oh no, we did not do that.
– A consensus is taken.
– A consensus. I am about to tell honourable senators opposite what that consensus was if they will only contain themselves. A few things ought to be said at the outset,
I think. I do not criticise for one moment the sums set by the Tribunal. To do so I think would lead to some criticism of the capacity and probity of the members of the Tribunal, and that I do not question. I think that the members of that Tribunal, on the evidence that was offered to them, came to the best conclusion to which they could come.
– They can be subject to criticism, though, surely.
-That is right, but I do not question the fact that they arrived at those decisions. They arrived at salaries, be they for judges or be they for members of this place, or for holders of statutory offices or for First Division officers. They arrived at them in all honesty and to the best of their ability. I do not think that the Opposition as an opposition quarrels with the quantum. I think that ought to be said to start with. There is no quarrel as to quantum. An obligation is imposed upon the Tribunal to set a date from when the salaries should commence. I do not quarrel with the Tribunal setting the date of 1 August. That is the judgment it came to and which, most likely, it thought fair and reasonable. But what the Opposition does say is that, in spite of the Tribunal recommending that date, the Government ought to seize the initiative to defer the date when the amounts ought to come into operation. That will be the burden of the speech that I intend to put down.
– Can it be done?
-It cannot be done by administrative arrangements, but as I understand it, there is nothing to prevent the Government taking the initiative- in the House of Representatives, I imagine- to bring in either a special Bill- I am not Parliamentary Counsel- or a Bill to amend the Tribunal Act in which it would say that the increases for members of Parliament- I confine it to those people only- be deferred until 1 January 1975. If that Bill is brought in the Opposition will give it speedy passage through both Houses. We in the Opposition have preached for a long time that if something is to be done about inflation in this country there must be prices and incomes restraint, and there must be a prices and incomes restraint right across the board. We preached that; we went to the last election on it; that was our policy then; it is our policy now. We believe that unless the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) gets together with the Premiers, the trade union leaders and the other groups in the community and sells the story that the only way this country will get out of this inflationary mess is by voluntary restraint on prices and incomes, we will get nowhere with inflation.
The first step off the rank in this is that the members of Parliament ought to be prepared to be part of that voluntary restraint. It is as simple as that. I do not single out the judges; I do not single out the First Division officers; I do not say that this should touch the statutory office bearers. But there is an obligation on the people who sit in this chamber and in the other chamber, if they believe in restraint on prices and incomes, for them to set the pace. I know that they say: ‘Why should we be singled out for that treatment?’, or, Why ought not we be singled out?’ When a person comes into this Parliament, no matter to which chamber, of course a lot of disabilities attach to him. But there are also a lot of privileges. I believe that one cannot have all privileges and no obligations. That is half the curse of this present community. Everybody wants rights but nobody wants duties. I believe that because we get certain privileges we have certain obligations to set a standard in the community.
It is of no use for the Treasurer Mr Crean, the Prime Minister or the Deputy Prime Miniser (Dr J. F. Cairns) to talk about the inflationary problem that we have or to talk about restraint in Government spending- Government supporters are now talking restraints- without its starting here. If it does not start in the Parliament, if it does not start with the members of Parliament who eventually make up the Government, then all the Government’s anti-inflationary talk is so much humbug. That is the crunch point. I believe that this is the simple proposition which the Opposition is putting to the Government and the Government ought to have the courage to pick it up. Why did the Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister, as I understand the newspaper reports, oppose implementation of the Campbell report within both Cabinet and Caucus? I imagine that it was not because of quantum; it was because of timing. I know that it has been said ever since, I imagine, 1901 that it is the wrong time to increase the pay of members of Parliament.
– When is the right time?
-I know that it is always being said, but I think this is the first period is it not, since the rum rebellion, we have had an inflation rate running at 14.5 per cent.
– In 1952 there was an inflation rate of 22 per cent.
– There was no parliamentary increase that year. We have all these inflationary problems heading off for 180,000 unemployed, the country in chaos, almost in bankruptcy. I believe that if what the Treasurer said on Tuesday night at 8 o’clock- if he was dinkum, and I think he was- is correct, then this is not the right time, because the Government cannot preach the dangers of inflation on the one hand, and throw money away like a drunken sailor to members of this Parliament, on the other hand.
– That theory cannot stand up.
-This is quite true. Why ought not the people of this Parliament set an example? Are honourable senators opposite ashamed to set an example? Senator Georges, you felt very deeply in public about an issue -
– Do not bring that up.
– I do not say it in any disrespectful way. You felt very deeply about an issue a year or two back, as did Senator Wheeldon and some of your other colleagues. I disagreed with your policy stance but at least you had the courage to go out and set an example. You would have debated the proposition here. But merely because we on this side of the House feel so deeply about this present proposition and believe that we ought to set an example the honourable senator thinks that he can laugh the whole thing off.
I believe that the inflationary situation in Australia is too important for us just to play simple cheap politics, trying to upstage one another on parliamentary salaries. I do not believe that is the issue. I believe that if we have any real responsibility as to our duties as members of this and the other place we ought to be prepared to set an example, and, flowing from that, one would hope that the Prime Minister and the Premiers and everyone else would pick up the total challenge to try to get a proper price and incomes restraint right around this continent. If we do not do this then the inflation situation will get worse and worse and the rich will get richer and the poor will get poorer. We believe that something should be done about this matter. This is what we have been preaching. Why ought we not start to set this example.
Mr President, I know that there are some procedural difficulties because the motions before us are being discussed in a cognate debate. At present there are 3 motions before the Senate. The first one concerns ministerial allowances. The Opposition will not vote for the disallowance of that. The third motion is in respect of the remuneration payable to officers of the First Div ision of the Public Service and the Opposition will not vote for the disallowance of that. I say that if Parliament is to set an example it should start with its own. One does not set an example by taking wage increases away from someone else. I understand, Mr President, that when you put the second motion to the Senate you will ask whether the motion is agreed to. At that stage I will seek your call so that I may move that the debate on that motion be adjourned. I will do so in the hope that someone in the Government- I will arrange for this to be done- will move for the resumption of the debate so that it can be stood over to the next day of sitting. If I am not procedurally correct I will confer with the clerks afterwards to ascertain the proper way in which I should proceed. I may have to seek leave to take this course of action. But I believe that my proposal would give the Government the opportunity over Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday to take on board our proposition. It is not a quarrel about quantum; it is a disagreement with the Tribunal over the date of operation of its recommendations in regard to parliamentary salaries. It would then be up to the Government to come back to this place next Tuesday and tell us of its decision. I think that is a reasonable, fair and decent proposition to put to the Senate.
I repeat that we do not attempt to make an example of anybody else, but we ought to look very hard at ourselves, not because of what the media or what anybody outside is saying. To take a policy stance because of those reasons would be wrong. We ought to take the stance which I am putting forward because we believe it to be the correct and right stance. We believe that members of Parliament, as part of a total restraint package which we hope the Prime Minister, the Premiers and everyone else will put together, ought to be prepared to set the lead and the standard and at least defer our salary increase, as part of a package which we hope would unfold, until 1 January 1975. Mr President, when the opportune time comes I will attempt to move in that direction.
– We have waited for some time for the Opposition to take its consensus of opinion by ballot and to decide what it would do.
– How do you get a consensus by ballot?
– I do not know, but it seemed to me that rumours were going around the corridor that someone was collecting ballots from members of the joint Opposition Parties to determine what their attitude was to the findings of the Remuneration Tribunal. Following that exercise an announcement has just been made in this place that we should postpone the Tribunal ‘s recommendation in regard to parliamentarians for 6 months. That is an empty gesture. As far as I can gather from looking at the figures, such a move means that each senator in this place would forego about $1,700 for that period of time. There would be a saving of some $300,000 across the whole of the Parliament.
-The figure is $2,700.
– Well, it is about $2,000. I am just taking this figure off the top of my head because I have just heard ofthe proposition.
Let me put the question clearly to the Senate. Parliamentarians are being used as part of a manoeuvre and as part of a case to be placed before the State governments and trade unions- and here again I use the same argument- and this will be an empty gesture because no one group can unilaterally take such a decision and expect that other areas, groups of people or organisations will follow suit. It seems to me to be an indication that again parliamentarians are to be manoeuvred into a position where they cannot accept what they ought to expect relatively to other people who are serving the nation. I believe that the relativity of parliamentarians to other people in the community ought to be recognised. I am suggesting to the Senate that the recommendations of the tribunal ought to be accepted. If they are accepted we ought to accept the principle right across the board- and that term has been used before. We should then accept a taxation levy. If the statements made by the Treasurer (Mr Crean) are correct and the economy is in such a position that it needs corrective action, that corrective action should be taken in the coming Budget by the use of taxation. The Commissioner of Taxation should be the leveller. If we consider that parliamentarians, are to receive a net pay rise to take their salary to $20,000 a year, we can see that it would not take much to reduce the gain that parliamentarians will receive and bring them back to what they received before the taxation level was imposed. I am suggesting that each person who receives a level of income above a specified figure, whether he happens to be a parliamentarian, a judge or a public servnt, would be contributing to part of the restraint which needs to be imposed upon the nation. For the life of me I cannot see why at the moment we should take this step to postpone consideration of this matter for a period of 6 months. If the Opposition wanted to exercise restraint why did it not make the period 12 months or for that matter for the balance of the term of this Parliament.
– Why did not you?
-Well, the honourable senator is making the suggestion. It is your suggestion.
-We stand by it.
– You stand by it? I am suggesting that we improve on it. I am suggesting that relativity ought to be established. I am suggesting that the taxation of all people at this level of salary be increased in the coming Budget so that the benefit that has been given at this point is again taken away. This means that everyone pays it.
I would like to point out to the Senate the net gains that would be derived from the salary increases proposed by the Tribunal. The gross increase is $458 per month. The net increase is $179 per month. The tax increase is $226 per month. The superannuation increase is $52 per month. Incidentally, honourable senators know as well as I do that if you are over 50 years of age you have to live to earn that superannuation. Therefore, one cannot really add that $52 to the net gain. Your net gain from the increase at the present time would be $179.63 and the tax increase would be $226 per month. The amount of tax which we will be paying a month is $573. If the state of the nation is as the Treasurer (Mr Crean) has said we should reasonably expect an increase of 10 per cent in the Taxation level. A 10 per cent increase would reduce $179 by $57. Given 50 per cent we can decrease it further. All I am suggesting is that this is the time when the tribunal report has come down. It is for us to accept that a member of Parliament, relative to a person who serves this Parliament in another way, should have his salary increased.
I do not know how honourable senators opposite can suffer the humiliation and the insult which is showered upon a politician from time to time and still refuse to accept what they are worth. This is the only area of employment of which I know where the salary rate is based upon he who does the least and not upon he who does the most. There is not one person in this place who is not worth the amount which the Tribunal has brought down. In fact, there is not one person in this place who is not worth more.
– I am not arguing against that.
– The honourable senator says that he is not arguing against that, but he comes up with some idle proposition that we should not accept this increase at this stage; that we should postpone it for 6 months.
– That is because of the changed economic circumstances.
– Changed economic circumstances? If by what the honourable senator suggests he can obtain co-operation and restraint from the States whether from State politicianslook at what they have been doing lately- State public servants or State unions, I will go along with that suggestion. But such a proposition is not acceptable. We will be merely laughed at. At this stage I am not one who is prepared to be laughed at. The Tribunal report also indicates that the opinion of the Tribunal is against such an argument which is apparently anticipated. Apparently it anticipated, for some reason or other, that we would come into this place and say that the state of the nation and of the economy were such that we ought not to accept the increases. That argument is in the report.
– What page is that, senator?
– I do not know the page number but while I am speaking somebodymight point out the page to the honourable senator. This was reported in the newspapers this morning somewhere. I suppose the honourable senator read the headlines and forgot to read the body of the report. The report indicates that the very argument which the honourable senator is putting forward here is not acceptable from the point of view of the Tribunal. If I had my way, and I have to accept a body opinion just as honourable senators opposite accept a body opinion, I would make this a free vote. I would come into this place and say: ‘This is the tribunal report. Let us decide. Those who feel strongly against it can vote against it and those who want to vote for it can vote for it.’ We can all stand up and be counted.
Opposition senators- Hear.hear!
– If somebody wants to propose that and if we have an opportunity to propose it, by all means let us have a vote that way.
– But the Government will never do it that way.
– I suggest that Senator Webster get up and speak his mind as he believes it on this matter. He should not be part of some sort of decision which is arrived at in corridors. In any case, my adrenalin is rising in this matter and it ought not to be. Personally, I think that if it were not such an empty exercise we could do without $2,000 for the next 6 months. People will laugh at us. They are still laughing at us. They laughed at us today and they will laugh at us tomorrow because of such a proposition. I am suggesting, as Senator Withers has said, that no matter what method we use- tribunal or otherwise- it is our responsibility to decide and that responsibility comes right back into this place. We can do everything possible to avoid the responsibility but it is still our decision. Let us make the decision. Let us take the advice of a tribunal. Let us accept that advice now. Let us not postpone it. This is our own fault. In 10 years this Parliament has had 2 salary rises. If we had had the common sense to face up to this problem year by year and to give ourselves a fractional percentage increase which the silly system demands, we would not be faced with this proposition of needing at this point $5,500. Incidentally, half that amount is taken away anyhow. The system becomes so silly that a judge has to receive $45,000 which is an increase of $9,000 so that he can gain possibly a $1,000 advantage. My figures could be quite wrong, just as Senator Wright’s figures were taken at random. But it seems to me that we are caught in a silly system. Year by year we have not had the courage to look at our conditions. Now we are faced with the proposition of accepting something which may bring us into relativity. But we are refusing to take it. I suggest that we face the further dissatisfaction and most unfair criticism, not only of the Press but also of the electorate, and accept this increase because it is justified.
Last year we debated a proposal that we have a referendum on price control and on income control. We went to the people on that matter. I for one supported it. I campaigned for it. I voted for it and I lost. Now I could say that I accept the verdict of the people. They do not want income control. They do not want price control. Other instruments will have to be used to curb inflation. We need a new understanding of inflation. But I shall not go into that area. I am saying that this Government has tried to obtain those instruments which it requires to control prices and incomes. If those powers had been given by the people we would not be facing this problem now because at that point this Tribunal would have been disbanded.
– That is the whole justification for the Tribunal. Surely it would not have been disbanded?
– I say that it probably would not have come into operation had the referendum been passed. Nevertheless, apparently the people do not want control. At the present time that is what the Press happens to want. Good luck to it. Incidentally, most of the comments in the Press do not have the byline any more. It would be interesting to find out whether the members of the Press and those who write the editorials are prepared to join us in that restraint. They say that 38 per cent is too high. It is too high but it has come so suddenly. It would have been far better if it had been 15 per cent. I am suggesting that by taxation we can bring the amount back to 15 per cent. If what they say is true and if this increase which has been given to us is too high, let us accept 38 per cent diminution and let us go back to what we were receiving. But let everybody else in the same bracket do exactly the same thing. But such people are not prepared to do that. They cannot do it. They should not be required to do it. If the nation is in trouble there is only one way to do it and that is by taxation. I am suggesting that we should recommend wherever we can- either individually or as a Senate- that having accepted a rise we should also accept the principle that there should be increased taxation to reduce the benefit to what it was before we gained it.
– I am prepared to do that anyhow.
– This debate concerns the 1974 review of the Remuneration Tribunal. The immediate debate arose because of a motion from Senator Wright for the disallowance of the amounts awarded by that tribunal. To Senator Wright’s motion an amendment has been foreshadowed by the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate (Senator Withers) which reflects the policy of the Opposition in this Parliament. The effect of the amendment foreshadowed by Senator Withers is that there should be a deferment of the amounts determined for parliamentarians by this Remuneration Tribunal. It is suggested that that deferment should be from 1 August- when it would otherwise automatically occur- until the end of December 1974. The situation is that the Tribunal was set up by the Labor Party Government as a device to fix parliamentary salaries. Members of the Government have expressed the view that it was their hope that the Tribunal would take the fixation of salaries and allowances by parliamentarians out of the football arena of politics.
Over the course of decades great discussion has occurred as to the best method of fixing parliamentary salaries, and always there has been in the hearts of politicians the desire to find some device by which the other fellow could reach the decisions and the politicians, accepting those decisions, could wash their hands of those decisions. It was, of course, an understandable if emotive idea but one which on examination must fail because this Parliament is supreme. This Parliament must be superior to any body which it sets up. Therefore the Parliament can and must set up a body and give it its terms of reference.
This Parliament and other neighbouring parliaments fix the terms of salaries and allowances of those who might be members of tribunals. Therefore one should say that at the very best a tribunal can be only a recommending authority and never a final authority. For my part, I have always believed that such a device as we sought must fail. Like Senator Withers it was my private and personal viewpoint that we were seeking a methodology which could not succeed. In the end the fixing of salaries for members of Parliament would be a matter for public discussion, and properly so. In the end it must come to the floor of the Parliament to decide whether or not the Parliament would accept the salaries recommended. It would be intolerable indeed if we pretended to the people of Australia that some tribunal, quite independent of us, was to fix parliamentary salaries, when, in effect, we appoint that tribunal and the personnel on it. It could be felt by the population, however wrongly, that the members of the tribunal were under some subjective obligation to the Parliament. So in the end- no matter what Senator Georges may saythere is no way for the final responsibility to be removed from the Senate. The buck stops here in terms of parliamentary salaries. Inevitably, therefore, it is here and is stopping here. That is the basis of the problem.
The thought that a tribunal should be set up and that its conclusions and timetable must be inevitably adopted is utterly fallacious. Any body set up by this Parliament can bring what amounts only to a recommendation to this Parliament. Fundamental to the Remuneration Tribunal Act which was passed by this Parliament is the provision that the Parliament could disallow the findings of the Tribunal.
The Opposition does not quarrel with the levels of salaries or allowances as announced. Indeed, we have always advocated that the best way for the people of Australia to get high grade parliamentarians who can serve Australia well is to raise the level of real remuneration so that people of great qualities can enter Parliament at an age at which they can give a lengthy period of service. It is not good enough that in the past only those of private means or those who had already built a career and who had some background of self-finance could enter Parliament. The important thing, if we wish to bring in the young, the keen and those with young families- taking into account the rising commitment that they have which would apply to many members of this Parliament- is to ensure that what they are paid is at least the market rate so that they are not making any major sacrifice. I am not saying that sacrifice is not part of a parliamentarian’s lot. If a parliamentarian is required to give his best arid if he is to be free to act independently, he should not be so preoccupied with worries, such as wondering whether he should get a separate job, that he cannot concentrate fully.
The Parliament- the Senate in particular- has set out to make the profession of parliamentarian more than a full-time job. It is now ho longer possible for a senator serving in this chamber to pursue a separate occupation. That is not possible if a senator plays his full role in this chamber, if he serves on Senate committees, if he takes, part in the thrust and parry, if he is prepared to do homework and if he is prepared to do his job properly. If a member carries out all those responsibilities he will need to be a fulltime member. He will have no time in which to earn another income. The Opposition is not in any way saying that the fixation of parliamentary salaries and allowances should not be done reasonably. One of the grave misunderstandings of the general public is to believe that what is called the ‘salary’ of a parliamentarian- as it is referred to in these recommendations- is the take-home pay before tax. A parliamentarian like any other professional person is selfemployed in many aspects of his work. Out of his gross salary he has an enormous amount of extra expenses to pay and his take-home pay before he pays tax is a long way below the $14,500 a year that honourable senators receive today.
The public ought to understand that parliamentarians are self-employed people who incur expenses well beyond those that are covered by the allowances we receive. If an honourable senator is to travel throughout Australia and serve his State and his country by seeking to find information wherever he goes, the basic cost of accommodation and internal travel is borne by him. Indeed, these costs can run to some thousands of dollars extra, at least, a year over his own take-home salary. The very first thing that ought to be understood and which has not been understood or not articulated fully by tribunals of the past is that the salary of a politician, which is normally quoted in the Press, is not his takehome pay. The device often used in the Press of taking a politician’s non- taxable allowance of $4, 100 a year and adding it to his salary and saying that that is what he earns is completely illusory. The amount of $4,100 is almost absorbed in the first place by the purchase and maintenance of his motor vehicle, or even two motor vehicles if his wife and family are particularly active in the ordinary course of events in the pursuit of his career.
We do not, under any circumstances, argue with the quantum that has been determined. In fact, we acknowledge that the Tribunal has done a first-class job. Those who feel that tribunals of the future will in any way be alienated by our recommendation for deferrment, I think, are drawing a long bow. The fact ofthe matter is that we are not challenging the findings of the Tribunal. We are not rejecting the findings of the Tribunal by moving this motion. We are saying that we accept the findings of the Tribunal but they should be deferred.
Why do we say that the findings of the tribunal should be deferred? I call as witnesses members of the Whitlam Labor Government. I call as witness the Treasurer (Mr Crean), particularly with reference to his speech of 2 nights ago.
– That is a minority report.
– The honourable senator says that that is a minority report. I understand the difficulties he has in Caucus. The naked truth flowed freely from him. Indeed, at another time today -
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Milliner)- Order! The honourable senator will address himself to the question before the Chair.
– I could not be more truly on target, as the freely flowing blood signifies. I now draw attention to what has been described by a Labor senator opposite as the minority report of the Labor Party- the mini-Budget brought down by the Treasurer. I quote the thesis of the Labor Party:
I say without exaggeration that the Australian economy now faces a highly dangerous situation. First, costs are now rising very fast.
– We have all read it.
– If the interjector said we have all read it, I at least have learned something. I was not aware of the capacity inherent in the honourable senator. I continue with the Treasurer’s statement:
In 1973-74 average weekly earnings rose by 16 per cent. They are now rising at over 20 per cent. But such figures have nothing to do with the real purchasing power of those wages. I do not prolong the point. We have a wages explosion which is damaging everyone, and wage-earners not least.
Almost as though he had some preknowledge of this debate the Treasurer earlier in this miniBudget said this:
One of the problems in dealing with inflation is that everyone wants it beaten but everyone also wants their own activities to remain quite unaffected. Everyone favours general restraint but particularly expenditure. There is no way- I repeat, no way- in which inflation can be beaten which will not involve discomfort, for a while, for the community as a whole.
That speech is redolent with such remarks. What the Treasurer has said, to paraphrase him, is this: People have to start to set an example in wage restraint and the initiative for wage restraint must come from the individual. This was a thesis which Senator Georges denied. He said: ‘This cannot happen. It is not valid. We have not found the solution’. But his Treasurer inherently said in his mini-Budget that people and institutions must now start to set an example themselves. The Treasurer said it is utterly wrong for everyone to want the other fellow to use the restraint. Therefore what we of the Opposition present to the Senate tonight is the thesis of the Treasurer. We say, in terms of the paragraphs I read from the Treasurer’s speech, that we, the Opposition, are giving notice of our bona fides to seek temporary voluntary restraint. Now we pass the matter to the Government. We pass it to the Government for 2 reasons. The Press has notified us- and no one denies it- that the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) and the Deputy Prime Minister (Dr J. F. Cairns) are opposed to the introduction of the determinations of this Tribunal at this moment.
– Yes, but they do not want to defer it for as long as you want to.
- Senator Georges acknowledges by saying yes but that they do not want to defer the matter for as long as we do. Perhaps in that elucidation we could ask, firstly, for support for our deferral action, because the document from which I read shows there is some merit in that, and secondly, for some indication from the Government as to how long it does want to defer the matter. Senator Georges has given us an insight into Cabinet and Caucus happenings. This would be the first time that we, the Opposition, have beaten the Press. It is a singular thing that today, on this and other matters, we can know, to a fine point of mathematics, how the numbers went, who voted where and why. But in regard to this Remuneration Tribunal, apart from those honourable senators opposite who have stood and spoken, it would appear that everybody in Caucus voted against the Tribunal findings, or at least that they propose to claim in their electorates in future that they did so and the other fellow did not. On the basis of the thesis of the Treasurer, how well the Treasurer knew the Caucus! Mr Acting Deputy President, you tempt me but with respect for the Chair I resist the temptation. But how well the Treasurer knew his Caucus when he said:
One of the problems in dealing with inflation is that everyone wants it beaten but everyone also wants their own activities to remain quite unaffected.
Those words could have come straight out of Senator Brown’s minutes- or is he still Chairman of Caucus; there is some lack of understanding about this- because they spell out to us exactly what happened. We of the Opposition are saying that the Whitlam Labor Government has come forward, after many months of pretence about there being no inflation, and said that there is not only inflation, but massive inflation, and it is going to grow worse. The Whitlam Government has gone further and, in a great and unusual display of honesty, has said: ‘Do not think that these measures that we are bringing down are going to stem it. On the contrary, in the September quarter and the December quarter it is going to be worse. ‘
We have it on the authority of the Deputy Prime Minister that this document which purports to be an anti-inflationary measure is not anti-inflationary at all. We also have heard in the daily lecture from the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Murphy) the thesis that he thinks, having done his sums, that the individual items in that document do not add up to anti-inflation. The Government has come to us now and told us that we are in a very serious position with regard to inflation and that it is going to get much worse. It also has said that essentially it is now wage thrust inflation- inflation which is borne along in a snowballing fashion by the demands of the average wage earner for more and more nominal wages in order to beat the inflation that is ahead. I say, in no criticism of those natural demands, that the wage earner today, faced with the rapid acceleration of prices- an acceleration well in excess of 20 per cent- has only one recourse at this moment and that is to plead for more and more nominal wages and for the snowball to roll.
The Government has identified the real villain in regard to inflation in Australia and has said that it is unrestrained wage increases. It has identified the cure as being voluntary restraint. It has not as yet communicated that thesis to its Caucus because honourable senators on the Government side have said that that kind of thing will not work. However, it is said that the one way to beat inflation is to give clear leadership in wages restraint. That is the proposition of the Opposition. We are offering to the Government the opportunity to implement what the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister say they want implemented, and for the Treasurer to carry out the thesis of his speech of 2 nights ago. I would think that that is a simple enough thing.
However, there are honourable senators who say: ‘Why should we as members of Parliament be the only people in the regiment in step? Why should we adopt that policy of voluntary restraint? Why should we make unique sacrifices when everybody else is not sacrificing?’ I have no other income except my parliamentary salary. I say: ‘Those who seek parliamentary responsibilities seek and obtain a unique situation because built into parliamentary representation is an inherent responsibility for voluntary national leadership’. Some of us, humbly enough, fail in this regard all too often, but we cannot escape the fact that our major task, as senators, is to set an example. If the example falls on barren ground, that is no excuse for not setting the example.
An enormous cynicism has been expressed by parliamentarians over the years. I fully sympathise with it, but I do not respond to it. The cynicism is that each time a parliamentarian seeks a wage rise the general feeling is that it is never the right time and that he should not get it. When the parliamentarian’s wage and allowances are added together, he is painted as being a person in a very high income bracket. That is gross distortion of the situation. Each time there is an argument that he alone should not get a higher income, everyone else, including those transcribing his words, quite rightly accepts increases. That theory was articulated somewhat dyspeptically today by Labor senators. They said: ‘Why should we set an example? It has no reward’.
– It is not that it has no reward; it is useless.
- Senator Georges has given the classical, dyspeptical and cynical answer that it is useless for parliamentarians to set an example. If that is so, the whole text of the Treasurer’s speech falls to ashes. Much of it has already. If Dr J. F. Cairns is given a fair go- he can take it- the rest of the speech will fall also. That speech was a plea to all leaders in Australiaparliamentarians, employers and trade unionists- to give leadership in this battle.
– That is fancy, self-righteous talk. You know that it just does not work. It can be done only by regulation.
-I note that Senator Georges believes that Mr Crean ‘s words are selfrighteous talk because all I am doing is quoting from Mr Crean ‘s speech. The dilemma of the Labor Party is a massive conflict among its members on this matter. One of the reasons for attempting to resist our request for an adjournment is the reason to which I referred earlier today. There is nothing that the Labor Party wants less than an opportunity for an early Caucus meeting. In the American idiom, I think the Labor Party wants it like it wants a hole in the head. One of the spin-offs of our amendment would be that the Labor Party would have no alibi for getting together and discussing this matter.
– What nonsense.
– The public will be able to judge this. I draw together what I have said. I have said that a Tribunal has been set up. It has brought down its findings. It is no alibi for this Parliament to say: ‘This is an independent statutory body. Like all other tribunals its word ought to be gospel. We should accept its word, otherwise what do we do with tribunals?’ It is no alibi to say that, firstly because of the supremacy of Parliament, and secondly because the Whitlam Government is now advocating that we should urge restraint before such bodies. Is it not inherent in the Whitlam Government’s thesis that it will say to the Arbitration Commission, to the wage fixing bodies and to those who are making sweetheart agreements on the side: ‘Listen, cool it a bit. Calm down. Reduce it’? Of course that is inherent in this thesis. Why would it not be normal over the cooling off process for the Government to address itself to this matter? That is the first point.
Secondly, there is no argument by the Opposition about the quantum of this increase. The reverse is true. There is a clear understanding by the Opposition that the need for adequate remuneration of parliamentarians is significant and urgent in many ways. But there is the fundamental proposition that the Government has identified a unique situation. Let those who say look what happened to us in the past’ keep in mind that there has never been a time of salary rises when the inflationary rate was at the level it is now, and, prospectively, it will go to 20 per cent, 30 per cent and beyond. We must not forget that fact. To look at the past is not to find any kind of comfort.
Furthermore, the Opposition has been consistent. For more than a year the Opposition has warned this Government that it was moving into a massive inflationary situation created substantially by its own wrong headed actions. We have warned repeatedly that this is so. We have warned repeatedly that the kind of fiscal and monetary actions which have been taken by the Government would do nothing at all to mitigate inflation. The actions which have been taken will exacerbate inflation. We have warned that if there is to be an alleviation of this inflation and if there is to be a reversal there has to be established at all levels of the community wages restraint.
– What about prices?
– We have urged wages and prices restraint. Let nobody suggest that I believe that the two must not go together. Of course they must go together. The State Premiers have said to the Prime Minister: ‘We agree with this course, and we will co-operate’. The Prime Minister’s response has been deafening in its silence. The Opposition has been thoroughly consistent. We on this side have said that there would be massive and rolling inflation and that it would be a wage push or wage thrust inflation. We have said that we will have to beat it by restraint at all levels and that we will have to beat it by national conferences- by every kind of device which could bring about restraint. For the past 6 to 9 months the Labor Party has pooh-poohed this idea throughout Australia. Belatedly, sadly, 2 days ago the Treasurer, in a whimper of a document, spelt out in his own name and in that of his Government, has admitted all the economic ills and has devised a cure. The inherent basis of that cure is wage restraint and price restraint.
Senator Withers, on behalf of the Federal Opposition, has foreshadowed an amendment which will enable the Government to test its own bona fides. The machinery is available to the Government, not to the Opposition. It could be a simple device. A Bill, which could be drafted as quickly as a snap of the fingers, could be introduced to amend the Remuneration Tribunal Act. That device is in the hands of the Government. As I see it, all that is necessary for a delay or a deferral is a simple one paragraph Bill which states: ‘Notwithstanding the provisions of the Remuneration Tribunal Act 1973, the findings of this Tribunal will not function until 1 January 1975’.
– Why not make it 1 January 1976?
– There would be no difficulty drawing up the Bill. It could be drawn up in half an hour. Such a Bill would be entirely within the hands of the Government to implement in terms of the Treasurer’s document. I respond to an interjection in which the question was asked: ‘Why not 1976’? The essential argument that is inherent in both the Opposition’s thesis now and its sweetheart agreement, however temporary, with Mr Crean on voluntary restraint is that there should be a defined cooling off period which my own Leader, Mr Snedden, has described as a circuit breaker.
– If the restless natives opposite decry this, they are flying in the face of a wide range of economists. Today honourable senators opposite could not get one signatory to an advertisement in the Press praising Labor if they tried because every economist of any note, every economist who speaks out publicly says that this is a disastrous document, utterly wrong in its diagnosis and its cure.
– We are not debating that.
– Hear the admission in the interjection: ‘Yes, that is right, but we are not debating that’, because it hurts a little bit. Here we have an opportunity for the Government to test whether Mr Whitlam and his Deputy Prime Minister are fair dinkum, in the old-fashioned Australian phrase. At the present time they are getting great mileage from the Press because what they want to do is to go along with the salary rise but to say: ‘Do not blame us; it was the other fellow- not me, him’. Indeed, you can line them up. Mr Enderby says to the electors of Canberra: ‘Do not blame me; it was not me’. The honourable gentlemen who represents the other Canberra seat says: ‘Not me, either’. In the end we will have to send out a search party. Now let us put Mr Whitlam, Dr Cairns and Mr Enderby to the crunch because they have no alibis in this matter. There is no worry about their Caucus on this matter at all. They are not dealing with the Caucus; they are dealing with a straightforward proposal from the Opposition. Will they stand up and be counted now? Will they respond and defer this motion so that they can bring in the mechanism to obtain a deferment, a cooling off in terms of what Mr Whitlam says he wants, what Dr Cairns says he wants, what Mr Crean says he wants, what honourable senators opposite have denied but which the mini-Budget spells out?
The buck has ceased to pass. The Labor Party Watergate tapes are now fairly and squarely on the table. There are no bleeps except to cover the expletives out of the Labor Caucus; there are no deleted bleeps in this. Honourable senators opposite have a simple proposition before them. Do they believe in the thesis or do they believe that everybody else should have wage restraint but not them, or, alternatively, do they believe that it ought to be an open-ended go for everybody, because they cannot have it both ways? Is it to be wages anarchy throughout the whole spectrum of the community, or are we going to stand up and be counted? That is the simple proposition put forward by the Opposition. I thoroughly commend the speech of the Leader of the Opposition Senator Withers. I commend the foreshadowed amendment which relates to deferment. The matter then goes fairly and squarely to the Labor Party.
-Mr Acting Deputy President, I seek leave to make a personal explanation.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Milliner)- Does the honourable senator claim to have been misrepresented?
– It could appear that way in Hansard.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT- Do you claim that?
– Yes. During Senator Carrick’s address, when he was developing his argument on parliamentary salaries he said, I believe, that he was going to quote from what had been said by members of the Whitlam Government. In anticipation that he would do what he has done on so many occasions here, that is, quote from newspaper reports of happenings in Caucus, I interjected and said: ‘A minority report’. I thought that he was going to quote from what had been said by Mr Whitlam, Dr Cairns, Mr Hayden and one or two other Ministers. But he did not do so. He quoted from the statement that was put down in the other place by the Treasurer (Mr Crean) 2 evenings ago. I in no way want to appear in Hansard as having reflected on the Treasurer’s statement. I was too quick out of the blocks in anticipating Senator Carrick. I thank the Senate for allowing me to make this personal explanation.
– I am satisfied, Mr Acting Deputy President.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT- Both of you are very good rugby league supporters.
-I appreciate the opportunity to make what I hope will be a few relevant observations on this whole question. Before I proceed to deal with the points which I have listed before me, I say at the outset that I found myself very much in agreement with many of the propositions that Senator Carrick put to the Senate. For instance, Senator Carrick referred at some length to some of the problems that are encountered by a member of the Parliament in relation to the performance of his duties and in relation to that aspect of his duties which bears very much upon what happens in his family and in his general family life. I was disappointed to hear Senator Carrick, at the conclusion of his address, descend once more to those forms of debate which so often in the past have taken away a lot of the credibility of what he said in the earlier part of his speech.
The points which Senator Carrick made and which appealed to me were those which referred, for instance, to the family life aspect, which I have just mentioned. He referred to the relativity, if I can put it in those terms, between the remuneration which parliamentarians currently are receiving and the salary that is paid in the general community. He also referred to the relationship between the proportion of the salary that a parliamentarian takes home- that he has left for his own use- and what one assumes, I think rightly assumes, is left to the ordinary member of the community who does not have to encounter the problems that a parliamentarian meets in winning his seat, in keeping his seat, in fighting elections, in making contributions to umpteen charitable activities in the community, in helping in so many ways, in being obliged to attend so many functions which an ordinary member of the community is not obliged to attend, and the costs inherent in that sort of life. Also a member of Parliament is obliged on so many occasions, when his instincts would be otherwise, to take himself off into the night in winter and travel many miles to attend functions which he believes it is his duty as a member of Parliament to attend. I am sure that we all experience this, and the costs are not small.
The family of a member of Parliament becomes involved not only in the general political atmosphere of the home but also physically and actively in what the member is doing. I am not trying to paint a bad picture of this, but 1 want to put the record straight regarding a lot of the popular misconceptions that exist in the Australian community about what happens in the life of a member of Parliament. Recently I was invited to attend a function many miles from my home. The invitation was extended also to my wife. To cut a long story short, the consequence was that over a 2-day period I was $132 out of pocket because of air fares, accommodation expenses and the normal expenses that one incurs.
That is not an isolated case. On many occasions I have returned to my office to find appeals from various bodies with which I have been continuously associated over the years and to which I have made a commitment to support. Many other appeals come out of the blue. On occasions- I can verify this- in the one afternoon I have written cheques for a total amount of $50 to give to various organisations that have asked me to help them. I feel privileged to have been able to do that, and I want to be able to continue to do that. But there are difficulties in the way of this sort of performance from time to time.
It seems to me that the debate has now come down to a consideration of the general salary situation of members of Parliament. The other two aspects of this report which is before the Parliament have been dealt with by the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate (Senator Withers) in a certain direction. He suggested that there be a deferment of the operation of the new salaries for members of Parliament. Firstly, to put the record straight in regard to parliamentary salaries, I have before me a document which sets out the sequence of parliamentary pay rises over the past several years. A pay rise was granted to parliamentarians in 1 959. Then there was a lapse of 5 or 6 years and the next increase was granted in 1964. Then after a gap of 4 years there was a further increase in 1968, and then a further increase in 1973, which was in the nature of an interim increase arising out of the Kerr report which came before us in that year. Now we have the present determination. As to the present determination, I want to refer to the relevant section of the Remuneration Tribunal Act which appears on page 37 of the report. The relevant section of the Act sets out the functions of the tribunal. I am confining my remarks now to the parliamentary salaries context alone because I think that the other matters have been canvassed fairly well. Section 5 of the Act reads:
The functions of the Tribunal are to inquire into, and report to the Minister on, matters referred to in section 6 and to inquire into, and determine, matters referred to in section 7.
I suppose one can argue up hill and down dale about the meaning of the word ‘determine’. It is my understanding- I have listened to quite learned observations on this point- that what the Tribunal has brought forward is a determination. This Parliament has set up by unanimous decision a tribunal. Let me say in that regard that it is my Party’s policy that parliamentarians should not be the determinators of their own salaries, of their own worth, but that in fact this should be done by a properly constituted tribunal. Nobody has suggested, and I am sure that nobody would suggest, that the tribunal was not properly constituted of very capable, competent and honourable people who, having been appointed, went to work on their task.
– Slurs have been cast by implication.
-That is right. My colleague, Senator Wriedt, says that slurs have been, by implication, cast. I think that that is regrettable because nobody should, I think, reflect upon the capacity, capability, or honesty of the members of the tribunal. So let us conclude, as I am sure we will conclude, that it is a properly drawn report. The Tribunal has gone into all the relevant questions that one would need to touch upon in making a determination as to the adequacy of remuneration of members of Parliament.
That brings me to the second point referred to by Senator Carrick, namely, the relevance or relativity of the parliamentarian’s salary to that of people in other sections of the community. I would make a rough guess and say that the $20,000 which is, according to the report, to be awarded to us as an adequate salary for our services would approximate, I would think, something like $14,000 when related to the salary of people in other sections of the community. In other words, its value diminishes quite substantially because of those things which I described a while ago as being expenses and costs which have to be met by a parliamentarian. As far as one can gather the ordinary member of the community would not be faced with the same sort of costs and expenses in maintaining himself in his position. A colleague of mine who sought election to the Senate in I think, 1968, and subsequently was elected to the House of Representatives in 1969, 1972 and 1973, recently made an examination of his financial position and found that he is now approximately $2,000 in debt when compared with his financial position when he started. So I think we should put into its proper context how much the salary is worth in real terms.
I think all too often the position of members of Parliament is grossly misrepresented to the people of Australia. One wonders sometimes whether there is not, on the part of sections of the media at least, a conspiracy to grossly misrepresent the position to the Australian community of their members of Parliament, be they in the Federal or the State sphere. I suppose it would not take a great mind to work out that the Press would be seeking to serve the interests of those sections of the community to which it feels itself beholden, and that does not include the Australian Labor Party. If, by the sort of advocacy that one has seen in the last few days, the public of Australia is persuaded so to express itself against any additional remuneration being granted to parliamentarians that eventually the salary payable to a parliamentarian does not make it attractive for people who would seek to make it a full time job, then ultimately we will see the son of situation that obtained back in the 1 840s, 100 years ago, when only the people from the wealthy sections of the community could afford to become members of Parliament. This will be the ultimate consequence of such a move. If my judgment in that regard is wrong I hope that somebody will correct it.
The Tribunal has made its judgment as to the adequacy of salary and the other emoluments of office based upon a full time service to the Australian community by members of Federal Parliament, both senators and members of the House of Representatives. The community takes no account of the fact that there are full time members of the Australian Parliament who are solely dependent upon their parliamentary salaries to sustain them and their families and to discharge their obligations as members of Parliament to the community at large. But, of course, there are other members of Parliament who have multi-incomes. Some of these people are engaged in business activities or professional operations, or they may be in the farming community. Yet other members of Parliament are supplemented in their income by other members of their family, such as a working wife. So some members of Parliament have a multiple income. When we try to make a judgment as to the adequacy of the salary surely we cannot take these things in complete isolation and say: ‘You are all there on the same basis; you are overpaid’, when one member of Parliament is struggling to serve the community as he feels he should and other members of Parliament have multiple incomes, some of which are quite substantial.
I feel that this position ought to be made clear. Unfortunately it is not made clear, and the Australian public is duped into the belief that parliamentarians are grossly overpaid. I read somewhere once that some person- obviously the person was completely misinformed about the situationsaid: ‘Why should they get paid these salaries when they work only 80 days of the year?’ I was horrified when I read this. Obviously the people of Australia have been completely fooled. They are being asked to believe that their members of Parliament are rogues who plant themselves somewhere for 280 days of the year and expect to receive a full parliamentary salary: When I was travelling to Canberra on one occasion a couple of years ago I took out my diary, just as a matter of interest, just as an exercise because I had spent hardly any time at home for months, to see on how many day I was occupied with parliamentary business. You will recall yourself, Mr Acting Deputy President, that we were engaged in an inquiry being conducted by one of the Senate select committees about that time. On examining this diary I found to my amazement that I had spent 289 days of the year either at Parliament, attending committee hearings of the Parliament, or travelling to and from the Parliament. That left me very few days in the year in which to service my electorate, get to the various parts of the electorate in order to keep in touch with the electors and the constituents and perform my various other duties, as well as. have a little time with my family. Regardless of salary, regardless of remuneration, if this exercise alone can be used to inform the Australian public of just what a parliamentarian does it will not be a wasted exercise at all.
I want to return to the question of the interpretation of the word ‘determine’. I am informed that the Tribunal was asked to do a job. It was asked to make certain recommendations and was also required to make determinations. It is my understanding that the Tribunal makes that determination and it stands or falls. As I understand it, it cannot be fiddled with; it is a final determination. It is a complete document and it goes to the Parliament as such. It is either accepted or rejected.
– What about this amendment?
– That is right; I was coming to that. As I say, it is my understanding that we cannot fiddle with the determination. We either knock it out or we accept it. This is entirely up to the Parliament. But I hope that Opposition senators know the consequences of their amendment. I will accept the decision. When I was canvassed by members of the Press concerning my attitude, I said that I could get by on the present parliamentary salary. Perhaps as time goes by, one would have to curtail some activities and one would have to tailor one’s movements to accord to one’s financial position. I can tell honourable senators that I am not a rich man. I would not mind revealing my financial position to any person who really and honestly sought to know what it is. I would hope that other members of the Parliament who will address themselves to this matter and who believe that their contribution is a sincere and genuine one would act similarly.
There is a very great doubt about the legal position. I would expect all honourable senators to inform themselves fully on this point. We can sit in at the meetings of many committees of which legal men are constituent members and hear from those legal men arguments that are diametrically opposed. In fact, we have seen instances on many occasions in the Parliament upon which there have been very dramatic differences of opinion between one legal mind and another as to the interpretation or the meaning of a particular thing. I suggest to members of the Opposition who pursue this amendment that the effect ofthe report be delayed until 1 January 1 975 that they examine whether, in fact, they can chop the report about. In my opinion, the report is complete and final. It is either adopted or is not adopted. Of course, the tribunal has also made it part of its report that the provisions of the report have effect as from 1 August this year. I believe that even if the adoption of the report were delayed and then was ultimately adopted, the operative date of the increases would go back to 1 August 1974. 1 think that that matter also needs to be watched.
Do not let us think that any political philosophy has a monopoly of concern for the Welfare of the Australian community. I want to raise a point in this regard which I think is terribly “relevant. Not so very long ago the Government made arrangements to put to the people of Australia the question of whether the control of prices and incomes should be referred to the Federal Parliament. Just about every section of the community, including the Press and the members of the Opposition parties, went out on to the hustings and advised the people against giving the power to the Commonwealth Government for the control of prices. That is the crux of the problem that we have in Australia at the present time. Ever since I came into the Parliament I have referred, where it has been appropriate, to the problems arising out ofthe wagesprices problem. I have suggested- it is not just my view because it has been supported by judicial tribunals- that wages have been in pursuit of prices, and so it goes on. Unless there is some authority in the land prepared to grab the nettle and do something about the question of prices, we will not see an end to this trend and it will never be the right time to increase our salaries unless we have the courage and obtain the authority to exercise some control over the price of goods and services in the Australian community.
Mr Acting Deputy President, let me suggest to you that it will never be the right time to increase our salaries. I know that every time increases in parliamentary salaries are mooted we are told it is not the rightime, that it is Christmas time, that we are just about to go into an election or that there is a problem in the economy. In fact, they are probably quite genuine reasons. But I suggest to honourable senators that, in view of the Tribunal’s report that is before the Senate at the present time, in the past when we have been making determinations in relation to our salaries we have been very much under-valuing ourselves. That is what has happened up to the present time. This is why we see in one lump a recommendation for an increase of $5,500 in the salary of a back bencher. Had we been making a proper determination of the adequacy of our salaries, the chance is- it is a very good one at that- that the recommendation for an adjustment in salary at the present time would have been substantially lower than it is now. But we have under-valued ourselves. Is it any wonder that the Australian community has undervalued us as well?
There are many things that can be said on this matter and I would like to address myself to it at greater length. But, as I say, I hope that we can in the course of this debate give the people of Australia some reasonable means of judgment of what the life of a politician is like, what his expenses are and the other problems that he has in the course of his parliamentary life. Certainly, as somebody pointed out, he receives many benefits from being a member of the Australian Parliament. In fact, he has the privilege to serve his State and his country in the Parliament. That is a very great privilege indeed. But I hope that we would not get to the stage of accepting what is currently being said, namely, that it is not time for an increase in salary and that the proposed salary, as Senator Wright has said, is inappropriate for the sort of services that we render to the community. He has stated that the recommended increase of $5,500 in salary is far too great. I think that Senator Wright very substantially under-estimates the value of the work of his colleagues to the people of Australia.
I suggest that the motion which has been put to the Senate is quite defective. I suggest very strongly to the Opposition that it examine the legal implications of what it is doing before it proceeds further with its motion. As I said earlier, if the salary is not increased, I will get by and I guess that the rest of us would get by. But I want honourable senators to make a proper and courageous judgment, not one based upon the sort of hysteria that is being generated outside the Parliament. Let us make a proper appraisal of the situation, having, for the first time in the history of the Australian Parliament, asked a tribunal, an outside body, to make a judgment of our worth. Let us remember that that authority, which nobody has reflected upon, has made recommendations to the Parliament. Should we accept the recommendations or should we reject them?
– I have much pleasure in supporting Senator Wright’s motion. I compliment him on the way in which he moved it. He can rest assured that I will support that motion through the debate and into the vote. I am pleased that we have both been working towards a similar objective. I am rather disappointed- I suppose that that is an understatementwith the attitude of some Opposition speakers. If there is one point that has come out of the debate so far, it is this: Whilst the Labor Government has made an appalling decision, its members have stood up and have been counted. Even the figures have been published somewhere. At least the members of the Labor Party are standing up to their decision. But I was very disappointed this afternoon to hear Senator Carrick say that he was passing the decision back to the Government. Why did he say that? We know that there is a progression of events and that they cannot be turned back. The Government, with all its authoritarian control in its ranks and in Caucus, has made a decision and will not alter that decision. The scene has therefore progressed out of the House of Representatives. There is no power there to deflect these determinations. The power to deflect exists only from the start of this corridor and in these benches. That is all there is in Australia. There is nowhere else-only this little grouping of seats which will have an effect on it. Yet Senator Carrick says he will not take the decision. Why is he sitting there? What is the purpose of his occupying that red seat if he will not be a senator? I am astounded at that attitude. I would have thought that people on this side of the Senate would at least stand up for their opinions as much as do those opposite. Senator Carrick made out an admirable case for positive action. He not only agreed with everything the Federal Treasurer (Mr Crean) said on Tuesday night; he amplified it very well. But he said he is not going to take action, that he will pass it back to the Government.
It may be a move taken by the Opposition in all good faith but to the public it will look like a fiddle and no smart talking by members here will make it look otherwise, because, as I understand the move by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Withers), he will allow these payments to begin on 1 August while something is held over here and he will go to the Government and say to Mr Whitlam, who does not control Caucus anyway: ‘We want you to put legislation through both Houses to defer the payments’. The Prime Minister might not control Caucus but he was smart enough about the double dissolution to outwit those on this side of the House and I suspect that if he uses the same tactics he will string them on and do it again. Is the Liberal Party to be put in the same position again at the mercy of Government manipulation? It tried once and failed. Is it going to do it again? The track record is not good enough to support that sort of move.
– I do not think he will have a double dissolution about salaries.
– I was using the previous one only to illustrate the point ofthe Opposition putting itself in the hands of Government management. I can see the Government quite easily stringing along this side of the Senate. The payments are being made and when the Government will not act- it cannot act under its rulingsthe Opposition here will have the job of going along a month or so later and taking away what has been paid into everyone’s bank account. If that is not a messy, undesirable situation I do not know what is. There is only one clean way of handling this and that is to defer for up to 12 months. As I read the legislation which controls the setting up of the Remuneration Tribunal, that is permissive and not mandatory. The Tribunal must report within 12 months; it need not wait 12 months. Surely it is a sensible attitude from this side of the Senate to take that view and make a clean job of it which the public will understand, because despite the reversion for a good deal of this debate as to the effect of these determinations on members of Parliament, the real purpose of any disapproval of the determinations is on behalf of the public outside this House, not on behalf of members in here. We know that everyone here would lose something; we do not have to argue that point. Therefore we make it on behalf of people outside the House, and if we are to do that it is important that they see it clearly and not regard it as a fiddle. It is quite hopeless to temporise in this fashion. For the life of me I cannot see the incentives for the Opposition so to temporise. Nobody has really said why he wants to do it this way. Opposition senators would like to follow Senator Wright’s leadership in this matter. I do not think that is really in question. I think that they respect the honourable senator, but there must be some reason why the Opposition wants to be devious.
– It wants the pay rises deferred.
– Yes, it wants them deferred and it wants to put it into a strategy which I have said has no certainty at all. In fact, if there are any odds, they lie heavily against the Prime Minister and Caucus being influenced by a plea from Senator Withers. It just does not add up to any straight presentation of a case. I suppose I can add to the things that we all know about the severity ofthe expansion of inflation. A fortnight ago I met an individual who worked for a firm. He told me that the people on the counter serving the public in his firm had recently won a rise of $37 a week. He said: ‘The thing that frightens us is that they are already preparing their next case’. He then said: ‘We had a vacancy on staff and we went to one of these people and said “The job carries $11,000, will you take it? ‘ ‘. ‘ The person who had been asked said ‘ No, I can do better out here; I do not want your staff job.’
There are plenty of these examples around. That one is absolutely factual and so it coincides with Senator Carrick ‘s explanation of the problem. The scene is one of extreme gravity. If it is an extremely grave situation in this way, and if Mr Hawke has approved these rises, one can only expect that industrial labour will use them as the basis for immediate applications for increases across the board. We would be foolish if we thought otherwise. Every contact I have in industry says it is happening, and we all know the publicity about the metal workers and so on. Surely this side of the Senate does not need any further explanation of the gravity. Every member sitting here knows it; he is in contact with it. Why is he ignoring it? Why does he want to be devious about it? It might be an idea of Senator Withers or the Party. But why! On what is it based? Why the prevarication? If any confirming factors are needed, it might be an idea to adjourn this debate and let senators on this side of the Senate go home for the weekend -if their rooms are not already filled with telegrams. I have plenty in mine. It appears that they are not converted to the urgency.
It leaves me bereft of understanding of motives from our side of politics. As I said somewhere else earlier today our side of politics, above all else, must be credible today and stop saying one thing and meaning another. There is a need for action. I believe there is one futher reason which should move members on this side. It is the claim of their parliamentary leader in another place that the economic ills of Australia should be fixed by a social contract. May I say that that idea of a social contract has been thoroughly discredited wherever it has been aired publicly. We all know that the shop steward at General Motors-Holdens Ltd at Elizabeth will not think twice about a social contract. Neither will members of the Liberal Party hereand that is the difficult thing for this Party. It wants a social contract but it does not want to face up to it itself. It wants everyone else to do it and it talks of a fiddle, deferment. What will the public think? Once again, leaving any idealistic attitude aside for a moment, it is a losing play.
I do not think there is much more I could say. We have had a fair go today; we have been talking since 10.30 this morning while Mr Snedden was descending through the fog, and we have been talking about the issue since lunch. I would have liked to see this thing settled today because I think it is a vital necessity that the public do not run away with an idea which cannot be taken from them and which they cannot be shaken out of because members in this place were tardy in acting. Opinions are formed quickly and firmly about these matters. I would have liked to see it settled today but if members here have not yet enough motivation I suggest that they go to their electorates at the weekend and come back and vote on this on Tuesday. That is not for me to say; I simply make a suggestion to them. From my experience in politics I believe that politicians mislead themselves very badly during the week that they spend in Parliament House. It is an ingrown sort of society far removed from the people we represent. I have seen decisions made at the end of a week in that sense which have been bad. It would appear to me that members here have been listening to themselves too much and not enough to those people whom they represent, and they are about to make a decision which is about as bad as the one they made on the double dissolution issue.
Perhaps I should draw to the Senate ‘s attention what some of the newspapers are saying. I notice one headline: ‘Squirrels’ Swing M.P. Pay Decision’. Labor Party senators may care to read this article for their edification. I think that the editorial of the ‘Australian Financial Review’ portrays what the public is thinking.
– Do you know that the ‘Canberra Times’ overnight increased its advertising rate by 25 per cent and yet it is the paper which is leading in the campaign against us at the moment?
-For Senator Georges’ benefit, I do not have that paper in my possession. I intend to quote in part from the editorial of ‘Australian Financial Review’ of 25 July. Perhaps Senator Georges should read all of it.
– It is one of the Fairfax group.
– I guess the honourable senator is always motivated ideologically. He has no flexibility in his viewpoint. He certainly has no flexibility when he endorses this pay rise despite the needs of the rest of Australia. I would like to quote briefly from the editorial. It states:
For the Whitlam Government it is an opportunity that has been lost. Faced with a rate of inflation accelerating past 14 per cent a year, the Cabinet at least should have been prepared to capitalise on the general feeling of dismay at the CP1 figures and bring in a tough economic package knowing that it had 2 months up its sleeve before bringing down the final September Budget for the year.
It baulked at this. Caucus also bridled. Imagine how lacking in toughness Treasurer Crean will be next time around when he does not even have the phychological assistance of . . . figures. If he could not win the battle in Cabinet this week, he has no hope then.
It goes on to say other things which of course back up that opinion. I have read that small section at random only to illustrate that this is what the public is thinking. It is of no use for members of Parliament to complain that the public might be thinking this way or to say that the media is responsible for that type of thinking. It is fact. The public is thinking in this way and the public overwhelmingly would require us clearly to disapprove of this determination.
I am not saying that all members of the public are angels in the field of wage restraint. We know that amongst the public are many people who are involved in making further approaches for an improvement in their conditions and an increase in their pay although they have already just received one.
– The stock brokers have their own methods of looking after this.
– I am not drawing the line here. There are people in the community who have not passed on the advantages of tariff reductions, if that satisfies the honouable senator’s desire for even-handedness
– I said that the stock brokers have their own methods of looking after this.
-That may be, but that is the subject of another matter. If we are acting on behalf of the public it is important that we have regard to what the public is thinking. The Opposition is not going to manufacture the thinking of the public. I suggest for the sake of Australia that it makes a very clean decision, not a messy one. I believe that it will fail in the end if it tries, for political reasons, to put the responsibility back on the Government when the Government has accepted a responsibility. The Government made the wrong decision, a very bad decision, but it has accepted the responsibility of making it. Members of the Opposition do not want that responsibility. That is the difference, a difference which I did not expect to come out today. One of the thoughts that a lot of people from our side of politics have today is whether there is any difference between Labor and Liberal on this question. It would appear that the only difference is that honourable senators on this side of the chamber will not accept the responsibility of making a decision.
Sitting suspended from 5.59 to 8 p.m.
-I call Senator Laucke.
- Mr President, may I raise a point of order before Senator Laucke commences his remarks? I do not wish to be difficult but I understand that the sessional order states that on Thursday nights at 8 p.m. general business takes precedence. This morning Senator Douglas McClelland put down a motion which was carried and which stated that at 8 p.m. tonight Government business would take precedence over general business. Also this morning Senator Douglas McClelland moved to suspend Standing Orders to allow a matter to be called on. I seek your ruling as to whether Government business should be called on at 8 o’clock or whether the matter which was before the Chair at 6 p.m. is still in continuation. We seem to have 2 conflicting motions. One motion, which was carried, was to bring on Government business at 8 o’clock in precedence to general business. The other motion was that Standing Orders be suspended to allow this matter to be brought on. I assume that this matter therefore becomes business of the Senate. Does business of the Senate still override Government business after 8 p.m.? This is one of those interesting solutions -
– It is not a solution, it is a problem.
– That is right. That is why we have Mr President, to straighten us out on these things. This is a matter which I think ought to be resolved so that every honourable senator knows what the score is. I shall keep talking while everyone is looking at his little red book, unless somebody else has something to contribute. This does raise an interesting point. I do not wish to argue strongly one way or the other but there has been a suggestion floating around that Government business would be called on at 8 p.m. tonight. No doubt there is some Government business or something like that to put down. If Senator Murphy wishes to speak I shall sit down. Perhaps he wishes to speak to the point of order or something like that?
- Mr President, I submit that this matter of the determination of the Remuneration Tribunal should be regarded as business of the Senate in terms of standing order 66a. This standing order refers to business ofthe Senate to take precedence. It states: 66a. The following business shall be placed on the notice paper as ‘Business of the Senate’ and shall take precedence of Government and General Business for the day on which it is set down for consideration, viz.:
I submit that clearly the matter which was the subject of discussion before the Senate when the sitting was suspended for dinner comes within standing order 66a (c). Therefore clearly this is business of the Senate and it takes precedence over Government business and general business.
– I feel that there is substance to the point of order which has been taken by the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate. That substance has not been really adverted to by what the Minister for the Media, Senator Douglas McClelland, has just said. As I understand the point of order the question is whether at this point of time Government business should be called on irrespective of the business before the Senate. This morning in the Senate we passed a motion that at 8 p.m. Government business should take precedence over general business. That is as I understand it. I would appreciate that being confirmed as the text of the resolution which was carried by the Senate. Therefore in the ordinary course of events Government business would be called on at this hour. What has happened is that Government business has not been called on. We question the propriety of the conduct which is now being followed. As I understand Senator Douglas McClelland he is arguing that the matter which the Senate was considering prior to the suspension of the sitting for dinner was business of the Senate. He argued cogently and remarkably shortly- but no less effectively- that the matter is business of the Senate. I do not think any argument could be raised successfully that the matter we were discussing is not business of the Senate. But that is not the question which we are considering. I do not think Senator Douglas McClelland adverted to all the elements of standing order 66a which states:
The following business shall be placed on the notice paper as ‘Business of the Senate’ and shall take precedence of Government and General business for the day on which it is set down for consideration . . .
I have before me the printed notice paper and also the notice paper which is roneoed and circulated to honourable senators every morning. I look in vain for any business of the Senate. It is not listed on the printed notice paper. It is just not listed for today. Senator Douglas McClelland did not advert to that point.
– Where does it state ‘sets down in the notice paper*? It states ‘set down’.
– I read standing order 66a which states:
The following business shall be placed on the notice paper as ‘Business of the Senate’ and shall take precedence of Government and General business for the day on which it is set down for consideration . . .
– Was this not set down this morning for today?
– I never thought that the people’s Government would rely upon such legalisms to avoid the ordinary consequences of simple workman’s language.
- Mr President, I raise a point of order. If Senator Greenwood goes on to standing order 66a (c) he will see that it states:
A motion for the disallowance of a Regulation or Ordinance or the disapproval of an Award made under the authority of any Act which provides for the Award being subjected to disapproval by either House of the Parliament;
I suggest that quite clearly this has been done today.
– I think that this is the standing order which Senator Greenwood is debating.
- Mr President, I am indebted to you. I also thank Senator Poyser because I think his clarity of rendition is something of which, on this occasion, we all approve. I think that what he has said is not only clear but also correct. But it is beside the point. The real question is whether the business of the Senate was set down for this day. Of course, Mr President, this is a matter for you to decide, but the ordinary language and usage of the Senate is that a matter is set down for consideration if it is set down on the notice paper. I suppose casuistry, to suit the particular purposes and objectives of a government in some difficulties, may justify putting up an argument that language may be twisted. That is about the only basis or justification which I can see for giving these words the curious reading which they are given. The point which I raise in support of what Senator Withers has said is that even if this is business of the Senate- I concede it is- it is not to take precedence over Government business, particularly when the Senate, by motion this morning, moved that Government business was to take precedence. Intrinsically there is no precedence guaranteed by standing order 66a. I know that certain things are taken for granted because it is convenient to do so. But when points of order are taken as to whether the business of the Senate should proceed and when we rely upon standing order 66a, as Senator Douglas McClelland has done, one has to look exactly at the words of that standing order. We have looked at them. This business of the Senate was not set down for today and therefore it does not have any precedence. It is only by the standing orders that business of the Senate can have precedence. If no standing order gives business precedence the ordinary resolution of the Senate must take priority. That is the point of order which, as I understand it, Senator Withers raised for consideration. I submit that the matter is clearly covered by standing order 66a.
-Standing order 66a states: . . business shall be placed on the Notice Paper . . . and shall take precedence of Government and General Business for the day on which it is set down for consideration . . .
Clause (c) states:
A Motion for the disallowance of a Regulation or Ordinance or the disapproval of an Award -
I believe this is the operational section of this standing order- made under the authority of any Act which provides for the Award being subject to disapproval by either House of the Parliament;
Therefore Senator Wright’s motion takes precedence over Government Business and I rule that the debate may proceed.
- Mr President, I rise to ask for further consideration of this matter. What do we do with the resolution that the Senate carried this morning? That is what I wish to see cleared away. Can you advise me on this?
– The motion that was carried this morning was for the very purpose of allowing Senator Wright’s motion to be debated. That is the business which is before the Senate at present and I rule that debate should proceed.
– May I have leave to speak?
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– I think Senator Sir Magnus Cormack is referring rather to what happens to the order that Government business shall take precedence over general business at 8 o’clock. Mr President, I suggest for your consideration that, in accordance with the usual practice, at the conclusion of any business of the Senate, Government business should then proceed.
– That was my intention. We will proceed with Senator Wright’s motion.
– I rise to indicate my support for the motion moved by Senator Wright disapproving of the determinations of the Remuneration Tribunal as tabled in the Senate yesterday. My motivation for supporting Senator Wright’s motion is the deep concern that I have for the present state of our economy and my fear that were the increases as set out in the review implemented the repercussions in the inflationary spiral would be disastrous. It cannot be denied that we have reached a crisis in our economy at present of a degree that we have never experienced in the history of our country. We talk about restraint. It is said to be necessary by the Government and by my Party. Where is restraint being shown in respect of the recommendations now before the Senate? I bear in mind very clearly the words of Mr Laurie Short a few days ago. He said, in effect, that these increases will take the lid right off the cauldron. He said that the sky is the limit. I feel that honourable senators have to be completely appreciative of the repercussions which would flow through the whole of the economy, at a common crisis, to the detriment of those people to whom we feel we should give the most consideration in respect of retention of value in our money.
Inflation in the June quarter was at the rate of 4. 1 per cent which would equate to more than 1 3 per cent in a year. With that increase in the pipeline there could be an inflation rate of 20 per cent per annum by the end of the year. This is an impossible rate with which to cope. We are living in a fool ‘s paradise if we think we can embrace a situation such as that and emerge with a viable economy in the world scene. Now is the time for the Parliament to give a lead and try to halt the rate of inflation which could cripple every aspiration of the Australian people. Our economic history shows that we have done very well through the years. There have been ups and downs. We have had our difficult times. We have had periods of inflation to a degree but never to the extent which now exists.
– The previous Government had record unemployment.
– I do not believe in unemployment at all. I am afraid we are heading for an unemployment situation which we have not had for a long while. I am disturbed immensely when I hear that organisations such as General Motors-Holden’s Pty Ltd are now wondering whether it is worthwhile to continue producing cars in Australia. I wonder where the devil we are going. I wonder how we will maintain our work force in employment in Australia. We have to be responsible and assist everybody in the community. If we are not responsible we will cause enormous harm and our prospects for future generations could be very seriously adversely affected.
– What is the profit from flour milling?
– As a matter of fact it is at a very low ebb. The stimulus which would be given to inflation were these recommendations put into effect would be enormous. I am horrified at the prospect which lies ahead of us unless there is a sharp pulling in of the reins and a lead given to ensure that there will be ability to meet the situation which is now seemingly out of hand. I intend to quote from no less an authority than the Treasurer (Mr Crean). In his statement on inflation a few days ago he said:
I say without exaggeration that the Australian economy now faces a highly dangerous situation.
That, coming from Mr Crean, is worthy of note because it was not long ago, in fact just before the general election, that there was no suggestion of any imminence of great strife, struggle and difficulty ahead. It was said that inflation would be contained and that we were heading towards Utopia. Now the Treasurer is saying that we are facing a highly dangerous situation. The Treasurer focused on two key elements. He said:
Should our first concern not be to ensure the weaker in the community a fair place in the sun to protect them? What is being done now is detrimental to the interests of those people. They are the masses of Australians. The Treasurer continued:
The second key element in our situation derives from the rest of the world.
We have heard quite a lot about the importation of inflation to Australia. I can see that certain of our imports now bear a cost increase arising from the oil crisis in the world. The inflationary spiral in Great Britain, Japan and other countries has been accentuated by the demands made on those countries with respect to the price of their energy. But Australia is not affected in the same way because our energy costs have been held down pretty well. It is only the effect of that oil crisis reflected in the cost of imports that introduces a degree of inflation to Australia. Our inflation is based on costs and in costing it is unavoidable to say that unbridled wage demands have led to very great cost increases.
Mr President, you know that I am not opposed to payment of the best wages that the nation can afford. I firmly believe in that principle. I have no desire to see wages held down to figures which do not give the recipient a decent place in the sun. I always have been opposed to low wages and in favour of the best that the country and industry can afford to pay in order to ensure that the recipient obtains the things that he or she desires. We must realise that in the last 12 months no less than $ 1,000m has been written off the real value of savings banks deposits in Australia. And whose money is that? It belongs to the ordinary people in Australia. This has acted to the detriment of those people; it has done them real harm. Therefore tonight as we consider this suggestion of taking for ourselves quite a big increment in our remuneration as well as considering a big increment for others, I say that it would be most irresponsible and would hurt the very people that we all seek to serve, the general good old Aussies in the whole community, if we accepted. It is our duty at this stage not to set an example which would lead to exorbitantly high further demands which would lead to a situation of depression. We have our recollections of the depression years. My recollections of the 1930 depression are dim, actually, but I know the aftermath of it. Today we face a challenge. There is a danger to our whole democratic system in Australia if situations arise of the severity of those which were experienced in those bad years. Revolution could occur here.
– It could. I am not exaggerating when I say that because people expect to maintain the standard of living to which they are entitled. If the economy is allowed to reach such a stage that there is hopelessness all about, then we have set the pattern or the background for major upheavals in our society as we now know it. Mr President, I view this matter very seriously. I have real and genuine fears about where we are heading at the present time because of this inflationary spiral. I believe that tonight it is our bounden duty to support Senator Wright’s motion about not taking the suggested increases at this time. The determination ought to be disapproved and I support Senator Wright’s motion.
- Dr Porter said that if your Party was in government inflation would be twice as high. What is your comment on that statement?
– I respond by saying that our record through the years of containing inflationary increases is such that I believe that the present situation would not have arisen had other attitudes been taken on this very vital question. Until recent days there was no acknowledgment that inflation was a threat to us. It is now admitted. I hark back to the first Budget introduced by the Labor Party Government in 1973 when an increase of no less than $2,000m, or a bit more, was added to the Budget of the previous year and a Budget of $ 10,000m became one of more than $ 12,000m, a 19 per cent increase. That was the first movement of a pretty active economy heading into an inflationary situation. That public expenditure at that time seemingly was a good thing. I guess that the Australian Labor Party, coming into power after 23 years in the wilderness, was subject to a rather over-enthusiastic desire to do many things too quickly for the benefit of the people in accordance with promises and so on but, in the process, this inflationary situation which now bedevils us has become the nation’s biggest threat at the present time to the continuation of development and the provision of good living standards for everybody. I refer to such things as better education, hospitalisation, social services and so on. Before resuming my seat I want to refer honourable senators to these words of the Treasurer: the halting of inflation is the necessary first step to the active resumption of our policies of social and economic advancement.
Sir, we must halt inflation, in the words of the Treasurer, in order to do the things which the people of Australia expect and which they were promised. I support Senator Wright’s motion.
– I wonder if it is not time -
-I hope you are not closing the debate.
-No. I did not open the debate. It is nearly time that this charade came to an end. The Government would like a vote on this matter tonight. In spite of all the showmanship that has gone on the situation has been very clear for some time. There always has been criticism of anything involving parliamentary salaries. The Leader of the Opposition, Senator Withers, made a great point today of saying that he had warned us on the last occasion that these matters were discussed that we would not escape the wrath of the people and the wrath of the Press by setting up an independent Tribunal, yet he voted for that proposition.
Mr President, that sort of cynicism misses the point of what we were doing. I have believed over the years that the public and the Press had a somewhat genuine complaint when they said that it was wrong for parliamentarians to fix their own salaries. In order to overcome that complaint, and in accordance with the policy of the Australian Labor Party, last year we decided that these matters should be decided by an arbitral body, as is the case with most other salary examinations or salary increases in this community. From my days in arbitration courts I would say that it is perfectly clear-in fact it stands out like the nose on your face- that there are too many wage-fixing bodies in the community. That is because of our constitutional position with the State and Federal set-up, as well as the specialist agencies that have been established. There are too many people making all sorts of variations. When not just one body is handling these things there is a tendency throughout the world for an interlocking situation to arise. In fact Mr Justice Kerr, after making an examination here some years ago, visited the United States of America and England and then wrote to the Prime Minister of the day, Mr McMahon, pointing out that there was a tendency throughout the world for this interlocking situation to arise with people dealing with various types of salaries. Therefore we wrote certain things into the charter of the Remuneration Tribunal whose recommendations we are looking at tonight.
Tonight we have before us a bag of salary determinations, some of which affects some parts of the Public Service throughout Australia. Senator Withers said this afternoon that he did not disagree with the amount of money fixed for parliamentarians but he disagreed with the timing of the payment. Senator Townley said something similar on the last occasion. He said that he agreed but that the timing was wrong. The answer is that the timing is always wrong. The timing is not wrong on this occasion. The Opposition is trying to do a cheap politicking stage job. If the Opposition agrees that the amount is right and if it agrees that probably for the first time we have had a work valuation job done by 3 competent people who have brought down a report, there must be some other reason the Opposition is disagreeing. The reason is that the time is not right because throughout the world today there is an inflationary situation which is peculiar to our times. It is affecting Australia, the same as it is affecting just about every other country. That argument is a fair enough argument.
It is fair to say that if we are to embark on what is virtually wage fixation, there should be some sort of restraint in addition to the wage fixation. In Australia we should be trying to peg wages in the arbitral bodies. That argument is a fair enough argument. That is why, in the Labor Caucus, the vote was fairly evenly divided. People believed that that sort of argument, apart from the arbitral determination brought down by Mr Justice Campbell and his two associates, should be carried. But Senator Withers and the Opposition are not arguing that. What they are saying is purely political stage managing. They say: ‘Although the argument is clear, we will not accept all the recommendations. We will pin parliamentary salaries for 6 months’. Senator Withers does not seek to reject the increases, as Senator Wright does. He seeks to pin the increases for 6 months. The Opposition says that the inflationary situation in the world will be cured in 6 months time and then it will accept this recommendation.
– How would the Opposition know that in 6 months time things would be better?
-The Opposition knows perfectly well that it is an impossibility to forecast. It does not know that at all. This is the argument if one looks behind the facts about which the Opposition is talking. Obviously, if there is an argument that, in spite of the fact that the Tribunal has brought down recommendations not only on parliamentary salaries but on the salaries of judges, statutory officers and First Division officers in the Public Service and in spite of the fact that we agreed that the Tribunal has determined those wages in a proper arbitral way, this
Parliament should feel that because of the inflationary situation in which we live the increases should be rejected, as Senator Wright said, at least we would be rejecting them, and that would be wage fixation in an important part of the Australian community.
I cannot guarantee what the trade union movement will do. I cannot guarantee what the State Parliaments will do in respect of their judges and their public servants. It is argued that we should say that we will freeze the wages of this section of the community which we have in our control tonight. That is one argument. Senator Withers said that we should do this only in respect of parliamentarians. A freezing of the wages of 187 people will not have an effect on inflation. We cannot relate parliamentarians to anybody in the community in a comparative wage justice case. The Opposition says that this wage fixation will be a lead to the Australian community. That is political staging of the worst possible order. At least Senator Wright said: ‘Let us reject the increases altogether’. Let it be perfectly clear that this report contains many recommendations affecting members of Parliament. They refer not only to the things about which we have been talking today, but things members of Parliament have been praying for and looking at over a period. I refer to such things as the transport of members and special people in the Opposition getting special considerations.
I do not know whether the recommendations are right in every particular, but for a long time I have believed that if we are to have a better Parliament in Australia, we must have a better informed Parliament. I forget what the present Opposition did to us when it was in government. To have a better informed Parliament we must have parliamentarians who are dedicated to their job and who can move around this country and bring to bear in the national Parliament views on those things which are so terrifically important. Recommendations to enable this to be done are contained in this report. I know perfectly well, because I have been a senator for a number of years, what will happen. After this limelighting and this staging is over there will be pressures on the Government saying: ‘The Campbell report referred to transport, some research officers, travel allowances and charter flights’. Let it be perfectly clear that it is not on. Tonight the Opposition accepts the whole report or it rejects the whole report. We will not be pressured.
There was a very healthy debate in Cabinet and at the Caucus meeting. What is wrong with that? What is wrong with having disagreements?
What is wrong with examining the whole situation? What is wrong with people coming to an independent decision on these things? I throw back in the teeth of Senator Withers the cheap jibes about the Press reports as to how many voted for this and how many voted for that. Let me be perfectly clear. The Opposition is saying that it will defer only the parliamentary salaries. That is a minute part of the report. What would be the cost to the community of those increases? There are 187 members of Parliament as against the large number of Australian public servants and the 40, I think it is, judges. Add up the figures and you will see just what politicking this is and what theatre work this is.
If the Opposition genuinely believes that this is a lead in the fight against inflation- it says that we should stop at that stage- it should remember that tonight we have in our control not only parliamentary salaries but the salaries of all those other people whom we deliberately grouped together. I wrote the working paper on this matter 1 8 months ago. I suggested this idea. I rang Mr Justice Campbell in the first place. I believe that setting up this Tribunal was a sensible thing. The suggestion was agreed to unanimously by this Parliament. It was my initiative which put this thing forward and I believe it is right. I believe that it is not right to stand back and say: We will take the parliamentarians out’. Is that a lead in the anti-inflationary fight? Of course it is not. Honourable senators opposite know perfectly well that it is not. If they defer this matter tonight, the Opposition will go the whole hog because we will see that it does so. The Prime Minister will say to the States: ‘As we have not increased the salaries of the judges of the Australian courts and as we have not increased the salaries of public servants employed by the Australian Government, we expect each Premier to do the same thing’. Whatever the arguments of the economists about the part wages play in the inflationary scheme of things- that debate has been going on for as long as I can remember- if we fight the battle on that level, the Prime Minister has a duty to say to the States: ‘If it is good enough for one section of the Australian community, it will be good enough for the lot of you ‘.
– You are blackmailing the Opposition.
-My friend Senator Webster is, I think, having a little joke about blackmail at my expense. It is not blackmail. If this matter is as serious as honourable senators opposite are making it out to be- if they say that what they are doing tonight will be a challenge to the Australian people, a challenge to the Australian trade union movement and a challenge to the Australian white collar workers- the problem will not be solved by pegging the wages of 187 people and agreeing to increases for thousands of people. Let me repeat myself. I do not like repeating myself to the point of boredom. I know that I am doing so tonight. The amount of money it would cost to increase the salaries of parliamentarians when compared with the amount that it would cost to implement the rest of the proposals would be infinitesimal. How can Senator Withers stand up here and say that this is a genuine drive against inflation in Australia? Of course it is not. It is a mere political stunt- a picking out of politicians because Senator Withers knows that they are the most unloved people in the community. So it is the popular thing to say. But he says that they will vote for the increased salaries for other people covered in the report. I rarely agree with my old friend Senator Wright- I have been here with him now for 25 years- but on this stage he could not help but strut, even for that short time that these things last. Nevertheless, if one analyses what he has done one sees that he has said: ‘ Let us stop it all ‘.
-At least he is honest.
-At least he is honest to that extent. But it is another thing to come out and say: ‘We will take the smallest unit of all because that is the popular thing; that is the thing that will get Press headlines’. People will say: Oh, yes, the self-sacrificing people standing out to defend it’. If one reads through the report one sees that Mr Justice Campbell, who after all has a little experience in these matters, has anticipated every utterance and every argument that people are trying to raise at this point. What he has said is that he has already examined this situation. He has said that the salaries of parliamentarians, judges and civil servants are following, they are not leading, and that is the way it ought to be. He has said: ‘We have listened to the arguments’, because he is just as aware of what the economic and fiscal situation is in Australia and in the world as any of us are. He adverts to that and says: ‘In spite of that, I believe that this is the just thing to do ‘. So if one wants to deal with this matter on an arbitral level, all those arguments have been anticipated by Mr Justice Campbell. Every one of them has been adverted to in the report. I notice that those sections of the report have not been quoted by the Opposition.
As I said at the outset, let us end this charade, because that is what it is. We have been on this thing all day. Firstly, there were the stalling tactics of saying whether the thing should have been brought on or whether it should not have been brought on. Sensible people adopting a genuine attitude could have fixed up that matter in two to five minutes, but it took hours. Finally, although Senator Wright would have had the right to walk out, take his bat and go home, he did not do so; he continued with the debate. As I say, we have been on this thing all day. There is no need to go any further with it. We make it quite clear that we will not stand for this staging or these theatricals. If honourable senators opposite want to delay, defer or do anything with this report, they can do so. For the first time in the history of Australia a report has come down with an arbitral decision.
Whatever the fate of this report and however much one disagrees with it, the proposal to set up this Tribunal was unanimously agreed to. The platform of the Australian Labor Party was right. It said that while parliamentarians are fixing their own salaries, with the suspicion that they are in collusion with judges and with the public servants with whom we have to work so closely, it does not give a genuine feeling to the Australian people. But whatever the people’s criticisms of an arbitral body are, when you hand this question of determining parliamentary salaries to an outside body, as so many of the State parliaments have done, at least that gets around the question of parliamentarians fixing their own salaries. What I say to you, Mr President, and to all honourable senators is that we should come to a vote quickly.
– When we are finished.
– Yes, I suppose winning means a lot to Senator Sim.
– I said: ‘When we are finished’.
– Winning a cheap political point means a lot to honourable senators opposite. When they have the numbers, when they have the jackboots, of course it is pretty easy. But the fact is that everybody in Australia is worried about the economic situation in which we find ourselves, and I understand everybody’s attitude to that matter. I understand people who would want to handle the situation one way, and I understand people who would want to handle the situation another way, because no economist in the world has come up with an answer to inflation. The whole of the world is floundering on the question of inflation. I never think that my ideas are so much better than anyone else’s ideas. But as regards this situation, the Labor Party made up its mind, it is true, on a vote which was not carried by a great majority; the majority was fairly substantial, but on many occasions we have been much closer to unanimity than we were on this occasion. But that is perfectly natural. We have made a decision. This is what we want to do. The Opposition is not standing up to an honest decision on this matter. As I say, it is trying this staging, picking out something that will make not one iota of difference to the situation on which honourable senators opposite base their arguments tonight. If they are honest in their endeavours, if they do not want just to play this staging and this politicking to the nth degree, I suggest that we should proceed to a vote as quickly as is humanly possible.
Senator Sir MAGNUS CORMACK (Victoria) (8.46)- I rise to my feet with some diffidence because I had hoped that I would be able to go through this period of the session of the Senate without having to speak publicly or in the Senate on matters of partisanship or where political bias may be exerted. But I am impelled to speak tonight because what we are involved in and what we are discussing is not a problem of partisanship at all. It bears down directly on the functions, responsibilities and attitudes that this Parliament holds. For example, I have heard that that old fashioned description of Parliament as ‘that high court of the realm’ is no longer valid. But in fact the people regard the Parliament as the high court of the realm and they know instinctively that in the final analysis all power and all authority within the Constitution is derived from the Parliament.
I think Senator Willesee’s reference to Senator Withers attempting to take a cheap political trick is totally erroneous, because all that Senator Withers in his forecast of a motion said this afternoon was that if there is a problem that besets the whole of the people, the Parliament must be the place where the action is taken and the demonstration of good faith has its birth. That is what Senator Withers in essence said. Therefore, he postulated the theorem that if there is to be a sacrifice and a demonstration of the sacrifice that is required in this nation on behalf of the people whom we represent here, the beginnings of that sacrifice and the demonstration of it should take place in the Parliament.
– Why not with some of the other people who are making millions?
-You can always deal with that by taxation.
-What have you got against that?
-It is the job of Parliament to lead, as has just been mentioned. I move on to the next step, which is: How did the Campbell Tribunal come into existence? It is well worth while going over the ground.
– By unanimous vote of the Parliament.
-Senator Poyser, I can get on very well with you, either sitting in the President’s chair or standing here, without being advised. The beginnings of this Tribunal were perfectly fair, square and above board. Senator Murphy will recollect what he said when he was Leader of the Opposition. The previous Government brought down a regulation which raised the rates of remuneration of statutory officers. Senator Murphy said: This is ridiculous. Parliament, diffident to attend to its own needs, is being asked to allow regulations to raise the level of statutory offices’. That is as I recollect what he said. I have not turned up the actual words and I do not want to continue to quote what one honourable senator or another honourable senator has said, but I think Senator Murphy will agree that that was the substance of the argument. The argument advanced was that the matter of the amount of remuneration to be received by statutory offices should be deferred until such time as Parliament got around to looking at its own situation. I think that most honourable senators agreed with that proposition.
In December 1972 a new government came into being and Senator Willesee was Special Minister of State in that Government. Senator Willesee, I think properly, said: ‘We will deal with this situation straight away’. He brought forward a proposition, the effect of which was to alter the rates of emoluments of members of Parliament and parliamentary officers. It was done quickly. No wide survey was carried out. Subsequently it was inevitably discovered- these things happen and I am not blaming Senator Willesee for this- that there were certain anomalies. For example, the situation was created wherein the Principal Parliamentary Reporter of this Parliament, the editor-in-chief of Hansard, was discovered to be in receipt of $1,600 or so less than his own deputy. Another departmental head, the head of the Parliamentary Library here in Canberra, one of the great libraries of Australia, was found to be in receipt of emoluments which were less than the emoluments of a librarian in a school of advanced technology in Sale in Gippsland which had no students and no books. Therefore, as Senator Willesee said, it was necessary to give a formal expression to and have a formal examination of the whole of the area, and that examination was carried out by the Campbell Tribunal. 1 do not quarrel with that. I think that Tribunal brought down a perfectly adequate report. It is a report in which the Tribunal acknowledged and recognised those emoluments, salaries and privileges, and all the other ancillary matters on a fair and reasonable basis. Senator Willesee, with his great experience in arbitral matters and in appearing before the arbitral authorities, has made perfectly clear that it is a very good report, and I agree with that assessment. It does not underrate members of Parliament, lt says that members of Parliament are worth so much a year in the context of the community in general. I agree with that. But all Senator Withers said was that the economic circumstances have changed since Mr Justice Campbell wrote his report. We have just gone through another election- I do not say this in any spirit of partisanship- during which it was denied that there existed in Australia a dangerous economic situation. The weather set fair for Spain, as it were; we could go ahead. But since then the economic situation and the economic future of Australia, to say the least of it, fogged and clouded. The Treasurer of the Commonwealth of Australia (Mr Crean), for example, said that we are in a dangerous economic situation. Although I very rarely switch on the idiot box, I did so last night only to see the Deputy Prime Minister (Dr J. F. Cairns) appearing on national television saying that it is dangerous at this juncture for Parliament to be seen to be adding to its own emoluments when sacrifice for this country, in economic terms, is required. He cited certain figures. I know that Senator Poyser interrupted a moment or two ago and said that the figures were not right, but I am relying on the figures mentioned last night by the Deputy Prime Minister. He said the figures were 5 1 to 40 or 4 1 to 50, or whatever it was.
– Who? Me?
-That is what your Deputy Prime Minister said were the figures, indicating that there is grave disquiet amongst Government supporters themselves. Why is there grave disquiet amongst Government supporters? The grave disquiet is caused by the fact that they are elected by the same electors who elect we who sit in this chamber. The electors who are caught in this economic squeeze at the moment, are saying to them, as indeed they are saying to us: ‘You are asking for price restraint, profit restraint, wage restraint, yet in the circumstances in which you are offering this to the community you propose to increase your own emoluments’. That is the reason honourable senators sitting in their places at this moment, expressing their views through the Leader of the
Opposition in the Senate (Senator Withers), suggested that Parliament should take the first step.
I have heard all of these arguments before, that there is never a right time to raise parliamentary salaries; this is never on; we shrink from doing this, and so forth. I have been hearing these things for more than 20 years. The facts of the situation are that, in terms of grave crisis, Parliament must act in the interests of the people, not act in its own interests. That is what we are here for. We are not here to act in our own interests, however necessary they may be, however difficult it may be to make ends meet. I have the responsibility of dependants. I spent last weekend, for example, going through my personal budget. I have no resource other than that which I am paid as a senator. I found that, with dependants, I could get through the period which I fear lies ahead ofthe Australian people. I am sure that a great number of other honourable senators have gone through the same exercise. It is not Senator Withers, the Leader of the Opposition here, or any other honourable senator on this side of the chamber who has been arguing for restraint. The Prime Minister of Australia (Mr Whitlam) has been arguing for restraint. He has said so publicly. The Deputy Prime Minister of Australia has been arguing for restraint and has said so publicly. The Treasurer of the Commonwealth of Australia has been arguing for restraint and has said so. There is only one area in which the people will finally either repose their trust or hurl their hatred. They will either hurl their hatred at the Parliament or they will repose their trust in the Parliament.
We are elected to this place not to manage the economy. The management of the economy is carried out by a Government, by a cabinet, by a ministry. We do not govern the economy sitting here in our places. We provide the support system by which governments come into being, but we are not responsible for the management of the economy. Irrespective of the quality of Government, whether it is an Australian Labor Party Government or one that is drawn from the Liberal and Country parties, the facts are that Government derives its strength and authority from Parliament. When we are advised, as we have been advised by the leading men in the Government, that Parliament should act with restraint in the context of its own emoluments, then it is the duty of members of Parliament to act in the interests of the people and not in their own interests.
Therefore, without going into all the ins and outs of whether the Chairman of Committees should get this and whether a car should be provided for that, in the final analysis if the people who compose the nation are in jeopardy and I believe they are in jeopardy- I wish to assure honourable senators that from my experience hundreds of people, including farmers, shopkeepers, road workers, railway workers, and so on have this- they will become frightened of inflation and they have every reason to be frightened of inflation. Therefore, we have to break this psychological nexus which is driving the Australian people to try to chase money in order to keep ahead. It can be broken only by those people who are set in authority and the people who are set in authority are we who sit in the Senate. We have to break the nexus and the only way we can do so is to demonstrate that we ourselves are prepared to accept a sacrifice in the first instance.
– The motion before the Senate amounts to a blunt rejection of the considered determinations of the Remuneration Tribunal in relation to allowances payable to Ministers of State, salaries and allowances payable to members of Parliament and the remuneration payable to officers of the First Division of the Public Service and holders of statutory offices. Honourable senators will recall that the Remuneration Tribunal was established by an Act of the Parliament in December 1973. The Tribunal’s review provides the first work value assessment of the remuneration which should be payable to members of Parliament and to the holders of senior public offices. The real issue before the Senate is whether that very first assessment should be disapproved. That is what the motion seeks and that is what the Senate must consider. The Tribunal was established to make an independent assessment of the remuneration, not only to Parliamentarians, but also to judges, permanent heads of departments and other statutory office holders.
The whole purpose of setting up the Tribunal was to remove the question of salaries, especially Parliamentary salaries, from the area of politically contentious debate to an independent Tribunal. There is no question here of politicians legislating themselves substantial or insubstantial pay rises. Another purpose of establishing the Tribunal was to ensure that proper considerations, and only proper considerations, were taken into account in deciding what was fair and just. As I understand it, the mover of the amendment has not suggested that the Tribunal has not taken into account all relevant considerations. In this regard, the following points from the independent Tribunal’s report should be noted: Its assessments of the several remunerations levels have been made ‘with regard to a degree of moderation and restraint’. The Tribunal expressly referred to the submission put to it that in the current inflationary climate members of Parliament, senior public servants and holders of statutory offices should be paid a salary less than what otherwise may have been determined so as to provide a lead to the rest of the community to accept correspondingly lower salaries in the future.
The Tribunal said that before determining salaries which are unjust in terms of accepted criteria of salary fixation, a responsible Tribunal would need considerably stronger indications than exist that its lead would be followed and that there is a high probability of genuine antiinflationary gains being made. The Tribunal has sought to give to members of Parliament and to all the other persons with whose remuneration it was concerned a just reward based upon their public service and the responsibility of office and having regard to the totality of benefits, attractions and disadvantages of the positions they occupy. It stated that salaries of members of Parliament, public servants and statutory office holders should follow rather than give a lead to emoluments paid in the private sector of society. The Tribunal stated specifically that it could see no justification for its determinations being used for an argument for an increase in salaries of the Second and lower Divisions of the Public Service or any other persons in the community.
The history of the fixation of salaries of members of Parliament shows that any suggested rises for members are always opposed and criticised. It is said that the salary rises are not timely. The truth is that on this approach there is no time which is the appropriate time for the introduction of increases in the salaries of parliamentarians. As the Tribunal has indicated, it can also be asked: Is there any high probability of anti-inflationary gains being made by parliamentarians accepting a wage freeze? The answer is no. But in any case, these matters are not the real issue raised by the motion before the Senate. That issue is whether the Senate is prepared and entitled to disapprove- that is the relevant word of the Act- the determinations of the independent Tribunal. It ought to be dealt with on its own merits in the light of a responsible consideration by the Senate of the matters referred to by the independent Tribunal. In doing so, honourable senators have to determine whether they place a value on the importance and responsibilities of their positions that is lower than that laid down in moderate and restrained terms by the Tribunal. That question may be answered easily. Not only the responsibilities of parliamentarians but also the responsibilities of officers of the First Division of the Public Service and holders of statutory offices are involved. The criteria must be: First, the proper award based on their public service and their responsibility of office; and secondly, on giving full weight to the determinations arrived at by the independent Tribunal so recently established.
I can give honourable senators an illustration coming within my own Department to point up the implications of the proposed rejection of the Tribunal. Negotiations are currently being carried out for the appointment of a suitable person as the director of the Australian Institute of Criminology. We need a first class man for the job. But if this determination is not allowed to stand, no satisfactory salary would be available for the position. The level of salary will be one consideration but in point of principle what may be a greater disincentive will be the spectacle of decisions of responsible tribunals on wage fixation- an established and desirable method of removing wages from contentious debate- being set aside by the votes of either House of Parliament for insufficient or extraneous considerations.
Mr President, I turn to another example which is also within my area, that of the Office of Parliamentary Counsel. As a result of increases granted to the Public Service since the salaries of statutory officers were last fixed by the Parliament in April last year we have now reached the position where the salaries of the 2 second Parliamentary Counsel, Mr Quayle and Mr Kolts, are $480 below the salaries of the 3 First Assistant Parliamentary Counsel, Mr Sexton, Mr Munro and Mr King, and $4,122 below the salary of the Deputy Secretaries in the AttorneyGeneral’s Department. When the positions of Second Parliamentary Counsel were createdthe Senate will recall how it was regarded as most important to create those positions and to attract men of calibre into the office of Parliamentary Counsel- the salaries fixed by the Parliament were at a level above that of the Deputy Secretaries. The present figures for the positions are as follows: Second Parliamentary Counsel, $22,758; Deputy Secretary, $26,808; and First Assistant Parliamentary Counsel, $23,338. On any view that is intolerable and if continued would have serious effects on the morale of the Office and consequently on its performance. I understand that a similar problem exists in the Industries Assistance Commission.
The real issue is whether the Parliament’s decision last year to remove the question of salaries of members of Parliament and other responsible senior officers from the field of political football is to be confirmed and supported or whether these matters are to be remitted to contentious debate in the Parliament, that is, to go back to the bad old system which the 1973 legislation establishing the independent Tribunal was intended to replace. The scheme of the Act may be somewhat unfamiliar but it is clear that when the determinations have been made and laid before each House of Parliament, either House may within 1 5 sitting days consider whether it disapproves a determination. If it reaches that conclusion it may pass a resolution disapproving the determination. If that does not happen, the determination takes effect. The word is ‘disapprove’, not ‘disallow’. We are more familiar with the latter word and perhaps we assume too readily that ‘disapprove’ carries a similar meaning. But the legal meaning is to be considered.
The lawyers in this chamber will not, I think, require citation of authority on this point. Perhaps if one considers the ordinary Oxford dictionary meaning one can gain insight into the legal meaning which is ‘to prove to be untrue or wrong; to feel or express disapprobation’; and disapprobation ‘is moral condemnation of these determinations. What is being urged under and in relation to the present motion falls far short of providing grounds for condemning the determinations. If the Senate goes ahead with the motion or any part of it I wonder how members of the independent Tribunal would view the result? The careful and responsible work would stand disapproved- not merely set aside but disapproved. That is, their determination would be solemnly disapproved by this chamber.’ I would think that the members of any responsible tribunal put in that position would have no option but to resign. I think that as honourable gentlemen, they would. I think that the mover of this motion, if placed in that position, would resign, if the determination which had been made was disapproved by either House of the Parliament.
The powers of this chamber ought to be exercised as powers of other bodies ought to be exercised with proper regard to the considerations embedded in the statute. This power ought not to be so lightly used as to disapprove of a determination which has been properly made by the members of the Tribunal. There has been no ground to establish disapproval of these determinations. If the honourable senator who moved the motion thinks that this is not the way salaries ought to be determined, if he thinks that some other approach ought to be made in deferring any salary increases or to go about it some other way, why does not he or his party introduce the legislation? What a miserable thing it is to agree to the legislation setting up the Remuneration Tribunal, an arbitral tribunal, and then when it makes a determination honestly, bona fide and properly senators opposite come in here and disapprove of it. Their recipe for the ills of this community is to start to abandon the arbitration principle. When it comes to wages and salaries they say: ‘Our recipe for the ills of the community is to say, “First of all, let us tell the trade union movement that it must negate and disapprove and set aside the arbitral determinations that have been made” ‘. They say ‘Let us do it and the call for it is to do it in regard to wages and salaries, not only for the parliamentarians but for the senior Government servants and statutory officers ‘.
I have not heard any of them ask in this chamber or outside that Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd should disapprove and not act on the determination which was made by the Prices Justification Tribunal. Where was the call from Senator Sir Magnus Cormack or Senator Wright to this great body? Where has the call be made by them to the Managing Director of the ‘Sydney Morning Herald’ and to the other millionaire newspaper proprietors who run this country- and run them- to show some exercise of restraint? Where is the call by the honourable senators opposite for some super-tax on higher incomes? I recall the last occasion when this was discussed in this chamber and the newspaper proprietors did not respond very enthusiastically to the suggestion that there ought to be a super-tax on incomes, even if we allowed them to have up to their $30,000, $40,000 or $50,000 but started the super-tax on the enormous amounts over that which they earned.
It is very strange to hear these arguments from the representatives of big business coming in here on the Opposition side. They are the same gentlemen who voted not so many years ago to give away, as estimated by one of their own members, literally hundreds of thousands of millions of dollars of natural gas resources around the coasts of Australia. They opposed the trade practices legislation and held it up all through last year in order to protect the rackets which were being perpetrated and which were fuelling inflation in this country. They now come out and say: ‘Look, it is a wonderful thing. The whole community will gain if the senior public servants and the parliamentarians do not take a wage increase which has been said by an independent tribunal to be a fair and just one’. This smokescreen is the kind of thing we have been used to over the years. Where the real things of politics are concerned, where it is the wealth of the community and the equitable distribution of wealth, where it means some taxes to bring some social justice into the community, where it is a significant increase in social service, they are all against it. But if they can find some thing such as this which they think will divert public attention, they and those outside who support them- the big business interests in this communitysay: ‘Let us roast them. Let us try to discredit the parliamentarians in the eyes of this community’. This kind of nonsense goes on. I tell honourable senators opposite that the trade union movement of this country is waking up to it. The leader of the trade union movement, Mr Hawke, came out and stated strongly his views on the matter. He said that he could see no reason at all, as I recall his words, why the decision of the arbitral Tribunal should not be given effect to.
This kind of contemptible motion- that is all it is- deserves to be treated with contempt. One has heard the denigration of the trade union movement which the honourable senator has made of it over the years. He has over the years attacked constantly the workers and their representatives. Now he comes in and says Look, let the ills of the community be arrested by some kind of restraint here’. There is no attempt to analyse what is causing the inflation in the community but we have a suggestion that some kind of program of wage freeze should be set up. I trust that that will not occur. Where these absurd attempts have been made to have wage freezes elsewhere in the world they have failed because the increase in wages is not the primary cause of inflation. If honourable senators opposite wanted to analyse the causes of the economic ills in this community I would hope they would find some better prescription than starting off with the salaries of senior public servants and others which have been properly determined by an independent tribunal. Australia has believed in arbitration. I would have thought that it was an all-party political approach to support the system of arbitration. Those senior public servants and those statutory officers as well as parliamentarians have had a fair arbitration.
What profit will there be for the people of this country if we are to start off as a first step and say: ‘Let us abandon and disapprove an arbitration which has been properly conducted, an award which you cannot really attack at all’. The Opposition is not impeaching this determination but it is coming in indirectly and wrongly and disapproving the arbitration which has been made. We do not have a case here of an overaward payment. This is an award which has been made by the arbitrator and it ought to be accepted. The Opposition’s recipe for inflation is to tear down the award system of this community by starting at the very top. I ask that the motion be rejected.
– I rise solely for the purpose of stating the attitude of the Opposition in the light of the response which the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) has made on behalf of the Government to the earlier indication given by my leader, Senator Withers, this afternoon. It will be remembered that Senator Withers when speaking on behalf of the Opposition indicated 3 essential matters. Firstly he recognised the quality and the objectivity of the value of the work of the Tribunal and he expressly avoided any condemnation or criticism of its work. Secondly he referred to the highly dangerous economic situation with which this nation is now confronted and the need for restraint and leadership. Thirdly he indicated that the attitude ofthe Opposition would be to seek to defer until a later date the coming into force of the determination relating to members of Parliament. He expressly indicated that the action which the Opposition took would be by way of seeking deferment for which the Government would have to take the initiative in regard to the salaries of members of Parliament and not with regard to the other determinations.
This was an example of that type of restraint and responsible leadership consistent with what the Opposition has been saying to the country for months which we believe the present circumstances require. What has happened? The Leader of the Opposition, Mr Snedden, communicated with the Prime Minister by letter this afternoon. He indicated the attitude of the joint parliamentary Opposition parties that in the light ofthe current economic situation the responsible course of action was to defer the proposed increases in parliamentary salaries. He said that he hoped that this move to delay the increases for Federal members of Parliament would set a bi-partisan approach as an example for restraint throughout the community. He specifically suggested that the operation of the increases should be put off until 1 January 1975.
He also asked the Prime Minister to give him some prompt advice as to whether the Government was prepared to co-operate in this deferment. The Prime Minister has indicated his attitude: He does not accept any offer of cooperation from the Opposition. He has said that if there is any action by the Opposition to defer the increases in the salaries of members of Parliament he would act to ensure that all other sections of the determination would not come into force and there would be no other increases. We acknowledge this and we believe that if this type of restraint can be shown and the Government will pursue this restraint in all other areas we will be making a significant contribution to the control of inflation. The Opposition therefore has taken the view that as the Prime Minister has rejected our move for deferment we shall support the motion moved by Senator Wright in all of its 3 sections.
– The Treasurer (Mr Crean) in a speech in the House of Representatives on 23 July 1974 stated:
One of the problems in dealing with inflation is that everyone wants it beaten but everyone also wants his own activities to remain unaffected. Everyone favours general restraint but still wants particular expenditure. There is no way- I repeat, no way- in which inflation can be beaten which will not involve discomfort for a short while for the community as a whole.
– How many chemist shops have you?
-The answer is three. I have told the honourable senator that many times. If he cannot remember that the number is three, he should go back and get Aborigines to help him learn to count. We have been placed in this Senate by the people of Australia to decide collectively what is best for the country. The people of Australia want some positive leadership. I cannot justify in my mind the amount of the increase of 38 per cent or $5,500 or the timing of this proposed increase.
Mr President, I will restrict myself to the discussion of the amounts involved in respect of members of Parliament and I will not refer to the recommendations in regard to heads of departments or any of the other categories dealt with in the report. Australia in my book is approaching an era that is comparable with that of 1929. It is perhaps worth mentioning once again that at that time there was also a Labor government in office. We have heard the Government say, via Mr Crean, again on 23 July in a speech which to me sounded as if it had been written to contain upwards of 10 or 12 important measures but on reading it one can see that it does not contain anything which is anti-inflationary- it seems that Caucus got at it and cut out a few of the proposals in it. That may not have been so, but it was certainly the way it sounded when Mr Crean stated:
I say without exaggeration that the Australian economy now faces a highly dangerous situation.
Further on he said:
We have a wages explosion which is damaging everyone, and wage-earners as well.
The ‘Sydney Morning Herald ‘ of today states:
Who can now take the Federal Government seriously when it plaintively bleats- as no doubt it will continue to do- for restraint in making wage claims? It has dangerously undermined its own moral authority by agreeing to a massive increase for members of Parliament.
Further on the newspaper stated:
The decision, of course- as is already evident- will have a most unfortunate effect on public opinion generally, and specifically on trade-union opinion.
Two comments from prominent trade-union leaders can be considered typical. One declared that any Government plea for restraint would be treated with the contempt it deserves. The other said that the metal workers would be prepared to settle their dispute if they could have a $ 1 10-a-week increase as well!
I know that some people may say that you do not have to take a salary increase. Of course you do not. None of us have to. But that is not the point at issue here tonight. The point at issue is very simple. It is whether we collectively as a parliament are prepared to show the people of Australia that we are serious about beating inflation. I will not be a party to starting the big pay robbery of 1974.
If this motion is passed I ask: How can we refuse the unions their demands which, by comparison, are quite small? How can we have the gall to ask anyone for moderation? It is clear that at the moment wage increases are outstretching productivity increases and the Government in its term of office has done very little to discourage this. I say that now is the time to start. If we do not I see 2 things happening. I see inflation galloping ahead from a new and higher base to an impossible level with perhaps half a million people out of work. Secondly, I see the end of the Labor Party’s term in office just around the corner. Honourable senators can read into that anything they like, but if there is an election ahead of its due time I suggest to the Labor Party that it remember this day.
– And full-time parliamentarians.
-The psychology of these increases, however -
– This is based on full-time service as a parliamentarian, not on running a string of pharmacies.
-Look, I have called you a rabbit before. I suggest that if myxomatosis came in through the door of the chamber he would want to go for his life. I will not go around and name the menagerie, but if honourable senators want to be personal about this, I too will be personal.
– Order ! Personal reflections are out of order. Senator Townley, please address the chair.
- Mr President, I point out that I have had things said against me that are quite untrue. I would spend a lot more hours at my parliamentary work than would Senator Devitt. I heard that the Labor Party wanted a vote on this matter tonight, but if it wants me to go on I am quite prepared to stay here.
– The honourable senator cannot go much further. He has reached the end of his tether.
-Do you know what a squirrel is? It is a little round furry animal. Squirrels were mentioned today. I did not know who was meant but I am beginning to find out. Parliamentarians are already in the top 2 per cent or 3 per cent of the salary earners in this country. There is no way that I shall support this increase in salaries. I will be supporting the motion moved by Senator Wright.
That Part ( 1 ) of Senator Wright’s motion be agreed to.
The Senate divided. (The President- Senator the Hon. Justin O’Byrne)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
That Part (2) of Senator Wright’s motion be agreed to.
The Senate divided. (The President- Senator the Hon. Justin O’Byrne)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
That part (3) of Senator Wright’s motion be agreed to.
The Senate divided. (The President- Senator the Hon. Justin O’Byrne)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
– I move:
Tuesday, 10.30 a.m. to 1 p.m.; 2.15 p.m. to 6 p.m.; 8 p.m. to 10.30 p.m.
Wednesday, 12 noon to 1 p.m.; 2.15 p.m. to 6 p.m.; 8 p.m. to 11 p.m.
Thursday, 10.15 a.m. to 1 p.m.; 2.15 p.m. to 6 p.m.; 8 p.m. to 10.30 p.m.
Friday, 10a.m. to 1 p.m.; 2.15 p.m. to 4 p.m.
I had hoped to move this motion earlier in the day, but that was not possible. I understand that the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate (Senator Withers) has certain amendments to move in respect of the sitting times for Tuesdays and Fridays. Therefore I suggest that votes concerning each of the days be taken separately. A great deal of government business has still to come from the House of Representatives and I understand there is still legislation to be introduced in the House of Representatives. Already there are some 14 or 15 matters on our notice paper which have to be dealt with. They include Bills such as the Parliamentary Proceedings Broadcasting Bill and the Parliamentary Papers Bill to be introduced and debated in the event of His Excellency the Governor-General declaring that there should be a joint sitting. If the Senate is to get through the work allotted to it in the time available, the Government believes that the hours have to be extended in accordance with the times I have set out.
I know that it is an unpleasant task to ask honourable senators to sit on Friday but it has been the practice adopted in the past by previous governments. Certainly this Government is presenting a great deal of legislation to the Australian Parliament and I believe it is absolutely imperative to extend the hours of sitting in accordance with the motion I have moved.
– I quickly want to indicate the point of view of the Opposition. I propose to move an amendment so that on Tuesdays we will commence at 1 1 a.m., instead of 10.30 a.m. We are not opposed to the suggested sitting times for Wednesday and Thursday, but we will vote against sitting on Friday. May I briefly indicate our purpose in suggesting the amendment to the proposed sitting time for Tuesday and our opposition to sitting on Friday.
– The Government will accede to your request in relation to commencing at 1 1 a.m., on Tuesday instead of 10.30 a.m.
-If the Government agrees to commence on Tuesday at 1 1 a.m., instead of 10.30 a.m., that would solve all our problems. In that case I suggest that we deal with Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday in one motion and then deal separately with the proposed sitting time for Friday because we will vote against sitting on Friday.
– May I ask for leave to alter my motion?
– Yes, but do it as soon as I sit down because that will save me starting again. The major reason we are opposed to sitting on Friday is that the work load at present is very heavy. The other point of view is that those of us who have been here for some time and have experienced extended sitting hours know that the longer we sit the longer we talk. In past years there has been a will to get through the program and I realise what Senator Douglas McClelland is doing. He bears a very heavy responsibility in trying to get all the Government’s business through. But we also suspect that the longer we sit the more Bills we will receive and if we are not careful we will be sitting on Saturdays until Christmas because every Minister in the House of Representatives will decide that his 10 Bills are the most important measures since Federation. I do not say that in any criticism of the present Government because I was Government Whip for long enough and went through the same thing as my former leader Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson suffered for many a year. Put briefly, that is the Opposition’s point of view. I take it that Senator Douglas McClelland will ask for leave to amend his motion relating to Tuesday. We will vote against sitting on Friday.
– I want to speak for a few minutes in support of the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Withers). If honourable senators consider the hours that we have agreed to give to the Minister for the Media and Manager of Government Business in the Senate (Senator Douglas McClelland) they will see that we are extending the sitting times of the Senate by nearly 4 hours. I believe that is adequate seeing that we came back here originally to sit for 3 weeks.
– You wasted that much today.
-That was not our fault.
– Whose fault was it?
-We did not move that motion. If the honourable senator wants a donnybrook we can provide it. If honourable senators look at what has happened in the past they will see that we have sat for about 19 hours a week. When we have got towards the end of the session the sitting time has risen to about 23 hours a week. If honourable senators refer to Hansard they will see where Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson moved for an increase in sitting times of 4 hours a week towards the end of a session in 1972 and Senator Murphy, speaking on 23 May 1 972, said that was a terrible thing because if senators came into Parliament House at 9 o’clock in the morning for 3 sitting days a week and sat until midnight each night, there was no necessity to bring them back on a Friday when they had to return to their electorates to carry out electorate work. We were then working 1 9 hours a week and we wanted it increased to 23 hours. Now we are working 2 1 hours a week and we have agreed to increase it to 251/4 hours a week. Senator Douglas McClelland has suggested that we sit on Friday for an extra 43/4 hours. This would make it nearly 30 hours a week. That is all very fine for senators from Sydney and Melbourne but there are people here who come from distant parts of Australia and they find it pretty difficult to work in this Senate for 4 days a week, return to their electorates and then come back to Canberra for work the following week. I support the remarks of the Leader of the Opposition.
– I do not want to speak for long but as we have to vote on this motion I thought I might express a point of view. As I understand the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate (Senator Withers), he simply believes that it is more convenient for members of his Party to go home on Thursday night or Friday morning and come back the following week. I do not follow that logic.
– I did not say that.
– If we are dealing with this from the point of view of convenience I do not understand it because it would be much easier to continue sitting for an extra day, having settled into the routine of the week, than to return here the following week.
– You should listen.
– I understood that we were to have a week off. I stood in order to seek information and the fact that I do not have it should not be a matter of personal criticism. I am inquiring.
– Ask the Government.
-That is why I am on my feet. I said that I did not understand what was proposed. If Senator Webster would be quiet someone who knows might tell me. If we are to come back the following week I will support Senator Withers but if we were to have a week off then I would take this week. Perhaps the Minister who is in charge of business in this House might tell me because no one else has done so yet.
– I take it that I am replying to the debate that is taking place. I seek leave to amend my motion by changing the proposed time for sitting on Tuesday from 10.30 a.m. to 1 1 a.m.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
Senator DOUGLAS McCLELLANDProbably no one is more aware than I of the exigencies that confront people as a result of the long hours that we spend in the Senate. I was the victim of circumstances last year and as a result had to spend some time in hospital. I know that others have been affected likewise. Generally speaking, I agree with the sentiments read out by Senator Drake-Brockman which were expressed by my colleague Senator Murphy, apparently when he was Leader of the Opposition. I hope that in the Budget session we will be able to revert to the practice of rising on Thursday nights. As a government we have had a responsibility to introduce for re-discussion the 6 double dissolution Bills, one of which took some considerable time in debate.
– In the Senate.
– It did not take very long in the House of Representatives.
-That is all right.
– When will you have your first week off?
– The Senate has to deal with a number of Bills in connection with legislation which has expired and which should be re-enacted. The Financial Corporations Bill has been introduced into the Senate. I understand that the Opposition in another place had incorporated in Hansard certain amendments which the Opposition in this place is insisting will be debated at length at the Committee stage. That will take 11/2 days. I cannot say whether or when His Excellency the GovernorGeneral will proclaim that there should be a joint sitting. If he does, arrangements will have to be made for the joint sitting. I would think that we would be sitting all next week and perhaps the week after. That is as much as I can say in reply to Senator Steele Hall. I believe, and the Government believes, that in order to get through the very heavy legislative program in this session it will be necessary to sit on Friday of next week. Therefore I support the proposition which I have moved on behalf of the Government.
– The question is:
That the hours of sitting for Tuesday, as amended, Wednesday and Thursday for the week beginning Tuesday, 30 July, be agreed to.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– The question is:
That the hours of sitting for Friday of the week beginning Tuesday, 30 July, be agreed to.
The Senate divided. (The President- Senator the Hon. Justin O ‘Byrne)
Question so resolved in the negative.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Bishop) read a first time.
– I move:
Mr President, at the Premiers Conference in Canberra on 7 June 1 974 the Prime Minister ( Mr Whitlam) announced that there would be substantial increases in postal and telecommunications charges. These are required to ensure that the rates which customers pay for Post Office services are sufficient to cover costs and also provide a surplus which can be re-invested to help meet the growing demand for service. Details of these proposed adjustments are contained in 2
Bills. Comments on the main proposals follow. For convenience details are set out in the schedules now available to honourable senators. In the main, the effective date of variations is 1 August 1974. This Bill is to amend the Post and Telegraph Rates Act in respect of postal and telegraph charges. Another Bill will amend the Post and Telegraph Act and associated regulations. Certain miscellaneous charges will be adjusted by administrative action.
Post Office Trading Results
Although the Post Office’s commercial accounts for the year ended 30 June 1974 are not available at this stage, it appears from preliminary estimates that the overall result was a break-even position only. At current tariffs, the Post Office loss could exceed $ 100m in 1974-75. In common with business undertakings throughout Australia, costs have risen because of higher wages, increases in material prices, and improvements in conditions of service, especially for recreation leave and superannuation. That proportion of costs which cannot be absorbed by productivity improvements needs to be passed on to customers.
Major changes in superannuation liability have occurred. In 197 1 it was decided to increase the Government’s share of pensions and in 1972 the previous Government appointed Professor A. H. Pollard to inquire into methods of adjusting Commonwealth superannuation benefits. Resulting from his recommendation, the Superannuation Act 1973 provided for staff pensions to be adjusted by 1.4 times the percentage increase in the consumer price index. These actions increase future payments to past and present Post Office employees; so there must be a sharp increase in Post Office payments for superannuation liability. Post Office payments for superannuation liability increased from $49m in 1972-73 to $104m in 1973-74, and provision for payment of $ 130 m has been made in the Post Office budget for this year.
One important change is being made to the financial structure of the postal service, which will offset in part some of the cost increases. As recommended by the Australian Post Office Commission of Inquiry, it is intended to write off accumulated postal losses as at 30 June 1974. This will reduce the postal service’s interest bill by about $ 17m in 1974-75. Much of these losses has arisen because charges were set too low in relation to costs by decisions of the previous Government for economic or political reasons. Because interest has been payable on losses there is a spiral process which must be broken if the postal service is to be placed on a reasonable footing for the future. It is generally accepted that the Post Office should finance a significant proportion of postal and telecommunications expansion. The report of the Vernon Commission recommends that 50 per cent of fixed asset expenditure should be financed from internal sources- profits and provisions for depreciation and long service leave. This enables the Post Office to meet demand for service at a higher level than would be possible if finances were restricted to borrowings available through the Budget.
In particular, it has been decided as a deflationary measure to restrict Post Office borrowings in 1974-75 to the same amount as in 1973-74, that is $385m. The effect of the proposed higher charges on the consumer price index is marginal; it is estimated at about 0.2 per cent in 1974-75. With the proposed charges and likely increases in wage rates, a profit of about $60m is forecast, which is more comparable with the $60m earned in 1971-72, and the $41m in 1972-73.
Post Office Tariff Structure
Last year, the Government made important changes in the Post Office tariff structure, by tackling concessional and uneconomic areas of Post Office activity which provided hidden subsidies to selected areas of the community. It is unfortunate that some of the Government’s efforts to phase out concessions were obstructed, particularly the registered newspaper and periodical category which will lose about $9m in 1974-75. This loss continues to be met by other Post Office customers who must pay more than they should, on cost grounds, for the services they use. In these proposals, attention is given to public telephone and telegraph facilities, both of” which it is appreciated provide important community services. The public telephone local call fee was last varied in 1 963 and public telegram rates in 1 970. It is necessary for these to be adjusted to take into account cost increases since those years and thereby to reduce the loss which must be covered by other customers.
For many years up to 1964, the rental for government and business telephone services was higher than for residential services. This recognised that the telephone service is far more valuable to the business subscriber than to the private subscriber. The businessman also has the advantage of claiming the telephone as an expense for taxation purposes. It is considered that these reasons are still valid and that it would be equitable to re-introduce a higher rental for business and Government services than for residential and other services. The practice of differential rentals is followed in many other countries including Britain, Canada, United States of America, and New Zealand. In the postal service also, an important change is being made in the tariff structure. The traditional letter and other articles categories, based on contents, will be replaced by standard postal articles and nonstandard postal articles, based on shape and size which are the major determinants of handling costs. Standard articles in envelopes conforming to the Australian Standards Association specification are the cheapest for the Post Office to handle, both in manual and machine systems because of their convenient size and shape, and should attract the cheapest postage rate for the ordinary mail.
The variations to telephone and telegraph charges, detailed in the schedules, are expected to raise$ 109m in 1974-75.
In adding a telephone service to the network, the cost involved well exceeds $2,000 on average, ranging from more than $1,600 in the capital cities to over $3,600 in country areas and even in excess of $9,000 in rural areas. At present levels the contribution which the connection fee makes towards the cost involved is too small. When a product or service is priced well below its cost, it leads to an artificially high demand for it. For a Post Office service, the cost of meeting that demand makes inequitable inroads into the national resources available to meet total community needs. Connection fees are therefore being increased from $60 to $80 for new applicants where new plant is necessary to give service and from $30 to $40 where an existing subscriber moves to another address and new plant is required. No increases are proposed where the line and equipment are ‘in place’. The charges are estimated to increase receipts by about $5.5m in 1974-75.
For telephone rentals, as indicated, differential rates are to be applied to government and business services compared with residential and other services. Government and business rentals will increase by $20 to $75 per annum and residence and other rentals by $10 to $65 per annum. Uniform rentals between metropolitan and country areas were introduced last year and having regard to the higher costs of providing service in country areas than in metropolitan areas, the Government intends to continue with that principle. Metropolitan rentals were last increased 3 years ago. The rental adjustments will raise about S54m in 1974-75.
The local call fee will be increased from 4.75c to 6c per call. The local call fee was last altered in 1971. This increase will not reflect directly into trunk call charges where, with one exception, increases for day time calls are confined to between 3.5 per cent and 5.3 per cent. The exception concerns day rate calls over more than 645 kilometres- 400 miles- where the increase is 26 per cent. There are as many reductions in trunk call charges as there are increases. The reductions range from 3 per cent up to 40 per cent. At night, the shortest distance trunk calls, up to 50 kilometres, will cost only 6c- that is the local call fee for each 3 minutes if subscribers dial the calls themselves. The charge for such a call in the day time will also be reduced by about 20 per cent to 12c. The outer metropolitan areas of capital cities will receive great benefit from these reductions but there will be considerable benefit to country people also. A statement illustrating the benefits of these reductions in the various electorates is available to honourable senators.
If trunk call customers require their calls to be connected by a Post Office telephonist when they could dial the calls themselves, extra costs are incurred by the Department and it is reasonable to expect callers to pay extra for the personalised service. The fee for this service is being increased from 20c to 30c a call but even so the additional costs will not be met. Revenue from these increases in charges is estimated to be about $41 min 1974-75.
The fee for a local call from a departmental public telephone has been 5c since 1963. That charge is altogether uneconomic, taking into account the high costs of new equipment incorporating anti-vandalism measures, and the high costs of maintenance and repairs to damaged telephone cabinets and instruments. Even at the new rates, costs will not be covered. The new charge will not be effective until public telephones are converted to operate on 10c coins and this will take 12 months or so.
Public telephones are used by a lot of people who do not have a telephone of their own. However, it is not reasonable that these users of public telephones should pay less than telephone subscribers who also have to pay rental for their service. Average weekly wages have risen by 130 per cent since 1 963 and the increase in the public telephone fee is reasonable on the basis of that comparison. Similarly, Sydney bus and Melbourne tram fares have increased by over 100 per cent over that period and the Sydney and Melbourne newspapers have increased by between 90 per cent and 140 per cent. Because of technical design, most of the 30,000 public telephones would have to be replaced if they were to operate on a fee between 5c and 10c. Costs would exceed $10m and a substantial lead-time would be involved.
Since the present rates were set in 1970 wage rates for operating staff have increased by over 50 per cent and there have also been considerable improvements in conditions of service for staff. Each telegram handled currently means a loss of about $1.50 and that level of subsidy by users of other services or by the general community cannot be allowed to continue. The increases in telegram charges- about 50 per cent- will reduce but far from eliminate the present loss. The fee for lodging a telegram by telephone or teleprinter is also being increased from 10c to 15c due to increase in labour costs. The increases in telegram charges will raise about $2.5m in 1974-75.
This service is akin to the STD telephone service, but uses teleprinters as the means of communication. The present call charges have been in force for 3 years and an inrease from 6c to 7c meter registration is being made. The extra revenue is estimated to be nearly $lm in 1974-75.
The present rates for block type entries and additional information inserted at the request of subscribers were set in 1967. Directory layouts are being changed progressively from this year to provide clearer presentation of subscribers’ entries- yet requiring less paper- and a more appropriate structure of charges for special entries being introduced. This is a completely separate matter to the rates for entries in the pink and yellow pages, the space in which is sold by private advertising contractors. Although revenue from this sector is estimated to increase by 50 per cent overall if present entries are retained, individual subscribers will be affected to varying degrees. They will, of course, have the opportunity to alter entries to reduce cost if they so desire. The adjustments are expected to result in additional revenue in 1974-75 of$0.3m.
Last year, it was indicated that certain miscellaneous equipments and services were being provided at unprofitable rates. Some charges were increased but the new rates even then barely covered the costs- others were not increased at all. Adjustments now being made affect installation/alteration charges for extension telephones, intercommunication equipment, alarm equipment, etc., and rentals for extension telephones and certain private manual branch exchanges. The adjustments will bring in about $5m in 1974-75.
Turning to the postal service, it is expected that the increased charges will bring in $37m in 1974-75.
The basic rate of 7c is being increased to 9c, irrespective of weight for those items contained in the most commonly used envelopes. These will be known as standard postal articles and they currently comprise about 92 per cent of all letters and 16 per cent of other articles. A standard postal article will be any item of mail between the dimensions 90 millimetres by 140 millimetres and 120 millimetres by 235 millimetres, having an oblong shape with a ratio of width to length of 1 to not less than 1.414 and with a maximum thickness of 5 millimetres. These dimensions apply at present to mail carried by air within Australia at normal rates of postage under ‘Operation Post-Haste’. There is no weight limit for standard postal articles so that such letters over 20 grams will pay reduced postage, 9c instead of 15c.
Non-standard postal articles will be charged for according to their weight. The four weight steps are the same as those now applying for other articles- i.e., 50, 100, 250 and 500 grams. The basic rate becomes 10c, the subsequent ones being 20c, 30c and 40c. Standard postal articles will continue to be carried by air where this will speed delivery. Airmail rates apply for nonstandard items. To allow a change-over period in which stocks of non-standard stationery can be run down, up to the end of 1974 non-standard enveloped items up to 50 grams may be posted at standard article postage rates although they will be forwarded by surface mail. The additional receipts in 1974-75 from these categories will be $23m.
Rates will be increased and the pricing structure changed to provide a more evenly stepped tariff of a base fee plus a per kilogram charge. A more realistic arrangement of scales 3, 4 and 5 has been made to reflect the distances involved and the conveyance costs incurred. Compensation up to $10 will now be paid for parcels damaged in the post. This change will improve the competitiveness of the service and will be welcomed by customers.
No further increases in the postage rates for category A or category B publications are proposed beyond those already prescribed in existing legislation to apply from 1 March 1975. However, rates are being increased for category C from 1 March 1975, again recognising that standard articles are the cheapest to handle. A more gradual scale of charges is provided for items over 100 grams. Educational newspapers and periodicals published by non-profit professional and employer organisations, transferred to category C on 1 March 1974 will be transferred back to category B from 1 August 1974.
Currently some mailers are paying private delivery organisations in competition with the Post Office to deliver their publications particularly in high density areas and are using the Post Office for the uneconomic areas. It is considered that the mailer should not have the benefit of the concession rates for category A or B without giving the Post Office the business for the more economic parts of its network. From 1 March 1975, these rates will not apply if deliveries to subscribers or purchasers are made for payment by private delivery organisations competing with the Post Office. This proposal does not affect delivery by the members or staff of an organisation or by newsagents.
A new basis of charging will be adopted to reflect more closely the value of pre-sorting, with much less emphasis on overall volumes. The cheapest rates will apply to bags of mail all for one postcode. The standard postal article concept and an improved progression in charges according to weight over 100 grams have been incorporated.
Increases are proposed for the unprofitable special services such as registered mail and certified mail, with higher compensation coverage. Increases in the fees for private boxes, bags and receptacles are also proposed with effect from 1 April next year for existing services. The higher fees are to operate from 1 August 1974 for new services. An annual registration fee of $10 for business reply permits is also proposed.
The standard item concept has not been introduced into the overseas service because the Universal Postal Union Convention requires the categories of letters and other articles to be used for international mail. Lower airmail fees are proposed for the heavy weight letters and cards to reflect charges and costs more accurately; charges for aerogrammes and lighter weight letters and cards are being increased because of higher handling costs.
A flat fee of 60c for amounts up to $200 is to apply for all ordinary domestic money orders. This is a decrease of 10c on amounts over $30. Increases in the fees for postal orders and overseas money orders are also to apply. These continue to be unprofitable areas, particularly money orders, despite strenuous efforts to streamline documentation and procedures.
Agreement has been reached with the United States and United Kingdom postal administrations for a super fast international priority paid service between Australia and the United States and United Kingdom. The new service is expected to operate before Christmas. Freepost is a proposed new service to provide a means whereby people can reply, post free, to advertisements quoting approved forms of address. The postage and fee is paid by the freepost addressee.
In recent years there has been a rapid growth in the number of private courier services in capital cities. These ventures meet a substantial and growing customer need and are close to the traditional areas of postal operations. The appropriate legislative powers to establish a Post Office courier service are included in the Bill to amend the Post and Telegraph Act. Initially the service will be available in Sydney, Melbourne and Canberra with subsequent extension to other capital cities.
– Order! In conformity with the sessional order relating to the adjournment of the Senate, I formally put the question:
That the Senate do now adjourn.
Question resolved in the negative.
– The Vernon Commission expressed the view that to meet the recommended financial objectives, postal tariffs would need to be increased at the rate of 15 per cent per annum and telecommunications charges at 7 per cent per annum. These proposals are in excess of those figures, being 22 per cent and 17 per cent, respectively. Costs have escalated at a much higher rate since this matter was considered by the Commission of Inquiry. At this point in time it seems likely that labour costs in 1974-75 will be about 25 per cent higher than in 1973-74, compared with the 12Vi per cent assumed previously by the Post Office and the Commission.
The Government is concerned about the rate of inflation and will continue vigorous efforts against it with the object of reducing it to 8 per cent by mid- 1975. In the meantime, however, the cost increases being incurred by the Post Office must be passed on to a greater degree than formerly, as with other business undertakings. I commend the Bill to honourable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator Durack) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Bishop) read a first time.
– I move:
Mr President, this Bill is complementary to the amendments to the Post and Telegraph Rates Act 1902-1973 which I have just introduced. In order to implement the changes of which I have spoken in conjunction with the Post and Telegraph Rates Act amendments, it is necessary to make certain amendments to the Post and Telegraph Act and to the Postal Regulations, the Telephone Regulations, the Telegraph Regulations and the Radio-Telephone Exchange Service Regulations. As mentioned previously, this Bill also makes changes to the Post and Telegraph Act which are necessary to permit the introduction of a Post Office courier service. I commend the Bill to honourable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator Durack) adjourned.
Senate adjourned at 10.34 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated:
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice:
Has the Prime Minister agreed to the State Premiers’ request 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 extreme urgency.
– The Prime Minister has provided the following information for answer to the honourable senator’s question:
I refer the honourable senator to the reply 1 provided in response to a question without notice from the Leader of the Opposition on this matter (House of Representatives Hansard, 1 1 July 1974, page 107) and inform him that action is in hand to arrange an early meeting.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 25 July 1974, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1974/19740725_senate_29_s60/>.