29th Parliament · 1st Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Justin O’Byrne) took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
– A petition has been lodged for presentation as follows:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled: The humble Petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That in modern society which accepts divorce, the Law of Divorce should be fair to both parties. However we are very concerned about proposals to alter the law in the ‘Family Law Bill 1974’.
. The Family Law Bill 1 974 would fundamentally change the Institution of Marriage itself, and all existing and future marriages.
The said Bill does not provide or protect the legal or social rights of Women and Children in the family.
The said Bill does not provide for either the training of suitable counsellors who can assist in conciliation procedures or for suitable initiatives to be taken prior to the breakdown of marriage.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that this Bill be tabled for six months and that all sections of the community be consulted on marriage, and the long term effects of such a Bill upon our Australian society.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Senator Bonner.
-My question, which is addressed to the Minister representing the Attorney-General, refers to the Corporations and Securities Industry Bill and the answer he gave me on Tuesday. Does he recall then saying:
Does he also recall his words:
I say to the Minister that I do not challenge the genuineness with which he made that statement. Having regard to the fact that the Government has now informed the Opposition that the Bill must now be debated next Tuesday in the House of Representatives can he explain his statement of Tuesday of this week that full opportunity would be given for interested parties to make their representations? Is it the fact that the Government is determined to rush on with this Bill, denying opportunity for representations to be made and considered?
– I have not had an opportunity of discussing this matter with the Attorney-General since it was raised yesterday by Senator Greenwood. I will do so this morning and let him have an answer today.
– I direct my question to the Minister representing the Minister for the Environment and Conservation. I refer to some concern by conservationists about changes in our kangaroo skins export policy. In view of the generosity of Dr Cass to the States in the form of massive funding for the acquisition of additional wildlife habitat, how far have the States gone to respond to this policy which will provide havens for wildlife despite any changes in our kangaroo export policy?
-Senator Mulvihill was good enough to let me know that he would be asking a question on this subject. I think we all know that he probably has a keener interest in this matter than most honourable senators have.
– Tell him we have a few kangaroos in Western Australia.
-Senator DrakeBrockman reminds us that we do have a few kangaroos over in Western Australia. Officers of the Department of the Environment and Conservation have visited all States except Queensland in order to discuss this matter with the States. An assessment is being prepared of the total cost of the program which Senator Mulvihill mentioned. Particular areas are being selected for the conservation of kangaroos. As is well known, in some areas kangaroos are a danger to the pastoral industry. In other areas they are not such a danger. Clearly there must be some demarcation between the various areas. Another factor is the biological significance of the species of kangaroo found in additional areas. This year’s budget for the Department of the Environment and Conservation provides $381,000 for wildlife conservation and ecological research. I think it could be said at this stage that negotiations between Dr Cass and his Department and the respective
States on this matter are progressing satisfactorily.
– Except for Queensland.
-So far, the officers of the Department of the Environment and Conservation, as Senator Mulvihill has said, have not visited Queensland. It is hoped that even in that State the same satisfactory arrangements which are progressing in the other five States will be reached.
-My question is directed to the Minister for Repatriation and Compensation. He will recall my interest during the sitting of one of the Senate estimates committees about advertisements calling applications for several key positions in the compensation division of his Department. He will recall also that I questioned, by implication, the wisdom of appointing officers while the proposed legislation was still in its infancy. Can the Minister tell the Senate which positions in the proposed compensation division have been filled? If any have been filled, what positions are they? When will the officers take up duty?
-I do not have the details in my mind, although I will be able to obtain them for Senator Drake-Brockman and provide them to him quite quickly. The only thing I would say about the general nature of the question is that the Government has a program which envisages the introduction of a national compensation scheme. The National Compensation Bill is at present before the Senate. That is not to say that the Government precludes variations, possibly substantial variations, in the Bill. It is obviously necessary for the Department, if it is to engage in adequate research into the nature of any proposed national compensation scheme, to employ people with experience and competence in that and related fields otherwise what would be done could be quite unsatisfactory. The Department of Repatriation and Compensation, through the Office of the Commissioner for Employees’ Compensation, has quite substantial compensation responsibilities, apart from any proposed national compensation scheme. I think the Senate would agree that the Department should have officers who are responsible for compensation. I shall obtain the individual particulars which Senator Drake-Brockman is seeking and about which he asked during the sitting of a Senate estimates committee late last year. I will let him have a reply as soon as I have the detailed information available to me.
-Has the attention of the Minister representing the Minister for Defence been drawn to recent publicity about the success of the Royal Australian Air Force Central Band resulting particularly from recordings of wartime songs? Some reports indicate that the only gain for the Government and the RAAF Band is one of prestige. Will the Minister discuss with the Minister for Defence whether new arrangements might apply in future to allow reasonable royalties to be set aside for RAAF welfare projects or related Services projects?
– I have seen the publicity. Last night I viewed the performance of the Royal Australian Air Force Central Band on television. I also have the record, which is a very stirring record of all the songs that servicemen sang during the last war.
– Not all songs, I hope.
– Well, certain songs. There is no question that the Air Force band and the other Service bands are very good. I do not think the reports I have seen are accurate. I do not think any great revenue was obtained from the arrangements made for the Air Force band. It may be true that the publicity which flows from band performances is good for the Air Force and the other Services. I think the idea that Senator Drury has put up- namely, that tighter arrangements should be made in the future- is a good one. I certainly will put it to Mr Barnard to see whether he can arrange for future performances to be given in the circumstances suggested.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Prime Minister. I seek information regarding the function of the Expenditure Review Committee following the Prime Minister’s statement that there ought to be a general presumption against further increases in government expenditure. What has been the Prime Minister’s instruction to departments with regard to the preparation of Supplementary Estimates this month and the use of the Advance to the Treasurer? May we expect a reduction in the excessive Government advertising program costing $1.6m to launch Medibank, and will the Expenditure Review Committee investigate the financial implications of the proposed massive expenditure of some $ 1,400m for the compulsory nationalised health scheme? Will the Government accept a recommendation that the 7 per cent increase in taxation rates which would be required to cover this scheme cannot be justified at the present time?
-I thought I made it clear yesterday that the purpose of the Expenditure Review Committee is to examine any fresh items of expenditure which are brought to the Government by Ministers. I think the Prime Minister has stated that quite clearly. It is not my understanding that the Committee was established simply to review the current or announced expenditures of the Government. As to the Prime Minister’s intentions with regard to the various departments and the programs which are under way, I am not in a position to say; but I believe that not only the Committee but also the Cabinet would be mindful of these things in the light of the Prime Minister’s statement that all aspects of additional expenditure by the Government will be watched very carefully in the ensuing 12 months.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Attorney-General. In regard to the statement of the New South Wales Premier, Mr Lewis, that he may appoint a political neuter to fill the Senate vacancy, is there any truth in the allegation that following certain incidents in the House of Representatives yesterday Mr Lewis has decided to appoint the right honourable member for Bruce?
– I had not heard the rumour until it was mentioned by the honourable senator. Judging on yesterday’s performance and some other recent performances, the honourable member for Bruce would appear to have the exact qualifications which are sought by the Premier of New South Wales.
– I direct my question to the Minister for Foreign Affairs. On Tuesday the Prime Minister was asked a question relating to a reply which he had given previously and to which I had referred, that he had asked the South Vietnamese Government to honour the Paris peace agreements and to bring about an end to hostilities in Vietnam. How can the South Vietnamese Government bring about an end to hostilities, except by surrender, when it is under continued massive attack from North Vietnamese troops in defiance of the Paris peace agreements? Is it not a fact that North Vietnam has increased its military strength since the signing of the agreements, in defiance of those agreements? Does the Government or the Prime Minister suggest that South Vietnam should allow itself to be conquered by military force? When will the Government inform North Vietnam that peace can best be restored when it ceases armed aggression- a fact admitted by Mr Bowen in the House of Representatives last week?
- Senator Sim, in a very negative way, puts his question in relation to what can be done about the Paris Accords. One could take the same negative attitude in relation to the Middle East. We have tried to convey to all those people who might have some leverage in the Vietnamese situation that not sufficient energy is being shown on all sides and by all those people who may have some influence to bring about peace in that area.
-Can the Minister for Repatriation and Compensation outline for the Senate his Department’s policy on the repayment by repatriation pensioners of past overpayments of pensions when the overpayments are the result of a departmental error?
– Although the matter which Senator Grimes raises may seem perhaps unimportant in the general context of the whole economy it is certainly something which is very serious for those people who can be placed in a difficult position on finding that they have been overpaid while receiving only a modest income from their pension. Suddenly they find themselves called upon to make what to them is a very big refund. The Department of Repatriation and Compensation does not have-a policy on this matter. There are Treasury directions relating to the overpayment of any sums which are paid accidentally or inadvertently to people. These procedures are followed by the Department of Repatriation and Compensation, as they have to be, whatever may be the cause of the overpayment.
When the overpayments have been made by an error in one of the offices within my Department and when they have been received in good faith by the recipient, if no hardship can be established the overpayments are recovered except where they have continued for a period longer than one year. In those cases the amount recovered is the amount which has been overpaid during that previous year. A sort of voluntary statute of limitations is applied on the liability of the recipient to repay the money. Where there are cases of hardship the Department will consider waiver of all or part of the amount which has been overpaid. The full circumstances are then submitted by the Department to the Treasury for the approval of Treasury. I am assured by officers of my Department that they look at these matters sympathetically. They realise that such a circumstance can impose quite a serious burden on someone who suddenly finds that he has been overpaid a small amount every week which, over a year, has accrued into a fairly substantial amount. The procedures which I have just mentioned are followed by the Department when such a circumstance arises.
– I ask the Minister for Agriculture whether it is correct that the Federal Government intends to impose fines of $50,000 on wholesalers and distributors who sell seafood which has a mercury content of more than .05 parts per million. Is the Minister aware that the South Australian Government has set a level of one part per million? Has he seen reported statements by Mr Broomhill, the South Australian Minister of Environment and Conservation, that the Federal Government’s anti-mercury seafood laws will place the fishing industry in danger of collapse and remove fish from most Australian diets? I ask the Minister whether he will arrange a meeting with the South Australian Minister in an endeavour to resolve this situation?
– I saw reports in the Press alleging that fines of this nature would be imposed under new legislation to be brought down. Let me assure Senator Young that no such decision has been taken. A meeting was held in Canberra of Government officials two <Sr three days ago at which certain proposals were discussed. They were no more than discussions. No decision has been taken. I assure the honourable senator that no decision will be taken without proper consultation with the States on the mercury content question.
-Is the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs aware of wide-scale reports of mass bashings of Aboriginals by police in the Alice Springs area? Has he heard radio news reports this morning that an Aboriginal required treatment -at Alice Springs after being painted from head to toe with white paint by a group of men, and of other incidents of racial violence between whites and blacks in the town? Can the Minister advise the Senate what steps he is taking to look into these claims and to determine the facts of what is happening in Alice Springs at the present time? .
-Tension at Alice Springs is causing particular worry to both me and my Department. The notification of a police bashing at Alice Springs was brought to my attention this morning by a Melbourne radio organisation which rang me to ask whether I would comment over the telephone on these allegations. Apparently these allegations were made by Mr Eames from the Legal Aid service at Alice Springs. This is the first occasion on which I have heard of an Aboriginal being painted white. There was an incident some weeks ago and serious allegations were made of police overreacting and bashing Aboriginals at Finke settlement. I believe a court case is pending over the incident. I have asked my Department for a report on this incident. An officer was sent to report on the matter, and only today I received his report. It shows that there is justification for further investigation into the reaction of the police.
Last week I received a letter, which I believe has been sent to many honourable senators, from 13 citizens of Alice Springs including the Lord Mayor, Aboriginal representatives and members of the Legislative Assembly of the Northern Territory, asking me to confer with them on this question. I have arranged to confer with them on the 19th and 20th March which is the second week the House will be in recess. I today received a letter from the Reverend Jim Downing who tells of the tension that is being experienced and of the unfortunate selection in some areas of police officers who do not understand Aboriginals and who think that they can control them by brute force. This is bringing out in Aboriginals an attitude of taking reprisals. Of course, it must lead at some stage to violence in different areas.
We hope to meet at Alice Springs in an endeavour to get an orderly situation in operation. The Reverend Jim Downing is sending me a report today on Finke, Yuendumu, Hooker Creek and Alice Springs. It will be on today’s plane. I will make an urgent request to the Attorney-General for an investigation to be held into police activities in the Alice Springs area.
– My question is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. I refer to his response yesterday to what the Press had then described as cuts in Government spending. As the Press reports included what they described as the priority area of social security, I ask the Minister: Does this mean that areas within the programs of care for the aged, which do not necessarily provide additional employment- a factor which was used by the Minister yesterday- are to be cut back? Will the
Minister give an assurance that this section of the community will not suffer from the Government’s intention?
– If there is one area in which I believe this Government is free of criticism it is the area of assisting the people in the community who need assistance most. The programs which Senator Davidson has nominated would be included in that area. I am quite sure that this Government will not go back on its provision of assistance for homes for the aged and the less fortunate in the community. I want to emphasise again that the role of the Expenditure Review Committee is not to cut expenditure or to make recommendations to that effect. It is a question of reviewing additional Government expenditure.
The broad picture of Government expenditure and Government policy generally still remains a matter for Cabinet. But I feel that there is still a misunderstanding on the part of Senator Davidson at least as to the role of the Committee. He may be assured that the achievements that have been made in those areas in which this Government has been a trail blazer will be preserved.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Attorney-General. Is the Minister aware that a group of Victorian solicitors is threatening to challenge the Australian Legal Aid Office scheme which has afforded great assistance to numerous people who prior to the introduction of the scheme were deprived of proper legal representation because of economic circumstances beyond their control? Has the Minister seen the article in today’s Melbourne Age’ newspaper entitled ‘Vote on Challenge to Free Legal Aid ‘? If he has, would he be good enough to comment on the substance of the report? Further, will the Minister indicate the serious implications if this projected action by solicitors in Victoria is pursued?
– I have not seen the exact report to which the honourable senator refers. I have seen a similar item on the subject in the Melbourne ‘Sun’ newspaper which makes it clear that certain lawyers who live in the past wish to perpetuate a situation in which resort to the law should be considered to be a privilege only of the well off.
– That is not a fair statement.
-If Senator Wright will permit me to continue, I can state that the scheme which was introduced in no way constitutes a threat to the right of the citizen to have a lawyer of his own choice. Fears which have been expressed in this article, amongst others, that this scheme represents the thin edge of the wedge of the nationalisation of lawyers are so much hysterical nonsense. The scheme was introduced after discussion with the profession. I know that in New South Wales at least-
– Like the Corporations and Securities Industry Bill.
-Senator Webster, of course, is an authority on all things legal. I will overlook that interjection. As I said, the scheme was introduced after consultation with all sections of the profession. At least in New South Wales it has the hearty approval of the vast majority of the members of the profession. I think that in years to come this scheme will be regarded as just one of the monuments to the greatest Attorney-General this country has had.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Agriculture. My information is that the present production of superphosphate in Tasmania is expected to be reduced to less than half of last year’s production due to the upsurge of price following the withdrawal of the superphosphate bounty and the huge increase in overseas prices. Will he give us an indication of what he has in mind for the production of superphosphate this year and its availability in agriculture? Will he consider, instead of referring the question of the continuation of the bounty to the Industries Assistance Commission- the old Tariff Board- referring it to the Tempory Assistance Authority and continuing the payment of the subsidy pending a hearing?
-As Senator Wright said in the first part of his question, it is true that orders for superphosphate currently are down. This is to be expected in the light of the quite dramatic increase in the price of superphosphate to which the honourable senator has referred and also the decision of the Government to phase out the bounty at the end of last year. It should be pointed out that even though the cost of superphosphate now will be in the order of $50 a tonne, only $12 of that would have been represented by the bounty. During the last half of 1974 there were very large orders for superphosphate as, naturally, farmers took advantage of the lower prices which obtained then, and understandably orders have fallen off quite sharply. Australian usage of superphosphate has been about 3 million tonnes a year so, assuming that there is a 50 per cent decline, we can expect the use of approximately 1.5 million tonnes but 1 do not anticipate that that will happen. I believe that the consumption of superphosphate will remain at about the same level as has been experienced in the last few years.
As to the report of the Industries Assistance Commission, it would be inappropriate to refer this matter to the Temporary Assistance Authority because that Authority is designed for short term measures when the IAC is unable to report within a specified time. In the reference we sent to the IAC we asked for an interim report by June this year. This will enable the Government then to make a decision on the reintroduction of the bounty. I believe that the Government has taken all the reasonable steps it could take. As I have mentioned, the more important factor is that at the same time it has given every assistance to the development of phosphate deposits in Queensland which is the real and most effective safeguard for the Australian farmer in respect of phosphate usage. I am unable to indicate to the Senate any more than that until such time as the Government receives the interim report from the IAC.
-I ask the Minister for the Media whether his attention has been drawn to evidence given to the Royal Commission on Australian Government Administration by Mr Myles Wright, Chairman of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board, to the effect that he regretted that more Board reports had not been made public. To what reports did he refer? Will the Minister investigate the possibility of all reports by the Board being made public documents?
– I did see the report in the ‘Canberra Times’ attributing remarks to Mr Myles Wright, Chairman of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board, during the course of his evidence yesterday to the Royal Commission on Australian Government Administration. I did note the reported statement by the Chairman that he wished that more reports of the Board had been made public. As far as I know, all of the reports that have come to me from the Broadcasting Control Board have been made public except those in respect of applications for the renewal of licences by broadcasting and television stations.
The honourable senator will recall that some time ago I told the Senate that I was discussing with the Broadcasting Control Board the question of tabling in Parliament the reports that the Board tenders to me in my capacity as Minister on applications for renewal of broadcasting or television licences. I am given to understand that as a result of my raising that matter with the Board, the Board in turn raised the subject with the Attorney-General’s Department which expressed the opinion that because certain matter of confidential nature to the stations is supplied by the stations to the Board and the Board includes that confidential matter in the report to me, to make the document publicly available we, and I in particular, as the Minister, would be breaching the confidentiality of the material in the report.
However, I have suggested to the Chairman of the Broadcasting Control Board that he should provide me with a report containing material not of a confidential nature which I should be able to table and that if there were any material of a confidential nature that had to be put to me, it could be put to me by way of a separate document. Mr Wright has told me that he is discussing that matter with the Attorney-General’s Department and I hope to be able to make an announcement in the near future.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Agriculture. I refer to the announcement that the European Economic Community will, as from the end of April, permit entry of some 100 000 tonnes of beef to European Economic Community member countries. Has the Minister any further information on how this matter may affect the situation of our beef industry and future prospects?
– This matter is really being dealt with by the Minister for Overseas Trade. I can only indicate that the basic position is as outlined by Senator Laucke; but it is my understanding that that decision does not hold out too much hope for Australian beef. It does seem that it will favour South American countries rather than Australia. That is the only additional information that I have. But I will contact the Minister for Overseas Trade and obtain a more detailed answer for Senator Laucke.
– I refer the Postmaster-General to a question that was asked last November in relation to the takeover by the
Australian Post Office of company coin telephones, in particular the telephones marketed under the name Easiphone. Can the Minister now say whether any progress has been made in the negotiations leading to this takeover?
– Some time ago I reported that an agreement had been concluded quite satisfactorily with the Victa telephone company on the so-called Victaphones. Since that time my officers have been conferring with the Easiphone company. As a result of those conferences very satisfactory arrangements have been made and we will take over the Easiphone organisation in April of this year.
– Will the Minister representing the Minister for Education ask the Minister for Education to make inquiries and later inform the Senate whether, as alleged to me, there is a shortage of trained personnel and necessary teaching facilities in the Australian Capital Territory to help slow readers, particularly those in the 6 to 12 years age group? Can the Minister hold out any hope to the parents of these children? I understand that there is a cure for their handicap if specially trained teachers are made available.
– I have not seen any report of this matter, and I note that Senator Marriott used the phrase ‘as alleged to me’ in his question. I certainly will make inquiries of my colleague the Minister for Education to see whether he knows anything about the matter and, if there is a shortage, to ascertain the steps that are being taken to ameliorate the circumstances. I can say to the honourable senator, though, that some years ago I was a member of a Senate select committee that was established to inquire into the problems of the mentally and physically handicapped. That committee was established on the initiative of former Senator Fitzgerald. Evidence was given to that select committee about the problems of slow learners, not only in Canberra but also in other places. I think I read recently- I am speaking from memory now- that the Special Minister of State was establishing a committee to inquire into the report of that Senate select committee on the mentally and physically handicapped.
- Mr Fitzgerald is on that committee.
– I understand that Mr Fitzgerald has been appointed to that committee. However, I will take the matter up with my colleague the Minister for Education and let the honourable senator know.
– Has the Leader of the Government in the Senate seen reports criticising attempts by the Queensland Premier, Mr BjelkePetersen, and the Leader of the Australian Country Party, Mr Anthony, to establish a new conservative party in Tasmania? Is the Minister able to say whether this criticism by the Tasmanian Liberal Party Leader, Mr Bingham, is based solely on party political considerations or whether the fears expressed by Mr Bingham are based upon the possible loss of beef export markets by Tasmanian farmers arising from Mr Bjelke-Petersen’s threat to limit mineral licences unless countries such as Japan agree to beef imports specifically from Queensland? Will the Minister comment on the unilateralism of the National Party Leader in Queensland, indicate whether his attitude on beef export products will jeopardise the livelihood of farmers from all States and whether his Tasmanian excursion will seriously jeopardise the survival of the existing Opposition parties in Tasmania?
– There is no doubt, as has been indicated in the Senate and I think fairly widely generally in the community, that the statements and the attitude of the Queensland Premier in respect of beef and mineral exports are damaging to our exports generally. I am sure that all primary producers, irrespective of where they are, share that concern. I believe the intrusion by the National Party into Tasmania has been adequately dealt with by the Leader of the State Liberal Party, Mr Bingham, who in no uncertain terms gave Mr Bjelke-Petersen probably the worst welcome that he has ever received anywhere. The main reason obviously is that the forces in that State, in disarray as they have been for many years, will be further in disarray as a result of the initiatives that have been taken by the Country Party and its allies.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for the Capital Territory, refers to the reported proposal of the Minister for the Capital Territory, Mr Bryant, that owners of houses in the Australian Capital Territory which remain vacant for extended periods could be forced to sell or rent them. I ask: Under what possible principle of equity does the Government justify such a major proposed assault on individual rights to private property? Is this proposal virtually not identical in principle with the proposal of the Treasurer and the Minister for Urban and Regional Development- a proposal that has been put on ice- that a severe annual tax should be imposed on vacant land blocks held by individuals as distinct from developers? Since the present chronic land and housing shortage was created deliberately in the building industry by the Government at its say-so that it was out, through its credit squeeze and high interest rates to bring it about, should not the Government be concentrating on incentives to the building industry instead of punitive measures against individuals?
-We have really covered the globe with that question. It contains comparisons, accusations and suggestions. I will refer the first part of the question, which concerns the Australian Capital Territory, to the Minister for the Capital Territory whom I represent here. I do not think the accusations really come within the Minister’s administration. The first part of the question regarding housing in the A.C.T. I will refer to the Minister.
– Has the Minister representing the Minister for Social Security seen the report issued in Melbourne that doctors in that city are desperate about the lack of facilities for the care of the aged and chronically ill there? The report further states that the solution is not the provision of more nursing home beds but is rather an overall plan covering accommodation, domiciliary and other support services and medical care. Will the Minister assure the Senate that the Australian Government will endeavour to bring about a conference with State governments and voluntary agencies as a matter of urgency with a view to solving this real and human problem?
-This is clearly something which is within the province of the Minister for Social Security himself. I do not think I am in a position to give an assurance that the Minister will be calling such a conference. I will refer the question to him and obtain an answer as soon as possible.
– I direct my question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. It follows an answer that he gave earlier to Senator Davidson relating to a reduction or limitation of government expenditure. Is the Minister aware that a great deal of confusion exists in the community on just what is the Government’s stand at the moment? Will the Minister indicate to the Senate whether promises that the Government made last year which have not yet been acted on come into the category of additional expenditure or an area of present expenditure? Specifically, will the Minister say whether the abolition of the means test on aged pensions for those in the 70 to 74 years age group is considered by the Government to be a commitment or an area of additional expenditure?
– I do not know what words I can use to explain the role of the committee which seems to have created confusion in the minds of some honourable senators opposite. It has been made quite clear that the programs enunciated by the Government and to which it is committed will be continued. I can only repeat that areas in which new items of expenditure come before the Government will be subject to scrutiny by the review committee. 1 just cannot explain the matter in more simple terms than those.
– I ask the PostmasterGeneral whether reports that the Darwin based Radio Australia’ station was severely damaged during the cyclone are correct. If the reports are correct, when is it proposed to commence restoration work on the station and what is the anticipated length of time required to complete the work?
– Very serious damage to the station has been reported to my colleagues Senator Willesee and Senator Douglas McClelland who also are concerned with this matter. There was quite extensive damage, running into some millions of dollars, to the transmitting aerials, masts and other related equipment. As honourable senators probably know, the employees who service the station have to go across the harbour in a launch. Unfortunately there was one death as a result of the cyclone. The question we have to discuss is whether the money ought to be spent in that location or whether some other location might be more suitable for the service. We have arranged, mutually, before making a submission to Cabinet about restoration of the service at that site in Darwin, which presents some difficulties, for an examination to be made of the cost of the project and of the general technical efficiency. The three . of us have arranged for our departments to consult about it and make a report to us as quickly as possible. As a result of that report we will make a submission to Cabinet about the facility.
– I direct my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Minerals and Energy. I refer to the recent appointment of Mr Jack Egerton as a member of the Petroleum and Minerals Authority. Has the Government yet appointed to that Authority any person experienced in the petroleum and minerals industry? If it has not yet appointed anybody of that calibre when, if ever, does it intend to do so?
– I am not in a position to answer that question. These are matters that the Minister would deal with, naturally, at a personal and detailed level. I would not make any commitment on his behalf so I will refer the question to him.
– I preface my question by saying that I am not giving Senator Sheil free plugs in the Senate. Is the Minister for Agriculture aware of a demonstration headed by bunny girls which was staged in the New South Wales town of Tenterfield last night allegedly in support of the establishment of a rabbit production company known as ‘Thumpa’? As the company was refused permission by the Country Party Government in Queensland to operate in that State and has now been refused permission by the Lewis Government to operate in New South Wales, will the Minister take the opportunity to have his Department investigate the likely impact on existing beef and poultry production in case the Lewis Government finds time to review the ‘Thumpa’ application favourably when it reaches a decision on the New South Wales Senate vacancy later this year?
-I cannot say that I am very conversant with those particular bunnies but I will try to find out about the matter and provide the honourable senator with an answer.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Agriculture. He will recall emphasising, in answer to a question yesterday on the beef crisis, that producers had not requested concessional interest rates on $20m finance made available to the industry late last year. Is he aware that the United Farmers and Woolgrowers Association is requesting the Government to subsidise loans to beef producers by 6.5 per cent? Is he aware also that UFWA has declared that at least $50m at low interest rates is necessary to get producers out of trouble? I again ask whether the Minister will review immediately the assistance which the Government is prepared to give the beef industry in this crisis period.
– I indicated yesterday the discussions I had with State Ministers on this point last Friday. I indicated also that I do not believe that any one government should carry this load. I certainly would not put to the Australian Government propositions which in effect meant that we were carrying the full load of the problems of the beef industry. The problems must be shared by the States. There was a general consensus at the meeting I had with State Ministers that this should be the case. As a result, I am seeking their views and their proposals on the extent to which they are prepared to cooperate with the Australian Government in a joint program to assist the industry.
– My question is directed to you, Mr President. It arises out of a concern for the established customs and conventions of the Senate which was awakened in me by the moving speech of Senator Withers last night. Is it an established custom or convention of the Senate that members of the same political Party sit together? Now that Senator Townley had admitted his membership of the Liberal Party of Australia, has he made application to sit with other members of this Party? Is there any reason, such as the refusal of other members of his Party to sit with him, for a delay in his departure from the bench occupied by independents?
-Standing order 48 states:
Senators shall be entitled to retain the seats occupied by them at the time of their taking their seats for the first time after their election so long as they continue Senators without re-election.
I add that seating arrangements are a matter usually for the Usher of the Black Rod in consultation with senators and the parties. If an application is made to me by Senator Townley to sit with members of his Party, I certainly will give it very close consideration.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for the Northern Territory aware that the road from Alice Springs to Tennant Creek has been cut by floods for the last 2 days? Has he been informed that Bonnen Creek is running 6 feet over the road and that the Taylor River is at the 10-foot level? Is he aware also that according to local information Newcastle Waters will be flooding in about 4 days and could well be down again in about a month? Bearing in mind that the road from Queensland also is completely cut by floods and bearing in mind the severe financial problems suffered by road hauliers, not only as a result of the recent cyclone but also as a result of flooding last year, will the Minister take urgent action to provide air lifts out of Alice Springs or Tennant Creek to alleviate the serious transport problems being faced by these operators?
– Any time an air lift is necessary for rescue work or to supply essential provisions because of transport difficulties the Government will provide such air lift. Northern Australia has had a season of heavy rain and from time to time many roads in the north have been washed out. The submission on rebuilding Darwin contained a proposal that essential for the rebuilding of Darwin was the upgrading of the highway so that transport hauliers could take cargo to Darwin. I believe that it was one of the intentions of the Darwin Reconstruction Commission to look into this question. As honourable senators know, the Commission has been restricted in respect of parts of the Territory outside Darwin by the Senate’s action last evening. It is possible that this will cause some delay. A new authority may have to be formed to undertake this task. The Minister is aware of the position. For the first time an Australian government has a program for intercapital highways and is taking an interest in trying to upgrade and repair the damage that has resulted to highways from many years of neglect in the past.
-I direct a question to the Minister for Foreign Affairs. It follows the answer he gave to Senator Mulvihill yesterday with respect to the Australian Government’s attitude to developments in Cyprus. Does the Australian Government regard Archbishop Makarios as head of the legitimate Government of Cyprus?
-Yesterday I did not touch on this aspect of the situation in Cyprus. There is no doubt where we stand on this matter. In spite of all that has gone on in Cyprus, we regard the Cyprus Government itself as the legitimate Government of the Republic and Archbishop Makarios as the head of that Government.
– Has the Minister representing the Minister for Minerals and Energy seen the report in yesterday’s ‘Herald’ that major oil companies are now paying substantially lower prices for Middle East oil than the official price of US$10.46? In fact the report mentions US$8.50 as the current price. Can the Minister substantiate this report? If so, has Australia been able to purchase any crude oil at these prices by using the method outlined in the report, namely, purchasing on 30, 60 or 90 days credit, which gives the above result?
-That question must be referred to the Minister for Minerals and Energy. I shall obtain an answer.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Social Security. Is it a fact that a woman can find herself pregnant, obtain a job in the Commonwealth Public Service, work for only one week and then be entitled to 3 months leave on full pay without having to return to work at the end of the time?
-The first question, as I understand it, is whether it is a fact that a woman can find herself pregnant. The answer to that is yes. With regard to the other questions, I am afraid I do not have the answers readily available, but I will refer them to the Minister for Social Security. As soon as he lets me have an answer I shall inform Senator Sheil.
– For the information of honourable senators I present the final report of the Committee on Open University to the Universities Commission dated December 1974, together with a statement by the Minister for Education on that report.
– Pursuant to secdon 7(7) of the Remuneration Tribunals Act 1 973- 1 974 1 table the following documents: -
A determination by the Remuneration Tribunal of the remuneration payable to the person retained to conduct the independent inquiry to determine the fees for medical benefit purposes, the Executive Member of the Petroleum and Minerals Authority and the Director of the Legislative Drafting Institute;
A determination by the Remuneration Tribunal of the remuneration payable to the Fire Commissioner in the Australian Capital Territory and to the Chairman and members of the Aboriginal Loans Commission;
A determination by the Remuneration Tribunal relating to positions in the Health Insurance Commission, the Hospitals and Health Services Commission, the Law Reform Commission and the Social Welfare Commission.
Each of the 3 determinations is followed by an explanatory statement issued by the Remuneration Tribunal.
– For the information of honourable senators I present a report to the AttorneyGeneral by Mr A. T. Carmody, ComptrollerGeneral of Customs, on a proposed national law enforcement authority.
Motion (by Senator Douglas McClelland) agreed to:
That at 3 p.m. this day intervening General Business be postponed until after consideration of notice of motion No. 15 in the name of Senator Devitt relating to local government organisations and order of the day No. 8 in the name of Senator Bonner relating to ownership of land by Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Ordered that the Bill may be taken through all its stages without delay.
Bill (on motion by Senator Wriedt) read a first time.
– I move:
In introducing this Bill I remind all honourable senators that it is identical with the measure which was introduced in this chamber on 23 July 1974 and which the Senate refused to pass on 24 July 1974. As an interval of 3 months has now elapsed since this chamber failed to pass this measure the Bill is being introduced again.
Honourable senators will recall that the Bill before them constituted Part III of the Seas and Submerged Lands Bill 1973, which I first introduced in this chamber on 22 May 1973, and that this Part was deleted when the Senate passed the Bill with amendment on 27 November 1973. The mining code embodied in the Bill will provide a legal framework and establish rules governing the orderly exploration and exploitation of our offshore mineral resources. The salient features of this Bill and the associated Royalty Bill were outlined by me when introducing the measure previously and I see no point in going over them again.
Mr President, the passage of this Bill will again emphasise the importance we attach to the exercising by the national Parliament of its sovereign rights over the offshore area in relation to offshore mining activities. This Bill is a further positive step towards this objective. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Cotton) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Ordered that the Bill may be taken through all its stages without delay.
Bill (on motion by Senator Wriedt) read a first time.
– I move:
This Bill is consequential upon the Minerals (Submerged Lands) Bill 1974 and was also introduced into the Senate on 23 July 1974, and failed to pass on 24 July 1974, when the Senate also refused to pass the Minerals (Submerged Lands) Bill 1974. As with the principal Bill, 3 months have elapsed since this chamber failed to pass this measure and I now introduce this Bill again and commend it to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Durack) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Ordered that the Bill may be taken through all its stages without delay.
Bill (on motion by Senator Wheeldon) read a first time.
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The Bill before the Senate is designed to provide for an orderly transition from the present health insurance scheme to Medibank. The Bill is identical to the Bill rejected by the Senate last August. Honourable senators will be aware that since this Bill was last rejected a Joint Sitting of the House of Representatives and the Senate has been held. During that Sitting the Health Insurance Act and the Health Insurance Commission Act were passed. The Health Insurance Act authorises the payment of medical benefits, the Australian Government to enter into agreements with the States for the provision of hospital services, and the making of health program grants. The Health Insurance Commission Act establishes the administrative structure of Medibank. I should point out that although Medibank can be brought into operation and can function without any further legislation its operation nonetheless can be greatly facilitated, especially in the public interest, by the passage of further ancillary legislation. This Bill is one such piece of legislation. It will facilitate the introduction of the program and ensure adequate protection of all groups in the community during the transitional period. I shall deal with these matters more fully later.
Medibank has been the subject of a prolonged campaign of deliberate misrepresentation conducted principally by those with vested self interest in the preservation of the present inefficient, inequitable and very costly health insurance scheme. In view of the confusion born of this misrepresentation I shall remind the Senate briefly, as I have done on previous occasions, of the basic facts concerning Medibank. The first and main objective of Medibank is to give every Australian, on identical terms, automatic security against the cost of medical and hospital treatment, at reasonable cost to the community. It is not a program to nationalise medical and hospital services, nor does it reduce any of the freedoms which patients, doctors or hospitals now enjoy. On the contrary, it extends them. Honourable senators will know that the medical plan gives everyone automatic coverage for private practice, fee-for-service, medical treatment and that there will be complete freedom of choice of doctor by patients and of place and type of practice by doctors. Persons with pensioner medical service entitlement will have access to all medical practitioner treatment- specialist as well as general practitioner, procedural and diagnostic services as well as consultations. Currently, of course, these pensioner patients are entitled only to free general practitioner consultations under the pensioner medical service.
The Health Insurance Act makes special provision for pensioners whose financial means are within specified limits equivalent to the present pensioner medical service entitlement limits. The Minister for Social Security (Mr Hayden) will be writing to all doctors asking them to accept benefits in full settlement for treating these patients. I am hopeful that doctors will cooperate in this arrangement, so that eligible pensioners will receive treatment free of charge. For the rest of the community treatment will also be free where doctors bill Medibank direct. Doctors may follow this course or will be able, if they wish, to bill patients in the traditional way. In this case, where the schedule fee is charged, the medical benefit refund will be such that the patient will have to meet only 1 5 per cent of the fee, up to a maximum amount of $5.
The hospital arrangements within Medibank provide for the Australian Government to enter into agreements with individual State governments under which the net costs of operating State public hospital systems will be shared equally between the Australian and State governments. In accordance with the agreements, standard bed treatment- that is, public ward- in public hospitals will be free of means test and free of charge to patients who choose this form of treatment. For those choosing private treatment in either a public or a private hospital, there will be a $16 a day subsidy towards hospital bed charges provided under the Health Insurance Act. Where State governments decline to enter into agreements from 1 July 1975 then, until such agreements are entered into, the present National Health Act arrangements will continue so far as hospital benefits are concerned. An effect of this will be that access to public ward treatment will still be subject to whatever charges and means tests the State governments apply and, of course, people in these States will have to continue to pay high hospital insurance contributions although they will be relieved of their medical insurance contributions.
The provisions of the Bill were outlined in detail when it was introduced in July last year. I shall outline again in brief the main provisions of the Bill. First, the Bill provides for cessation of the payment of Australian Government medical and hospital benefits under the National Health Act. Secondly, it provides for the manner in which existing health insurance organisations will phase out their National Health Act operations. Of course, organisations ceasing operations under the National Health Act will be eligible to seek authorisation to conduct health insurance business under legislation, supervising private health insurance, which will be introduced later in these sittings.
Thirdly, its provisions recognise that, with the pending introduction of Medibank, some existing medical and hospital funds may have difficulties continuing their financial operations on a viable basis. Some organisations may not be able to meet claims for medical and hospital benefits for services rendered prior to 1 July 1975. Other organisations may decide to cease operating in view of Medibank being introduced and may have difficulty in ensuring the continuance of the protection of their contributors. To meet these situations, clause 19 provides for Medibank to conduct private medical and hospital insurance to the extent necessary to ensure that the interests of contributors are fully protected during this transitional period. Finally, the Bill provides for the Australian Government to assume the liability for nursing home benefits at present paid by.registered hospital benefits funds to insured non-pensioner patients. This will be achieved by extending the additional Australian Government nursing home payment, now applying to pensioners with pensioner medical service entitlement, to all qualified nursing home patients.
As I have already stated it is not absolutely essential that the Bill before the Senate be passed to enable medical benefits to be paid and the hospital arrangements to be achieved under Medibank, but it is desirable. The failure to pass this Bill would disadvantage some sections of the community and cause personal loss to individuals. Those likely to be affected are patients in nursing homes and contributors to funds which cannot meet their claims. Should the Opposition continue to block the passage of this Bill, then it must hold itself responsible for such personal losses that in some cases could be substantial. Rejection of this Bill will mean that Australians generally will be denied the protection afforded by properly authorised transitional arrangements which are designed to fully safeguard their interests. Mr President, I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Guilfoyle) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Ordered that the Bill may be taken through all its stages without delay.
Bill (on motion by Senator Bishop) read a first time.
– I move:
The provisions of this Bill are exactly the same as those of the Bill concerning amalgamation of organisations under the Conciliation and Arbitration Act that the Senate rejected last September. It proposes the dismantling of the barriers to amalgamations deliberately erected by the joint Liberal-Country Party Government.
The arguments for encouraging amalgamations have now been canvassed several times in the Parliament and I do not intend to go over them all again. However, there are some points I wish to make.
I doubt very much whether employers will thank the Opposition for its continuous obstruction of the reforms proposed by this Bill. After all, they derive considerable benefits from formation of larger unions. Frequently several unions are parties to a single award or agreement, as is the case in the metal industry award, and often there is a multiplicity of separate awards and agreements which operate in single establishments. Amalgamation of organisations will operate in this situation not only by reducing the number of unions party to single awards and agreements but also by limiting the number of awards and agreements applying within single establishments. Negotiation and agreement on industrial matters would also be facilitated if the employer had to deal only with one or two unions instead of, as is often the case with larger employers, a number going into double figures, each operating under different rules and procedures and not necessarily pursuing common policies.
One needs to look no further than Government instrumentalities to get an idea of the number of unions one “employer may have to deal with. A total of 28 unions are represented in the Postmaster-General’s Department. Workers in the Sydney Mail Exchange are covered by not less than 20 unions. The workforce of Trans Australia Airlines is covered by not fewer than 26 unions. The men and women employed by the Commonwealth Railways belong to 14 unions.
It is no wonder that in February 1972 before the introduction of the legislation which erected the present barriers to amalgamations, the then President of the Metal Trades Industry Association issued a Press statement stating that he would be informing Mr Lynch, the then Minister for Labour and National Service, that the MTIA would be opposed to any action by the Government which sought to prevent the amalgamation of 3 metal trades unions which was in progress. The statement said that far from objecting to the amalgamation, the MTIA saw many practical advantages for industrial relations in the metal trades industry. Specifically mentioned were the reduction in the number of unions with which the MTIA and its members would have to deal and the elimination of costly demarcation disputes. The Liberal-Country Party Government took fine care not to prevent that amalgamation. Similar care was not taken of the interests of other employers and employees.
I have no doubt that the Australian community has every reason to deplore the Opposition’s obstruction of the reforms proposed. The benefits to unions, employees and employers that would flow from fewer and larger unions would go a long way towards a more efficient industrial relations system, one which would be conducive to a substantial improvement in industrial relations. More specifically, in the longer term, a relatively small number of unions could effect a reduction in the number and frequency of wage claims and, I think it is reasonable to suggest, a consequent moderation in the rate of wage increases. With nearly 300 unions our industrial relations area is in a state of constant ferment with unions making claims, negotiating agreements or undertaking arbitral proceedings to bring their members’ conditions up to parity with, or to improve upon, wage rates obtained by other unions. Wage claims are made in such numbers and with such frequency that it is extremely difficult for union officials or anyone else to know whether a union’s claim will maintain the members wage position relative to that of the members of other unions or will comprise the initial bid in a new round of wage increases. If the only effect of amalgamations was to lessen the number and frequency of wage claims, that in itself would be a significant benefit to the Australian community.
The truth of the matter is that there was no reasonable justification for the erection of the present barriers in the way of amalgamations. Some little time before the introduction of the enabling legislation in 1972, the then Minister for Labour and National Service, Mr Phillip Lynch said:
I think it is fair to say that provided the membership of industrial organisations does not lose effective control as a result of amalgamations there are many advantages which can accrue from amalgamation.
For instance, there are some 300 unions in Australia. Most of them are very small. It could facilitate the functioning of the arbitration system and relations generally between employers and unions if this number of unions decreases . . .
Those barriers were erected to placate the hysterical fear of certain former members of this Parliament and their supporters. Their fear was too unreasonable to permit any consideration of the enormous benefits to unions, employers and the community that could flow from amalgamations of unions.
They feared that larger unions might also be more militant, using their industrial strength in reprehensible ways. That would be a possibility. But, if we were to allow our every thought for action to be influenced by the possibility that some unwanted consequence might follow, it is doubtful that we could bring ourselves to the point of daring to act at all. Size and militancy are not automatically concomitant. The Australian Workers Union is one of our 2 largest unions and few would disagree with its reputation for conducting its industrial relations in a moderate manner. On the other hand, that same fear blinded its holders to the fact that comparatively small unions with members employed in carrying out functions whose continued operation is vital for the economic or social wellbeing of the community can exercise industrial strength out of proportion to their numbers. I suggest that the importance of the Bill’s provisions merits the response of reasoned consideration rather than blind prejudice.
The Government’s firm commitment to the provisions of this Bill is endorsed by the general support given to amalgamation by leaders of both sides of industry and by industrial relations experts both here and overseas. The 1974 Statement on Employment and Industrial Relations Policy endorsed by both the Country Party and the Liberal Party said that ‘the multiplicity of unions and the spread of certain unions through many industries makes the task of consultation and negotiation more difficult with problems of one union unnecessarily flowing to others. ‘ This
Bill gives members of those Parties an opportunity to do something constructive about those problems. The Government regards it as imperative that this Bill be passed and I invite all honourable senators to support it. Finally, I should remind honourable senators that the continuation of the 1972 amalgamation provisions means that Australia is not honouring its international obligations. Australia has ratified International Labor Organisations Convention No. 87, Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise, and did so on a commitment to undertake amendments to the amalgamation provisions which infringe the Convention. This most undesirable state of affairs must be brought to an end. I commend the Bill.
Debate (on motion by Senator Greenwood) ajourned
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Ordered that the Bill may be taken through all its stages without delay.
Bill (on motion by Senator Bishop) read a first time.
– I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
This Bill is concerned exclusively with industrial agreements. Its principal provisions can be summarised as dealing with the certification of agreements, their operation and cancellation. They are integral elements of the Government’s industrial relations policy. The primary objective of that policy is the promotion of an industrial relations system that will be the most efficient possible in providing harmonious and mutually satisfactory industrial relationships. The Government is trying to make good the results of the neglect, ineptitude and harm in the field of industrial relations that characterised the time in office of the joint Liberal-Country Party Government. It is trying to provide a system that will be able to accommodate the needs of the future.
This Bill is in terms identical to those of the Bill rejected by the Senate last September. I do not propose to deal with its provisions in detail. Honourable senators wishing to refresh their memories may refer to the second reading speech I made on 13 August last year.
On that occasion I said:
The Bill recognises the wide and increasing incidence of voluntary agreements. Of a total of 800-odd federal awards, approximately 500 were arrived at wholly by agreement. Many of the remaining 300 incorporate agreed portions. Thus the Bill responds to the needs arising from this industrial environment by providing procedures both facilitating agreements and their operation according to their tenor. ‘
It has been maintained that the fact that these agreements were reached within the conciliation and arbitration machinery is an argument against change. It also has been maintained that the Bill’s provisions, which do no more than recognise the existence of that trend and facilitate its development according to principles which will benefit not only the parties but also the community, are part of a scheme to bypass and weaken the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. These assertions reveal a lack of appreciation as to how the industrial relations system and the conciliation and arbitration system really work.
The Conciliation and Arbitration Act does not set up, and was never intended to set up, machinery through which claims had to be channelled for approval or disapproval. I realise that members of the Opposition hold this view of the function of the Commission but it is a mischievous and even dangerous misconception. The Commission is set up to prevent or settle disputes and the need for conciliation or arbitration by the Commission does not arise unless the parties to an industrial relationship cannot reach agreement on the terms governing the continuance of that relationship. In 1904 it was natural that unions looked to the Court of Conciliation and Arbitration for protection. They were impoverished and their members were poor. All the advantages of money and power lay with employers. It is understandable that in the circumstances pertaining in the first half of this century unions may have developed a habit of looking to the Court. However, the trend towards agreements indicates that this is no longer the position. Unions now have self-respect and the respect of others. They have acquired a status in the community. Their members are often well educated- in the case of some unions, extremely well educated. The majority know that they can now treat with employers on the basis of equality. They no longer regard the Commission as a source of protection or as some sort of authoritarian ‘Big Brother’, but view it, as I suggest it should be viewed by all, as the proper place for parties to receive assistance when they cannot resolve a matter between themselves. This Bill will not result in the Commission’s being bypassed or weakened. It should not be necessary to point out that the Bill retains the requirement that agreements be certified by the Commission. What the Bill does is to reflect the need to adapt the Act to accommodate the changes that have occurred. We cannot afford to close our eyes to those changes. If we do, we run a very real risk that the Commission will be of increasingly less relevance. We must not let that happen.
The Commission is, of course, well aware of the changes that are occurring and is showing its willingness to accommodate to those changes. It is putting much greater stress on conciliation and encouragement as the ‘amicable agent’ of the parties. In this regard, I refer honourable senators to the Eighteenth Annual Report of the President of the Australian Conciliation and Arbitration Commission tabled on 13 February. However, there is a limit to what the Commission can do in the circumstances now prevailing.
The attitudes of some union officials need to change. Today people in general are not as willing as they once were to accept decisions that are unilaterally imposed. It should not, therefore, be surprising that rank and file union members are unwilling to endorse agreements that union officials have decided are in the best interest of the members but which do not take account of the real needs and desires of members because no one thought it necessary to try to find out what the members are thinking. If fixed-term agreements are to be that in fact as well as name, it is essential that rank and file members be consulted and kept informed on the progress of negotiations and account taken of their wishes. Their involvement must be such that they can recognise that the agreement provides the terms and conditions they are seeking or a compromise acceptable to them.
It is quite unrealistic for anyone to think that where such basic matters as wages and other important conditions of employment are concerned trade unionists will be willing to accept less than they believe to be reasonable and fair. It is quite unrealistic for anyone to think that trade unionists will abide by fixed term agreements which they believe, after weighing the pluses and minuses’, provide for less than is justly due to them. It is quite unrealistic for some trade union officials to continue to assume that the rank and file will abide by decisions in the shaping of which they had little or no part. It is quite unrealistic for those trade union officials not to share the process of decision making with the rank and file because of fears that their authority will be usurped by shop stewards; they must have more regard for the views of members at the shop floor level and recognise that shop stewards are an important, even essential element, in the process of identifying and transmitting views and ideas from the rank and file to union management and vice versa. It is unrealistic for employers to disregard the obvious fact that an agreement reached with union officials might not be observed if the rank and file have not been involved in the substance of the negotiations and fail to co-operate with union officials in designing procedures which will enable the rank and file to be involved in the negotiating process.
It is fortunate that there are many trade union officials who welcome democratic controls and processes. Regrettably, there are some who do not. One of the purposes of the provisions proposed by this Bill is to encourage those officials to democratise the decision making processes in their unions in relation to proposed agreements concerning the members’ conditions of employment It has been claimed that the provisions of this Bill will weaken union leadership and ‘union leaders would have no authority or incentive to make anything stick’. In fact, their effect will be precisely the reverse. The knowledge that the Commission, if it is not satisfied that the terms of the agreement are acceptable to a majority of the union’s members, may direct that a ballot be held to obtain the members’ views, will be a strong inducement for union officials to ensure that agreements made by them reflect the wishes of the members. Union officials would not willingly allow themselves to be caught in a position which revealed a lack of rapport with the members they were elected to represent. Accordingly, they will be forced to establish and keep open effective lines of communications with their members. This will increase their knowledge of day to day union affairs which, in turn, should increase their confidence in their right to act authoritatively in their dealings with others both in and outside the union. Having entered into negotiations armed with up to date information on what is expected of them by their members, they will be able to give undertakings and enter into agreements confident that the undertakings and agreements will not be disowned by the rank and file. Having entered into an agreement with the knowledge that it reflects the wishes of the majority of union members, they will be in a very strong position in their dealings with members who may be reluctant to abide by the terms of the agreement.
I want to refer briefly to the provisions of the Bill which permit a member of the Commission to certify an agreement on any industrial matter unless he believes certification would result in a major detriment to the public interest, in which case the President is empowered to determine whether the matter should be determined by a Full Bench. These provisions are aimed at striking a reasonable balance between the need to facilitate agreements and the need to protect the public interest. To be effective in reducing industrial unrest it is essential that employers and unions should be able to negotiate with reasonable certainty that whatever agreement they reach will stand. It is therefore important that the Commission should not be able to withhold certification because of some minor consideration. It is equally important that they should be able to negotiate and agree on the whole range of matters relevant to their relationship. Negotiation is a matter of give and take and the process just could not operate satisfactorily if one of the matters of main concern had to be excluded from the discussions.
The successful negotiation and operation of industrial agreements is crucial for the survival of our conciliation and arbitration system. The Government desires to encourage such agreements as a means of paving the way for some coordination in the presentation of union wage claims and of achieving moderation in wage claims and as a rational alternative to industrial strife. It should be seen as inter-related to the Bill on amalgamations. The 2 Bills complement each other in assisting to achieve 2 major objectives of the Government: The rationalisation of our industrial relations system and a dampening of inflation. This is an important Bill. I commend it to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Greenwood) adjourned).
Debate resumed from 19 February on motion by Senator Willesee:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
- Mr President, I speak in support of this Bill. I had hoped that it would not have been necessary for the Government to put up a case in this debate; I had hoped that the Bill would be carried. However, I understand that Senator Hall has made known his intention to vote against the Bill, not because he objects to the major clause in it, which compels political parties to disclose the sources of their funds, but because he has some reservations about some of the supplementary clauses. I suggest, in passing, that it seems to me that it would be more appropriate to amend the
Bill in the Committee stage than to reject the Bill on the motion for the second reading which, I understand, is what the Opposition intends to do. Senator Hall’s support of this Bill was crucial. Had the Government had his support I would have taken it for granted that this Bill would have been carried because Senator Webster is on record in Hansard of 26 September 1974 as stating that he would support it.
– Would you make that clear?
-I will. I shall quote from Hansard. On that day I referred to allegations made by members of the Liberal Party that McEwen House had been financed by subscriptions from featherbedded Australian manufacturers. I shall quote what Senator Webster is reported as having said at page 1475 of Hansard. The record states:
– You should look at the subscription list of the Labor Party.
- Senator Webster has indicated that he is anxious to have political parties disclose the sources of their funds. I understand that in the not too distant future the Government intends introducing into the Senate legislation which will oblige political parties to do just that. I eagerly anticipate Senator Webster’s full support for that legislation when it comes before the Senate.
– Not only will I support it, but I will be making inquiries to find out how the Hansen RubensohnMcCann Erickson account was paid by others for the Labor Party.
– I am glad that you brought that matter up. You have given me a basis upon which to talk.
-If Senator Webster still shares that concern or still holds suspicions about suspect sources of funds for political parties which he expressed on that occasion about contributions to Labor Party funds, I again invite him to vote for this Bill. I also invite him, as an honourable senator, to stand by the undertaking he gave on 26 September 1974 to vote for this Bill.
– Bad luck. This Bill does not contain anything about disclosing the source of payment of advertising accounts, does it? Perhaps you could make that point clear.
-This Bill will compel political parties to disclose any substantial contributions to their funds. The purpose of the Bill was summed up very succinctly in the House of Representatives on 13 February by the honourable member for Moreton (Mr Killen). He said:
In summary, what does this Bill seek to do? It seeks to require all candidates for Parliament to disclose from what sources they receive financial support. It also requires all political parties to disclose from what sources they receive support.
I compliment the very erudite member for Moreton on that succinct and accurate summary of the purposes of this Bill. I regret, in passing, that the quality of the remainder of his address on this subject did not live up to that high initial expectation. In fact the whole case presented by the Opposition against this Bill -
– Who wrote this speech? You are reading it.
– Would you like to see my notes, Senator Sir Magnus Cormack? This speech has not been written.
– I was watching and you were just reading your speech.
– I read from Hansard. I think that is necessary in the interests of accuracy. It is better to read from Hansard than to rely upon memory. The Opposition’s entire case against this legislation consists of reams of sophistry spiced with contradictions, quibbling and double thinking. A prime example of a contradiction came from the honourable member for Wimmera (Mr King) on 13 February when he said this in the House of Representatives:
Personally, I have no objection to making public the donations to political parties. I am proud of the money that flows into Country Party funds.
The final sentence of his speech was:
I oppose this Bill as strongly as I possibly can.
When replying in the House of Representatives the Minister for Services and Property (Mr Daly), who is in charge of electoral affairs and who was handling the Bill, quoted the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden) as having said on an earlier occasion: ‘We will support this legislation’. Mr Daly stated:
The Leader of the Australian Country Party (Mr Anthony) is on record, as mentioned by the honourable member for Brisbane (Mr Cross), at the same time as saying: We have nothing to fear in this legislation and will make only a minor amendment to see that such donations are tax deductible’.
So much for the contradictions, for the double thinking. Among the reams of sophistry which the Opposition has presented as an apology for a case against this Bill, there are a number of references to the freedom of the voter. It is suggested, in some way which is never spelled out, that passing this legislation will impinge upon the freedom of the voter to record a free and secret vote and so on, and upon the freedom of people to stand for Parliament. One may have a genuine respect for people who genuinely respect the freedom of the individual even when the alleged threats to that freedom are so remote that they would seem to be innocuous. When members of the Opposition- members of the Liberal and Country Parties- who enacted a conscription law in 1964 talk about freedom of the individual, they should be and will be greeted with ridicule and contempt. In the eyes of members of the Opposition, freedom is rights. They have no concept of human rights. They recognise only property rights. At the very least their belief is that property rights must take priority over human rights. I defy any member of the Opposition who claims to respect the rights and the liberties of the individual to rationalise the introduction by their Parties of conscription in 1964 and in maintaining it until they were thrown out of office on 2 December 1972. Senator Withers carried this web of fantasy somewhat further last night when he said:
One of the problems of bringing about the registration of political parties- we have seen this happen in many countriesis that what tends to happen is that eventually only two or maybe three parties are allowed to register.
That was Senator Withers’ contribution to the web of fantasy which was woven as a substitute for a case against the legislation. I defy him or any other Opposition senator to point to a clause in this Bill which enables the implementation of the suggestion that Senator Withers made, namely, that the number of parties will be restricted to one or two or ultimately to one. The definition of ‘party’, which is given quite clearly on page 3 of the Bill, is:
Party’ means a body or organisation, incorporated or unincorporated, having as one of its objects or activities the promotion of the election to the Parliament of a candidate or candidates endorsed by it or by a body or organisation of which it forms a part.
So much for the objections to parties and to the suggestion that in some vague way or in some totally nebulous way the Bill will restrict the number of parties which can contest elections. The quibbling was about minor points such as whether the amount allowed should be 7.5c, 6.5c or 3.5c for specified elections. Senator Withers carried the argument a little further when he said that the amount was arbitrary. Of course it is. How could it be anything else? What does Senator Withers think the provisions in the Electoral Act are if they are not arbitrary? The provisions state that a candidate for the House of Representatives may not spend or may not have spent on his behalf more than $500 in an election campaign, and that a candidate for the Senate may not spend more than $1,000. Are not those provisions arbitrary? Did Senator Withers or his Party ever move when they were in office to change in any way those arbitrary provisions in the Act? Moreover, did Senator Withers or any other upholder of law and order who sits on the Opposition benches ever suggest that action be taken against those candidates for the Senate or the House of Representatives who flagrantly violated those provisions election after election?
When we get away from the sophistry, the casuistry, the quibbling and the contradictions, we come to the real reasons the Opposition Parties are opposing this Bill. They were hinted at by the honourable member for Bennelong (Mr Howard) in the debate in the House of Representatives on 13 February. I regret that Senator Sir Magnus Cormack has left the chamber. If he had not he could have seen me reading from Hansard again. Mr Howard claimed that legislation aimed at limiting expenditure or disclosing sources of funds would be ineffective. He is reported on page 309 in this way:
Does he . . .
He was referring to the Minister for Services and Property -
I think Mr Howard was getting close to the real objections which the Opposition has to this Bill, namely, that it would enable malpractice to be exposed. He seemed to be expressing the regret of the Opposition parties that former VicePresident Agnew and former President Nixon had been found out because of laws in the United States similar to this proposed law. It is not surprising that members of the Opposition who were bosom friends of President Nixon and the criminals of Watergate up to the time that they were finally exposed and forced from office should regret the existence of the laws which made that exposure possible and attempt to prevent the introduction of such laws in Australia. The honourable member for Gwydir (Mr Hunt) developed the same theme. I understand that he is an ex-patron of the League of Rights. When speaking to the provisions of this Bill he said, as appears on page 295:
It would more seriously affect the Liberal and Country parties than it would the Labor Party. Let us be frank about this.
Let us be frank indeed. Last night Senator Withers spoke also of the advantages which being in government give to a political party. I doubt whether this claim is seriously disputed on either side. The party in government normally has considerable advantages. Anyone who examines the history of the Government of
Queensland, for example, since the Kingaroy kernel became Premier should be well aware of that fact. Anyone who has witnessed the explosion on the personal staff of the Premier who at the same time has refused additional staff to the Leader of the Opposition, should be well aware that the Party in power has a potential to entrench itself in power by using in its Party electoral interests the power which it commands. The Premier of Queensland has done that more effectively than has any other politician in Australian history.
At one time I was a little confused as to why the Country Party in particular should be opposed to this legislation, because for many years my Liberal Party friends in Western AustraliaI have quite a few friends in the Liberal Party- have been telling me the most scurrilous stories about graft and corruption within the Country Party. They have told me how John McEwen House was built with subscriptions from the most featherbedded manufacturers in the country. Naturally I was appalled that members of the Liberal Party could be so uncharitable towards their Country Party colleagues as to repeat stories such as that, especially when at that time I doubted whether those stories were even true. At that time I used to think that if the Country Party were ever given the opportunity to vote for a Bill such as this it would do so and then its Liberal Party colleagues no longer would have any credibility when they circulated scurrilous stories about dirty financial dealings within the Country Party. I used to think that the Country Party would support such a Bill. I was appalled that the Liberals would circulate such scurrilous stories about their coalition colleagues. I am no longer appalled, because I now know that the Country Party will not vote for this Bill. Therefore I can only conclude that the stories which my Liberal Party friends used to tell me a few years ago were true.
That suspicion is strengthened by the attitude of the present Federal Leader of the Country Party, Mr Anthony- Mr 40 per cent, as I understand he is known these days- towards oil prices. Mr Anthony’s basic assertion is that we must encourage exploration and drilling in the hope of finding more oil. Many people would agree with that. I understand that many geologists are extremely sceptical about the chances of finding significant quantities of oil on the Australian continent or off-shore. But, leaving that aside, Mr Anthony says that we must encourage exploration and drilling in the hope of finding more oil. He then says that the method we should use to encourage this drilling is to increase the price of oil from fields already explored, already drilled and already producing. It should be selfevident that, no matter how high the price of oil to indigenous producers goes, it will not place any more oil in the already discovered Bass Strait field.
The oil price hike suggested by Mr Anthony is tantamount to a tax on Australian consumers. Ostensibly the tax is to finance exploration, but under the proposition Mr Anthony has put forward there is no guarantee that any amount of the taxation revenue raised by his suggested 40 per cent petroleum price hike would be used for exploration. The Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Wriedt) made this point very clearly yesterday. If taxes are to be used to finance oil exploration or expanded oil exploration, surely the money would be best spent directly on oil exploration. The most effective and direct vehicle for doing this, of course, would be the Petroleum and Minerals Authority which Mr Anthony says must be abolished. But, if ideological bigotry on the Opposition side prevents it from using the Petroleum and Minerals Authority- the most effective vehicle for expanding oil exploration or for directing increased taxes on petroleum products into the financing of oil exploration- even the discontinued and discredited subsidy scheme of the previous Government would be more effective and more sensible than what Mr Anthony is proposing now.
The Country Party never was noted for sound logic in its arguments; nor is it particularly noted for the accuracy of its alleged facts. But one thing it is noted for, and always has been noted for, is saying the things that its potential electors like to hear. The truth of the things it says is usually irrelevant, but normally it says the things its electors like to hear. In this case there can be no doubt that none of the Country Party’s potential electors, the Liberal Party’s potential electors or the Labor Party’s potential electors like to be told that they should be made to pay 40 per cent more for petroleum products. This leaves only one possible reason for the Country Party’s extraordinary attitude on this question of oil prices and oil exploration. The only possible remaining reason is that the Country Party is under an obligation to the petroleum cartel. No doubt this will be denied. The denials are unconvincing, to say the least. All the Country Party needs to do to resolve this dispute quite decisively is to vote for this Bill. Its failure to do so will be tantamount to an admission of its own guilt.
-The Australian Labor Party in the Federal sphere has surrounded itself with an aura of respect in many areas. I think that the people of Australia have been misled in nearly every area of political interest by the actions of the present Labor Government. In no area is this more evident than in electoral affairs. The Bill which the Senate is debating- the Electoral Bill 1975- is a particularly important Bill. It proposes at first sight that donations to political parties should be made public. That as a statement should attract the most simple of people. There should be seen not only open government but details of from whence financial contributions to political parties are flowing. The Minister for Services and Property (Mr Daly), who has the responsibility in Labor’s area of great interest, is a very astute person. I have watched his performance- and performance it is- in the House of Representatives. If one were a member of the Labor Party in the House of Representatives one would be disgusted with the way that he, as a member of Federal Parliament, acts. One can see in this Bill the actions of a person who has so adequately described himself as recorded in the House of Representatives Hansard.
This Bill has the effect of attracting people in the community to say: ‘Here is a government devoted to cleanliness in government’. Its various electoral policies offer great attraction for the community to follow. I indicate the stance that the Government takes, through quite highly publicised means, to pronounce that it believes in a one vote one value principle. Indeed, I know some members of the Opposition who appear to think that that is a principle that can be followed. A carefully publicised and thought-out operation can put into people’s minds the idea that one vote one value is the type of electoral system which we should have in Australia. Mr Whitlam does not believe that. While announcing that type of policy he double-crosses his own people. He double-crosses those in the left wing within his own Party. His pronouncements, as we can see from his various speeches, are that it should not be one vote one value but that we should have elections on a population basis. A great volume of tourists or a great volume of residents in Australia who are perhaps not naturalised are counted as a basis for holding an election if it will bring some advantage to the Australian Labor Party and disadvantage to other political parties.
The main point I make relates to the announcement of a belief in one vote one value. The Labor Party says: ‘Here is a principle which we should follow’. Then we see Labor selling out its policy hand over fist. Undoubtedly Senator Steele Hall is taking note of what is being said relating to electoral matters. He has been critical, as he was last night, of the Opposition when opposing Senate representation in this place for certain areas. I see the adding of extra honourable senators to this place as a subversion of the role of the Senate. I think that Senator Steele Hall, on reflection, will see that likewise. But the aura of respect of the attitude that we should add honourable senators to the Senate contrasts with Labor’s policy of abolition of the Senate. How does one have respect for individuals who, in one part of their policy, declare that they will abolish a House of Parliament and then, by some confidence trick, suggest that they will add honourable senators for the benefit of this chamber? There is nothing further from the truth than that Labor wishes to see the Senate elevated by adding 2 honourable senators from the Northern Territory. I feel that the Territory should be adequately represented. But the Government considers that there should be only one honourable member in the House of Representatives from that area on any basis of calculation of numbers of electors there. 1 spoke of the one vote one value principle. It is a pity that the news media do not attempt to take up some of this tripe which the Government puts out on what it really believes. Have honourable senators noted that a Labor socialist Government which proposes that one vote one value is the true type of electoral system was able to nominate who would be the electoral officers and the redistribution commissioners to give the Government the criteria on how the electorate should be broken up and how there would be the first fully elected Legislative Assembly for the Northern Territory? This Labor Government, for which 1 have the least respect of any government in Australia, proposes one vote one value. When it came to an electorate completely under the Labor Government’s control it attempted to pass through this Parliament a Bill to subvert the 20 per cent disparity which could occur between electorates. It passed that Bill so that the electoral laws were varied in the Federal House. We find, under the Labor Party, that in the Northern Territory there is a disparity in electorates, between the lowest and the highest, of over 54 per cent.
One should debate Bills which propose to bring in some benefit to the people when there is the most obvious hatred, if I may say so, by this Labor Government for minority parties. If it was at all possible this Government would like to see the abolition of minority parties in the community. That is what this Bill which we have before us is directed at. It is a rape of electoral principles. It is a Bill which attempts to present an aura of respect to the public. By no means is it possible for this Bill to do just that. It would be interesting to take this Bill clause by clause. I hope there will be an opportunity to do that so that we can attempt to look into what is behind the aims of the Government in relation to the disclosure of electoral expenditure on behalf of persons and political parties.
Electoral expenditure is explained on page 2 of the Bill. I shall not take time to read that at the present time. Let us not only deal with this Government. There may be a government as scurrilous as this in power at a future date. I would hate it to have the greatest availability to decide or to direct the electoral officer how he would determine what electoral expenditure might mean. Let me take the first part of the meaning of ‘electoral expenditure’. This is in clause 3 of the Bill, which is proposed new section 145 of the Act. It states: electoral expenditure’ means expenditure for or in connection with promoting or opposing, directly, or indirectly, a party or the election of a candidate or candidates or of influencing, directly or indirectly, the voting at an election . . .
It then goes ahead to disclose what it does not include, which is the normal party expenditure. The point I make is that this is a great advantage to major parties in Government. So far as the Government, even this Government, is concerned there will be no disclosure of the benefits which it will see that it obtains while it is in office. Let us say that a Prime Minister has at his disposal four or five public relations people.
From the newspapers today we see some of them leaving Dr Cairns ‘s office. This is an example of the number of individuals who are there for the purpose of winning political honours for a political party. A person working in a Ministry is supplied with his own electoral secretary and has the availability of total postage costs and total telephone costs. These are travel advantages which are not available to anybody else who wishes to contest an election.
The Government is bringing in a provision that there should be a disclosure of the costs incurred at an election. I think the Government has a lot to answer for. I think that the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Senator Willesee) when he answers will say that of course the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) when in Opposition had the availability of a public relations man such as Mr Race Mathews. I understand that he was employed as a public relations man. Apparently he had sufficient time during his operationhowever he conducted it- to be able to win the seat which he holds. Dr Cairns, prior to the last election, had 2 public relations officers on his staff who contested seats in Victoria. One was successful and one was unsuccessful. I believe that the unsuccessful contestant was until recently still on Dr Cairns ‘s staff. I understand from the area from which he comes that he is still working in the interests of winning the seat. What will be the disclosure under this Bill of that expenditure? The Government has the advantage. It sees the chance of winning seats by spending public money. Of course, that interest, that benefit is available to some members of the Opposition. This Bill can be criticised because it is totally unfair to those smaller parties and minority groups which may wish to have their views put forward or perhaps be elected to office. I raised the question of what may be termed electoral expenditure. I also raise the question whether the payment of an advertising account by an interested person or company could be construed as electoral expenditure.
– Why would it not be?
-Let me put it to Senator Wright in this way: It is possible today- because we have democracy in Australia- for minority groups to advertise expressing their views. For example, a group could advertise saying that it believed in divorce law reform and that there is only one political party which is really aiming at the type of divorce law reform we should have in the community. Under this Bill that could be described as indirect expenditure for electoral purposes. There are a number of instances where groups of people genuinely believe in a cause. For example, people might believe that the expenditure of the Government on private schools is unconstitutional and incorrect. The Defence of Government Schools body advocates that the Labor Party policy of doing away with expenditure for private schools should be supported. Under this Bill there will be a possibility of keeping the DOGS quiet.
– This Bill is intended only for a corrupt community.
– I believe you are correct. I believe that this Bill has been introduced by a Party which may well find itself branded with those words. Under this legislation there is an attempt to rape democracy in this community. I remember so well this great Prime Minister who started his election campaign by branding the Opposition as an Opposition of hate. The
Prime Minister during the last few years has proved to be a Prime Minister of hate- hate of having a democratic system in Australia. He is well supported by the Minister for Services and Property (Mr Daly) who under this Bill intends to see that the big Labor Party will be maintained in office; that the Government will be able to employ some of its cronies; that Government supporters will be able to use the black cars to go into their electorates free of charge; that it will have a Department of the Media which will spread its officers all over the country in socialist form to distribute the publicity and rubbish that is put out by this Government; and that the Minister for the Media (Senator Douglas McClelland) will announce the Government’s intention to establish a Government newspaper.
The Government has introduced this Bill to attempt to deny to people such as those I have mentioned in the smaller section of the community, an opportunity to have their “oke heard. There are many of them. Under this Bill it will be possible for a government to say that advertising that is paid for by a party which is disinterested in the candidates but is very interested in the philosophy that we are talking about is to be regarded as coming within the provisions of the measure. Two ex-generals who are members of the Returned Soldiers League and who sent a telegram on Monday of this week to the Prime Minister criticising him for his statements received much publicity. Perhaps that could be construed under this legislation as being directly or indirectly influencing the voting at an election. I think a socialist government is well implanted with ideas to get rid of all opposition. Indeed, it will under this particular Bill.
– Do you think all the appropriations of the Australian Broadcasting Commission could properly be debited to the Labor Party?
– I think that is very obvious. I listened to a news broadcast on an ABC station this morning. One could hear the publicity for the Government when the Darwin Reconstruction Bill was discussed. The headline was that the Senate had so amended the Darwin Reconstruction Bill that it would now be held up in the House of Representatives. Where could that thought have come from except from an entrenched government that was trying to subvert our news media? I think we find ourselves in a horrid situation.
The Bill attempts to restrict the total expenditure by individuals. I have referred on several occasions in this chamber to the nasty, nefarious affairs of the Labor Party. Indeed, Senator Walsh, who has just resumed his seat, prompted me to refer to them again when he mentioned that I suggested that some of the advertising accounts of the Labor Party were paid by other bodies. I have referred to this matter before. I challenge the Minister to tell the Senate where the funds came from to pay the advertising accounts for the Government’s mid-term election campaign. The expenditure on that campaign was high and it was not met by the Labor Party.
– Would this Bill not bring all those things out?
-No, it would not. Senator Devitt is a man who is interested in this particular matter. I have raised in this House the fact that this Government granted to one margarine manufacturer in Australia the right to produce margarine in the Australia Capital Territory. The opportunity was not given for other manufacturing companies to offer to do the job. The Government picked out one company, which is run by Mr Crebbins. It is a very respectable Australian company. It was allowed to produce in the Australian Capital Territory. The Minister for Agriculture (Senator Wriedt) gave us some assurance that there would be a limit on its production. The Minister said: ‘We have an arrangement that there will be a 300 ton limit on margarine produced in the Australian Capital Territory. We do not want to subvert the Australian Agricultural Council which we so wonderfully support’. But of course that company produced 1000 tons in the first 6 months of its operation in the Australian Capital Territory. The Australian Capital Territory has done nothing to ensure that there is any control over the disposal of waste products by that company in the Australian Capital Territory.
I refer again only to the fact that the advertising agents for that particular company- an overseas controlled advertising company of great ability- were used also by the Labor Party. I suggest to honourable senators that the accounts were paid from the same source. How will that ever come forward under this particular Bill?
– You know it; so it must have been disclosed.
– I do not know it. I used to walk from Brassey House with Senator Mulvihill every morning. We would pass the new Labor Party headquarters. I used to say to Senator Mulvihill: ‘Who is paying for this $lm complex?’ Senator Mulvihill used to say- I hope I am not being recreant to a trust: ‘Members of the
Labor Party are all throwing in $100 and the Ministers are perhaps putting a little more. I think that is wonderful because that will probably produce $5,000 or $10,000.’ Where is the remainder of the money coming from? I know that the Labor Party wrote to my ex-leader, Sir John McEwen, and asked him would he support John Curtin House. Sir John McEwen wrote back and said that he would support the view that John Curtin ‘s name should be on a House. This scurrilous group here then said that Sir John McEwen was supporting funds for the Australian Labor Party’s headquarters.
– What about the State Labor Government in South Australia? They provided money for the Trades Hall in Adelaide.
Sena tor Bishop- They have not.
-I only wish to make the point that industry money can be available. Have members of the Opposition given attention to what may be taking place under this great Australian Assistance Plan? How do you get money into the hands of people who are going to hand it back? A question was asked about the Australian Assistance Plan just after it was instituted. The question and the answer are recorded at page 2805 of the House of Representatives Hansard of 23 October 1974. Mr Chipp asked a question about the Western Region Council for Social Development. He asked what happened to the money granted to this Council and to whom it had been paid. We all know that Dr Cairns’ son is employed in that area at public expense. I do not know what publicity would be given or what declaration would be made as to how such grants may assist in meeting the costs of political elections. I have marked only one or two groups mentioned in the list of organisations which are now financed by an allocation of funds from the Western Region Council for Social Development. I note firstly that the Kingsville branch of the Australian Democratic Labor Party- hearty congratulations to the Government -
– It shows how broadminded we were.
-Yes, it shows how broad-minded the Government was. The address of that branch of the DLP is Congregational Church Hall, Francis Street, Yarraville. Another organisation for which money was allocated is the Federated Furnishing Trade Society of Australia, Trades Hall, Carlton South. Then, the Australian Labor Party, St Albans Branch, 33 Theodora Street, St Albans, also received an allocation. Another organisation mentioned in the list is the Maribyrnong Federal
Electorate Assembly, whatever that may be. Another one is the West Essendon ALP. All those organisations are receiving public funds under this great Australian Assistance Plan. I notice that the West Essendon ALP is mentioned twice. I think that it would be worth looking at the position to see whether the Minister was accurate. It may be that that organisation received 2 donations. Another organisation to receive an allocation was the Amalgamated Metal Workers Union of 41 Palmerston Street, West Footscray. I hope that the money will be used for the intention for which it was granted. But what were those intentions? I say to honourable senators that we see the Government acting with another objective in mind. It introduces legislation such as its proposed electoral legislation, but it says that it will get money across to the branches of the Australian Labor Party in other ways. For what purpose is this done? It is done so that those bodies support the ALP and get it back into office. What other purpose would there be?
I am heartily sickened by the fact that I have had to be a member of the Senate during the term of office of a government of the character that we have presently. I say this particularly because of its dealings with electoral matters. This is a horrid Bill. I have mentioned that an electoral Bill has been introduced with the intention of cutting down the disparity in the quota of electorates from 20 per cent either way to 10 per cent either way. But what is the position in the Northern Territory where the Labor Government has complete control over electoral matters? We see that there is a disparity above and below the electorate quota of 27 per cent. The Labor Government has raped the Senate with the introduction of 4 extra senators into the Senate to represent the Territories. This has not been done on the basis of one vote, one value. There is one representative for the electorate of the Northern Territory, Mr Sam Calder, in the other place. But we will have 2 senators in this place on that basis. What right or fairness can there be in such a position? That is a proposition which last night Senator Steele Hall said he supported. In fact, he helped to bring it in. I think that his actions in that regard represent the greatest disgrace to Senator Steele Hall since he has been a member of the Senate.
– And a complete abrogation of State rights.
– I agree that it is a complete abrogation of State rights. What do we see in relation to the invasion of privacy under this legislation? Electoral expenditure is denned as:
Expenditure for or in connection with promoting or opposing, directly or indirectly, a party or the election of a candidate or candidates or of influencing, directly or indirectly, -
What does it mean? Penalties of $10,000 and $20,000 can be imposed. There will have to be a pretty good group that wa be paid for at Government expense before it would be willing to contest an election. We will see all the Government Ministers with all the facilities available to them out to beat into submission all the smaller parties that may try to get off the ground. The Senate should reject this type of Bill out of hand. Let me cite some of the various clauses of the Bill. Clause 145 (2) states:
Where 2 or more parties are associated with one another and have a common leader for electoral purposes, they shall be deemed to be 1 party -
Who is that supposed to be a hit at? We will have no coalition of political parties in Australia. The Labor Government will see to it that if there is a coalition of any of the minor parties- whether it be the DLP, the Australia Party or any other Party trying to obtain parliamentary representationtheir electoral expenses are tied down so they can never win.
I could go on to mention other areas such as electoral expenses to be authorised. I just wonder how in actual fact the expenditure that may be desired by individuals such as I have mentioned can be controlled. What would be the position with trade unions or DOGS- the Defence of Government Schools organisation? For instance, unions may have a view as to whether the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill that will be before us which deals with the amalgamation of trade unions should be accepted. Under this Bill, any such action in that regard will be construed, directly or indirectly, as supporting or not supporting a political party. The Public Service may have attitudes towards the payment of wages or benefits that should accrue such as long service leave or retirement allowances. But it will be prohibited from supporting a political Party which may say that it believes the public servants of Australia should benefit in a particular way. This applies to chemists, doctors, the Right to Life Association, the divorce law reform people and people who have spent money in their wisdom to attempt to fight for what they believe to be their rights in this country. We will see even the rights and privacy of volunteers or people who would wish to contribute to political parties very seriously eroded if ever a Bill such as this were passed by the Parliament.
I make one final point on my contention that this Bill represents another attempt to rape the electoral system of this country. I refer to the proposal of the Prime Minister for a declaration by members of Parliament of their pecuniary interests. I mentioned this matter only in the context that it appears to this Government that anything that looks as though it has a financial basis should be disclosed. We hear no suggestions of a disclosure of what a man who is in receipt of $50,000 or $60,000 a year does with his money. There is no suggestion as to whether he should disclose what he is doing with his financial interests -
– A lot of us are not on $50,000 a year. I know that.
– I know that is quite right. I do not know whether the honourable senator would be supporting some of the proposals that come from above. But he is certainly never finding himself voting with this side of the Senate chamber. If he did, he would find himself ending up like Captain Sam Benson. The honourable senator would be kicked out of his Party like that gentleman was. We see opposite a Party that has totally abrogated the rights of members of a fair and democratic society. I believe that the Electoral Bill 1975 which is before us is a further indication of the rape of the Australian electoral system.
- Mr Acting Deputy President, under standing order 364 I ask that the document quoted from by Senator Webster in respect to the allocation of moneys under the Australian Assistance Plan be laid upon the table of the Senate.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Davidson)- Senator McLaren, if you want that to be done, you will have to move that way.
– I will do so.
– I suggest to the Senate that I just read the facts. I indicated to the Senate that what I read is contained in the House of Representatives Hansard. Would it be acceptable if I just quote the reference? I might like to keep the papers.
– I asked that under standing order 364 the document quoted from by Senator Webster be laid upon the table. In view of what you have said, Mr Acting Deputy President, I move:
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I am very pleased to lay the paper down.
Sitting suspended from 12.59 to 2.15 p.m.
– The Senate has been dealing with the Electoral Bill 1975 and I hope ultimately to proceed along the general lines advanced by my Western Australian colleague, Senator Walsh. But before I do, it is necessary that I digress briefly. Senator Webster indulged in a bout of political moralising. I think everybody expects that politics which is in a national league should be played with no holds barred. At the same time, it is of no use wrapping oneself up in a white cloth of innocence and speaking about what somebody else is doing. I do not want to spend a long time rebutting what Senator Webster said but I wish to illustrate my point in 2 ways. Firstly I ask: Just what are political responsibilities and how far do we crib, for want of a better term?
In the 8 years that I have been in ‘this’ place, under the New South Wales Labor Party system I have been allocated various electorates- rural, semi-rural and metropolitan. Without being egotistical, I assisted the present Government to regain the seats of Macarthur and Evans. I mention Macarthur particularly because it necessitated a considerable amount of car travelling for me. On the subject of car travel, about every sixth Sunday I go in my Torana GJH-140 to Muswellbrook to attend an electorate council meeting. It is a return journey of about 380 miles. It is my proudest boast that none of the expense incurred is charged to the Government. There has never been any surcharge because the cost of petrol has been my responsibility. As I was listening to Senator Webster, I recalled that the Deputy Leader of the Country Party (Mr Sinclair) was surcharged to the extent of $900 on top of the amenities he gets as deputy leader of a national party. I do not want to rub salt into anyone ‘s wounds, but I come into the Senate as one who has never been subsidised for anything. Whether it is a Cabinet Minister on my side, or a leader of a party in opposition, he is doing pretty well because when we brought in amenities for parliamentarians that were much overdue all leaders got a bit more. If Mr Sinclair did not have the decency to observe his responsibilities in office he had to take what came to him. Whether he has a plausible reason or not, it ill becomes Senator Webster to lecture anybody in this Senate, particularly me.
Secondly, I want to deal with another aspect of political gamesmanship. Senator Webster conjured up the idea of people riding in big black or white cars. This is the sort of snide thing that was done under the previous government. I have lived all my life in the Lowe electorate. I am a ratepayer there. When the Prime Minister of Canada, Mr Trudeau, visited Australia, Mr McMahon, who was the then Prime Minister, could not be there for his arrival and rather than have a socialist senator meet the Prime Minister of Canada, he called upon Mr Bury on one of the few days that he was not asleep. Mr Bury came up and represented the Government, and for some reason or other I was told there was not time for me to meet the Canadian Prime Minister. I did not squeal at the time because it made no difference to Mr Trudeau or to me, but when honourable senators opposite talk about gamesmanship they had better look at their own record.
I turn to the Bill. I became actively involved in campaigning on a national and state level in 1958 when I was the Assistant State Secretary of the Party in New South Wales. I do not think anyone in this chamber would deny that democracy can be imperilled with’ the proliferation of lobbyists who abound in Canberra and in all capital cities. I do not say that they will always latch on to any party, but during the last election campaign there was the infamous incident involving one of the dregs of the advertising agencies, Mr Singleton, who I know embarrassed the Opposition parties with some of his tactics. This is a subject to which I wish to direct my attention, and during my remarks I will quote extensively from a book recently published entitled ‘No Final Victories’ by Lawrence O’Brien who is identified as a campaign director for former United States Presidents Kennedy and Johnson. In view of the aim of the Bill, I will read from page 352 of this book where he says:
We often say, ‘one man, one vote’, but that is not enough. It should be ‘one man, one vote, one dollar’. It is a mockery to say that the average man’s vote equals the millionaire s vote, so long as the millionaire’s vote can be supplemented with a $100,000 contribution to buy television time that will influence thousands of other voters.
That was written by a man who has experienced the backlash of Watergate. I would not mind if some of the legal brains in the Opposition came up with some skilful amendments to this Bill but it is quite obvious that the Opposition has put up the shutters. I was not surprised when Senator Withers took the stand that he did. I understand that Senator Durack has a similar view. I do not mind how hard people play politics but I resent people like Randolph Hearst, a few years ago in the United States of America, and Hancock in Western Australia feeling that they have the answer to our political ills. I am not envious of Mr Hancock and his minerals discoveries but we should not put him up as a paragon of political knowhow. Many men have prospected in this country but did not have any luck and Hancock did. The point I am making is that a man like Hancock can come in with a massive donation and prostitute television channels. O’Brien found that when the Nixon machine was working in top gear the Democrats were virtually blackmailed off the United States television channels because Spiro Agnew and the big business people threatened to apply sanctions on the big television networks if they gave the Democrats a semblance of fair play.
All this legislation does is compress certain expenditure. There is no doubt about that. I have never had any fears, and I have accepted the lumps with the good side of life if I have been defeated in a reasonably fair situation. Whether it is the Labor Party or the Liberal Party, one can never always control a lot of one’s rabid partisans. That is undeniable. But I wonder whether honourable senators opposite realise the Frankenstein monster that has been let loose. A case in point is the Evans electorate. I suppose I could say that we won the seat from the Liberal Party and perhaps it ought to be happy about that. Malcolm Mackay ‘s economic views are poles apart from my own, but because he made legitimate representations on behalf of a few non-European migrants he became the target of abuse from the Immigration Reform Association which comprises only small-time people. Political liberty does not mean that people can get into the gutter and do what they like. Senator Webster referred to reprisals. If people feel that they cannot get redress within the law from these sorts of attacks, they will go outside the law. We should be jealous about our right of free speech and the kindred ideals we tend to cherish because the plain fact is that there is always a person who will try smear tactics. This is not good for a healthy society, and I say without any inhibition that if Mr McDonald and his organisation, the Immigration Reform Society, whose first casualty was a member of the Liberal Party, are not curbed there will be more bitterness. Let us be real about it. The Australian voting population today is becoming more cross-fertilised.
Digressing into foreign policy, we know the great difficulties that all parties have in more or less straddling certain situations. I do not want to develop that too far because each major party has its stresses, but it is not right for any person to feel that our foreign policy should be directed on a certain course. I make no apologies and neither does the Foreign Minister, Senator Willesee, for the attitude we have taken over Cyprus. Conversely, if Senator Baume and others are able to gain some political kudos from some aspects of the Baltic situation that is their business and I do not object to it. But once we get away from the stable bodies and get some of these ratbag organisations, that is when we get these manifestations of anti-Fascism. This is why I believe that a searchlight must be shone on how they spend their money. This is the fear that I have.
It was unfortunate that John Gorton, apart from the normal Labor-Liberal conflict, became the victim of certain business interests. I am not forgetting that some of those interests are gunning for us now. But some of the tactics that were used against John Gorton were not good for democracy. They definitely did not emanate from the Labor Party; they came from business elements who felt that he should not be Prime Minister. One of them was the Australian counterpart of Randolph Hearst, the late Sir Frank Packer. He was one of the men who brought about the downfall of John Gorton. What the Liberal Party does about its leadership, naturally, is its own business; but I am speaking very frankly of what I call the cancer of society with which we are faced.
There was an exchange between Senator Withers and another senator about New South Wales election laws. Let me say this: The only occasion on which an election result was upset due to inefficient electoral operations by the Chief Electoral Officer was in a Coogee byelection. Mr Prince, the Chief Electoral Officer, was appointed by Sir Robert Askin. One mishap occurred in Campbelltown when the electoral officer in charge of one polling booth ‘forgot’ to sign the ballot papers. It was said that it would never happen again. Then there was a byelection in Coogee and it did happen again. Of course, the result was upset. Justice was done in the court. Honourable senators should not run away with the idea- the implied slur- that there was anything crook because Mr McDonald was the Chief Electoral Officer of New South Wales before Mr Prince. At the least Mr Prince was damned inefficient.
I wish to make another point about electoral efficiency. I remember that at the last Federal election the Labor Party failed to win the seat of Stirling. There was no appeal by the Labor Party. People were looking for sinister implications, but the electoral officer played it according to the book and the Opposition candidate won by 4 votes. I spoke to the defeated Labor candidate, Mr Reece. I said to him: ‘It is very close. Are you going to appeal?’ He said: ‘No; the electoral officer was fair’. If we are to talk about squealing, we did not squeal because of that close decision. I say that all the Commonwealth Electoral Officers are fair men and are efficient. When we lose an election I never think that the result is crooked; but I know that there can be inefficiency.
With reference to electoral inefficiency, I remember an incident that occurred during the last New South Wales State election. I always work at the Town Hall booth. I went along to vote there. The two people at the table, who were Askin appointees, were very keen. They asked me: ‘Do you live at that address? What is your occupation?’ I said: ‘If you insist on me answering that question we will have a very interesting legal situation. I have been at that address for 20-odd years. I am shown as a railwayman, which I am not. Are you suggesting that I must write to the Chief Electoral Officer every time I change my occupation? If you are, you will have a full time job. ‘ They did not know what to say. I asked them to put the ballot paper in an envelope because I was not confident that my vote would be counted. I did not trust Mr Prince then because I knew how Sir Robert Askin would operate if he got the chance. I wrote to Sir Robert Askin and asked him what he had done about my vote. He did not answer my letter for 6 weeks. Then I received a letter telling me that my vote had been counted. I repeat: If honourable senators opposite want to play tough politics, that is the way I work.
– Did they know how you voted?
-I do not want to be diverted on to that point, but I want to be quite fair when we in this political game put ourselves up as purists. I feel that the most eloquent way that I can develop this argument is to ask the Senate for permission to incorporate in Hansard pages 351, 352 and 353 of the book entitled ‘No Final Victories’ by Lawrence F. O’Brien. It sums up what Mr O’Brien feels is necessary to improve the electoral practices in the United States. I will seek leave for that incorporation at the end of my speech.
I say quite candidly that electoral developments in Australia and what happened at the time of Watergate are not good for democracy. We know that Canada has improved its electoral system. I am not one to cry stinking fish about my own country, and one senator here knows much more than I do about the American scene. I refer to Senator Wheeldon, the Minister for Repatriation and Compensation. I think Australia can take credit for at least one electoral practice. People in Australia simply fill in a card and send it to the Chief Electoral Officer to get their names on the electoral roll, whereas I understand that in the United States one must go to a registry, which is tedious. So I do not say that there is nothing good in our electoral system.
I say respectfully that we are trying to anticipate the unhealthy manifestations that are emanating from certain high-powered and wellfinanced lobbyists. I say that because of the situation to which Senator Webster referred concerning various elements of society that have views on our education system. Is there anything better than a democratic system in which a politician, whether he be Prime Minister Whitlam or the Right Honourable Bill Snedden, can go to a meeting of a party such as DOGS- Defence of Government Schools- or of parents and citizens and stand up on a rostrum and answer questions. Whether he gets done or not, that is a healthy form of democracy. When one goes to that sort of meeting one is not allowing advertisers or a television channel to make a lot of money out of one’s efforts. That sort of democracy means that if somebody has a grievance and is well organised, without any of the sinister applications, he can reach his representative. None of us have any objection to that. This applies to smaller parties also. There are ways of putting a point of view.
I resent some of these recent millionaires. I am probably harping on Mr Hancock, but frankly I am terrified of his influence on Senator Withers. I have read in the social columns that Senator Withers was invited to the big shindig, the coming-of-age party, for Miss Hancock. This is the sort of situation in which one can get involved in a spider’s web. The honourable senator may unwittingly be expounding what Mr Hancock thinks. This is the sort of thing of which I am afraid.
– He launched the Workers Party, did he not?
– That is right, and Mr Singleton is another one. He has some of these ideas. I will give the Senate another classic illustration of the point that I am emphasising. Again I am trying to be bipartisan. This situation would have its Australian equivalent. I quote from page 351 of Lawrence O’Brien’s book entitled ‘No Final Victories’. He said that we should be much clearer on what is regarded as the common sense of advertising. He quoted the Nixon ploy of: the issue of defence spending in terms of a hand (presumably McGovern’s knocking toy ships and aeroplanes off a table, or for that matter, of the 1964 ‘Daisy Girl’ spot used by the Democrats, which linked Barry Goldwater to the nuclear incineration of little girls.
Mr O’Brien said that he felt that that was overdoing it. I know that honourable senators on both sides might think that it is slick campaigning, but I am adopting a bipartisan stance about what should be done. Mr O ‘Brien puts the matter in another way. He talks about scaring and emphasises that the individual should be seen and there should not be so many electoral advertising mock-ups. I have tried to bring this debate back to reality. I Have said again and again that I am never afraid- of Australians rejecting something that I propound. But I do resent some of the double standards that are always occurring. I know that the Minister for the Media (Senator Douglas McClelland) has been far fairer with his evenhanded policy than previous governments have been.
I remember another example of this double standard attitude when the Democratic Labor Party used to resurrect the idea of Siberian labour camps and relate them to the Labor Party. But when we tried, rightly, to relate shots of Hitler’s Nuremberg rallies to the Liberal Party and to the Democratic Labor Party, the Australian Broadcasting Control Board reckoned that it was another matter altogether. This is the sort of situation in which people get a belly-full of democracy; they know that it is not fair. I know that in the 1972 and 1974 election campaigns there were people- without naming the television channel involved- who would have liked to have gone much further than they went. Senator Marriott, for instance, hits hard but he is a fairer man than one or two of the other Liberal senators who believe in a boots-and-all policy. Even if they believe in a boots-and-all policy they have to bare their own bellies and let someone kick them. That is what members of the Opposition do not want to do. That is the whole situation.
I return to the basis of this Bill. I am quite happy if people say to me that they do not agree with certain clauses. It amazes me how money is spent on employing lobbyists and how easy it seems to be for lobbyists to earn a living. A kangaroo exporting company, which is entitled to peddle its own ideas, sent a fellow to see me. He asked whether he could have access to all the complaints I have made and all the questions I have asked. I asked him why. He said he was lobbying for kangaroo skin exporters and was their consultant. I said: ‘If you are getting a fee you can subscribe to Hansard. You can go to the newspaper offices and get all the information. You are not going to get it from me.’ It seems to me that companies are gullible to employ some of these dubious people. I have seen people wandering around King’s Hall masquerading as lobbyists. One lobbyist I know in New South Wales could not obtain an inquiry agent’s ticket. Another fellow had been kicked out of a workers’ club for mixing up his money with the club’s. These are the sorts of fellows who work as lobbyists. They will put a great advertisement in a newspaper on behalf of a freedom league claiming that this Government is socialist.
We are not afraid of the epithet ‘socialist’. We believe in an egalitarian society even at the ballot box. We do not mind how much the Opposition thumps us; we believe in a reasonable idea of parity. Maybe certain big businessmen will have lunch with Labor Ministers. We still could not win because Senator Webster would say that we hate capitalists and we will not even talk to them. I do not mind talking to industrial officers from Broken Hill Pty Co. Ltd and other companies. The officers would never change my views, but I am prepared to talk to them. If 1 did not talk to them Opposition senators would say that Labor supporters are narrow, rigid, class-conscious socialists. Senator Cotton spoke after I made my first speech in this chamber. He took me up on that point. He thought that I had a sort of depression household late 1930s attitude to world affairs. I hope that I have shed some of it, but I do not think I have forgotten all of those memories. I like to believe that I am my own man when I am here.
I know other honourable senators will develop this debate further. I repeat that the Bill is an honest attempt to keep politics on an even keel. As a sort of valuable supplement to the views I have expounded here today I ask that pages 350, 35 1 and 352 from a book called ‘No Final Victories’ by Lawrence F. O’Brien be recorded as a fitting postscript by incorporation in Hansard.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Davidson)- Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows)-
There is much cause for pessimism, but there is also cause for hope. For all our problems, for all the cyncism, most Americans still believe in the democratic system and still look to the ballot box as their means of achieving good government- if people do not trust politicians, they still trust the political system. There is little support for any fundamental change in the existing constitutional system or for the overthrow of existing democratic institutions. The critical issue in American politics in the mid-1970s is how the government can once again be made to function with competence, with equity, and above all with integrity.
In Watergate’s aftermath, many reforms of our political process have been suggested. Some are urgently needed: others deserve the most careful scrutiny- for it would compound the tragedy if Watergate led us to hasty, ill-advised changes in our method of governing.
There are three political reforms that I support wholeheartedly:
First, we must have equal access to radio and television for both major political parties. So long as the President can have, at will, free time on national television to state his case on controversial issues without equal time for rebuttal, the people will have to make decisions without knowing the facts. The networks have slowly moved in this direction in recent years, at least in part because of the pressures and lawsuits we of the Democratic National Committee brought to bear in 1970-72, but informal agreements aren’t enough. Equal time should be the law. There should also be provision for televised debates between the opposing presidential candidates, along the lines of the 1960 Kennedy-Nixon debates. The incumbent President should not be allowed to hide behind the ‘duties of the office’ shield to escape debating. He is a politician seeking re-election, and if he is fearful of defending his record in open debate, he doesn’t deserve to be reelected.
Some restrictions should be placed on the format of paid political advertisements. Slick, sometimes subliminal, selling techniques have too often been used to confuse, mislead, and scare the voter, rather than to inform him. Complex issues are often deliberately reduced to absurdity in thirty- or sixtysecond spot commercials. 1 am thinking, for example, of the 1 972 Nixon spot that ‘explained ‘ the issue of defense spending in terms of a hand (presumably McGovern ‘s) knocking toy ships and airplanes off a table. Or, for that matter, of the 1964 ‘Daisy Girl’ spot used by the Democrats, which linked Barry Goldwater to the nuclear incineration of little girls. This kind of misleading political advertising, by both parties, should be ended. Political candidates should be required to appear personally in their television films rather than the present practice whereby inept candidates are hidden away while the ad-men create a new image for them. Actually, I think the stress should be less on paid political advertising and more on television and radio being required to provide public-service time for debates between candidates and question-and-answer sessions between candidates and reporters. The purpose of political campaigns is not to profit the owners of television stations, although that is one result of the present system.
Second, we must have reform in campaign financing. A national election is little more than a joke if one candidate is able to pour twice as much money as his opponent into paid television time. Our goal must be public financing of all federal elections. First, we should achieve public financing of presidential elections. When it proves successful, as I believe it would, we would move on to public financing of House and Senate elections. My personal preference is the dollar checkoff, which I have strongly supported for years, whereby each taxpayer voluntarily allocates one of his tax dollars to go into a public campaign fund and, thus, has direct participation in financing the electoral process. The dollar checkoff, along with the elimination or drastic reduction of private contributions, could revolutionise American politics.
We often say, ‘one man, one vote’, but that is not enough. It should be ‘one man, one vote, one dollar’. It is a mockery to say that the average man’s vote equals the millionaire s vote, so long as the millionaire’s vote can be supplemented with a $100,000 contribution to buy television time that will influence thousands of other votes. We must stop the ‘ fat-cat ‘ system of political financing and until we do, we will never restore public confidence in the political process.
Along with the cost of campaigns, I think we should give serious consideration to the length of campaigns, the amount of time they are allowed to go on. An incumbent President, be he Nixon in 1972 or Johnson in 1964, holds an all but overwhelming advantage when he can start planning and organising his campaign a year or more in advance, while his challenger cannot really finalise planning until he is nominated, perhaps three or four months before the election. Obviously a President, in one sense, is always campaigning, but it would be possible to restrict the kind of political activity that the Committee for the Re-election of the President started on Nixon ‘s behalf early in 1 97 1 .
Third, we must work for fuller and more complete voter registration and voter participation in elections. A democracy by definition does not work if half of the people do not take part in the process. It isn’t simply a matter of people being too lazy or uninterested to vote. In many areas of the country, the political establishment makes it hard for people to register. There are residency laws that in effect disenfranchise thousands of people in our highly mobile society. In rural areas, the registration office is often in a distant courthouse that is only open during the hours that most people work. In years past, blacks found it almost impossible to vote in some areas, and in recent years college students have often been the victims of discriminatory registration procedures.
– I have listened with great interest to what Senator Mulvihill has said. He is always interesting. Unfortunately I could find very little in his speech relevant to the Bill. He, and some other speakers on the Government side, have gone to great lengths to avoid looking at the actual terms of the Bill or the principles which are actually involved. Although what they have said has been interesting and entertaining, very little was said that actually involved the principles and the actual terms of this Bill.
There are 4 purposes, in general terms, in this Bill. Regrettably they are party purposes. They come forth as a distillation of those things which will serve best the Labor Party and which will most disadvantage, in the opinion of the propounders of the Bill, the Opposition. The purposes do not tackle the whole field of reform in regard to legislation. They are, in fact, a segment that is carefully distilled.
The 4 purposes basically are these: Firstly, a provision or series of provisions that all candidates for Parliament should have to disclose the sources of their financial support, with some exceptions; secondly, that all political parties would have to disclose the sources of their funds; thirdly, a series of provisions which provide for the appointment of registered party agents and official agents, for disclosure of funds, for auditing and for many other cost causing features which would add to the complications, difficulties and general expense of political parties; and fourthly, provisions in regard to the limitation of expenditure by persons or parties according to certain arbitrary requirements which have not been spelt out, have not been explained and which do not appear to have any specific justification. I think it would be bad enough if those purposes were there alone, because I feel that substantial objection can be made to all of them, but I also feel that the provisions of this Bill would not be extended.
If passed, the Bill would probably lead to further reforms, in the opinion of the Labor Party. For support for that view I refer to the statements which Mr Young, the honourable member for Port Adelaide, made in the debate on this Bill in the other place. He was critical of the Bill. He said:
My criticism of the Bill is that it does not go far enough. I would have no donations at all to political parties or to candidates. I think all the money that is used to educate the people about policies of the various political parties ought to come from the public purse.
I think Mr Young, who is quite notably an influential figure in the Labor Party, has support. No doubt many would support him and agree that the intention would be later to deny the independent financing of political parties and to provide for their substitution by money from the public purse with all the controls, all the restrictions and all the opportunities which that places in the hands of the Government. The Government would have propaganda control over elections and this could lead only in one direction.
As I see it, 2 major principles are flouted by this Bill. I shall deal with them before I deal with specific provisions of the Bill which make it impossible to accept because they are basic to its structure. The first of those principles is the right of individual persons in this community to contribute support to the political parties the individuals may choose, according to opinions, the strength of feeling and ability to contribute. It is my view that that is something which is basic to the structure of a democratic society, and while a democratic society continues individuals will have the opportunity of making these contributions. Because it is expressed well, I should like to refer to a speech which was made by a senior Republican senator from Utah in the United States, the Honourable Wallace F. Bennett. He was discussing proposals in the United States which went further than the proposals contained in this Bill. The proposal was also to contribute money from the public purse for the maintenance and payment of candidates standing for election. He said:
Political contributions as a right are often expressions of an intensity of feeling. People get worked up, and they want to express their support or their opposition to somethingusually their support. The need to get private support has a very practical value. It weeds out the candidates early who have no public support, because the ability to get support from the public as private contributions is in part a measure of a man s ability to survive the process. But by letting the candidate know that just by filing, he becomes eligible to receive a certain amount of money, we are going to have a lot of interesting things happen. We are going to have a lot of people taking ego trips. They like to see their names in the paper, and it is not going to cost them anything. The taxpayer is going to pay for it.
That view is an extension of the present proposals in this Bill. I maintain that in regard to democracy 3 things are absolutely essential. There are other things as well, but in this context 3 things are essential. Firstly, of course, is the right to vote and the ability to vote. Secondly, it is being able to work for a political party or an individual and to have that opportunity and not be in any way prejudiced by reason of that fact. Thirdly, and equally important, is that a person should have a right to use his own resources to support that philosophy, those views, that party and that candidate which he feels are worthy of that support.
It is not an irrelevant or uninteresting fact that in the last ten or twenty years attempts to introduce democracy into African countries have failed so dismally all over the continent. This has happened, not because there have been no people educated in the workings of democracy. There always has been a class of people in those countries who have known about its workings. The reason has been the lack of a stable and important middle class, the lack of a significant union movement, the lack of an important group of interested people and many other groups of people with independent rights to contribute and who do contribute to different parties. That is the thing that more than any other has caused the breakdown of democratic society in those countries and that could be the result here.
That is one of the reasons why in the socialist countries of Eastern Europe there will not be any developed democracy because, apart from other reasons, there are no people who are able to exercise their facilities, their money and their time to produce assistance to political parties. Therefore those parties have no strength which is independent of the Government. One of the major principles flouted by this Bill is the necessary continuance of independent funding for political parties not controlled by rigid rules.
The second of the principles flouted by this Bill is the principle that there should be a right of privacy, a right not to have to disclose what you have done and what moneys you have paid out. This to my mind is terribly important. It is absolutely vetoed in the Bill because it says that persons will have to disclose any monetary gifts of over $ 1 00. 1 leave aside the fact that it is going to be very easy for people to get around it. I can well see that if the trade unions do not want to have their donations spelt out by disclosure they can make requirements in their rules to meet the case and get from their members moneys not in excess of $100. Therefore they will not be affected by this rule. Senator Mulvihill said that a searchlight should be turned onto organisations to see what they are doing. Yes, he wants a searchlight. He referred to certain organisations and described some which play a somewhat despicable part in our political process. But what is proposed by this Bill would not really interfere with the works of those organisations. What the Government is doing by this Bill is to say to John Smith, who wants to give $1,000 to the Liberal Party, the Country Party or the Labor Party, that he has to disclose his donation and put himself on public display.
My experience in a long period of political activity, though not in this House, is that time and again people have been intimidated against exposing their political activities. I have seen this in areas where I have campaigned on many occasions, in areas held by the Labor Party with big majorities. A small shopkeeper in these areas is frightened to put in his window any political publicity. He is frightened to go to meetings and is worried by the intimidation which is practised so often. That is just one of many illustrations that could be given. Many of the unions, as we know, encourage and use this type of intimidation.
I recall not very long ago statements made in connection with the Mainline group of companies. Those statements indicated that the unions wanted to bring down the companies for which they worked. It is no exaggeration to say that, given this disclosure, pressure will really be on those companies and on those individual employers who are seen to be big contributors to party funds. If a union has to choose which small group to bring out, which strike to start in which area, I can imagine which company will be affectedit will be the company contributing to the funds of the opposite political parties. This is the other major area where principle is abandoned.
I want to refer now to the Bill as it would operate if passed by this chamber. I think it would be quite clear to everybody that I oppose this Bill and I trust that it will be defeated when the vote is taken for the second reading. If honourable senators look at the clauses of the Bill they will find that they are impossible to introduce and to carry out. In many respects they are unreasonable. They will not stop the unscrupulous person who wants to evade them and therefore there probably would be an area of unscrupulous behaviour more prominent than ever in our political society. Members of the Government admit that we do operate in a society which has been free of major scandal in this area.
I want to refer to the definition of ‘electoral expenditure’ which was one of the matters referred to by Senator Webster. The Bill states: electoral expenditure’ means expenditure for or in connection with promoting or opposing, directly or indirectly, a party or the election of a candidate or candidates or of influencing, directly or indirectly, the voting at an election’ . . .
The Bill goes on to exclude various small matters. I say to the Senate that that is a most sweeping definition. It refers to what is done directly or indirectly and not only to electing but to influencing an election. How is this going to apply? How is the Government going to define organisations that put out documents that have some relevance? I think one honourable senator mentioned the Institute of Public Affairs. It does not promote a particular party or a particular candidate but it certainly is intended to influence to some extent the political thinking in this country. Organisations that are thereby carrying out valuable work on all sides of the political fence, because they are influencing and improving the understanding of political issues, would be caught up by the definition of ‘electoral expenditure’.
There are interesting exclusions from this definition. I do not have the wit or skill of Mr Killen who, in the debate in the other House, pointed out the ludicrous examples of what could happen. However, excluded from the definition are reasonable personal living and travelling expenses of a candidate’. I suppose there is quite an opportunity there for people to contribute in all kinds of ways to living expenses, travelling expenses and so forth. They are to be excluded, so already there is a wide open loophole in the Bill.
I think the definition of ‘party’ already has been mentioned. The Bill states: party’ means a body or organisation, incorporated or unincorporated, having as one of its objects or activities-
Just one of its objects or activities - the promotion of the election to the Parliament of a candidate or candidates endorsed by it or by a body or organisation of which it forms a part . . .
Probably under that definition I therefore belong to several parties because I belong to a number of organisations that promote in one way or another or have among their objectives one of these things even in the most remote way. I thought always that I was a member of only one party but I see that several of the organisations I belong to could be included in this definition. I think it is ludicrous to include in the Bill items which are so impossible of performance or of really clear definition. What would happen- we all know this- is that legislation like this would encourage the independent ventures of other groups in the community. Senator Mulvihill referred to the activities of Mr Singleton who, I am happy to know, has now gone off into a bywater known as the Workers Party. I think he was regarded as something of an embarrassment. That is nothing compared with what might happen because obviously people who want to influence will go on influencing. They will spend money and will do so indirectly. Such activity will not be properly caught up by the Bill.
The provisions of proposed new section 1 46 in this Bill merit some attention. The proposed section deals with electoral expenditure which is to be authorised. It states:
A person (other than a registered party agent or an official agent) who incurs any electoral expenditure without the prior written authority of a registered party agent or of an official agent, is guilty of an offence . . .
If that person is a body corporate the fine can be up to $20,000 and in other cases it can be up to $10,000. I wonder what the distinction is? Is there any explanation as to why a small company that incurs some expenditure which is not actually authorised can be fined $20,000 while Mr Hancock, who was referred to earlier, would have to pay only up to $10,000? There is no explanation. What is the ludicrous nature of this distinction?
The Bill reveals a lack of understanding of the political process during an election. It suggests that written authority will have to be obtained from the registered party agent or the official agent. Those 2 persons will be going in different directions during an election. They will not be in contact. Nobody will know whether one or the other has an authorisation. The whole machinery of this Bill shows a ludicrous misunderstanding of the whole political process. I do not want to be tedious, but there are so many important parts of this Bill which make it unworkable. I refer to proposed new section 150 which deals with gifts to parties. It has a great number of interesting and ludicrous proposals. It states:
Where a gift to a party, or to any person receiving the gift on behalf of, by arrangement with, or with the concurrence of, a party is made without the prior written authority of a registered party agent of the party-
A person who is busy running an election campaign must give prior written authority before gifts can be made to him. The proposed new section continues:
Just imagine. All members of the State Executive of the Labor Party, the Liberal Party and the Country Party, presumably without any knowledge of this provision, will be caught by it. The proposed new section states also: it shall be assumed, unless the contrary is proved, that the gift was received with the concurrence of that party.
So the onus is on the people to prove their innocence. A person who may have no control over the finances of the Party or even no knowledge of them may be guilty. Executive members on our side do not know about the details of finances of our Parties. We do not inquire. We do not seek the names of the contributors. It is better that we do not. It is better that we be free to make our independent judgments, which we do, in our organisations. Yet such people unwittingly will be guilty of an offence and will face very heavy penalties if their Party unwittingly gets a payment without prior written authority. I do not want to be tedious but the onus of proof, according to this proposed new section, is on the Party. There is one exception. I suggest that the provisions of the proposed new section are extremely onerous and stupid. The provisions relating to gifts to parties contain ludicrous proposals.
I refer now to proposed new section 152. It provides that a candidate shall not, within 3 months before the day next following the day fixed for the polling for the election, make a gift to anybody. If he does, he could be guilty of an offence. A defence is provided. He could go to court and say that he believed on reasonable grounds that the date would not be a date within 3 months of making the offer, promise or gift. In other words, the date of polling had not been fixed. If the person guessed right and the offer of the gift was after the 3 months, he is all right. If the person guessed wrong and the offer was within 3 months, he must show reasonable grounds. Not many people in the community at present are prepared to risk their money on making a right guess as to election dates in relation to the proposed new section.
I put to the Senate that the concentration on gifts and payment of money to political parties ignores, as has been said before, the work which governments do and the ability which governments have by the use of Ministers and their staffs. Senator Webster referred primarily to the ability of persons on the staffs to be elected and to what they could do before the election. Instead I refer to the use of people after an election. Throughout the period between elections a government is able to use its staff, the staff of the Department of the Media- we know how much that is used -
– And the Australian Broadcasting Commission.
-And the Australian Broadcasting Commission. None of these things is taken into account. Let me cite an example.
– Are you saying that we are not entitled to our electorate secretaries?
– I am not talking about electorate secretaries.
– Am I misunderstanding you?
– You have misunderstood me. I said that staffs of Ministers, staffs of the Department of the Media, the ABC and other bodies provide a great deal of propaganda for governments. They are not taken into account in assessing these amounts. I will cite an example. When the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) made that very quick trip back to Darwin during the course of his overseas visit he was given a great deal of publicity. He appeared on television on numerous occasions while he was here. Mr Snedden was 2 1/2 days in Darwin.
– I was with him.
- Senator Bonner was with him at the time. He has told me so. During this period Mr Snedden was not shown on television.
– That is only the normal form of the ABC.
-Yes, but the point I am making is that a government gains a tremendous amount of value from propaganda for which it does not pay.
General Business Taking Precedence of Government Business at 3 p.m.
I have a great deal of pleasure in moving that motion because it affords to me this day the opportunity to refer to the situation in which local government found itself prior to December 1972 and to the dramatic happenings which have so greatly affected the institution of local government since 1972. This Government is the first since Federation to recognise and to assist in such a practical way the institution of local government in Australia. For several years, when the spotlight was thrown on to the inadequacies and deficiences of local government, it was said in the Senate that the area of local government was not one of concern to the Federal Government or to the national Parliament but one which was the direct concern of State governments. It seems that during the years this has been the excuse to justify the inaction of the national Parliament in relation to the area of local government in Australia.
First and foremost, I think we must recognise the 3 essential levels of government in Australianational, state and local. Each has a particular function, and each is based upon a constitutional program. I am talking now as one who had some years of experience in local government. My view is that if any area of administration in the 3 levels of government failed to perform its necessary task, to deliver the goods or lowered the level and quality of services which it was required to provide, the whole system of government in Australia would be out of balance. I do not want to dwell on that point. Because of the position which local government occupied in the total scene over the years, because of the disinclination of the Federal area to involve itself and to show any real interest in the area of local government, and because of the deficiencies of State governments as a result of limitations on finance, local government has languished to a very large degree for a great many years. The results are evident in many areas of local government throughout Australia. For instance, I refer to the inadequacy and insufficiency of many of the services which have been or which ought to have been performed by local government. This is a great pity. It is axiomatic that the longer these things are left the more difficult it is to have them corrected.
So there has been this neglect due to nonrecognition of the function of local government and even the existence, in some respects, of the institution of local government. This has led to a lack of services throughout Australia which is very clearly illustrated by something which the present Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) pointed out some years ago, namely that substantial areas of the city of Sydney have yet to be sewered. The number of unsewered residences in the city of Sydney is greater than the total number of homes in Tasmania. That is a pretty sorry state of affairs. I believe that it is due largely to the sort of neglect about which I have spoken and which was remedied upon the ascension to the responsibility of administration of this country of an Australian Labor Party Administration in December 1972.
The lack of interest of course was reflected in the poor response to local government elections. We found, and in fact are still finding, people being elected to a council on a vote as low as 25 per cent of the potential vote in municipal elections. I think that is very bad and very much a consequence of what has happened over the years. Without being unkind, I think one can also point to the fact that many of the candidates offering for local government elections throughout Australia are people who for many reasons are not able to bring to local government that level of knowledge and experience which will help the institution. We find on the other hand disillusionment on the part of many of the people who are practitioners in local government, very largely in a voluntary capacity. They show a disinclination to pursue their work because of a lack of response from the community and a lack of recognition by the higher authorities who have failed to provide sufficient finance to carry out the works of local government at a quality and a sufficiency which one has a right to expect.
A problem also arose following the outcome of the referendum which was held a short while ago. It was hoped to give local government a greater importance and a greater role in the total scheme of things. Because of the advocacy of the Opposition and many other people in the Australian community who ought to have known better, the authority was not given for the Government of the day to enter into those sorts of relationships with local government which would have been of very great assistance to local government. I think that one of the reasons why the people of Australia were attracted to the policies of the Labor Party was the knowledge they had of the intention of a Labor administration at least to try to give some recognition and assistance to local government and to improve the services which local government up to then had been providing for the people of Australia.
I am reminded- I have a copy of it before me- of an address delivered by the Prime Minister to the annual conference of the Australian Council of Local Government Associations at Alice Springs on Monday, 1 1 November 1974, in which the approach of the Labor Party to local government throughout Australia was very largely enunciated. The Prime Minister said:
This Conference itself is another landmark on the rapid march to maturity- towards partnership in the Federal systemwhich local government has made in recent yearsvery recent years. It happens to be just two years this week that I delivered the policy speech on behalf of the Australian Labor Party for the 1972 Elections. It was no accident that the lengthiest and most detailed section of that document dealt directly with cities, centres, regions, and local government and the social, financial and constitutional questions associated with them. It was no accident in either personal or political terms. From the time I was elected to the national Parliament- twenty-two years ago at the end of this month- I refused to accept what was then the conventional wisdom that the sole or chief concerns of the national Parliament should be foreign affairs, defence, the annual Budget and the level of the major social welfare payments. Politically, it seemed obvious that a party of social reform, such as ours professed to be, emasculated itself by accepting these limitations and preoccupations. It could never get anywhere unless it recognised, as a national party, the need for national involvement- by the national Government through the national Parliament -in the concerns of the people over the whole range of policy- their schools, their cities, their hospitals, their culture, their recreation, their immediate environment, and providing access to jobs, shops and recreations.
And in all these areas I saw it to be necessary and inescapable that local government must play a full part- as a full partner- within the federal system. I fought to have the view accepted by my party and incorporated in its platform. I fought successfully. I then fought to have that view accepted by the Australian electorate. I fought successfully. I have since fought to have that view incorporated in the legislation and the Constitution of this nation. I have had some successes and some failures. I have not yet finished that fight.
The Prime Minister, in relation to the question of inevitability, said:
For it is inevitable, given Australia’s nature and situation, that the national government must accept greater involvement in all these matters which were once deemed to be the sole responsibility of the States or of local government. The result of that old approach was that the functions which a modern community requires should be performed through its elected representatives were either done inadequately or not done at all, were financed inadequately and unfairly or not financed at all. It is inevitable that the national government must accept increasing responsibility to finance these functions fairly and adequately.
Later in his address the Prime Minister said:
Even the most enlightened and equal approach to social welfare can only scratch the surface of the basic problem of equality and well-being of most of our citizens. We can double and treble social benefits, but we can never make up through cash payments for what we take away in mental and physical well-being and social cohesion through the breakdown of community life and community identity. Increasingly, a citizen’s real standard of living, the health of himself and his family, his children’s opportunities for education and self-improvement, his access to employment opportunities, his ability to enjoy the nation’s resources for recreation and culture, his ability to participate in the decisions and actions of the community are determined not by his income, not by the hours he works, but by where he lives. This is why Labor believes that the national government must involve itself directly in cities and centres where most people live.
Then he alluded to specific proposals which the Labor Party had in mind to effectuate the ideas he put forward. They were:
The Prime Minister continued:
With one notable exception, these undertakings have all been fulfilled in whole or part. In his annual report your president Mr Guerin refers very generously to these achievements. Properly, he describes the amended Grants Commission legislation, the subsequent report of the Grants Commission and the acceptance by the Australian Government of its recommendations as the most significant achievement this year. As a result of the first report we have authorised payment of nearly $56 1/2m ($56,345,000) to local government bodies. The 806 authorities which benefit comprise 92 per cent of all who applied for financial assistance.
The grants range from $3,000 to $2m for the largest and most populous council area in Australia- Brisbane. I emphasise that the Australian Government accepted the Commission’s recommendation that the grants are made without conditions on the manner in which they are spent by the receiving authority. I also emphasise that the new funds should in no way be a substitute for revenue normally raised by councils by long established means such as rates and charges for services nor replace assistance normally provided by State Governments.
I think that sets out fairly clearly the basic philosophical approach of the Prime Minister to the functions of local government and highlights the glaring inadequacies of the local government system up to that time. Later the Prime Minister addressed himself to the referendum which was held on the question of giving local government a closer relationship with the Parliament of Australia. On 10 March 1974, in a national broadcast on the local government referendum he said:
Finally, we are asking you to give a new deal to local government.
This was said at the time the Prime Minister was outlining the referendum proposals. He continued:
For generations now, local councils have lacked the financial resources to provide better roads, better sewerage, decent community health services, child care centres and facilities for sport and recreation. These services are best provided by local authorities, but the Constitution makes no mention of local government. By agreeing to our referendum, you will enable the national Government to borrow money for local authorities if they wish and top up their revenues if they wish. In this way the national Government will be able to have direct financial dealings with local government bodies in helping them to do the job for which they were elected . . . The fault lies deep in the whole system of intergovernmental relations . . .
I think this is the crux of the whole thing. As I say, each level of government in Australia seems to go its own way. The only meaningful relationships which appeared to exist were those between the national Parliament and the State governments to the almost total exclusion of local government. We in this national Parliament, up to the stage about which I am talking, remained completely aloof from any sort of responsibility for the proper functioning of the smallest but extremely important level of government, the one which is in fact closest to the people, one which lives in a day to day relationship with the people in the Australian community and one which, despite the prominence that is given to the activities of State and Federal parliaments, it seems to me has a greater prominence in the community at large. There is a greater sense of relationship with the day to day happenings and activities in the community than with any other form of government. The Prime Minister continued:
The fault lies deep in the whole system of intergovernmental relations, and the remedy must be in a reform of that system; in balancing the functions and finances of the 3 levels of government- local, national and State.
I need to quote no further from the observations which have been made by the Prime Minister to give absolute credibility to the claim which we make that this is the first national Government which has ever involved itself actively in the area of local government. Not only in words has it set out to give the impression that it is concerned but also in its subsequent actions- with which I shall deal in a moment- it has given absolute proof that it is interested in and concerned for local government. I venture to say that had the people, at the wish of the Government, given it by referendum an opportunity to deal directly with local government, we would have seen a far better performance than is possible under the present restrictions. One of the interesting things which has arisen out of this Government’s action is the operation of the Grants Commission. The powers of the Grants Commission were extended to enable it to make recommendations for direct grants to local government bodies. It is of no great concern to the Grants Commission whether these be city councils or the small local government authorities in the outlying areas of Australia. Wherever there is justification for some proposal to be implemented the Grants Commission looks at the proposal and makes recommendations accordingly on the basis of need for the services.
I have been terribly gratified to note in the past year the tremendous assistance which has been afforded to local government organisations in Tasmania. This is reflected right throughout the length and breadth of Australia where services which could not otherwise have been provided from the meagre resources of these local government institutions are now facts. Councils are able to perform functions at a level which one has the right to expect them to do. Over the years since I came into contact with the development and the provision of services in the A.C.T. I have been amazed to find the high level of services which are provided in the A.C.T. community.
I find that not only are these services of a quality and size which do very great credit to the planners and those who execute the works in developing the A.C.T. but also they are provided so much cheaper than can be done in other areas of Australia. That is because these services can be provided on a scale and we have the economy of scale which, in many instances, I believe leads to a saving of 25 per cent of the cost of carrying out those services. While I accept that the quality and range of services to the people of the A.C.T. are of a very much higher level than they are anywhere else in Australia, it is not my wish to see their curtailment or diminution in the A.C.T. But I should like to see the services of every other local government authority throughout the length and breadth of this land lifted to the level and quality which are provided in the A.C.T. I think that ought to be the aim and objective of any government concerned with the welfare of people. We cannot shut ourselves up in a castle hundreds of miles and, in some instances, thousands of miles away from centres of population. This Government exists for the welfare of every man, woman and child in the Australian community. No matter where they are located this Government does not escape that responsibility. So it ought to be our abiding concern to see that the people in the Australian community get the highest possible level of service no matter what the level of government.
For instance, we cannot say that we have a constitutional responsibility in certain areas of government. The States have a responsibility in certain areas of government. Local government has a responsibility to provide services and amenities in the community. It is of no use saying that it is of no concern to the rest of us what happens in those 3 areas. In fact, it is. National government has the responsibility of collection of the major proportion of the revenue available. It has the responsibility to ensure that the revenue is equitably distributed so that privileged people in local communities throughout the country do not get the major benefit from the expenditure of those funds. Every man, woman and child in the Australian community ought to be on an equal footing. I say that because it has amazed me to find the high level of services here and to observe the difference when I go back to my own area. I am sure it would be the experience of every honourable senator in this place that there are glaring inadequacies and deficiencies. The cost of providing these inefficient services is far greater in the ultimate than it would be if the services are provided on a scale which meets the needs of the community, not just now but into the future. Of course, it is always a question of economics, of who has the funds.
I am delighted to see that since the Labor Government came into office funds have been provided in substantial amounts to help all the different functions of local government in local communities throughout Australia. I have a booklet which is titled: ‘Australian Government Assistance to Local Government Projects. Sources of funds . . . and how to apply for them’. While I do not want to go into great detail of the specifics of the areas in which the Australian Government has interested and involved itself such as in the provision of local community amenities, I think it is appropriate at this moment to justify the motion which I moved at the outset of my remarks to give a brief detail of the areas in which the Government is involved. For instance, in the area of culture and recreation we have grants for community leisure facilities. The booklet states:
This scheme is administered by the Australian Department of Tourism and Recreation, in conjunction with the appropriate State department under the Australian Government’s capital assistance program for leisure time facilities.
Of course the purpose of this is:
To encourage the development of sporting and recreation complexes in order to fulfil the need for better and more readily available recreation facilities for both active and passive leisure pursuits.
At the present time right throughout Australia under a formula which has been worked out all sorts of sporting and recreational activity projects are being developed on a scale which was never possible before. I suggest that in every community throughout Australia people are actively engaged in putting forward these proposals. Not only are they putting them forward but hardly a week goes by when one does not read of some particular grant being made to some worthy, deserving cause. The interesting part about this is that it is an involvement with the local municipal authority which sets the priority. It is an involvement with the State authority- in my own State of Tasmania through the Minister for Education, who is also the Minister of Sport and Recreation. But the various active community groups involved in these areas of sport and recreation are also in a partnership, as it were, with the National Government in the provision of these very essential community needs.
We have grants for community arts activities. I can recall my own involvement in this area in the Devonport community. I can recall efforts made over a number of years to get some assistance for centres of this kind. Recently I was delighted to find that the Little Gallery at Devonport, for instance, received a grant from the Federal Government to enable it to carry on. That was an undertaking which had been instituted by private people using- very largely- their own funds, certainly their own initiative and very greatly their own time. They carried on these activities because they saw a need in the community for them. They gave an opportunity for an expression of that community desire, need or want, whatever one likes to call it. That opportunity has been taken up and the people are encouraged to pursue that work, to further it, and to provide for the community at large an opportunity to be involved in this sort of thing. It is a healthy sign, indeed, in a community.
There are grants for film, television, video and allied activities. The purpose of these is to support and encourage the creative and artistic development of film, television and video production. Again, I have had involvement with people in my own community who have expressed a desire to do some particular thing- their own thing- and to inspire the community to be involved in these sorts of activities. It would be appropriate, I think, perhaps just to say how this assistance is given. As this booklet points out, the assistance is given to the following projects: films of an experimental or innovatory nature; mini-budget features; television pilots; one-shot dramas or documentaries which are of a high standard but not necessarily commercial propositions; development of film treatments and/or screen plays; alternative and other cinemas for screening non-theatrical films; national film bodies; film festivals and cultural organisations; the use of video as a creative and sociological tool; media publications; and creative fellowships to film directors and writers.
That is something completely new in the Australian scene.
In the area of education we have the child care scheme which is administered by the Australian Department of Education under the Child Care Act but having an involvement with local government bodies throughout the Australian community. The purpose of this child care scheme is to make financial assistance available to certain types of non-profit organisations and local governing bodies for the establishment and operation of child care centres, primarily for the children of working or sick parents or of parents who are otherwise unable to care for them during the day. These funds are allocated through capital and recurrent grants to eligible organisations.
Unmatched capital grants may be provided for the capital cost of the purchase of land and for the purchase, erection, extension or alteration of buildings, including necessary fixtures. The cost of improvements to the land and necessary legal, surveying and architectural costs incurred may be included also. Capital grants may be provided also to meet the purchase and installation costs of necessary and approved equipment. Again, recurrent grants may be paid to meet half the wages of certain appropriately qualified staff and, inrespect of children in special need, to enable the centres for which the grant has been approved to offer reduced fees. In relation to preschools, the Australian Government’s policy is in the process of development. The Prime Minister has announced that funds will be available. The Premiers have advised on the arrangements for expenditure of available funds, and within these arrangements it is expected that funds will be available for State Governments, local governing bodies and approved non-profit organisations.
Honourable senators can see when reading through this booklet that local government now has a very deep and a very real involvement with the Australian Government function. In the area of employment, I am delighted to see that an active relationship with sheltered employment for disabled people is featured. The purpose of that, of course, is to assist eligible non-profit organisations, including local governing bodies, to establish sheltered workshops and accommodation facilities for disabled people. These grants are paid directly to an eligible organisation. Payment is made on the basis of $2 for $ 1 for capital costs and $ 1 for $ 1 for eligible staff services.
There is a whole range of assistance. There are grants in the area of community health. The whole purpose of this is to give financial assistance under the Australian Government community health program to community based health services and facilities, particularly in areas of need. The community health program aims to provide co-ordinated community based health services covering preventive medicine, early treatment, health education and after-care, in the patient’s neighbourhood wherever possible. Capital and recurrent grants are paid to States and eligible organisations, including local governing bodies. Grants for organisations are usually made through State health authorities.
In the area of housing assistance is given. In the migrant education program adult continuation classes will be provided. The purpose for which the continuation assistance is granted are listed under a heading ‘Application for assistance’. Local governing bodies could assist in the program in many ways which are outlined in this booklet. Classes will be provided for migrant people. In the social security and welfare area assistance will be provided for handicapped children. This is to assist eligible non-profit organisations, including local governing bodies, to provide training centres, equipment and accommodation for handicapped children. I suggest that all these activities will be of tremendous benefit to all sections of the Australian community involved in those areas. They show an interest on the part of the National Government for the institution of local government and for ensuring that all communities throughout Australia have an equal opportunity to share in the distribution of revenue and the provision of essential community facilities.
Indeed, development under the Australian Assistance Plan has been good. Some rather derogatory remarks were made about this Plan earlier in this debate when it was suggested that the organisations in question are being set up for political purposes. I cannot accept that at all. I know that there has been some jealousy in certain areas because certain political parties have involved themselves in these activities. I know that the Government welcomes this. We do not put any stopper on any particular community organisation that wants to be involved. From inquiries made during the examination of the Estimates a few months ago and replies to queries raised about this matter it was indicated that the Government welcomed the healthy participation of all sections of the community in the Australian Assistance Plan. I know that in many areas in Tasmania, as well as in other parts of Australia, the challenge has been taken up and community groups have formed. These have spread beyond the initial composition of these committees into outlying areas and whole communities are now involved in this very worthwhile project.
It is interesting to relate to a statement which was made recently when dealing with this question of centralism and the desire, it was alleged, of the national Parliament to take over the running of all aspects of Australian life. A group under the Australian Assistance Plan was set up in a community recently and a request was made to the Government for guidance on how it ought to be run. The Government said: ‘Look, we are providing you with an initial grant of $40,000 to set up regional organisations and to get your staff assembled. We are providing $2 per capita to enable the Plan to be put into effect. We are not telling you how to do that. That is up to you. You know the motivation, the philosophical basis of the idea. You go ahead and do it. We want you to initiate and innovate others in your own community. You carry it out as best you think will serve the purposes of your community and that will satisfy us’. That is giving to them an autonomy which is very much at variance with the claim that we often hear in this place that the Government is bent upon a centralist attitude to take away from the communities at large any rights they may have to initiate and operate these particular functions.
– In practice, the Australian Assistance Plan is elitist.
– Surely this must evolve. I am sure that the honourable senator will accept that it is something completely new. Communities have never been provided with funds of this magnitude and told to get on with the job. I agree that you tend to get this sort of situation. Quite frankly, I accept what the honourable senator says. But whilst we do hear people saying that a particular party has taken over the functions, no party or organisation has a prior right to any part in this. What the Government proposes, hopes and expects to see fulfilled is that all sections of the community who are genuinely interested in the social welfare and development of their communities will be involved. I have heard the allegations that a particular party of a political persuasion has taken over the functions in an area. I have heard the reverse argument in relation to the other side of politics. I think that eventually- it is certainly the hope and expectation of the Government- these initial teething problems, if you like to call them that, can be ironed out and the communities can be brought together not as a fragmented sort of society but as a completely integrated community.
I see nothing wrong with being involved with someone of a different persuasion, whether that person holds a different religious view, different political view, supports a different football club or anything else. I think that that is good and that it creates a healthy interest in the community. But in matters of this kind I think that it is essential that people submerge their own narrow interests and outlooks and be involved in the greater and the healthier community. At least that is the hope I have. It may be a forlorn one, but I think not. I think that the Australian community has developed a sense of responsibility which, if encouraged to express itself can do so to the everlasting merit of the activities concerned.
We have a vast number of community welfare projects being undertaken. I am delighted to see so much interest being taken by the Federal Government in the provision of grants in the area of tourism. I am also delighted to see the Federal Government’s interest in the preservation of the national estate and the preservation and restoration where necessary of areas of very great historic interest. I have always wanted to encourage the members of the Australian community to be involved in and aware of our history, origins and heritage. I think that this is an area in which the actions of the Australian Government are to be very warmly commended. There is a sense of destructiveness in us all. It is a type of vandalism which dictates that if something moves, shoot it or if something stands up, chop it down. That has been the attitude taken in the past. People are now becoming more aware of the tremendous value of these places of historic interest and of natural interest to people. These things are being preserved. This has been very greatly assisted by the Federal Government. The speed at which this is being done is being accelerated by the involvement of the Australian Government in these activities. They are properly assessed. I suggest that it is not a wasteful exercise. It is a very proper exercise for the Government.
For years local municipal authorites have been hoping to preserve something of historic interest for their communities, but they have had to make a judgment as to whether they should fix up a road or do something else. These areas of very great historical interest have tended to be neglected. It is unfortunate that that has been so neglected because the restoration will now cost so much more than it would have had funds been available and sufficient local interest been taken in the restoration to ensure preservation years before. But I suppose that it is never too late. I believe that we have lost a great deal of our history in this country. When a judgment had to be made as to the expenditure of money on particular functions and purposes, there has been a need to ensure the continuation of day-to-day affairs.
I know that this is something that has worried local councils. As I say, I have been involved with them. They have seen the deficiency of the system which is brought about by a disinterest on the part of the national Government, a lack of ability on the pan of the State governments and, in some areas, a complete disinterest on the part of the local community. In some instances the type of services and facilities provided by municipal authorities were quite shabby, in any case totally inadequate, very expensive and just not economically viable. As a result of the interest which has been taken by this Government in the affairs of local government throughout AustraliaI sincerely hope that if we ever come to this point again the people of Australia will recognise it and give a greater opportunity to the Federal Government to be involved- there is a new outlook in the Australian community towards so many things which formerly did not interest the local community.
As I say, this is the case in the area of the arts and artistic expression, the preservation of the national estate, the preservation of areas of historic interest, in looking after the aged and the sick, in caring for children, including disadvantaged children and handicapped people, the provision of special assistance grants for roads, in taking over national highways to free for State authorities more funds with which to carry out work on secondary roads, country roads and other areas of road responsibility.
– Have you worked out how you will finance all this when we are facing a $3,500m deficit?
– Yes, we did. As a matter of fact, we worked out how to finance the program on 2 December 1972 when we quit the Vietnam war. The wasteful destruction of the Vietnam war which honourable senators opposite got themselves involved in and could not get out of cost this country millions and millions of dollars. They were more involved in destruction in someone else’s country than in the preservation of things of decency and beauty in their own country. We quickly changed that position. I am able to stand up here today proudly and detail into the record of this country the things that have been achieved by this Government in a relatively short period in government.
– Do you include quietly buying the Hobart Trades Hall in those achievements?
– I do not know anything about the buying of the Hobart Trades Hall quietly. I am talking about the sort of things I thought the honourable senator would be interested in, namely, the preservation of some of those historic areas of our State in which this Government has been very much involved in recent years. I am sure that Senator Marriott would support this. I do not think that the honourable senator would be against this. I do not think that he would be against anything that this Government is attempting to achieve and has achieved in the area of local government since it has been in office. It has provided to the municipal authorities throughout this country an opportunity to perform their functions and provide services at a rate which is far greater than was ever possible in the past. I commend the Government for its outstanding work in the area of local government in this country. I commend the motion to the Senate.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Milliner)- Is the motion seconded?
– I second the motion.
Debate (on motion by Senator Baume) adjourned.
Motion for Compensation
Debate resumed from 19 September 1974 on motion by Senator Bonner:
That the Senate accepts the fact that the indigenous people of Australia, now known as Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders, were in possession of this entire nation prior to the 1788 First Fleet landing at Botany Bay, urges the Australian Government to admit prior ownership by the said indigenous people, and introduce legislation to compensate the people now known as Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders for dispossession of their land.
– On 11 July 1974 Senator Bonner gave notice of and subsequently moved his motion. The Government will support this expression of the Senate. The first part of the motion, which seeks that the Senate accept the fact that the indigenous people of Australia, now known as Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders, were in possession of this enure nation prior to the 1 788 First Fleet landing at Botany Bay, is a historical fact. What its value in the motion is, I do not know. It cannot be disputed. It is accepted. The motion then goes on to urge the Australian Government to admit prior ownership by the said indigenous people and seeks an expression of the Senate on this matter. I do not know how the Government can do more than it has to admit some entitlement prior to that date. I do not know the wording of the resolution. ‘Admits prior ownership’ would imply that we do not admit it today. What is ownership ‘ I do not exactly know. To my knowledge there have been only 2 judicial investigations into Aboriginal land rights, one by Mr Justice Blackburn at Gove and one more recently by Mr Justice Furnell in a Royal Commission in Western Australia. The conclusion of both learned judges was that there was no legal claim by Aborigines as such to any land in Australia other than land that individuals may have acquired by purchase or lease. So ownership is really a legal question. This Australian Government has recognised some rights to land, as will be shown during this debate, and we can see no difficulty in accepting this expression of the Senate’s opinion.
The motion asks the Government to introduce legislation to compensate the people now known as Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders. I take this as meaning compensation for the taking and use of their land since 1788. This falls into line with the Government’s policy and the statement of the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) at the time of the appointment of the Woodward Commission. It must be remembered that this Government was elected on 2 December 1972 and that on 15 December, within the first fortnight of operation of the Government, the Prime Minister issued a Press statement announcing the setting up of a judicial inquiry into the legal recognition of Aboriginal land rights and the appointment of Mr Justice Woodward to conduct the inquiry. The Prime Minister said:
Mr Justice Woodward’s commission is not concerned with whether rights in land should be granted since the Government has already decided that they shall.
That was the first Government declaration that they shall have rights to land. Speaking of Mr Justice Woodward, the Prime Minister continued:
His first task is simply to advise how they should be granted. He has been asked to report on arrangements necessary in the NT to vesting title to Aboriginal reserved land, including rights in minerals and timber, in the Aboriginal groups and communities concerned; procedures for the examination of claims based on traditional rights in the areas outside the reserves or alternative ways of meeting effectively the need of Aboriginal communities outside reserves or land; amendments to legislation necessary to give effect to these recommendations.
The Woodward Commission submitted 2 reports- an interim report and a final reportand recommended in respect of the Northern Territory that we should set up 2 land councils comprising Aborigines, that the 2 land councils should receive representations on land claims and that they should report to the Government within 2 years, the Government to act upon their report. Mr Justice Woodward in his report stated:
I believe that the only appropriate direct recompense for those who have lost their traditional land is other land, together with finance to enable that land to be used appropriately, either for housing or some economic purpose.
In accordance with Mr Justice Woodward’s decision those who have tribal claims to land or those groups of Aborigines which claim long residential rights to land are now the subject of investigation by the Central Lands Committee and the Northern Lands Committee. The Government has bought a number of cattle stations to supply the requirements of Aboriginal groups which would not have a claim under the recommendations in the. Woodward Commission report on the Northern Territory. The Government has just paid $130,000 to the Shire of Robinvale in Victoria for the purchase of Murray Island along the Murray River for the purpose of restoring that land to the aboriginal communities, with an agreement to provide finance to make it a viable tourist attraction, and to construct a caravan park in the area.
The group about which the Government is most condemned is the Gurindjis who were promised their land 7 years ago. It was stated that the previous Minister had guaranteed them their land. This guarantee will be honoured. But Mr Justice Woodward said that it would be improper, while he was conducting an inquiry, for the Government to make arrangements to give land rights to the Gurindji people. He said that the Government should not do so until such time as he had investigated the question of how land rights compensation should be paid. That delayed the giving of land to the Gurindji people. When we got the Woodward report we found that the Gurindji people at Wattie Creek would not come within its recommendations, and that they did not have a claim which could come before the Lands Committee. We then negotiated with Vesteys for the purpose of obtaining land and agreeing to boundaries of the land that would be given to the Gurindji people. I went and spoke with the leaders of the tribe. They wanted their tribal area which was situated east of the Victoria River. A Melbourne group of Gurindji representatives petitioned Lord Vestey in London that unless within 2 months land was given to the Gurindji people at Wattie Creek they would start demonstrating in Australia against Vesteys. I can say definitely that at all times Vesteys has been most co-operative and has been prepared to cede land to the Commonwealth for handing over to the Gurindji people.
We have now reached terms of agreement on leases and Vesteys will hand over the area sought by the Gurindjis which is that land east of Victoria River. While there was some dispute on boundaries, the parties have agreed to keep to one side of the River and have got fence posts and wire for the purpose of putting up a boundary fence at Wattie Creek. Vesteys at all times has been prepared to relinquish their lease over this land to the Gurindjis at Wattie Creek. Vesteys’ lease, as are all leases, is renewed on 1 July and until then it has a right to the existing leased land. It will then relinquish the lease in respect of land on the eastern side of the River. Under the laws of New South Wales clean skin cattle on properties, unless they are on Crown land, become the property of the leaseholder of the land. Vesteys has a right in law, and insist upon it, to have a muster prior to handing over and to take the clean skin cattle off the Gurindji area. The Government will have to finance the restocking for the Gurindji establishment.
As there is a delay until July and as there is a solemn undertaking to grant land to the Gurindjis, Vesteys has commenced and will continue insofar as the wet weather will permit to put down 18 bores on the west side of the bank because the Gurindjis have the River now forming a dividing fence between the 2 properties. Agreement has been reached that the Gurindjis can start fencing and building stockyards on their side even before July. So, to all intents and purposes, the Gurindji land rights claims have been met and the leasehold property will be given to the Aborigines on 1 July. We have passed the Aboriginal Land Fund Act which gives statutory authority. We have agreed to supply $5m each year for 10 years to build up a fund to purchase properties which are not covered by the Woodward Commission report.
We have discussed with the appropriate Minister in each State the method of adopting the Woodward Commission report to give land to Aboriginal people. We have reached agreement with all States, except Queensland, whereby the States will set up Aboriginal land councils which will hold settlement areas or other areas that will be given by the State governments or purchased by the Australian Government. The Land councils will be set up under Acts of the State parliaments and will then hold the land in perpetuity for Aboriginal people. We are in the process of arranging for the land councils to lease the land on a 99-year basis to the Aborigines who are actually on the settlements. Therefore the Aborigines will be the occupiers and owners of that land. In many cases we are funding the Aborigines to make the properties viable. The only exception is Queensland which will not have a bar of giving anything to Aborigines. We are discussing now on an interdepartmental committee how we can give land to Queensland Aborigines in the same way as we have succeeded in giving, or are in the process of succeeding in giving, land to Aborigines in the rest of Australia.
We are not being assisted a great deal by the Senate. Honourable senators will remember that the keenness for Aboriginal land rights in Queensland is such that the law of Queensland forbids an Aboriginal even to go without permission on to the settlement on which he was bornhis homeland, his tribal land. Under Queensland law he can be banned from that area. The Government’s attempt in the Senate to give an Aboriginal at least that right of freedom to go on to his own land was defeated and the pertinent clause was removed from the Bill. This leaves only the other question of Aborigines who have become assimilated into white society, do not live on settlements and do not want pastoral properties. They live in city suburbs and many of them have normal occupations. The question is how one compensates them by giving them additional land and whether such compensation, if it is given, should apply from generation to generation. If one compensates an Aboriginal by giving him land, he can dispose of it just as any white person can dispose of his land. Should one then compensate the next generation for something for which one has compensated the previous generation?
I think Senator Bonner acknowledged the impossibility of determining the amount of compensation that should be applicable, and he asked for money to be set aside from the annual national Budget. We have set aside money under the Aboriginal Land Fund Act and we are spending large sums of money on Aboriginal development and Aboriginal welfare in Australia. I do not know whether that money could be regarded as compensation for land rights. I think that is doubtful. To deal with the question of urban Aborigines the Australian Labor Party policy platform includes an undertaking that compensation for loss of traditional land will be made available to assist Aborigines who wish to purchase their own home. That is Labor policy on this question. As honourable senators know, we have passed the Aboriginal Loans Commission Act, which we discussed last evening, to assist Aborigines by providing low interest rates for the purchase of homes, among other things.
While I am talking about the Aboriginal Loans Commission, let me say that as a result of the debate that took place last evening I have made inquiries into the operations of this body. I said last night that it is an autonomous body that makes its own decisions in operating the Fund, but I would expect that it would take some advice or some direction from the Minister. The circular that was complained of is being issued by my Department on behalf of the Loans Commission to acquaint Aborigines with their entitlements under the Aboriginal Land Fund Act. Although Senator Bonner saw in it some attempt to divide Aborigines by referring to Aborigines and part-Aborigines -
– I beg your pardon. I did not say that. The pamphlet stated that, not me. Please be a little more specific.
-Do not get excited, Senator. The pamphlet said:
Arc you or your partner Aboriginal or part-Aboriginal?
Senator Bonner saw this statement as dividing Aborigines from part-Aborigines. On my understanding of the pamphlet, I accepted that situation. When the document was tabled, I saw that that was not the intention. It may well be that we are judging the Commission unjustly. This question is one of 4 questions and is the only one I criticise. The document states that if the answer to those 4 questions is yes, there may be an entitlement from the Loans Commission. This was an information document to tell those people to whom it applied that even if they were part-Aboriginal they were entitled to a loan.
– Why not use the term ‘of Aboriginal descent”?
– I am agreeing but honourable senators should not accept that the question was asked for the purpose of dividing Aborigines, as I think Senator Bonner and I accepted last evening. I am saying that the use of the Government’s definition of an Aboriginal might be the best way of expressing it. Two thousand copies of this circular were roneoed. Some of them have been given out by officers of my Department. The circular will be withdrawn from distribution immediately and another circular containing wording of which I approve will be issued to inform people who make applications, or are entitled to make applications, for loans of their rights. The Act does nothing more than make money available at a cheap rate of interest to those sections of the Aboriginal community who do not qualify for loans. Can we do something better with regard to compensation for loss of land to urban Aborigines? The Government has decided that Mr Johnson, as the Minister for Housing and Construction, and I, as the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, should confer in order to make a submission to the Government with regard to making grants to enable Aboriginal people to purchase homes similarly to the homes savings grant but not conditional upon savings. Victoria had a scheme whereby $1,500 was given to any Aboriginal seeking to purchase a house. Since the taking over by the Australian Government of Aboriginal affairs in Victoria the $1,500 is no longer available. The Australian Government is deciding whether it should introduce a scheme to provide for compensation for loss of land by Aboriginals who seek to establish an urban home. The scheme would apply to the whole of Australia. Therefore honourable senators can see that we have gone a long way in implementing our undertaking given in the 1972 policy speech. We see the motion as being in accordance with the policy of the Australian Labor Party, and accordingly we support it.
-in reply- I wish to speak to the motion which I moved on 19 September 1974. 1 am a little disappointed today to see so few of my colleagues from both sides of the chamber present when this motion is being finally presented and determined. If I interpret correctly what the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs (Senator Cavanagh) has said, in my opinion what will follow will make this an historic day for Aborigines in Australia. If I understand the Minister- I hope I do- he and his Government are accepting my motion in its entirety. The Minister, during his speech seemed to waffle away from the actual motion. All the matters that the Minister raised are, as I said in my speech on 19 December 1974, but charity of the government of the day. My motion states:
That the Senate accepts the fact that the indigenous people of Australia, now known as Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders, were in possession of this entire nation prior to the 1 788 First Fleet landing at Botany Bay, urges the Australian Government to admit prior ownership by the said indigenous people, and introduce legislation to compensate the people now known as Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders for dispossession of their land.
If the Minister accepts that motion all is well. The matters that the Minister has raised in relation to the Aboriginal Land Rights Commission headed by Mr Justice Woodward and the implementation of some things by the present Government are, as I said in my speech on 19 September 1974, but charity of the government of the day. My motion is asking for the true entitlement for a dispossessed people so they would then be entitled to anything that the Government would be doing. During my speech of 1 9 September 1 974 1 said: . . the day is fast approaching when this compensation for dispossession of Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders must- I say ‘must’- be channelled to an all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander statutory body empowered to administer such a compensation for dispossession fund, for the survival of fellow Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders. The statutory body must be empowered to call upon such nonAboriginal expertise as is considered necessary by the body.
I am pleased that the final determination of my motion is about to be made. I hope that my interpretation of what the Minister said is correct. I hope that when the motion is passed there will be rejoicing in the Aboriginal community. I move:
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
That the Senate declare its opinion that, on the making of grants of financial assistance to the States under section 96 of the Constitution, the Commonwealth Parliament should ensure that:
I think it is fairly clear to everybody in Australia and certainly quite clear to everybody in the Senate that the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) and the present Government would like to carry out some fairly drastic surgery on the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Australia. I think it is also clear that the Australian electorate has denied that opportunity to the Prime Minister and the Government. It is also clear that it will continue to deny him that possibility and that it will deny him access to the scalpel of constitutional amendment whereas he still has access to what I would call the bludgeon of section 96 of the Constitution. It is my suggestion to this chamber that he has set out in a quite determined way to use that bludgeon to shape the Constitution more to his liking and into a form which is generally not acceptable to the Australian people.
I suggest to the Senate that the Government has long passed the stage of using section 96 for its legitimate purposes. It is now being abused as an instrument for the repression of the States and for the excessive extension of the growth of the Commonwealth Government’s power. They may be harsh words to use about what appears in the Constitution to be a fairly inoffensive section. Section 96 reads:
During a period of ten years after the establishment of the Commonwealth and thereafter until the Parliament otherwise provides, the Parliament may grant financial assistance to any State on such terms and conditions as the Parliament thinks fit.
The section is in terms that suggest that it is there to be helpful to the States, to be of assistance to them. I am one who believes that section 96 in one form or another is a section which is needed in the Constitution so that the national Government of Australia is able to carry out the sort of principle which has been laid down for the Grants Commission to follow. It is a principle which I think expresses in an important way the spirit of togetherness that ought to motivate the Australian people. Section 5 of the Grants Commission Act of 1 973 states:
References in this Act to the grant of special assistance to a State are references to the grant of financial assistance to a State for the purpose of making it possible for the State, by reasonable effort, to function at a standard not appreciably below the standards of other States.
We have the concept there of the Commonwealth’s providing funds to ensure something like an equality of standards among the different States of Australia, so that a citizen in Queensland has roughly the same sort of life and access to the same sort of facilities as has a citizen in Western Australia, Victoria or any other State. If we are to have a national government we will find it necessary, as has been found necessary in other federations, to have some sort of machinery for equalising the positions between different areas which of necessity, in a country as large as Australia, have quite disparate resources to help themselves. In putting forward this motion I do not in any way suggest that there is not a Commonwealth role to be played. What I suggest is that section 96 must not be abused. It must be used in the spirit in which it was put in the Constitution.
During this speech I would like to present an examination of a number of things. Firstly I would refer to the Labor Party’s approach to the Constitution. I think that an examination of this kind is necessary to put into context the way the Government is behaving at present. I would also like to refer to the Government’s recent attempts to amend the Constitution because that will get us away from mere words and give us actions by which we can judge the Government and its attitude to the shape of Australia’s administration and government. Then I would like to refer to the way that section 96 has been used in the past, not only by this Administration but by previous administrations, and its use by the Government since 1972 in particular. I think that that final examination will show that there is a totally different spirit abroad in regard to the way that section 96 is being used. I am sure that even members of the Government in this chamber would accept, after even a little examination, that the present use of section 96 is beyond what was intended. I point out that it was fairly clear at the time that the Constitution was enacted that this section was to be only an interim measure because it refers to ‘a period of 10 years after the establishment of the Commonwealth and thereafter until the Parliament otherwise provides’. For reasons which I think are generally acceptable within Australia, section 96 is going to be with us far longer than the 75 years for which it already has survived.
The other problem which I think arises from the Government’s use of section 96 is that it represents a false approach to public administration. That approach can be summarised in the term that ‘bigger is better’. In this field there quite clearly is a division between senators on this side of the chamber and those on the other side. We as a group do not accept the thesis that big government is necessarily better than a series of small governments trying to achieve the same sort of objects.
But to return to the Labor Party’s approach to the Constitution, it is something which the Labor Party has not been shy about. Its approach is quite well documented in the public records that the Party puts out. I want to quote firstly from the platform of the Australian Labor Party. In part IV of that platform, on the first page, we find a series of constitutional matters for which the Labor Party stands. It stands, amongst other things, for amendment of the Australian Constitution to clothe the Parliament of Australia with such plenary powers as are necessary and desirable to achieve international co-operation, national planning and the party’s economic and social objectives. I do not propose to go through this platform, which is a fairly lengthy document, to set out the Labor Party’s economic and social objectives, but it is common knowledge in this chamber and elsewhere that it has very broad social and economic objectives, and in particular, one objective we find the democratic socialisation of industy, production, distribution and exchange to the extent necessary to eliminate exploitation, and so on. In fact there is a very wide ranging program put forward by the Labor Party which would require substantial amendment of the Australian Constitution if it is to be directly brought into operation.
What I would like to talk to the Senate about is the fact that the Labor Party has seen a second way of doing this, an indirect way which perhaps has got around the need for the constitutional amendments that it claims in its platform that it wants. The platform provides further that the Party will abolish the Senate. The offices of State Governors and State Legislative Councils also are to be abolished. It says that this aim is not to be interpreted in such a way as to prevent steps being taken to effect reform of those councils. Therefore we have in the platform the clearest possible indication that the Labor Party wants a strengthening of the power of the central government, the abolition of this chamber, and the abolition of the upper Houses in the States and of the offices of State Governors.
These are views which the Labor Party is entitled to put before the people of Australia and the people are entitled in their turn to reject them. I am sure everyone in this chamber would agree that they would be rejected if they were put forward in a referendum. It might be asked: Why does the Labor Party want to bring about these changes to the Constitution? If honourable senators look at the published documents of the Labor Party, and in particular to some of the addresses of its present leader and the present Prime Minister of Australia, Mr Whitlam, they will find a fairly clear indication of why the Labor Party finds the present constitutional arrangements in Australia quite unsatisfactory. I can summarise what I am about to quote from a speech by Mr Whitlam by saying that the Labor Party resents the fact that the Constitution represents some fetter on its ability to do whatever it likes to the Australian community.
I want to quote from an address given by Mr Whitlam as long ago as 1957, the Chifley Memorial Lecture. The address is headed ‘The Constitution versus Labor’. That heading in itself is fairly instructive because we see the Constitution set up as an opponent of Labor and therefore something which presumably is to be tackled by it and battled with. Mr Whitlam said in that address:
The Federal Parliament enjoys under the Constitution ample opportunities for redistributing income among Australians and carrying out other superficial and palliative reforms.
He went on to refer to the fact that the Commonwealth Government does have an overwhelming financial power. So we have no concern on the part of Mr Whitlam about the ability of his Government to redistribute income and to carry out general social reforms. He went on to refer to the fact that the Party at that stage was reespousing or reaffirming the socialist faith which it used to have back in the days of Chifley. Mr Whitlam said:
It desires to remould society and the economy, not merely to redistribute wealth among Australians where they are but to guide investment towards the development of the country as a whole, to rationalise and modernise industry and community services so as to provide all Australians with more value for their incomes. Thus Labor has repudiated the North American and Western European roles which its rivals would impose upon it and continues the same role as its sister parties in the United Kingdom and New Zealand.
He went on to refer to something which perhaps is re-occurring now, the frustration and demoralisation in Labor’s ranks. He said:
Much of the frustration, and even demoralisation, in Labor ranks in recent years flows from the fact that the Australian Labor Party, unlike the British and New Zealand Parties, is unable to perform, and therefore finds it useless to promise, its basic policies.
So in 1957 Mr Whitlam suggested that the Constitution had put it beyond the power of the Labor Party to perform. He went on to say:
It has been handicapped, as they were not, by a Constitution framed in such a way as to make it difficult to carry out Labor objectives and interpret in such a way as to make it impossible to carry them out.
In that brief extract I think it is made clear that we have an attitude in the Labor Party which is born of the fact that it sees the Constitution as preventing it from imposing its pattern on the community.
Later in that speech Mr Whitlam made it clear that the Constitution also places substantial fetter on the Labor Government’s power to nationalise industry. In that speech he also asserted the faith of the Labor Party in central government. This, of course, is an area where again there is a difference between senators on this side of the chamber and senators on the other side. Mr Whitlam said:
Only the Commonwealth Parliament has the financial resources and the nation-wide outlook to carry out any of them.
The phrase ‘any of them’ refers to the various reforms he mentioned earlier in his speech. He made one of his usual critical passing references to the States when he said:
The present State boundaries were imposed on Australians a century ago from Westminster. There is no economic reason for preserving them. They merely serve to maintain the domination of the commercial and political interests which are centred in the State capitals.
So we have a general view of the irrelevance of the States, the fact that they are something left over from the past and are not worthy of concern. The interesting omission from that address- the year is significant, 1957- is section 96 of the Constitution as a tool for achieving Labor’s aims. I wish to quote from some later speeches by Mr Whitlam which show that he gradually moved to the realisation that section 96 could be an effective tool. In the speech which I have just quoted he canvassed a number of ways in which Labor could tackle constitutional reform either through ordinary amendment or by using different devices such as State governments referring powers to the Commonwealth. Nowhere does he get down to the field which has now been proved to be the really fertile field for Labor effort in this area, namely, the use of the financial power of the Commonwealth.
In 1 96 1 , about 4 years after the speech which I have quoted, in the Curtin Memorial Lecture which he delivered in Western Australia, the same points were made again. The Federal system was described as a transitional form of government which had been devised for former colonial territories or conquered territories. That is putting a rather contemptuous view of the structure of the Government of this country. I wonder whether Mr Whitlam in his travels overseas, in the United States, Canada and Germany, when he had the opportunity to talk to politicians and civil servants of other federations, put to them the view that they are being governed under some transitional form of government. It is a form of government which seems to have survived with considerable success in the United States for several hundred years.
– Somewhat less than 200 years, to be precise.
– I would hope you would be precise. At the end of that speech we get a hint, which is missing from the first speech, of how the Commonwealth might use its financial power to achieve the end which Mr Whitlam clearly wanted and the end which the Labor Party clearly wanted. He said:
Through its financial hegemony it can create better conditions in transport, housing, education and health. It can create new industries, new communities.
We find Mr Whitlam moving to the idea that the use of financial power is a way to extend the influence of a Federal Labor government. By 1963, at the Federal ALP Conference, we get a far clearer indication that the penny had dropped and that Mr Whitiam had realised that Labor had the use of the finance power to overcome the difficulties which he earlier outlined. He put a paper headed ‘Labor Policies and Commonwealth Powers ‘ to that Conference. In it one finds mention of section 96 on 9 different occasions. Its significance as a means of Labor taking over areas of State jurisdiction is now becoming apparent. We find it mentioned under the headings of Housing, Education, Roads, Rail, Power and Water, Development and Superintendence of the Private Sector. By 1963 Mr Whitlam is talking in terms of using section 96 and the ability to make conditional grants to the States as a means by which the Labor Party could extend its control once it attained office in Canberra.
In more recent times- I move to November 1973- one gets a fairly clear indication that Mr Whitlam no longer sees the Constitution, which gives a clear delineation of functions between the States and the Commonwealth, as something which will stand in his way. I quote from the Sir Robert Garran Memorial Oration which Mr Whitlam gave on 12 November 1973. In a reference to the Constitution, after stressing the constitutional difficulties in the way of a Labor Government, he said:
To balance that seeming pessimism, let me say that a determined Government, a Government clear on what it wants to do for Australia, can find means of living with the Constitution. The Constitution imposes great limitations but the Constitution is not an alibi.
I conclude this part of my speech be reminding the Senate of the speech made by the Prime Minister when the New Zealand Prime Minister visited Australia, and of the envy which Mr Whitlam voiced when he talked of the New Zealand Prime Minister’s control of a single House of Parliament which had control over the whole country. That unitary system of government was clearly the goal that Mr Whitlam saw for himself and for Australia. I think that sets the context for this Government’s use of section 96. Undoubtedly we have a government which is a determined government in that it is determined to achieve its social objectives. It is determined to take over State functions, whatever the Constitution says. It has now realised that it can do so.
When one looks at what the Government has done specifically to try to amend the Constitution, I think it is clear that it has seriously set out to carry out its platform. Although it has not put forward constitutional amendments which would achieve all the objectives which are set out in the platform, it has certainly put forward a series of amendments which go some of the way and which achieve some of those aims.
In May 1974 four Constitution amendments were sought. Prior to that there were the prices and incomes referendums. Clearly they were an attempt to extend significantly Commonwealth power. The four referendums that were dealt with in May 1974 each had an element relevant to that same end. There was an attempt to reduce the separate power and authority of the Senate in the Constitution Alteration (Simultaneous Elections) Bill. That Bill has been put before the Parliament again. Clearly this was an attempt to ensure that the Senate did not have as much chance of being a countervailing power to the House of Representatives. If elections for the Senate were to be held simultaneously with elections for the House of Representatives, clearly there would be less likelihood of the Senate being out of phase with the House of Representatives in the sense of who controls the Senate. The Constitution Alteration (Mode of Altering the Constitution) Bill was intended to make alterations to the Constitution easier. The present requirement of a majority in four States was reduced to a majority in three States. This was an attempt to further Labor’s aim to amend the Constitution readily. The Constitution Alteration (Democratic Elections) referendum was an attempt by the Commonwealth to control the makeup of State Houses of Parliament. The Constitution Alteration (Local Government
Bodies) referendum would have given the Commonwealth direct influence over local government. It would have reproduced section 96, which is the subject of the motion, and applied the same set of rules to local government.
I listened with some interest to Senator Devitt ‘s comments early this afternoon when he lauded the efforts of the Commonwealth in respect of local government. I suggest that he examine the history of the use of section 96 by the Commonwealth with respect to the States and apply the same process to a relationship between the Commonwealth and local authorities. If the same procedures were followed and if the same power were available to the Commonwealth it would attempt to use section 96A, the proposal that it put forward last May, to impose rules and to impose its requirements on local government. If that is not so, there is no need for that Constitution amendment because it is totally unnecessary other than for that purpose. The present situation is that the Commonwealth Government has ample power to grant money to the States for the purposes of local government, and the only difference would have been that the Commonwealth would have been able to impose its conditions directly upon local government. That is getting down to the real crux of the difference between the Opposition and the Government.
I think it is a little strange that it took the ALP as long as it did to get on to the idea that section 96 could be used to solve the real problem that it has, namely, that the Australian people do not want it to change the constitutional structure of Australia. The possibility of using section 96 has been apparent for many years. The High Court of Australia has made it clear on a number of occasions that the ability of the Commonwealth to impose limitations on the States by the use of section 96 is virtually unfettered. I should like to refer briefly to a couple of the cases in which this principle was established. For one thing, they fix a date on which it must have been clear to any Federal government that it had access to this power. For another, they demonstrate the extent of the power which is available to the Commonwealth by using section 96.
I shall refer to a number of cases which were mentioned by Sir Robert Menzies in his book Central Power in the Australian Commonwealth’. He first referred to the case of Victoria v. the Commonwealth. It was reported in 1926, so the date of the case was probably slightly earlier than that. That case involved the Federal Aid Roads Act of 1 926, which gave force to an agreement between the Commonwealth and each of the States. That agreement set out how the States were to go about developing their road systems. What the States did under that agreement was subject to the approval of the Commonwealth. The State of Victoria challenged the validity of that condition and the High Court dismissed the challenge. It really gave it short shrift, notwithstanding the advocacy of Mr Robert Menzies, as he then was. The entire judgment of the court, according to Sir Robert Menzies, was:
The Court is of the opinion that the Federal Aid Roads Act No. 46 of 1 926 is a valid enactment.
It is plainly warranted by the provisions of Section 96 of the Constitution, and not affected by those of Section 99 or any other provision of the Constitution, so that exposition is unnecessary.
The argument put forward in that case was that the Commonwealth simply did not have the power to impose conditions on the States in that matter. It was argued that it was not really a law relating to financial assistance but a law relating to roadmaking and hence beyond the power of the Commonwealth. That argument was simply rejected by the High Court. Later, and more dramatically, after the Second World War, when the Commonwealth endeavoured to establish that it should retain the uniform taxing powers, there was another case called Victoria v. The Commonwealth, reported in 99 Commonwealth Law Reports in 1957. In this instance the condition imposed was that the States were to receive certain grants provided they did not impose their own taxes. The Chief Justice, Sir Owen Dixon, made it completely clear that the Commonwealth has an almost unfettered power to impose conditions. He Stated:
The validity of the legislation was upheld by this Court as authorised by s. 96. This means that the power conferred by that provision is well exercised although ( I ) the State is bound to apply the money specifically to an object that has been denned, (2) the object is outside the powers of the Commonwealth, (3) the payments are left to the discretion of the Commonwealth Minister, (4) the money is provided as the Commonwealth’s contribution to an object for which the State is also to contribute funds. Road-making no doubt may have been conceived as a function of the State so that to provide money for its performance must amount to financial assistance to the State. But only in this way was there assistance ‘.
So the States find themselves in the quite extraordinary position that notwithstanding that the object is outside Commonwealth power completely the Commonwealth can, by making a conditional grant, impose its will upon the States. The clarity of that judgment and the other judgments given in that case are the reason why I am surprised that it took the Prime Minister so long to get on to the real possibilities of section 96.
– What do you mean by that?
– I quoted earlier from various papers delivered by Mr Whitlam ‘in which he dealt with the problems of amendment of the Constitution. He totally failed to indicate the possible use of section 96 to achieve power over areas of State function. One finds only as late as 1963 some indication that he sees that as being a real possibility for a Labor government which is being frustrated by the Constitution.
Let me finish this section of my speech by quoting Mr Justice Fullagar, who put the matter in even simpler and clearer terms. As reported at page 656 of the judgment he said: 1 can see no real reason for limiting in any way the nature of the conditions which may be imposed. It may be said that, if a condition calls for State action, the action must be action of which the State is constitutionally capable. But I can see no reason for otherwise limiting the power to appropriate for payment to a State subject to a condition.
So the position is that since the Second World War we have had in Australia the Commonwealth Government with the preponderance of financial resources and the ability to grant money to the States on whatever terms and conditions it thinks fit. I do not suggest that the Whitlam Government invented section 96 or its use. Indeed, the use of tied grants was common under preceding governments. But the facts are that the present Government has greatly extended the use of the power and has used it as a club instead of an instrument whereby assistance can be given. The comments of State politicians, both Labor and Liberal, make it quite clear that that is not a partisan statement. I was reading earlier today the quite extraordinary opening remarks of Mr Dunstan at the Premiers Conference in June 1974. They indicate the extent to which the State governments, of whatever political complexion, have reached the end of their tether with this Government and regard it as being totally unreasonable. His words, if a little earthy, at least underline the feeling of frustration and difficulty that the States at present have. Mr Dunstan said:
I was a little late for this morning’s meeting because of fog conditions in Canberra. I was circulating above the city for some considerable time. When I came in here and read your speech, Mr Prime Minister, frankly I was a little regretful that I missed an opportunity to do to the Commonwealth from a great height what I then felt like doing.
That is considerably cruder than his Liberal colleagues’ complaints at that same meeting. It puts, in terms which I think everybody in Australia would understand, the anger and fury of the State governments at the financial treatment that has been meted out to them by this Government.
– The State governments were saying the same thing about Mr Gorton. You should read some of the reports of the Premiers Conference in Mr Gorton ‘s time.
- Senator McLaren can speak to this motion if he is of the contrary view. The extraordinary fact is that the remarks I have quoted are those of a Premier who must be regarded as being completely in accord with the social aims and objectives of this Government. Indeed, in his speech he made that clear. So it is all the more telling, because he highlights the fact that in attempting to achieve those aims and objectives the Government has ridden roughshod over the States and made their position quite impossible. I understand that I have very little time left before the Senate will adjourn. I merely say at this stage that if I obtain leave to continue my remarks later I propose to deal with the actual figures which have been thrown up in the last 2 years’ Budget Papers and which indicate that the use of section 96 has expanded enormously under this Government and has reduced the ability of State governments to carry out in any true fashion their constitutional responsibilities. I seek leave to continue my remarks at a later stage.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Senate adjourned at 4.46 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 20 February 1975, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1975/19750220_senate_29_s63/>.