29th Parliament · 1st Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Justin O’Byrne) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
-(Tasmania-Leader of the Government in the Senate)- I inform the Senate that the Minister for Foreign Affairs Senator Willesee is attending the Economic and Social Council for Asia and the Pacific Conference in New Delhi as leader of the Australian delegation and will later attend the Commonwealth Development Ministers Conference in London. He is expected to return to Australia on 14 March. During his absence the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) will act as Minister for Foreign Affairs. I will represent the Acting Minister for Foreign Affairs in the Senate and also those Ministers normally represented by Senator Willesee.
I also inform the Senate that the Minister for the Envoronment and Conservation (Dr Cass) is attending the South Pacific Conference on National Parks and Reserves in New Zealand and will be absent from Australia until 27 February. During his absence the Minister for Health (Dr Everingham) will act as the Minister for the Environment and Conservation.
– I give notice that on the next day of sitting, I shall move:
That, unless otherwise ordered, the sessional order relating to the times of meeting of the Senate be varied as follows:
1 ) That on Thursday, 27 February 1975, the Senate shall sit from 10.30 a.m. to I p.m., from 2.15 p.m. to 6 p.m., and from 8 p.m. to 10.30 p.m.
That General Business take precedence of Government Business at 8 p.m. on that day.
That, unless otherwise ordered, the sessional order relating to the adjournment of the Senate shall have effect at 10.30 p.m. on that day.
-Does the Leader of the Government in the Senate agree with the Prime Minister’s remark at the Tasmanian Australian
Labor Party State Conference that it is ‘garbage’ to blame tariff cuts for unemployment that exists in the textile industry?
– I dare say it is a matter of personal choice as to what adjective one uses in describing any particular situation. For myself, I would believe that the substance of what the Prime Minister said is quite true. The evidence supports it. The fact is that other factors have been principally the cause of unemployment at the present time in the community. Tariffs are certainly a factor in certain industries in certain areas, and that is as much as could be said; but unemployment caused by tariff cuts represents perhaps only one-fifteenth or one-eighteenth of the total unemployment. The Prime Minister emphasised the need for restraint in wage claims by the trade union movement. It has been known for many years that a very high proportion of people employed in the textile industry are females. Over the past 12 months there has been a quite dramatic increase in female wages and of course this has affected the textile industry. That was the point of the comment that the Prime Minister made. In view of the question, I would in turn again invite the Opposition, as I have done in the past, to declare its position at some time shortly on tariffs and tell the people of Australia whether it intends to restore them.
– I direct my question to the Minister representing the AttorneyGeneral. By way of preface I refer to earlier action I took by which I was able to ensure a higher staff intake at the Department of Labor and Immigration in Sydney to take up the backlog of citizenship applications. I have the impression that the absence of a special detail of the Commonwealth Police Force to handle field investigations of citizenship applications is now contributing to the current backlog. Is there a possibility of establishing a special detail or of expanding the force to break this logjam?
– I am instructed that the backlog of citizenship aplications would not be caused by any delay on the part of the Commonwealth Police Force. That force responds to requests by the Department of Labor and Immigration for character checks of applicants but there would be not more than two or three weeks delay at any time in carrying out these checks. Field inspections are not undertaken unless a particular case calls for further checks following an adverse report being disclosed in Commonwealth Police Force records.
-My question is addressed to the Minister for Manufacturing Industry. I refer to the Prime Minister’s assertion that it is garbage to say that Australia’s record unemployment is the result of tariff cuts, and also to the reaction this has brought from some of the unions he continues to bash. Can the Minister say how many workers in the textile and associated industries have lost their jobs as a direct result of increased competition from imported goods? Has a survey been carried out to determine how many job losses in the entire work force can be attributed to tariff cuts? If so, what is the figure? Did the Minister say in a speech to the Textiles Institute’s annual conference this month that import competition at the present level has caused disruption in the industry and has contributed to social problems of some magnitude? How can these statements be reconciled with the Prime Minister’s talk of garbage?
-Before replying to the honourable senator I would like to express my gratification at his stand as defender of the unions and his displeasure at any suggestion that there might be such a thing as union bashing. This is a new note for us to hear from the Opposition and we can only welcome it. As to what I said to a gathering of textile manufacturers and the alleged conflict between what I said then and the comments of the Prime Minister in Tasmania the other day, I think the honourable senator is over simplifying both what I said and what the Prime Minister said. None of us would suggest that what has been done about tariffs has nothing to do with unemployment in the textile industry. I would be the last to suggest that the tariff has had nothing to do with the difficulties in the textile industry. I think a close reading of what the Prime Minister said would indicate that he was not suggesting either that the tariff cuts had nothing to do with the situation of the textile industry. If honourable senators are genuinely interested, as they claim to be, in the solution of this country’s present troubles they would not be attacking the Prime Minister for saying something about restraint in wage claims which we are led to believe is part of their policy. One may ask oneself, whether honourable senators opposite are genuinely interested in a solution of this country’s problems or whether they merely wish to play politics over its difficulties.
– I direct my question to the Minister for the Media. In view of the fact that 1975 is being observed as International Women ‘s Year, I ask the Minister whether there has been any appreciable recognition of this fact on the part of television or cinema interests. Is the Minister prepared to do anything to see that International Women’s Year gets some sort of a go on Australian screens?
-The honourable senator will know that the Australian Government has established a committee to advise the Government on the sorts of activities in which it should engage to assist in the promotion and organisation of International Women’s Year in Australia. The Secretary of my Department, Mr James Oswin, is a member of that committee. He and I and other officers of my Department have been discussing the matter in recent times. Film Australia, the film production unit of the Australian Government, has been commissioned by the Department of Aboriginal Affairs to produce a one-hour in depth television program relating to the activities and outlook of urban Aboriginal women. I understand that the film is to be produced in Adelaide but is intended for wide screening on Australian television. I understand also that the film will be made available for the export market.
– I ask a question of the Leader of the Government in the Senate following the reply he gave to the Leader of the Opposition. Is it not a fact that for many years the pronounced policy of the Australian Labor Party has been high protection for secondary industry in order to create jobs for people in Australia? Is it not a fact that when Mr Whitlam persuaded the Labor Party to cut tariffs unemployment really started, particularly in the clothing industry, as cheap Asian goods were imported because of the lower tariffs, and also in the motor manufacturing industry and other industries?
– It is true that the Australian Labor Party has always stood for the protection of the rights and the jobs of workers. It also stands for the rights and the benefits of the Australian community as a whole. One of the important reasons why this decision was taken was to ensure that the Australian community could benefit from the widening of our trade relations with other countries and that Australian consumers in fact could receive the benefits of imported goods at a time when the supply position in this country was quite desperate as a result of our predecessors’ irresponsible financial policy which we inherited when we took office. If that sounds humorous, I shall come to the second part of Senator Wood’s question. It highlights the point I have just made. The decision to reduce tariffs was made in July 1973. Honourable senators will find, if they look at the figures, that unemployment did not move significantly until July 1 974. They will find that other factors, which this Government predicted late in 1973 and which were the reason why we sought the prices and incomes powers for the Federal Government, contributed mainly to the unemployment in 1974.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Tourism and Recreation: In view of the number of travel agencies which have gone into liquidation over past years, causing distress and loss of finance to consumers and sometimes even leaving tourists stranded in foreign countries, will the Minister advise the Senate what investigations, if any, are carried out to ensure that persons once involved with the administration of those agencies do no re-enter the market? Will the Minister also advise the Senate of the extent of investigations that can be carried out by the Australian Government into private contracts entered into by travel agencies with foreign airline and shipping companies, particularly those which supposedly provide cheap rates?
– I am given to understand that very little investigation is carried out into these matters at this stage, principally because the responsibility for travel agents rests with the States. I am informed that the New South Wales legislature is the only State legislature which has enacted legislation relating to travel agents. I understand that that was introduced only recently. However, the honourable senator will be aware that in 1 972 the Prime Minister, in the Australian Labor Party’s policy speech, undertook to introduce Federal legislation in this respect. I understand that my colleague the Attorney-General is now considering the matter with the Minister for Tourism and Recreation. It is hoped that legislation will be introduced in the near future seeking the Parliament’s approval to giving the Government control over travel agents.
-My question is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Will the Minister inform the Senate whether he has taken up with the Prime Minister the question which I asked him last Wednesday? If he has, is he able to confirm that the Prime Minister misled the people of Australia and the Minister himself misled the Senate by stating that all Premiers had agreed in 1 95 1 upon a convention that the successor to a Senate vacancy should be of the same political party as the man who was being replaced? Is it not a fact that the documents in the custody of the Premier of Western Australia to which the Prime Minister referred were shown to the Prime Minister by the Premier of Western Australia and that those documents do not reveal what the Prime Minister said they revealed? In short, did the Prime Minister make public incomplete and selected documents?
– If my memory serves me correctly, I concluded the answer to that question by saying that if the Prime Minister sees fit to release those documents to the public he will do so. I am not aware of any undertaking that I gave to request the Prime Minister to do so. I would not do that. If I were specifically asked to do it, perhaps I would but I was not asked to do that. I can convey to Senator Greenwood only my understanding of the position, which was that the Prime Minister had indicated his preparedness to look at the documents of the Western Australian Premier but had given no undertaking to make them public. However, if there is a misunderstanding, I will at least convey the question now to the Prime Minister and ask what he proposes to do about it.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Agriculture. Has his attention been drawn to a report which appeared in today’s issue of the ‘Australian Financial Review’ in which the Chairman of the Australian Meat Board, Colonel McArthur, stated that the recent beef contract signed with Russia would not yield attractive prices to Australian beef producers? Has Colonel McArthur in fact entered into a contract which is unprofitable or will the contract be of advantage to Australian producers?
– I have not seen the report and I am not aware that Colonel McArthur has said such a thing. It is true that the Australian Meat Board has entered into a contract to sell 40 000 tonnes of beef to the Soviet Union, with an option on an additional 20 000 tonnes. It would also be true that the prices which have been negotiated reflect the world market position for beef and that is a market which is virtually glutted, so one could assume that the price realised would not be as high as we would like it to be. Whether a loss has been involved I am not prepared to say. The main effect of the contract is that it will keep that amount of beef flowing right through the industry in this country, not only as far as the producer is concerned, but also as far as the slaughtering works and processing works are concerned. I believe that that is the real significance of the contract and the main benefit to the beef industry. As I indicated in answer to a question the other day, the price negotiated between the Meat Board and the Russian authorities is a private matter between 2 organisations. It is on a commercial basis and is therefore confidential.
– I direct my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Labor and Immigration. It follows the statement by the Prime Minister that he did not want to hear any more garbage about unemployment being caused by tariff cuts. Is this statement backed by those previously employed in the textile, footwear, clothing and other labour intensive industries affected by tariff cuts? Does the Prime Minister’s recent statement mean that the structural assistance scheme which was introduced to compensate those workers declared redundant as a result of tariff cuts will now be abandoned?
– The question which Senator Young asks is substantially the same as that asked by Senator Withers. I do not intend to respond to that part of the question. In respect of the latter part of the question about the assistance schemes and the various forms of payment that the Government has provided, as everybody knows they have been most expansive and they will be kept in operation until the situation has eased, as we have pointed out before.
– My question is directed to Senator Wriedt in his capacity as Minister for Agriculture. Has he seen statements from the Leader of the Australian Country Party, issued in Perth, in which the Leader of the Australian Country Party has asserted that the Australian Country Party’s firm policy is to have majority producer control of statutory marketing boards?
Is that policy consistent with legislation introduced by Country Party Ministers when the Liberal-Country Party Government was in power? If not, does the Country Party have one policy when it is in Government and an opposite policy when it is in Opposition, or are Country Party leaders unable to count?
– I cannot be reading my newspapers too well because I have not seen that one either. It surprises me, if Mr Anthony has been correctly reported, that he should say that. There has been a bone of contention for the last 2 years, particularly under the present Government, as to whether primary producers should have majority representation on these boards and marketing authorities. It was during the time of the previous administration that the principle of minority representation of primary producers on a marketing authority was introduced. That was in the Wool Industry Act of 1972 in respect of the reconstitution of the Wool Corporation. I can well remember the Deputy Leader of the Australian Country Party, either in his second reading speech or in replying to the debate, making it quite clear at the time that primary producers were not to have a majority representation. The present Government, of course, has followed the principle that they should have majority representation if it is desirable but that they should not have majority representation if in the interests of a particular industry this is not desirable. Why Mr Anthony should choose to change his position from the one which presumably he supported in 1972 is up to Mr Anthony to explain.
-My question is directed to the Minister for Manufacturing Industry in his capacity as the representative in this chamber of the Attorney-General and refers to the Corporations and Securities Industry Bill. Has the Minister now read the Corporations and Securities Industry Bill? Does he recall, in answer to a question from myself on 13 February in this chamber, saying:
As Senator Webster has suggested, the reason the Bill has been withdrawn from the Senate notice paper is that the Attorney-General wants the opportunity to study and perhaps redraw it in the light of representations he has had.
Does he also recall, in answer to a question from Senator Greenwood, saying:
I was unaware that the Bill had been introduced into the House of Representatives.
– Order! You are asking a series of questions, Senator Webster. Would you try to put them as briefly as possible.
– It is necessary that I ask these questions, Mr President.
– You should be seeking information and not giving it, Senator Webster.
– I will not recommence the question, Mr President; I will just make these 2 points again and complete the question.
– Oh, start again.
– Honourable senators opposite do not like to hear such a question being asked. Did the Minister say to the Senate:
I am sure that there is no intention on the part of the AttorneyGeneral to rush the Bill through the House of Representatives.
Is the Minister aware that the Bill is in the House of Representatives, that it is to be debated today and that the guillotine will be used to ensure that the Bill is put through the House of Representatives today? Did the Minister inadvertently mislead the Senate in his earlier statements?
-The honourable senator would seem to be reflecting upon the efficiency of the securities industry if he is suggesting that a period of 12 weeks is insufficient for it to prepare its submissions on this Bill to the Government. I remind the honourable senator that the Bill was introduced into this place as long ago as 5 December 1974.
– And you had not read it a week ago.
-That is not the issue. I appreciate, of course, that stockbrokers, like other people, go on holidays during December and perhaps- although they are crying poor mouth- stay on holidays during January. But it is hard to believe that if they are so adversely affected by this Bill they or their lawyers or accountants or other persons briefed on their behalf have not found the time to put their submission to this Government. I also suggest that the honourable senator is reflecting on the competence of his Party colleagues in the other place if he suggests that they are somehow caught unprepared to deal with a Bill which was introduced into their House on 12 December and which, of course, has been available for their study and criticism since 5 December. Perhaps it is suggested that the communication between honourable senators opposite and their counterparts in the other House is so poor that honourable senators opposite were not able to make available to the Liberal members of the House of
Representatives a copy of the Bill which has been available since 5 December, or that members of the House of Representatives have not had the initiative to go to the records office and get a copy of it. As to whether I have read the Bill- yes, I have read it.
In respect of what is happening in the other place today, there is no intention to rush the Bill through the House of Representatives and the honourable senator’s information that the Bill is to be guillotined is, I can assure him, misinformation. There will be no denial of an opportunity for anybody on the Opposition side in the House of Representatives to debate the Bill if he wishes to do so. The Bill will not be concluded today; in fact, it is doubtful whether it will be concluded in this period of sittings. The Bill will come here then and there will be ample opportunity for it to be debated here. I would suggest that if the honourable senator and Senator Greenwood, who has also asked questions on this matter and who is obviously very tetchy today about it, are really concerned that all the views on this matter should be put before the Government, the best service they can do to those who have been lobbying them about this Bill is to suggest to them that they get off their backsides and let the Government have their submissions.
– I ask the PostmasterGeneral whether his attention has been drawn to correspondence from the former New South Wales Minister for Transport, Mr Morris, to the New South Wales Branch of the Amalgamated Postal Workers Union in relation to the travelling post office service of the Australian Post Office. Can the Minister either confirm or refute the implication apparent in the correspondence that agreement has been reached between the Post Office and the New South Wales Government on a timetable for the cessation of this most valuable Post Office service?
– Yes, I have seen the correspondence and it is most misleading. My Department has not and I have not at any time taken any initiative leading to the withdrawal or restriction of the travelling post office service. The Post Office wants the service to continue. The Australian Government recognises the importance of this service to the rural areas of New South Wales. The agreement with the Government of New South Wales under which the service is provided allows for a withdrawal of the service by either party on 12 months notice.
My Department will not request any such withdrawal. On 10 December last I wrote to the then New South Wales Minister for Transport pointing out our objections to any withdrawals. Certainly in our opinion New South Wales should support the continuation of the service.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Attorney-General and refer to the special general meeting of the Law Institute of Victoria held on Friday, 2 1 February 1975, which was the subject of a question to the Minister last Thursday. Is the Minister aware that the meeting was attended by nearly 1000 Victorian solicitors who supported, without dissent, the provision of legal aid for all in need but expressed considerable alarm and opposition to the present expansion of the activities of the Australian Legal Aid Office in Victoria? While noting that other motions considered at the meeting calling for stringent action are still the subject of a postal ballot, I ask: ( 1 ) Is the Minister aware of the strong objections of most Victorian solicitors to the development of a Government service under no statutory authority, operating beyond the constitutional powers of the Commonwealth and under no agreement or arrangement with other legal aid services which have operated effectively in this area for many years? (2) Is the Minister prepared at an early date to introduce legislation to establish an Australian Legal Aid Office with denned limits to its operations and to avoid overlapping with existing legal aid services? (3) Does the Minister propose to bring to completion discussions with the Australian Law Council and its committees so as to establish a co-ordinating body of all legal aid services and committees operating free of the direct and detailed control of the Australian Government?
– I am not aware of what transpired at the special meeting of the Law Institute of Victoria but I am grateful to the honourable senator for bringing it to my attention. I am aware, as I have always been aware, that there are certain imperfections in the system of legal aid that was pioneered by Senator Murphy in the period he was AttorneyGeneral. In fact, just before he ceased to occupy that office I had discussions with him and suggested that there was room for a lot of improvement. He was most receptive to that suggestion, as I am sure will be his successor. I will certainly take up the matter with the present Attorney-General. If Senator Missen could let me have a little more detailed information about what transpired at the meeting of the Law Institute of Victoria after we rise today, I will be happy to convey this information to the Attorney-General and to discuss it with him. The Attorney-General may suggest that Senator Missen should be present at such discussions. I am most anxious, as I am sure the AttorneyGeneral is, to see that any wrinkles or shortcomings in this system are ironed out and that we get the best system of legal aid in this country. To that end I will certainly take note of what Senator Missen has said and see what can be done to improve the situation.
-Has the Minister for Manufacturing Industry seen reports that Nylex Corporation Ltd, one of Australia’s largest plastics groups, claims that it might not be able to achieve what it terms an acceptable return on investment without government aid? Is he aware that the biggest shareholders in Nylex Corporation include Imperial Chemical Industries of Australia Ltd and the Australian Mutual Provident Society? Can he inform the Senate whether there is any Government sympathy for spending public moneys on assisting such large industrial and commercial concerns?
– The Nylex Corporation, along with some other plastic manufacturers, has applied for emergency protection from the Temporary Assistance Authority. My Department has reviewed the application. The matter is now before the Special Minister of State for his decision on whether a reference to the Temporary Assistance Authority will be made.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister for Agriculture, relates to superphosphate. In view of the predictable fall in demand following the rise in price and withdrawal of the bounty on superphosphate, can the Minister give any indication of the number of workers who may become redundant throughout Australia if, as has been the case with the Electrolytic Zinc Company of Australasia in Tasmania, production is delayed for 6 months?
– I have seen no overall figures to show how the temporary fall in demand for superphosphate will affect people employed at superphosphate works. If it is possible to obtain that information, of course it would be more likely to be obtained from my colleague, the Minister for Manufacturing Industry. Insofar as the Electrolytic Zinc works in Tasmania are concerned, it should be borne in mind that the majority of people who have been laid off have been laid off because of the fall in zinc production, not in superphosphate production. I acknowledge the fact that because of the rather strange circumstances- we know that there has been an increase in the price of phosphate coincident with the phasing out of the bounty- farmers purchased very heavily during the last 6 months of last year and now they are stocked up with phosphate at the cheaper price. Consequently they are not ordering at the same level as they would be under normal conditions. If I can obtain from the Department of Manufacturing Industry any figures on the overall position regarding people in employment in the superphosphate industry, I will do so.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Urban and Regional Development. I refer to reports during the weekend which relate to the quality of River Murray water entering South Australia. Is the Minister aware of the criticism made by a member of the Government study team that the growth centre of Albury-Wodonga requires a serious study of the quality of River Murray water entering South Australia? Is the Minister aware also that growers in the Renmark irrigation area are receiving water which is described as being 50 per cent above the tolerable salt level? Will the Government take serious and urgent steps to speed up research inquiries and action to ensure a better quality of water entering South Australia in the Murray system?
– I have seen the reports. Quite a contribution on the reports has been expressed in the Adelaide Press. As has been reported previously to the Senate, there has been a thorough inquiry by the Water Resources Branch of the Department of Urban and Regional Development, by the Department of the Environment and Conservation, by the River Murray Commission and, I believe, by the Snowy Mountains Engineering Corporation to see that there is no deterioration in the water supply as a result of the development of AlburyWodonga. I also saw in the Press during the weekend a report that the responsible Minister in South Australia has taken action to obtain a release of water from Lake Victoria, I believe, to reduce the salinity that is now in the Murray water. The condition of Murray water by the time it reaches South Australia has always been a problem. The honourable senator knows of the battle that South Australian politicians put up for the building of the Chowilla Dam as some solution to this problem. The honourable senator will remember also the opposition we received from certain South Australian senators who are now in Opposition on the question.
– And Victorian senators.
-And Victorian senators, because they wanted to build the Dartmouth Dam. This is a big problem. It is receiving considerable attention from the Government. The responsible South Australian Minister has sought the release of other water for the purpose of making Murray River water at least usable when it reaches South Australia.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Labor and Immigration. Can the Minister say what action, if any, the Government is taking to improve apprenticeship opportunities in Australian Government establishments?
– Last year the Minister for Labor and Immigration announced some new schemes to attract more apprentices into the Australian Government service. As a result of benefits which were introduced and which are quite new in Australia, the number of apprentices in every department was increased. As a result of the special subsidies a total of 500 more apprentices were brought into training. In addition, the Minister has taken the matter up with the State Ministers concerned, seeking support for a scheme which, it is hoped, will result in the employment of an additional 500 apprentices, which of course will add to the Australian skilled work force. As a result completely of new measures which have been introduced by the Minister- last week I mentioned not only apprenticeships but also management trainingemployment of something like 1 500 new apprentices has been gained. Mr Clyde Cameron certainly has paved some new ground.
– My question is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Did the decision of the Government to cut tariffs overall by 25 per cent have the support of any recommendation of the Tariff Board, the Industries Assistance Commission or any other authority? If so, which authority supported it? Is this a case where, in the terms of Dr Cairns last night when referring to the majority of Government decisions, the Government was flying by the seat of its pants? Does the Minister acknowledge that the reduction of tariffs and excessive costs have grossly intensified unemployment particularly in the textiles industry in Launcestion where the Prime Minister was speaking at the weekend? Is it not merely garbage for the Prime Minister to suggest that the 2 factors did not operate to create unparelleled unemployment in Launceston?
– I am not prone to using strong words like ‘garbage’ that Senator Wright uses so I will find simpler words with which to frame my answer. The honourable senator asked me specifically on what advice the Government acted in respect of the decision on the 25 per cent tariff cut and referred to the Industries Assistance Commission. Of course, the IAC would barely have been operating then and it was not the role of the Tariff Board, nor is it the role of the IAC now, to make recommendations of that nature to the Government. The IAC makes recommendations on specific references from the Government pertaining to particular industries. Any decision to make a major across the board cut in tariffs or to raise them again must be a matter of Government policy, which I am sure Senator Wright realises in asking the question. Naturally the Government would have to take advice, and did take advice on this occasion, from the Treasury and other government departments which it must do in order to make an overall judgment. It is not the role of the IAC to do that. It is a policy decision only.
Insofar as the effect on Launcestion is concerned I indicated earlier that areas and industries in Australia have been affected by the cut, and Launcestion is one of those areas. It should also be said that no government in the history of this country has looked after people who have been displaced from indstry as much as this Government has done with structural adjustment payments. Even if Senator Wright has forgotten I am quite sure that the people who have been displaced in Launcestion have not forgotten.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Transport: How much is the Australian Government committed to providing funds for specified road hazards throughout Australia under the Minor Traffic Engineering and Road Safety Improvements category of the Roads Grant Act 1 974, known in short as the Miters scheme? Has the scheme yet been implemented? If so, how much has been provided to South Australia for these purposes?
-A total of more than $30m has been allocated for works under this scheme. More than $4m has been allocated to South Australia, of which I think a third already has been spent. This is one of the initiatives which Mr Charles Jones took to assist the States in providing some road hazard remedies such as crossing lights, pedestrian crossings and in some cases flashing lights at railway crossings. This smaller scheme has proved very successful. As a matter of fact, a large part of the moneys already has been expended in co-operation with the States on specified hazardous conditions. I understand that Mr Charles Jones already has informed members of Parliament of the sort of projects which have been either completed or approved in their respective electorates.
– I draw the attention of the Senate to the presence in the gallery of a Canadian advisory commission led by Senator the Honourable G. J. Mcilraith, P.C., Q.C. The commission is visiting Australia in the course of its inquiry on parliamentary accommodation and facilities. On behalf of all honourable senators I extend a most cordial welcome to all members of the commission and trust that their visit to Canberra is both rewarding and enjoyable.
Honourable Senators- Hear, hear!
– Speaking of accommodation, I address a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Services and Property. Will he as soon as practicable inform the Senate whether it is a fact that the tenants of the new Australian Government owned Hobart Trades Hall are representatives of unaffiliated unions often referred to in Tasmania as left wing or anti-Harradine unions who are not allowed in the new Trades Hall? When did the tenancies commence? On what basis are rentals being charged, and which firm or company acted for the unions which have obtained these tenancies from the Department of Services and Property?
– There is a question on the notice paper in Senator Marriott’s name concerning the premises of the Hobart Trades Hall.
– That relates only to purchase, not rental.
-I am aware of that.
– Order! If the question is already on the notice paper -
– It is a similar question. Mr President, I am sorry if I misled you. The question on notice is about a matter relating to this subject. There are many things I could tell Senator Marriott about the very place about which he asks the question, but I cannot tell him specifically the answer to the question so I shall refer it to the Minister concerned.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Acting Minister for Foreign Affairs. Has the Government any evidence of danger of possible military action by Indonesia concerning Portuguese Timor? If so, what action has the Government taken already by urgent approach to the Indonesian Government and/or to the United Nations on this matter? Is the Government aware that the people of Portuguese Timor are totally different in race, languages, culture, religious and social customs from the people of Indonesian Timor? Is the Government further aware that there has been continuing conflict, often bitter conflict, between the 2 areas throughout the last 300 years or more? What is the policy of the Government on this matter? How will the Government seek to ensure that the true desires of the people concerned are effectively determined and implemented free of duress?
– It is true that the Government naturally is concerned at reports of possible military activity in Timor. Of course we also welcome the denial by the Indonesian Defence Minister- I think only yesterday- that there was any intention on the part of Indonesia to move militarily into this area. The Australian Government’s position simply is very much the same as that of our predecessors, that is, we would like to see a great deal of self determination for the people of Timor, and naturally we would regret any moves to hamper that development in the future. I understand that the head of the political section of our Embassy in Jakarta will be going to Timor in the next few days to report to the Government on the position. Our new ambassador will also be having discussions in Jakarta shortly with the Indonesian authorities. I am not aware of any other information I can give the honourable senator, but I think what I have given covers the Government’s position under the present circumstances.
– I ask the Minister for the Media whether it is true that from midnight next Friday there will be full colour transmission of television in Australia. Does the Minister expect any problems in regard to stations providing a colour service throughout Australia? If some stations are experiencing delays in transmitting in colour when does he expect that they will be able to give this service?
-The honourable senator will remember that early in 1971 the previous Government determined that colour television would be introduced in 1974. When this Government came to office and I was appointed Minister for the Media, I reviewed the previous arrangements and determined that colour television should be introduced officially in Australia as from 1 March 1975. I must say that there were arrangements under the previous Government’s program whereby country areas of Australia would not have colour introduced until some 2 years later. As a result of negotiations between me and my colleague Senator Bishop, the Postmaster-General, and officers of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board and the Postmaster-General’s Department, we have been able to bring forward the date for the implementation of colour in the rural areas of Australia to 1 March 1975 except for one or two areas that I will mention shortly. All national stations and their translators will transmit in colour from 1 March and all but about 5 commercial stations also will be transmitting in colour. The commercial television stations which will not be transmitting in colour are those at Broken Hill, Mildura, Bunbury, another station in the southwestern region of Western Australia- I think it is known as the southern agricultural station in Western Australia- and, of course, unfortunately Darwin, as a result of cyclone Tracy occurring on Christmas Day. I understand that the Bunbury station will commence colour transmissions some time early in March and I hope that the Mount Isa station and the southern agricultural station in Western Australia will be able to transmit in colour late in March. I am not certain of the date for the other stations.
I must take advantage of this opportunity to pay a great compliment to the officers of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board, the Australian Broadcasting Commission, the Australian Post Office and my Department for the concerted efforts they have put in to bring colour television to a vast section of the Australian continent. It has been a very co-operative venture on the part of those Government departments and their officers, combined of course with the commercial television stations and the electronics industry.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Agriculture. The Premier of Queensland, Mr Bjelke-Petersen, in a newspaper report in the columns of the Brisbane Courier-Mail’ has claimed that currency revaluations by the Australian Government have caused an $800m loss to Australian farmers.
– Hear, hear!
– Will the Minister detail to the Senate the facts of the situation, particularly for the benefit of the honourable senator who interjected?
-I did see the report of the statement by the Queensland Premier. It was one of those dangerously simplistic statements which people read and accept as some sort of truth. He referred to a 20 per cent change between the Australian and the United States dollar but the matter cannot be considered in those terms. One must take the weighted average of the changes in the currency alignment with all our trading partners So far as Australia is concerned, under this Government it is currently 6 per cent. To single out one country and say that on that basis therefore the exporters of this country have lost so much, is as false as for a government to claim that it has given to the exporters X amount of dollars simply because it has devalued the currency. These sorts of statements are misleading, especially to rural people who very often are under the impression that these matters in some way militate against their interests. They do not and they will not in the future.
-I ask the Minister representing the Attorney-General: What is the normal practice or procedure of the Commonwealth Police when they receive some complaint or information which involves a possible breach of a State law?
– I am unaware of the practice of the Commonwealth Police on such an occasion. I hope there is fairly close co-operation between the police forces of the various States and the Commonwealth Police, especially in cases, which must occur frequently, of overlapping jurisdiction. For example, I understand that there was a recent case which the New South Wales police were called upon to investigate. It looked like a common or garden variety burglary. But I am told it had overtones involving a possible conspiracy by Federal politicians. I imagine that this naturally would attract the attention of the Commonwealth Police. Even though I am not able to give a complete statement on the practice of the Commonwealth Police, I can envisage an occasion on which there would be a role for the Commonwealth Police in a case which, on the face of it, appeared to be purely a State crime.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Prime Minister. Is it a fact that the royal commission to be conducted by Mr Justice Hope into, among other things, the purpose, function, administration and staffing of Australian security services will commence in Sydney on 5 March 1975? Are the terms of reference sufficiently broad to enable the commission to inquire into and report upon the relationship, purpose, extent and influence on the Australian agencies of foreign security agencies in Australia, particularly the publicly discredited American agency known as the Central Intelligence Agency or, in short, the CIA? If they are not, I ask the Minister to commend to the Prime Minister my suggestion of expanding the commission’s scope for the purpose mentioned.
-I can only indicate that I shall refer the request to the Prime Minister.
-Has the Minister for Manufacturing Industry noted the published figures which show a substantial decline in important sectors of manufacturing industry in that 1 1 out of 12 indicators show a heavy fall in both output and demand? The only area which is showing an increase is the consumption of beer. Does the Minister, through his Government, have any plans of any consequence to assist Australia ‘s recovery, help manufacturing industry and reduce unemployment substantially?
– It is true that this morning’s Press contains news of preliminary production statistics for the month of January which show falls in production across the board- as I think the present expression has it. The fall is due largely to seasonal factors, including the summer closedown of factories, and the effects of the New South Wales power dispute. To assess the trend in production one normally would refer to the seasonally adjusted figures; but on this occasion they underestimate production because the introduction of 4 weeks annual leave changed the previous seasonal picture. I conclude that while factory production fell off considerably in January we must await the February figures to gain an accurate indication of the trend. What the Government is doing to arrest this trend has been well publicised and almost universally approved. We have acted to restrain imports and to maintain production in the more severely affected industries such as textiles and motor vehicles. As far as the latter is concerned, I am pleased to report that on the latest information I have there is an indication of an upturn in the sales of locally manufactured motor vehicles.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. Are Aborigines of mixed marriages, whether legal or de facto, entitled to assistance from the Aboriginal Loans Commission?
– The answer is yes.
– My question is addressed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Does the Government propose to follow the recent suggestion by Mr Short of the Federated Ironworkers Association and have talks with union leaders so that the Government can put to the unions Mr Whitlam ‘s view that wage increases are the primary cause of inflation? If it does not propose to do that, how does the Government propose to obtain wage restraint from individual unions which are clearly contemptuous of wage restraint and which are not, as Mr Short pointed out recently, bound by decisions of the Australian Council of Trade Unions on wage issues?
-I do not know that I heard the first part of the question correctly. I take it that Mr Short is suggesting that the Government should have discussions with the trade union movement on wage restraint?
– No, with individual union leaders.
– I am not aware that Mr Short has made that statement so I cannot comment on that part of the question. As to the second part of the question, I can indicate that the Government is supporting the principle of indexation, which is currently before the Arbitration Commission, as the only avenue available to it at the present time to exercise any restraint over wages and incomes. The Prime Minister has on numerous occasions indicated his concern at this factor. Naturally, the Government will abide by the Arbitration Commission’s finding. Nevertheless, the Government does support the principle of indexation.
-Mr President, I take this opportunity of indicating that in reply to a question asked by Senator Greenwood earlier today I said that to the best of my memory I had not undertaken last week to refer a matter to the Prime Minister. I have had a chance to consult Hansard and I did give that undertaking. I can assure the honourable senator that the matter will be expedited without delay.
– My question is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Does the Minister agree with the Prime Minister’s description of members of the Opposition as thugs and wreckers because, to quote the Prime Minister, ‘they are out to destroy us by any means they can’? Did not the Prime Minister and members of the present Government set out to destroy and obstruct the former Government and to defeat or amend legislation to which they were opposed? Would members of the present Government then have qualified equally, according to the Prime Minister’s own definition, as thugs and wreckers? Do not the Prime Minister’s immoderate attacks on members of his own Party as well as on members of the Opposition for daring to question or oppose actions of the Government indicate that the Prime Minister is developing a form of megalomania?
-I indicated earlier that choice of words is a matter for the individual and I am not going to comment on the fact that one of my colleagues, even if he is the Prime Minister, chooses to express himself in certain terms. That is his business. But one thing I will say in reply to Senator Sim is that without a doubt Mr Whitlam is establishing himself as the greatest Prime Minister this country has ever seen. I would suggest that if the Opposition has any chance whatsoever of doing things which I know are in its mind, it will need to get somebody to match him, but that will not be possible.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Treasurer. I draw to the Minister’s attention the actions of Ampol Petroleum Limited, an Australian company, in seeking a petrol price rise through the Prices Justification Tribunal, a body constituted by the Labor Government to hear applications for increases in prices. Has the Minister been acquainted with reports that the National Secretary of the Builders Labourers Federation, Mr
-I am not aware of the details of this case. To be quite frank, it is the first time I have been made aware of the problem that exists. I will have to refer the question to the appropriate Minister.
– Pursuant to section 29 of the Dairy Produce Export Control Act 1924-73 and the Dairy Produce Sales Promotion Act 1958-73, I present the annual report of the Australian Dairy Produce Board for the year ended 30 June 1 974.
Senator WHEELDON (Western AustraliaMinister for Repatriation and Compensation)For the information of honourable senators, I present a Green Paper entitled ‘A Review of Australia’s Customs Valuation System’, prepared by the interdepartmental committee established by the Government in July 1973 to examine and report upon the desirability of Australia adopting the Brussels definition of value for customs purposes.
Senator WHEELDON (Western AustraliaMinister for Repatriation and Compensation)For the information of honourable senators, I present the report of the Computer Services Planning Committee on the provision of computing facilities and systems for health services in the Australian Capital Territory.
Senator BISHOP (South AustraliaPostmasterGeneral) For the information of honourable senators, I present the first report in 2 volumes of the National Population Inquiry entitled ‘Population in Australia- A Demographic Analysis and Projection’.
I seek leave to continue my remarks at a later date.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
– In accordance with the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act 1969-1974, 1 present the report of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works relating to the following proposed work:
Central Hospital Services Complex- Stage 2- Australian Capital Territory.
Also in accordance with the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act 1969-1974, I present the 37th general report and the 38th general report of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works.
Ordered that the reports be printed.
Motion (by Senator Wriedt)- by leaveagreed to:
That Senator Willesee be granted leave of absence for one month on account of absence overseas on parliamentary business.
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 seek leave to have the second reading speech incorporated in Hansard.
-Is leave granted? There being no dissent, leave is granted. (The speech read as follows)-
One of the specific platforms of policy on which this Government was elected to powerand re-elected- is that we would expand the activities of AIDC to enable it to do its job more effectively. This Bill and the National Investment Fund Bill seek to give effect to this mandate. The AIDC was set up by a previous government to help finance the development and growth of Australian private enterprises in the mineral and manufacturing sectors and to secure Australian participation in the ownership and control of Australian industry. These Bills, which are now being introduced for the fourth time, are designed to remove certain unnecessary restrictions on AIDC’s operations contained in existing legislation and to increase the ability of the AIDC to assist investment and employment in the private sector, and to facilitate ownership and control by Australians of our industries.
At no time in recent history has there been a greater need in Australian for the kind of development financing that these Bills will make possible. There is a vital need to revive private investment and create employment opportunities in the private sector. While AIDC’s contribution in the short term can necessarily only be a limited one, it can, if it is allowed to function effectively, give an important lead to investment in the vast number of potential developments which are crying out for funds today. It is strange indeed that the Opposition has prevented the Government, for a period of 18 months, from implementing policies for promoting sound industrial development and expansion in the private sector and for facilitating Australian ownership of Australian industries.
The Bills were first introduced in the House of Representatives on 30 August 1 973 and passed to the Senate in October where they were referred to the Senate Select Committee on Foreign Ownership and Control for inquiry and report. The Committee did an excellent job and while, through a series of unfortunate circumstances, it was not able to present its report, its public hearings cleared away many of the misconceptions which surrounded this legislation. In April 1974 the Government, anxious to proceed with this important legislation, re-introduced the Bills but they were again rejected by the Senate. On 16 July 1974 the Government re-introduced the Bills for the third time in a substantially amended form. Once more the Senate rejected them.
The Bills introduced today are in exactly the same form in which they were rejected by the Senate on 13 August 1974. The Bills are the result of detailed study and refinement by Government and private business experts and incorporate amendments flowing from the hearings of the Senate Committee and from discussions with the Opposition. The Bills have been extensively discussed and debated and no substantial objections to them were raised. The Government has re-introduced the Bills, therefore, in the full expectation that they will receive a quick passage.
Let me remind the Senate of the main features of the proposed legislation and its particular objectives.
Fundamentally, the provisions of these Bills retain completely the original character of AIDC as a business enterprise run by businessmen. The AIDC Board includes some of the leaders of Australian business, most of them appointed by the previous government and reappointed by the present Government. The Bills continue to provide for the AIDC to run on sound economic lines, but directed towards nationally desirable industry and resources development and towards helping to give Australian companies the financial strength to be able to share rather more in the ownership and control.
A major change in AIDC ‘s functions proposed in the Australian Industry Development Corporation Bill is to make the securing of maximum practical Australian ownership and control of industry an equal primary function of AIDC along with financing industry development. Practically every Australian proclaims these as desirable objectives. But the simple fact is that the AIDC, in pursuing these objectives, is unduly and unnecessarily hindered by many unrealistic legislative restrictions and anomalies which operate in practice in ways which certainly could never have been intended by the Government which introduced the original AIDC legislation.
A major objective of the Australian Industry Development Corporation Bill is to remove these unnecessary hindrances.
Let me instance just a few examples.
Under its present law AIDC, because it is limited to financing manufacturing and mining companies, could finance the construction of a mine railway if it is to be owned by the mining company itself but not if it is to be owned and run by a separate specialist company. The same is true of any other ancillary activity.
Again, AIDC is at times unable to provide as much finance as a project needs because to do so might put AIDC in a position where it could be said to be able to exercise control. Australian Industry Development Corporation cannot now use its project funds to participate in a joint venture because each member of a joint venture, no matter how small his participation, is technically a ‘principal’ in his own right and is in full ‘control ‘ of his percentage of the venture.
The Australian Industry Development Corporation is currently bound to source its borrowings principally outside Australia regardless of whether this is good or bad for the Australian economy at the time. So when the requirements of monetary policy make it desirable to restrict or forbid overseas borrowings, AIDC is still bound by this rule.
The Australian Industry Development Corporation, which was set up for the declared intention of promoting Australian ownership and control, is not allowed to use its project funds to buy back existing foreign owned shares in enterprises in Australia.
Anomalies and restrictions of the kind I have mentioned are, of course, illogical and unnecessary. It is understandable that their effects may not have been foreseen when the original AIDC legislation was drafted. But once they had emerged in practical operating experience, any responsible government that was serious about the role and objectives for which AIDC was founded would have had to take steps to correct them.
There has been much talk about AIDC being put in a privileged position by these Bills. However, the matters about which there has been most discussion are proposals, mentioned in connection with AIDC, but not contained in the Bills. These proposals, if decided upon by the Government, would require separate legislation when they would be subject to the specific and detailed examination of the Parliament.
It should also be said in this context that no company in Australia, local or foreign, is subject to the sort of restrictions under which AIDC has to operate. The Australian Industry Development Corporation operates and will still have to operate within the framework of specific statutory functions and policy guidelines. The fact that AIDC must confine itself to a specific sphere of nationally important industrial development, while fundamental to AIDC’s purpose and therefore unavoidable, is itself, of course, a constraint on its business activities which does not apply to other private businesses. Even with the passage of the currrent Bills the Corporation will remain relatively restricted by comparison with private businesses. However, the proposed legislation would give AIDC a little more of the flexibility which ordinary companies enjoy.
I turn now to a second major objective of the Australian Industry Development Corporation Bill. This is the setting up of machinery whereby the Government itself could provide funds on a case by case basis for particular projects, assessed as being important in the national interest, which the companies concerned are unable to handle with their own resources together with such assistance, if any, as AIDC may be able to give.
There is no intention of changing the basic principle in the concept of AIDC that it should operate as a business. But in this day and age it is not difficult to envisage that there will certainly be potential developments, within AIDC’s functions, and having obvious long term economic or social benefits to the nation, but which AIDC on a business judgment could not afford to help. For example, the investment funds required may simply be too big for AIDC.
The ‘national interest’ provisions of the Australian Industry Development Corporation Bill are a means by which the Government itself could assist in such cases, either by providing funds or giving guarantees which would enable AIDC to provide funds on its own business judgment. Such AIDC national interest cases would, however, require not only a feasibility report by AIDC and consideration by a Government national interest committee but would also require specific legislation passed by both Houses of Parliament, even where no more than a Government guarantee was involved and Government funds may never be needed.
These provisions were at first criticised as backdoor nationalisation’. In fact, anything less like stealthy government intrusion in industry or less subject to parliamentary and public scrutiny and control, is difficult to imagine. I am sure this is now well and truly understood. They are a means by which governments, with parliamentary approval, can assist nationally important private sector industrial development through AIDC where only the Government is able and willing to provide the balance of the investment funds required.
The third, and last, major feature of the Bills is the establishment of the National Investment Fund. The National Investment Fund would at once provide an additional source of finance for AIDC’s functions, and a means by which the Australian public, protected by an independent supervisory council, could invest in successful AIDC projects.
The Fund would issue ‘national investment bonds’ which would be readily and cheaply transferable from one investor to another. The Fund would also be authorised to raise money in competition with endowment insurance and certain types of public superannuation funds.
If AIDC is to fulfil its original role and be able to contribute equity as well as loan capital for projects, where that is the project’s need, financial prudence necessitates that AIDC has access to equity funds of the kind that national investment bonds issued by the National Investment Fund could provide. Again, AIDC must have a reasonable access to local funds for its advances of loan money to projects. Not every meritorious project needing AIDC finance can afford to borrow only from foreign-sourced funds with attendant foreign exchange fluctuation risks.
Hopefully, the National Investment Funds would give AIDC a limited but useful access to domestic capital, to supplement its loan raisings overseas and reduce its dependence on foreign currency sources. The Australian Industry Development Corporation should not be in an underprivileged position in competing for local savings with other institutions. The Australian Industry Development Corporation obviously cannot do its job to much effect if, where it has to rely on local funds, it is no more than a source of high cost finances at the highest end of the spectrum.
In addition, the Fund could be an excellent mechanism through which foreign investors, interested in investing in Australia but not seeking voting rights, could participate in Australian investments without diminishing the degree of Australian control in areas where that might be an important policy consideration.
In summary, the measures contained in these Bills, now before the Parliament in unchanged form for the second time, will create the means for AIDC, or the Government through AIDC, to help provide the financial requirements of the private sector in industry development of importance to the Australian economy. They will contribute to financing the growth of Australianowned companies. They will help Australian companies to be able to take and hold a bigger share of the ownership and control in partnerships and joint ventures with companies from overseas.
At no time in recent history has there been a greater need in Australia of a kind of development financing that these Bills will make possible. I hope that, on this occasion, the Australian Industry Development Corporation Bill and National Investment Fund Bill will be accepted as an essential step in permitting the AIDC to carry out its nationally important role. Opposition to the proposals contained in the Bills can only be read as a vote against what practically every Australian proclaims as desirable objectives.
I ask, and sincerely hope, that the Senate will on this occasion allow national considerations to prevail over any sectional differences and, on serious and impartial reflection, give unqualified support to the AIDC proposals. They have been amended in a spirit of co-operation and compromise to try and accommodate all points of view. This is a matter warranting universal support in a genuine national endeavour.
I commend the Bills to honourable senators.
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 Wriedt) read a first time.
– 1 move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The details of this Bill are contained in the second reading speech of the Australian Industry Development Corporation Bill which has just been incorporated.
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 Wriedt) read a first time.
– I move:
I seek leave to have the second reading speech incorporated in Hansard.
-Is leave granted? There being no dissent, leave is granted. (The speech read as follows)-
Honourable senators will recall that the former Treasurer and I announced on 4 December 1974 that the Australian Government would seek an initial appropriation of $20m in these sittings to augment the resources of the
Commonwealth Development Bank of Australia to enable the Bank to broaden its lending to seriously affected beef producers. The purpose of this Bill is to appropriate $20m for lending to the Bank. Under the Commonwealth Banks Act the funds would be advanced to the Bank as required and on terms and conditions to be agreed between the Treasurer and the Board of the Commonwealth Banking Corporation.
As honourable senators will be well aware, the Government has taken a number of measures over recent months to increase bank liquidity and requested banks to increase their rate of lending. Trading banks have been responding accordingly and in the 3 months to 8 January 1975 the rate of new trading bank lending approvals more than doubled that for the previous 3 months. Information available suggests that the rural sector is sharing in the general increase in lending. Trading banks are now generally in a position to meet demand from beef producers able to meet normal commercial banking criteria. However, the sharp decline in cattle prices meant that a number of specialised beef producers would be unable to satisfy the normal borrowing criteria of the trading banks.
The Development Bank in normal circumstances does not provide carry-on finance but the Board of the Corporation has welcomed the Government’s initiative and agreed that, in the case of cattle producers whose income is wholly or preponderantly derived from cattle, the Bank would stand ready to provide assistance by way of medium or long term loans to those producers whose capital structures have been seriously affected by recent trends in cattle prices but who, in the opinion of the Bank, still remain viable. In accordance with its banking charter the Development Bank would have regard primarily to the prospects of the applicant becoming or continuing to be, successful rather than the value of the security available. The funds so provided by the Bank to producers would, in the normal course, flow back to the traditional carry-on lenders to the industry enabling them to provide greater assistance to their clients.
The former Treasurer and I on 4 December 1974 stated that the Development Bank stood ready to provide additional loans to eligible cattle producers immediately, in anticipation of the appropriation being approved by Parliament. In line with this policy the Development Bank had already approved loans of $2.4m up to 5 February 1975 to assist specialist beef producers. According to the Development Bank the eastern mainland States are obtaining the bulk of approvals, and Queensland has had more money approved than any other State. Furthermore, where applications have been received from persons involved in the industry, but who cannot be accepted as specialist beef producers, the Development Bank is looking for ways to assist within its normal policy and a further $ 1.5m has been made available to these producers. In addition, over the past 2 months, the Development Bank has deferred loan repayments aggregating nearly $800,000 on accounts of existing beef producer borrowers. In a little over 2 months therefore the Development Bank has provided direct or indirect assistance to beef producers totalling $4.7m.
Honourable senators will recall that the augmentation of the Bank’s resources was but one of a series of measures designed to assist the industry in its present difficulties. Other measures, such as negotiations aimed at re-opening and developing overseas markets, are being pursued as a matter of urgency in conjunction with the increased Development Bank activity referred to above. In addition, as previously announced, the Government has the beef situation under close scrutiny and stands ready to review the needs for further assistance and provide additional funds if necessary. I commend the Bill to honourable senators.
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 Wriedt) read a first time.
– I move:
I seek leave to have the second reading speech incorporated in Hansard.
-Is leave granted? There being no dissent, leave is granted. (The speech read as follows)-
The purpose of the Bill is to establish a statutory authority to administer Australian Government assistance to the arts. The authority will be known as the Australia Council. The Government regards this Bill as an historic development in the promotion of the arts in Australia. It fulfils a long-standing commitment to the arts which the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) proclaimed in the Australian Labor Party’s policy speech in 1972 and which the Government has pursued since coming to office. The Government believes that the formation of an independent Australia Council will inaugurate a new era of vitality and progress in the arts, that creative artists of all kinds will enjoy a new measure of security and status in the community and that the Australian people as a whole will have new and wider opportunities to participate in the arts and enjoy the emotional, spiritual and intellectual rewards which the arts alone can provide. The creation of an independent authority for the arts follows the approach adopted in other countries including Britain, Canada, the United States of America and New Zealand. It takes into account the need for specialised skills and knowledge in the promotion of the arts. At the same time it recognises that a measure of freedom is needed to optimise opportunities for artistic achievement. The Government believes its proposals strike a realistic balance between these 2 requirements.
I can best describe the Government’s broad objectives for the arts by outlining the policies that we intend the new council to follow. These are denned and set out in the Bill. They are consistent with numerous statements on the Government ‘s policy towards the arts which the Prime Minister has made. It will be the first task of the Council to promote excellence in the arts. Next, we want it to provide opportunities for people to practise the arts and for the public to appreciate and enjoy them. We want to promote the general application of the arts in the community and foster the expression of a national identity by means of the arts. We want to uphold the rights of everyone to freedom of artistic expression. We want to promote a knowledge and appreciation of Australian arts in other countries. We want to promote incentives for, and recognition of, achievement in the arts. Finally, we want the new Council to encourage the support of the arts by the States, local governing bodies and other persons and organisations.
The Government believes there has long been a need to restructure and improve government machinery for assistance to the arts if they are to keep pace with the needs and aspirations of a growing population and rising levels of education. Government support for the arts has developed fitfully over the years. The Commonwealth Literary Fund began providing pensions for writers in 1 908, but no programs of assistance for practising writers were developed until the beginning of the Second World War. The Commonwealth Art Advisory Board existed from 1912 but there was little assistance for living Australian artists before the 1970s. It was not until 1967 that the needs of Australian composers were recognised by the Australian Government. All of these bodies were established by administrative decision, and in an ad hoc fashion. All were limited in the assistance they could provide, although the Commonwealth Literary Fund, for example, had developed a number of programs for the assistance of writers and writing, and the other bodies had begun to initiate or to develop new activities.
It was only in 1968 that the Australian Council for the Arts was established to help, primarily, ballet drama and opera. The prime motivator in this development was Dr H. C. Coombs. Dr Coombs had been actively associated with the Australian Elizabethan Theatre Trust in the 1 950s and was a man deeply committed to the encouragment of Australian cultural life and to the recognition of her cultural identity. He was thus very well fitted to undertake the chairmanship of the Council. Again in 1972 he advised the Government and took responsibility for setting up an extended more rational and more democratic system for the funding and development of the arts than had ever been attempted previously. Australia is deeply indebted to him for his outstanding service.
We are particularly fortunate that, at the time of Dr Coombs’ retirement, Professor Peter Karmel was willing to assume the chairmanship of the Council. His wide experience as a distinguished economist and university and public administrator and his long association with programs and enquiries relating to government policy and expenditure will be most valuable in providing sound guidelines for government expenditure in the arts.
Within weeks of the election of the Government the Prime Minister announced interim arrangements to replace the old ad hoc bodies so that support for the arts could be continued, commitments honoured, and the planning of new programs begun. Although there was some public comment about the speed with which these steps were taken, they were in fact dramatically effective. The past year was one of considerable achievement. Government assistance to the arts in 1973-74 was twice that of 1972-73. In 1974-75 assistance to the arts has again been greatly increased. New and important initiatives were taken in almost all areas. A reconstituted Australian Council for the Arts consulted with arts bodies and individuals involved in the arts with a view to developing proposals to put to the
Government for a structure better able to administer government support for the arts. As honourable senators will recall, the Senate was kept informed of the measures being considered and the deliberations that were taking place. On 24 May 1973 the interim report of the Australian Council for the Arts on the proposed statutory authority was tabled, and on 13 November 1973 the Council ‘s final report was tabled.
The broad areas of the arts that the new Council will encompass are set out in the Bill. So too are the functions the Council will have to meet, the Government’s objectives for the arts and the powers the Government believes are necessary to achieve those objectives. The Council will be a body corporate consisting of not fewer than 1 8 and not more than 24 members drawn from a broad range of artistic, community and related government interests. The Council will be responsible to the Minister and to the Parliament for the conduct of its affairs.
In matters of staff and finance it will have the widest freedom of operation compatible with considerations of public accountability. It will engage its own staff and determine their terms and conditions subject to the approval of the Public Service Board. It will administer its own financial affairs and operate its own bank accounts subject to normal requirements of financial accountability and the presentation of reports to Parliament. The bulk of the day to day work, however, will be carried out by a number of specialised boards which will be responsible for decisions relating to expenditure within their own budgets and for developing professional services geared to their needs. Subject to the directions of the Minister, the Council will be required to delegate functions and powers to the boards, and each board will be responsible for developing policies in its own area of the arts. Membership of the boards will be broadly based. They will include a wide range of appropriate interests and a majority of artists or others closely involved in the arts.
It is our intention that government support for the arts should not become the province of entrenched interests and that it should serve, in the widest possible way, the artistic needs and aspirations of the Australian community. Provision has been made, therefore, to rotate the membership of the Council and the boards. This procedure has already been followed with respect to the necessary appointments made to replace those members whose terms of appointment expired on 30 June 1974.
In response to public advertisements a great many names were put forward for consideration and from these a selection was made for appointment for terms of 1, 2 or 3 years. In making this selection particular weight was given to the object of encouraging community involvement in the arts, and the composition of the Council and boards now strongly reflects their role in this crucial process as well as in direct support for those practising the arts concerned. The terms of appointment of members of the Council- other than government members- and of the boards is not to exceed a total of 4 years of continuous service, and at least one year must elapse thereafter before a person is eligible for a further term of membership.
Too often before 1973 the same people tendered advice over many years- sometimes for ten and even up to 20 years. Terms of appointment were indefinite or were renewed several times over. Whatever their qualities and without diminishing the valuable services they performed this circumstance seriously inhibited the infusion of new ideas and fresh stimulus. 1 emphasise that in all areas practitioners and others involved in the arts will make up a majority of those called on to decide and give effect to arts procedures. We hope also to sustain wide public interest and involvement in the work of the boards by periodically repeating the invitation to all who are interested to nominate persons who might be considered for appointment. It is proposed that lists of names of those nominated will be maintained at all times and the Minister will be required to consider them when considering new appointments.
Artists have an essential role to play in society. No one can imagine a mature civilisation without their contribution. Australia has a rich and distinctive artistic tradition. We have produced many renowned and gifted artists- both creators and performers. The Government believes they should be able to work in their own country secure in the knowledge that the community and the Government place a high value on their contribution to our way of life. Unfortunately this has not always been possible. Too many of our finest talents have been lost to overseas. We want to ensure that our greatest artists remain in Australia and prosper in Australia, and that the whole Australian community is the richer for their presence. Already this is happening. A number of our internationally recognised artists and performers are returning to pursue their careers in Australia and others, who would once have gone overseas to find opportunities are now finding those opportunities here. I believe that, through the measures in this Bill, we will create greater artistic opportunities for all talented Australians. We shall be offering to all who by birth or choice have made this country their home the prospect of enriching their lives through participation in or appreciation of the arts. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Rae) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Motion (by Senator Wriedt) proposed:
That the Bill may be taken through all its stages without delay.
– The Opposition will oppose this motion. The occasion of the motion being moved is the introduction into the Senate of a Bill which is in substantially the same form as a Bill which is currently under consideration by the Senate. The Senate will recall that on 1 1 December 1974 the Senate received from the House of Representatives a message asking that the Senate concur in amendments which the House of Representatives had made to the Public Service Acts Amendment Bill. The Senate negatived the motion that we agree to the House of Representatives amendments because the effect of the House of Representatives amendments would have been to delete from the Public Service Acts Amendment Bill the requirement that public servants should take an oath or make an affirmation of allegiance. Of course, that oath or affirmation of allegiance had been part of the requirements of the Commonwealth Public Service since, I think, 1922. They had been removed- I think inadvertently is the proper word to describe the circumstancesat the end of 1973 in circumstances in which the Opposition was given an assurance that it would have the opportunity in 1974 to seek to have them restored into the legislation. That commitment by the Government in late 1 973 was honoured and the Senate did restore to the Public Service Acts Amendment Bill the requirement for the oath or affirmation of allegiance.
When the Bill went back to the House of Representatives that House sought to remove the oath or affirmation of allegiance. The position at the moment is that the Senate is disagreeing to that step which was taken by the House of Representatives. What is now happening? The Government has introduced into the House of Representatives a Bill which seeks to achieve all that the Public Sendee Acts Amendment Bill sought to achieve with some minor amendments of no consequence to which the Opposition is not opposed but which delete from the Bill the oath or affirmation of allegiance. This is a course to which the Opposition expresses its objection. We express our objection in the course we are now taking. It raises a further issue which explains why the particular course that we are now taking is being adopted. Disagreements between the Houses of Parliament are not frequent but they have occurred a number of times over the history of the Federation. It is sufficiently to be contemplated that there are provisions in our Standing Orders which indicate what is to happen when there are disagreements.
One of the courses which is not contemplated, however, is that there will be a succession of Bills when there happens to be a disagreement in the hope that where chance falls on an equality of numbers there the position will rest. The Opposition takes the view that if the Government is proceeding along those lines it should do so without having facilities granted to it to take the Bill through its various stages without delay. The effect of this motion if it is carried would be to facilitate almost the debate being pursued and conceivably concluded within 24 hours. Whether it was so concluded would depend, of course, ultimately upon the will of the Senate but the Government has the order of business under its control. The Opposition believes in the circumstances that the appropriate course is for this Bill to go through the steps which the Standing Orders require. That will mean that the first reading will be an order of the day, the second reading will be an order of the day and the third reading will be an order of the day. I have indicated the reasons why the Opposition is taking this course.
– in replyHonourable senators will recall that this matter was before the Senate last year. By resolution of the Senate on 1 1 December a committee was formed for the purpose of reporting. We have received no report from the committee. The Government considers this legislation to be sufficiently important to put it before the Senate again. I believe that the Senate ought to carry the Bill in the terms in which it is being presented to the Senate, and the Government will proceed along those lines.
That the Bill may be taken through all its stages without delay (Senator Wriedt’s motion).
The Senate divided. (The President- Senator the Hon. Justin O “Byrne)
Question so resolved in the negative.
Bill (on motion by Senator Wriedt) read a first time.
Ordered that the second reading be made an order of the day for the next day of sitting.
-I seek leave to make a short statement in relations to pair arrangements.
-Is leave granted? There being no dissent, leave is granted.
– I wish to state that in the vote just taken and in future votes of today’s sitting of the Senate Senator Lawrie has and will be paired with the vacancy caused by the resignation of Senator Murphy.
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 Douglas McClelland) read a first time.
(3.59)- I move:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
I seek leave to have my second reading speech incorporated in Hansard.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The speech read as follows)-
The Bill before the Senate is in a form which is familiar to honourable senators. It follows the lines of the Australian Film Commission Bill 1974, which was debated in some considerable detail in the Senate last year. However, it differs from the original Bill in a number of important ways. Where previously it was specified in the original Bill that written directions given by the Minister to the Commission must be reported to Parliament in the annual report of the Commission, provision has now been made to require that any such direction must be tabled in the Parliament within 1 5 sitting days. In this respect, as in several others, the Government has ensured that this Bill is more liberal than comparable legislation in South Australia and Canada. Ministerial directions under the terms of this legislation have been made subject to the prompt and open scrutiny of the Parliament and the public. This is not the case in, for example, the National Film Act of Canada or in the South Australian Film Corporation Act.
Clause 8 in the present Bill empowers the Minister to give directions to the Commission ‘with respect to the exercise of its powers or the performance of its functions’, but excludes him from giving a direction with respect to ‘a particular project’ except in the case of films to be produced for the Government itself. It also requires that ‘Where the Minister gives a direction under this section, he shall, within 15 sitting days after giving that direction, lay before each House of the Parliament a copy of the direction together with his reasons for giving the direction’. By contrast, the National Film Act of Canada imposes no such restriction. Section 3 of that Act states:
For the purposes of this Act and subject to its provisions, the Minister shall control and direct the operations of the National Film Board.
The South Australian Film Corporation Act is equally explicit: Section 8 of that Act reads:
In the exercise and performance of its powers, duties, functions and authorities the Corporation shall, except where it is required to make a recommendation to the Minister, be subject to the general control and direction of the Minister.
This Bill also diners from the original legislation proposed last year in provisions relating to the powers of the Film Commission to impose an Australian short film’ quota for Australian cinemas.
Under this Bill, the initial quotas are to be governed, as to their timing and their nature, by regulations which may be disallowed by either House cf the Parliament. In this regard the Government has closely considered the text of the debate that took place in the Senate in the last sessional period and as a result of suggestions by some honourable senators, the Government is now ensuring that Parliament should scrutinise the operations of the Commission, and the exercise by the Commission of its quotamaking powers. When the previous Bill was before the Senate, objections were raised by the Opposition to the qualifications proposed for full dme members of the Commission. It was pointed out that the wording of one section of the Bill- a form of words taken almost entirely from section 44 of the Australian Constitution- could be seen as discriminating amongst people involved in the film industry.
The Government has accepted the need for a review of the relevant clause but emphasises that the duties of a full-time member of the Commission are expected to be such as would preclude him or her from participating privately in any way in the film industry. In the Government’s view a full-time member of the Commission, unlike a part-time member, would not be in a position to avoid the possibility of conflict of interests by a simple declaration of interest.
If a full-time member were to gain or retain private interests in the industry, he would almost certainly have daily access to confidential information about most other rival film industry interests. It is with this in mind that the Bill before the Senate provides that a person cannot be appointed or remain as a full-time member of the Commission unless and until he is free of direct or indirect financial interests in the film industry. This is directly in line with the statutory requirements laid down for full-time members of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board in section 8 of the Broadcasting and Television Act and overcomes the problem raised by the Opposition in the Senate when the previous Bill was debated. The revision of this provision in the proposed legislation has been accompanied by relatively minor consequential changes in other areas.
Other minor amendments suggested by honourable senators have been incorporated in this new Bill in areas dealing with the delegation of the Commission’s powers or functions, and with the level of fines for a breach of secrecy. The Bill as now presented has received the support of the members of the House of Representatives, and bearing in mind the amendments now put forward in this Bill, put forward by the Government to endeavour to meet the previously expressed objections by the Opposition to the originally presented Bill, I now commend the proposed legislation to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Guilfoyle) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 20 February on motion by Senator Willesee:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
-We are dealing with the second reading of the Electoral Bill 1975. The Opposition has indicated its opposition to the second reading. When this debate was interrupted last Thursday I had already dealt in some detail with 2 principles which I felt were being flouted by this Bill. The first principle is that persons have a right to contribute support to political parties, and that right should not be interfered with or restricted. The second principle is that persons are entitled to privacy; they are entitled not to disclose what they have contributed to political parties and they are entitled to be free of the intimidation which would arise from such disclosures.
I had gone on to deal with various clauses of the Bill. I had indicated that some are unfair and some are unworkable. In fact the Bill has very dangerous edges to it of which we cannot see all ramifications at this time. I had dealt particularly with the fact that members of Parliament and parties may use the facilities of ministerial staff and other persons. If you are in government you have a great opportunity to use the propaganda and media features of government. This is not counted in the calculation of the moneys which are available to a political party that is in power. On that subject I want to refer to one interesting example which was mentioned in the House of Representatives in the debate on this Bill by the honourable member for Griffith (Mr Donald Cameron). He referred to a document which he had, entitled ‘Precis of Campaign Directors
Report to the Queensland Central Executive on 25 June 1974’, by Bart Lourigan, a very important member of the Australian Labor Party’s organisation. While he was explaining the extent of the amount of money which was required to run the campaign in 1974, he went on to make this significant remark on page 7 of his report:
Brisbane is the only State capital without a Federal Minister and the facilities which would normally be made available to one. To remedy this, the State President and the State Secretary requested Mr Whitlam to open a Press office in Brisbane manned by a member of the Prime Minister’s staff.
It is quite clear, therefore, that governments have great facilities as exemplified by those remarks not only in Queensland but also in all the other States which are of inestimable value as propaganda outlets.
Other clauses of this Bill require some short examination. Proposed new sections 153b and 153c create the positions of party agents and official agents and require these persons to do many onerous things including the making of returns after an election showing all the donations that may have been made in the flurry of the campaign. They are also required to authorise in writing gifts that are made before or during the election. I suggest that the performance of the duties required of these agents’ positions is an impossibility. Even the most conscientious would have great difficulty in carrying out the duties. Any political party of a national nature campaigns in all States and it incurs costs which may be allocated partly to one State and partly to another. I suggest that it would be practically impossible for persons to carry out this law, and therefore the law may well fall into disuse at an early stage.
The Bill contains a very interesting provision about the amounts to which parties are limited in spending. Those amounts are set ont in the Bill. No explanation is given as to the validity of them or why they are fixed at the amounts shown. The amounts that are found in proposed new section 147 make no provision for inflation. Somebody has picked out the amount, for u Senate election held alone, of 1 .5c for each elector enrolled for a State. Someone has picked out the amount of 7.5c for each elector in relation to House of Representatives elections. No explanation is given as to how these amounts are arrived at and how they may be changed from time to time. Another significant aspect is that they may be altered at any dme by regulation. The Government may decide that this is a good time for a further increase to be made and, with prior knoweldge of a pending increase, take great electoral advantage of that provision when an election comes near. If it were sought to disallow the regulation I suppose the election would be over before it were done. I cite that as another example of the unfair way in which provisions of that nature can operate.
Let me turn briefly to proposed new section 149. In many ways it bears some resemblance to the present Act. It sets out the kind of expenditude that is to be allowed in relation to elections and it adds particularly 2 things. It describes the various items on which candidates are authorised to spend money. I say this not in criticism just of this Bill but I note that the limited nature of items set out in that proposed new section is extraordinary. If the Government were proposing to alter that provision it could have widened it so that the ingenuity and imagination of persons involved in elections is not restricted to some person’s idea of what are suitable election expenditures. Proposed new section 149 adds the same strictures on official agents and registered party agents: They shall not incur or authorise any electoral expenditure in relation to an election other than expenditure described in that proposed new section. So the same restrictions are placed upon official agents and registered party agents, restricting them in their ability to put forward the views, policies and principles of the party in the way in which they may think it suitable to do so.
I have mentioned only some of the provisions of this Bill which are obscure, unfair and generally designed by the propounders of this Bill to serve the interests of the party that is presently in power. I turn briefly to one other aspect of this matter. Senator Mulvihill made some reference to the provisions . that operate in the United States of Ameria. He referred to the recent legislation and to a book by Mr Lawrence O’Brien in relation to the operation of laws in that country. It has often been said in debate on electoral legislation that the laws of the United States have some relevance, but instead one should observe that there are great differences between the position in this country and that in the United States. Fortunately we do not have the same hullabaloo- I think you could describe it in that way- that accompanies the long elections in the United States, and we may be thankful for it.
In addition it is significant that in 1972 the United States Federal Election Campaign Act became law and it provided, among other things, for disclosure of all contributions in excess of $100. To that extent it appears to have some similarity to the present legislation. However, it must also be noted that under the Tillman Act of 1907, the Smith-Connolly Act of 1943 and the Taft-Hartley Act of 1 947 restrictions were placed on national banks and labour unions in respect of making contributions in elections for federal office. There is a complete difference in the relationship and political activities of unions in Australia. These restrictions do not apply to Australia. They have never been proposed. It is regrettable that most of the unions are lined up on one side of the fence in this country and that there is less support in the business community. It is a pity that our country is divided on such lines. It must be observed therefore that legislation like this in this country is directed, unfortunately, by the present Government towards restriction of private enterprise and business concerns in contributing to political parties.
This Bill is one part of the whole problem. The Government seizes a small part of the electoral problem- there are problems- and tries to legislate in its interests as it sees fit. When we discussed the Electoral Laws Amendment Bill last year I said- my Party generally said- that what we needed was a committee of both Houses that would sit not in a political atmosphere but in a non-political atmosphere and consider all the problems of electoral reform and decide what was fair and just. I thought on that occasion, and I have hoped since, that we might have seen some change in the Government’s attitude. On that occasion the Government brought forward a mass of proposals and forced them through the other House but of course ultimately they were defeated. On this occasion the Government has dealt with two more matters which, in essence, it finds of some value to it.
I recognise that there are great problems facing the country in regard to electoral matters. Senator Mulvihill said in his speech that democracy could be imperilled by a proliferation of public relations. I think that is so. If the force of television becomes so great a cost that it requires excessive amounts from political parties, it can become a danger and I think we should look at that matter as a problem. We have provision for free television time and we should consider whether that idea should be expanded. That is a separate problem and it can be dealt with in a different way. As a Parliament concerned with the effectiveness of our election system, we should look at the whole of the problem and not seize one or two aspects which seem to be of interest to our own Party.
What this Bill seeks to create- I am confident it will not be created- is a ship full of holes and very unwieldly. It would provide great disadvantage to those people who honestly try to carry out the law, and it would be easily open to other persons who do not want to do so. This Bill contains a great deal of obscurity and a great deal of opportunity for persons to avoid it. I think it is ill thought out and that it should not be passed by the Senate. I trust that the Senate will defeat the Bill.
– I must confess that in rising to debate this Electoral Bill I do so because of my personal confusion. Some of that confusion stems from the attitude of the Opposition. I recall that some 1 8 months ago the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden) made a statement indicating his personal support for electoral reform. On page 2243 of Hansard of 17 October 1973 the Leader of the Country Party, Mr Anthony, is reported as having quoted what he had said previously. The report states:
The Prime Minister and Mr Daly will no doubt be disappointed to learn that the Country Party has no concern at all about the proposal to legislate for the disclosure of the sources of political parties’ funds.
Mr Snedden made a similar comment at an earlier stage in which he indicated support for the legislation. I am rather surprised that there is now so much vehement expression in debate against this Bill by Opposition senators because that is in complete opposition to the thinking of the Leader of the Country Party and the Leader of the Liberal Party. I wonder whether it would not be a good idea for honourable senators opposite to get together with their leaders and decide whether they are going to debate and oppose any Bill that this Government puts before the Parliament just to be destructive or whether they are going to be constructive in Opposition and provide us with real examples of what they claim is the damage that will be caused by a Bill of this nature.
The Leader of the Opposition also stated that he would like to see some amendment relating to the tax deductibility of donations. That might be a matter that could be considered in the Committee stage of this Bill. However, the Leader of the Opposition then went on to express concern about there being no retrospectivity in the proposed legislation. Frankly, I cannot see a great deal of value to be gained in knowing that Mr Fred Bloggs donated £100 to the political party of his choice back in 1956, but I can see some merit to be gained in knowing that a large corporation or organisation has donated considerable funds to a particular political party of its choice now or that it proposes to do so in the future.
We have heard it said during this debate that this Bill would limit the number of people who are prepared to stand for Parliament. I do not believe that is so. I believe that if Tom Jones or Bill Smith down the road wants to stand as a candidate in an election and he knows the amount of money he is allowed to spend, as people do under the law at the moment although the law is being violated, he would be more likely to stand because he knew he could afford to or could raise the required amount of money. This brings me to a rather interesting cutting I have from a newspaper. This point was raised in the other House by the Minister for Services and Property (Mr Daly). This cutting is from the ‘Illawarra Mercury’ of 14 January 1975 and it bears the heading ‘Liberal Plans $40,000 Fight’. The article refers to a Mr Marsden who is planning a $40,000 campaign in an endeavour to unseat the Labor member Mr J. Kerin. Under the existing Act he is entitled to spend $500 on his election campaign but he has no compunction whatsoever about spending $40,000. In fact he has generally publicised the fact that he is prepared to raise and spend $40,000 for a campaign.
– Does he represent the Law and Order Party?
– Yes, I believe he does represent the law and order party which goes under the heading of Liberal Party in this place. Under the existing Act he would be allowed to spend only $500. Under this proposed legislation he would be entitled, in an electorate of roughly 82 000 people, to spend $6,150. This would enable any man in the street to mount a campaign to match his, but how many people would be deterred from seeking parliamentary appointment purely and simply because they knew they could not raise a like amount and knew that the fight was unequal from the start?
We recently heard Senator Missen say that all of the unions are lined up on one side. I presume he was implying that all of the trade unions throughout Australia make donations to the Labor Party. I would like to correct him. All of the trade unions are not necessarily on one side. If they were we would have sane government by the Australian Labor Party all the time and it would be impossible for the Liberal-Country Party coalition to ever govern us.
– Nothing like all of the unionists but unfortunately all of the unions.
– The honourable senator is wrong. A number of unions in Western Australia are on side with the now defunct Democratic Labor Party or make contributions to particular political parties or to particular political candidates.
– There are a lot of nonaffiliated unions.
– Indeed, as I am reminded by my colleague from Western Australia, there are a lot of non-affiliated unions. One of the things that the Australian elector is entitled to know is how much money is spent by political candidates and political parties on elections. We had an exercise forced on us by the Opposition in May last year and we had to say to the Australian people: ‘We are now being forced to spend an awful lot of the taxpayers money, your money, on holding another election.’ Today I understand that the cost of an election is in excess of $4.5m. This is the taxpayers money we are talking about. Surely the same taxpayers have a right to know, and we have a responsibility to tell them, exactly how much money we are spending in an endeavour to get into this House or the other House.
Reference has been made in this debate to the amount of Press and other publicity available to governments in office. There has been reference to the facilities of the Australian Broadcasting Commission and the staff of the Minister for the Media (Senator Douglas McClelland). Honourable senators opposite might be interested to know that the situation is not quite as easy as they seem to think, particularly in Western Australia where there is a pro Liberal-Country Party coalition Press. It is impossible to get the name of a Western Australian member or senator published in that newspaper and it is also impossible to get it to recognise that the Australian Government has contributed in any way to the wellbeing of the people who actually elect the representatives from that State. Over the past few months, particularly since May of last year, we have found that unless we are being sensational and unless we are doing something quite dramatic the ‘West Australian ‘ has no interest in anything any member of the Australian Government Party does, whether it is representing a Minister or whether it is purely and simply making a statement on behalf of the people we have been chosen to represent.
We could stand here and say- as Senator Missen did- that the party agents and official agents following an election have to fill in returns to state from where the funds have been received and where they have been expended. Is this any different from company secretaries who do much the same thing? Surely an agent could be regarded as a part time company secretary. We look at public companies and we see the structure of the organisation. We can get information on the directors and on their financial standing. We look at corporations or public companies and we assess for ourselves whether we want to support them. Is there any difference between saying I shall take out 500 shares in Tom Smith’s uranium mine’ and saying ‘I shall donate $500 to apolitical party’?
I refer honourable senators to a letter dated 1 May 1974 which was immediately before the Opposition took the Australian people to the polls quite unnecessarily. It was a quite unwarranted election which still has not been paid for by the Australian taxpayers. The letter is written on the letter head of the Leader of the Australian Country Party. It requests finance for the ‘electoral battles’ of the Country Party. They are Mr Anthony’s words, not mine. The postscript states:
You may be interested to know that donations to the Fighting Fund so far vary from $ 10 to $5,000.
When we look at the accompanying slip we find that only those donations between $1,000 and $5,000 are listed. Amongst those donations is one from Senator J. J. Webster of Victoria. He donated a total of $2,000 to the fighting fund of the Australian Country Party. Perhaps this is a good indication of why members of the Australian Country Party do not want the information published and made available to the general public of Australia.
– He was very generous.
– He was extremely generous. Of course it came out of his parliamentary allowance. Where it comes from really is not the concern of this Bill, as long as it is made public knowledge. The Bill is asking that people in fact make this public knowledge. Senator Missen in his speech on Thursday of last week stated:
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.
In effect this Bill is an equaliser. It will make all parties equal because each party and each candidate will have to provide the same material. I believe that a certain amount of gilding is being done by the Opposition in an endeavour to close the gaps in the statements which were made by both the Leader of the Opposition and the Leader of the Australian Country Party in the other place and in public that they would be genuinely supporting this Bill when and if it came to fruition. It has now come to fruition and we find them vehemently denying the people of
Australia the right to know where political parties gain their funds. Surely this could be considered politically educational for the members of the public. They may like to know, in the event of proposed legislation coming forward, that the thinking of the government in office at the time could have been influenced by major donations being made to that political party.
– That is not why you want the Bill is it?
– I think that is a good reason. That is reason enough why this Bill should be put through the Senate with as little delay as possible and made law as soon as possible. If the Opposition has nothing to hide, I do not see any reason why it should not support the Bill. On 2 occasions in this debate I have mentioned that both the Leader of the Opposition and the Leader of the Australian Country Partysignified that they would support the Bill. From the vehement denial of rights to the Australian people I can only assume that the members of both the Liberal Party and the Australian Country Party find that they have a great deal to hide from the Australian people. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
– Honourable senators will be aware that the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Senator Willesee, in his capacity as Minister representing the Minister for Services and Property (Mr Daly), was responsible for the passage of this Bill when it was introduced and also during the course of the second reading debate last Thursday. As honourable senators heard shortly prior to question time Senator Willesee has gone abroad on Government business. At this stage the carriage of the Bill has been left to me in my capacity as Manager of Government Business in the Senate.
I shall not take up the time of the Senate unnecessarily. The Opposition has indicated that it intends to oppose the passage of the second reading of the Bill. The Opposition is opposing the affirmative proposition of the Government that the Bill be now read a second time. Because the Opposition has the same numbers in the chamber as the Government, irrespective of what Senator Hall might do the proposition will be negatived and the defeat of the Bill has been practically determined at this stage. That being so, I shall not unduly take up the time of the Senate in replying to the matters which have been raised by honourable senators opposite. The Electoral Bill which has been introduced by the Government may be divided into 5 broad categories. It proposes the registration of party agents and official agents. It recommends the authorisation of certain electoral expenditure, It limits the expending of certain amounts of electoral expenditure. It brings down provisions relating to the authorisation of gifts. It also provides for the disclosure of expenditure and gifts.
During the course of the debate certain remarks were made by honourable senators opposite. First of all, I refer to the comments made by the Leader of the Opposition, Senator Withers, who referred to the effects of inflation when he dealt with the limits of expenditure which are proposed by the Bill. Senator Withers suggested that in February 1975 it might be valid, in the judgment of the Government, to impose limits of X cents a head per member of the House of Representatives and Y cents a head per senator. That is a provision which is set out in the Bill. But the honourable senator suggested that because of the way inflation is galloping in this country those figures could be quite unreal by, for instance, June 1975. He went on to say that if the Government puts on limitations it will be constantly amending the legislation. Let me take up those matters in relation to the existing expenditure limits imposed upon candidates, as a further example of how unrealistic those limits are in comparison to the changed monetary values. The Commonwealth Electoral Act of 1902 provided for a limit on electoral expenditure by candidates of £250 or $500 in the case of a Senate candidate and £100 or $200 in the case of a House of Representatives candidate. In 1946 those limits were increased by legislation to £500 or $1,000 for a Senate candidate and £250 or $500 for a House of Representatives candidate.
Apart from the conversion to decimal currency in 1966, no further changes have been made to the limits of electoral expenditure by candidates. Consequently, at the present time there is a limit of $1,000 in the case of a candidate for Senate election and $500 in the case of a candidate for House of Representatives election; that is, the present limit on a Senate candidate is double that which existed in 1902, while the present limit on a House of Representatives candidate is 2% times the limit that was set in 1902. However, on the basis of an estimate by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, an amount set in 1902 would now need to be multiplied nearly tenfold to account for price increases generally during the period from 1902 to the present time. On this reckoning, the amounts of £250 and £100, that is, $500 and $200, set in 1902 would now need to becomeand I mention this by way of emphasis- approximately $4,750 in the case of a candidate for the
Senate and $1,900 in the case of a candidate for the House of Representatives in order to maintain purchasing power comparable with that which existed in 1902 when those limits to which I have referred were set.
I wish to make only one other comment on statements that were made by members of the Opposition during the course of the second reading debate. I refer to the comments made by Senator Webster, who raised the question of whether the payment of an advertising account by an interested person or company could be construed as electoral expenditure. In this regard I refer to Senate Hansard page 348 of 20 February of this year. The information provided to me by my instructing officers, representing the Minister for Services and Property (Mr Daly), is that the answer would depend on the particular facts of the case, but if the expenditure was made for the purpose of promoting or opposing, directly or indirectly, a party or candidate or influencing an election directly or indirectly, then such expenditure would be deemed to be electoral expenditure within the meaning of the proposed legislation.
I have already mentioned the 5 categories with which the Bill deals and, having regard to the remarks of the Opposition, I suggest that the Opposition has not actually studied the details of the Bill. In simple form, the Bill provides for the disclosure and limitation of funds by all parties and all candidates and not, as the Opposition would appear to have suggested, by only the non-Labor parties. The Bill was initially supported in the House of Representatives by the Leader of the Opposition, Mr Snedden, and by the Leader of the Australian Country Party, Mr Anthony. In this regard I refer to comments made by the Minister for Services and Property on 13 February, recorded in the House of Representatives Hansard at page 315. Mr Daly said:
When the Labor Party challenged the Opposition about receiving contributions from multinational corporations the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden) entered the chamber and said: ‘We will support this legislation’. The Leader of the Australian Country Party (Mr Anthony) is on record . . . 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’.
But now apparently, by sheer weight of numbers, certainly in the Senate, there is a change of heart on the part of the Opposition. The legislation does not stop people from contributing to the funds of political parties or assisting in the campaign of a political candidate but it makes the source of the contribution known to the public at large.
– And intimidates them thereby.
-The honourable senator says that it intimidates, but if a person is prepared to put his money where his mouth is I cannot see that there is any form of intimidation at all. I would suggest that if there is any form of intimidation it might be by a fellow shotting a few dollars around in order to curry favour with some political candidate. There is a genuine case proposed by the Government of asking a man to put his money where is mouth is, and if he wants to back a candidate or a political party by a financial donation we say there is nothing wrong with that but it should be disclosed for public benefit, and surely that is the purpose of this Bill. This practice is followed in the United States and in Canada, and was introduced there by conservative governments with the support of all the political parties. We say that it is a forward step further to democratise elections in this country by making it possible for all Australians to be elected, and not necessarily just the wealthy sections of the electorate. The ordinary Australian has a right to know where the money is coming from to support the various political parties and the various political candidates. I say that until today Opposition senators have not really debated the content of the Bill; they have sidestepped the principal issues that are involved. We believe that the legislation does not discriminate in favour of or against any party in particular. It aims to eliminate discrimination between parties. It aims to eliminate discrimination between political candidates. We of the Government therefore, believing that it is a genuine attempt further to democratise the political system of Australia, ask that the Bill be read a second time.
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The Senate divided. (The President- Senator the Hon. Justin O ‘By rae)
Question so resolved in the negative.
Debate resumed from 19 February on motion by Senator Wriedt:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– The Opposition, having read the second reading speech of the Minister for Agriculture (Senator Wriedt) on this Bill and studied the measures contained in it as well as talking about it to officers of the Department of Agriculture, feels that it is a desirable measure and that it should go through this chamber with the support of the Opposition. As honourable senators know, the Bill provides for power to deal with intrusion by Indonesian fishermen in particular into waters which come under the jurisdiction of Australian courts and which are principally adjacent to ournorthwest coast. It also takes the opportunity of amending the principal Act in relation to certain formal matters that are mentioned in the second reading speech of the Minister for Agriculture. The Fisheries Act, which was enacted in 1952, has applied to commercial fishing only. Until 1967 it applied only to Australian residents. It was then amended by the previous LiberalCountry Party Government to include foreign commercial fishing within the 12-mile declared fishing zone.
I think that many honourable senators will recall that last year some problems were experienced and some concern was expressed about the landing on the north-west coast of Western Australia of quite a number of Indonesian fishermen. In fact, I have been informed that up to 400 people were involved. Those people might not always have been fishing commercially. In some cases they may have been only subsistence fishermen. Under the present legislation those people are not capable of prosecution proof before an Australian court. The Government has therefore decided, and decided wisely, that the Act should be extended to give the Australian courts power to deal with such cases.
As one would expect in these sorts of circumstances there have been discussions between the Australian and Indonesian governments on a most amicable level. The Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) talked to President Suharto about this matter last year. Australian and Indonesian officials also talked about the matter in Jakarta in November 1974. The Western Australian Government through its Department of Agriculture, which has a particular interest in the matter, was also involved in those discussions. Under the understanding reached in the discussions at Jakarta, Indonesian fishermen are no longer to be allowed to fish in waters adjacent to the Australian mainland and the immediately adjacent islands, but may do so in waters adjacent to the off-shore islands and reefs of Ashmore, Cartier, Scott, Seringapatam and Browse. Australia, as a gesture of friendship, will refrain from enforcing its laws against those fishermen who comply with those limitations. Of course, those who do not may be ejected, dealt with, referred to the authorities in their own country or charged before the Australian courts.
Australia has also agreed that Indonesian fishermen may shelter within the off-shore islands and reef complexes but may go ashore only for fresh water on the middle and east islets of Ashmore Reef and may not take turtles and fish in any waters of the continental shelf except adjacent to the 5 islands mentioned. Indonesia has freely acknowledged our authority to act in this fashion and has been most co-operative. My information is that the governments of Australia and Indonesia are exchanging information on the subject and that Indonesia has done all it possibly can to try to bring the matter under control and regards this measure as being both sensible and desirable.
One of the problems with Indonesians landing on isolated areas of the north-west coast of Western Australia is that they may bring with them some of the diseases which Australia has for many years tried to keep out. I refer to such diseases as foot and mouth in relation to cattle, rabies in relation to dogs and Newcastle disease in relation to poultry. We have had through all governments in this country a strong and enforceable quarantine position, but there is still a danger that such landings might produce outbreaks of any of those diseases with the potential financial loss and danger to the Australian livestock industry.
– They are endemic in Indonesia.
-That is perfectly correct. They are endemic in Indonesia and they may well be even more severe if transmitted to the Australian mainland because the natural hazards that operate against them in that country would not operate against them in Australia. The history of transmitted diseases and weeds has been that they flourish much more in the host country. I have been informed, as a matter of interest, that one of the problems associated with this fishing boat exercise has been that many Indonesian fishermen carry cockerels on their boats. They are carried not for the laying of eggs, of course, but because, for the interest of potential navigators and sailors in this chamber, they are very good indicators of an approaching land mass within three or 4 miles. I commend that idea to the sailors present in this chamber.
– In what way do they perform?
– I have not been informed about that, but I think that it is a subject for earnest study by individual honourable senators who feel that they would like to go to sea with something in the way of a fighting cock in the helm.
– The Scandinavians use crows, if that is of any interest.
– My experience has been that the population of crows in Australia is even greater than the population of fighting cockerels. In fact, wherever I go in Australia I seem to hear crows calling to me, even in the heart of Sydney.
– The pilots in New Caledonia have fox terrier dogs in the helm.
– We are getting ourselves into a fascinating kind of Noah ‘s Ark position in debating a Bill which has been commended by the Opposition. The moratorium which deals with this matter will expire on 1 March. Therefore this legislation will have to be passed before that date. The Opposition intends to facilitate the passage of this legislation.
In his second reading speech the Minister for Agriculture referred to the various clauses of the Bill which will bring the necessary regulations into operation. I do not think that there is any necessity for me to develop any argument or discussion about them. They seem to me to be perfectly clear and sensible. One thing which probably ought to be pointed out is that the final paragraph of the Minister’s second reading speech seems to me to set out very well the position in principle. It states:
The main purpose of the Bill is to give effect to an international understanding which has important implications not only for fisheries but also for quarantine, illegal entry to Australia, prevention of wilful damage to Australian automatic weather stations and perhaps customs matters.
Those of us who have been concerned in the past with the problems of the Australian coastline with its isolated areas and potential for the smuggling of goods and drugs would recognise that this is an extension of the Australian jurisdiction and an extension of Australia’s power to control these matters- not only fishing- and will do nothing but good for the Australian citizens. Accordingly we commend the measure.
Senator Sir MAGNUS CORMACK (Victoria) (4.51)- I am aware that Senator Cotton who has just resumed his seat has given an undertaking to the Minister for Agriculture (Senator Wriedt) that we will not oppose the passage of this Bill and nothing I say is said with any intent to delay it. However, I am concerned that the Minister, in his second reading speech, states:
In summary, the understanding reached at the Jakarta talks and proposals for their implementation mean that Indonesian fishermen . . .
It is my understanding of the conduct of relations between nations that when there are talks between governments at government level these matters which are known as understandings are reduced to writing. I should be grateful to know whether the Government of Australia in its pourparlers with the Government in Jakarta has obtained understandings which have been reduced to writing so that there can be no equivocation when this Bill becomes law and is given royal assent on whether the process for which the powers are assumed and will be assumed by the Australian Government in the context of Australian fisheries can be sustained. I say that with a great deal of seriousness because, frankly, some of the newly emerging countries have curious ideas about the relationships between nations. When the Minister for Agriculture responds I would be grateful if he would indicate to me just what these understandings are and whether there has been an exchange of documents and, if there has been, whether they would be capable of sustaining the position in international law.
– in reply- I wish to thank Senator Cotton for his contribution. The Opposition realises, as does the Government, that this matter has to be dealt with as quickly as possible. I will not dwell on any aspects of the Bill because there is no opposition to it. In reply to the remarks of Senator Sir Magnus Cormack, I am sure that he is aware that discussions were held between the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) and President Suharto in Jakarta in January in order to reach the understanding which has been agreed to by the 2 governments. For the honourable senator’s information, a memorandum of understanding in writing has been agreed to by the 2 governments. It is quite a detailed document setting out the precise positions of the various islands and reefs concerned in the agreement. It is my understanding that it is at the request of the Government of Indonesia that this agreement remains confidential until such time as that Government is able to advise its own fishing industry. A problem arises here because there are not the same communication facilities in the Indonesian fishing fleet as there are in our own. Many of the Indonesian fishing vessels are not equipped with the means of communication which we accept as part of our fishing flee t.
I can assure Senator Sir Magnus Cormack that there is a detailed exchange of notes which sets out quite clearly and precisely the understanding that has been reached and, in view of the spirit in which the 2 governments entered into this agreement, one would not assume that it would present any problems in the future. Nevertheless the Australian Government will need to maintain a proper surveillance and this is being attended to through discussions with the defence forces and the Western Australian Government. I would expect that as the agreement comes into effect we will find that it will operate quite efficiently and smoothly, though no doubt with some small problems arising. But generally this understanding certainly has been set down in clear and concise terms.
– Could you give some indication of when you think it would be likely that the understandings will become effective?
– It is difficult for me. to answer that question because the tabling of a document of this nature comes within the jurisdiction of the Minister for Foreign Affairs and his Department rather than my and my Department’s jurisdiction. I can indicate only that I will obtain at Senator Sir Magnus Cormack ‘s request whatever information I can from the Prime Minister, who is the Acting Minister for Foreign Affairs, in order to answer the honourable senator’s question as best I can.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from 19 February on motion by Senator Wriedt:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– Speaking on behalf of the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate (Senator Withers), I point out that the proposal embodied in this Bill was submitted to the Australian people by way of referendum not 9 months ago and on that occasion the people of Australia said no. The Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Wriedt) in his second reading speech pointed out that a whole 3Vi million people voted for the proposal but a mere 3% million voted against it. The fact that a quarter of a million more people were against the proposal than were in favour of it shows that there is a substantial majority which is against the Government’s bringing in this legislation. Indicative of the feeling that the Australian Labor Party has for the more populous States as against the less populous States is that the Minister featured the fact that New South Wales, the most populous State in Australia, supported the proposal when it went to referendum. He also mentioned that it was only narrowly defeated in Victoria and South Australia. Whether it was narrowly defeated or otherwise, the fact is that it was defeated. The Constitution of Australia requires that for a referendum to be passed it must be accepted by the majority of people in the majority of States. To put the matter simply, the Government was defeated in its attempt to implement this legislation.
There is an arrogance about the Prime Minister, Mr Whitlam. He hates anything to stop him in the course that he projects for his administration of this Parliament. Of course, we know that he is a man who is very intemperate in his expressions and this indicates his type of thinking. In fact he thinks he is God. I have heard people from his own side of politics, when speaking about him, say: ‘Of course, you know, he thinks he can walk on water’, meaning that he thinks he is God. That is why he adopts the attitude that everything he thinks should be done must become automatically a fait accompli. Let me give honourable senators an example of the expressions he has used and the way in which he considers anybody who stands in his way. 1 am sure that he must have been very annoyed on the night of the counting of the referendums when he found that the people of Australia did not approve of what he wanted to have pushed through by way of the referendums. As recently as last weekend at the Tasmanian conference of the Australian Labor Party- his own Party- he spoke of Opposition members as being thugs and wreckers, unscrupulous and so on. I am a native of Queensland and of this country, I have been in public life for a long time and I object to people referring to me as a thug. This is far contrary to what I am. I know that honourable senators on this side of the chamber feel the same way about this.
We know Mr Whitlam ‘s record. Whenever he is opposed in anything he always engages in this type of talk. Honourable senators will remember the case involving Sir Garfield Barwick, a very fine type of person and now the Chief Justice of Australia. I point out that I do not use this sort.of language, but in the House of Representatives because Mr Whitlam was upstaged he called Sir Garfield Barwick a bastard. Of course, honourable senators will also remember that when a former Governor-General of Australia was a member of the House of Representatives Mr Whitlam threw a glass of water over him in his temper. We find in this legislation brought forward today another example of the arrogance of the Prime Minister who must have everything his way. I know that he thinks he is above everybody else. I well remember him talking to me about the Senate. He hates the Senate. I know what he said about his own Labor Party senators. He told them they were a bunch of loafers. If he could do so, he would destroy the Senate immediately.
The very basis of this legislation represents another attempt to make the Senate more and more a reflection of the House of Representatives. The Constitution never intended that the Senate should automatically face an election when the House of Representatives faced an election. However, because of certain circumstances, the pattern has developed of the 2 Houses going to an election together but there is nothing in the Constitution to indicate that the 2 Houses must go to an election together. There is no question about it- Mr Whitlam ‘s idea of bringing this type of legislation forward is to frighten senators who may vote on some occasion to bring about a double dissolution of the Parliament that their terms of office will expire at the time the House of Representatives faces such an election. If the House of Representatives is brought to an election in a period shorter than the period of 3 years for which it was elected, of what concern is that to the Senate, the constitutional chamber of this Parliament of Australia? It has no relevance whatsoever. Therefore, if some honourable senators have 3 years of their term still to serve under normal circumstances, I cannot see the necessity for legislation to make it mandatory for them to face an election with the members of the House of Representatives, apart from the circumstances which arise in a double dissolution of the Parliament.
The Prime Minister talks about the cost of holding separate elections. If the Prime Minister is so concerned about saving money for the country, there are lots of ways that I can think of to save much more money then would be saved by following the course suggested in this legislation. It is quite easy for the Prime Minister to throw away millions of dollars but the comparatively low cost involved in holding the extra elections is one of the things that has been peddled to us as a feature of this legislation. I heard of something today that is likely to take place involving the expenditure of $lm or $ 1.5m just like that. This is the way money is thrown away by this Government. To suggest, as has been done in this legislation, that finance is a major consideration in the holding of elections is just a lot of piffle. So far as I am concerned, the Senate was created for a certain purpose. It was created to reflect the views of the States. Despite what people say, I have seen occasions in the Senate when honourable senators from both major Parties have been divided.
I remember one occasion when the late Senator McKenna came into this chamber, looked about and wondered upon which side he was supposed to vote because the Parties were so mixed. On that occasion a vote was being taken on a matter involving the sugar industry. The people of Tasmania, Victoria and a few other States were wanting cheaper sugar. There was quite a mixture of opinion on the matter. The Tasmanian people saw the position in a certain light and most of the Tasmanian senators were voting one way while many senators who belonged to the same Party were voting another way. They were mindful of the sugar interests because the issue affected the people they represented. If a real issue of paramount importance to the States arises, senators generally act in a responsible way according to the interests of their
States. When something of real moment affecting their States arises, this Senate chamber can still give a decision. The Senate chamber has lifted its position considerably over a period of time. I believe that today it stands in a stronger position in the public’s opinion than ever before. The charge has been made that we are wreckers and so on. lt is the right and the responsibility of this Senate chamber to throw out legislation if it feels such a course is necessary.
It was envisaged in the creation of the Senate that there would be 2 sets of 3 year terms for senators with half the Senate members standing for election every 3 years. In the back of the minds of the writers of the Constitution was the idea that while the membership of the House of Representatives could change at each election, the Senate still carried a reflection of the thought prevailing for 3 years before the election so there would not be a complete change in the outlook of the Senate as there would be in the House of Representatives. When the position is considered in that way, it makes it more clear in my mind that it was in the minds of the writers of the Constitution that there should be sufficient period of time between the election of each half of the Senate so that there could be a carry-over of opinion, not for just 12 months but for 3 years.
In those circumstances, I think that we should do all we possibly can to preserve the Senate as it is at present, and that the Senate should retain its independence in not going to election always with the House of Representatives. I know that if this legislation were to pass, no doubt on occasions senators would be frightened to exercise their rights in the way they can at the present time. It amazes me that the legislation was introduced again. To me it represents an affront to the people of Australia. They gave a decision on it only 9 months ago yet we find the Government again putting it before the Parliament in the hope that this time it might be passed. If the Prime Minister and members of the ALP believe in the voice of the people, they should remember that a decision was given in regard to this matter. To suggest that a majority of only 250 000 people is not something to be taken as worth while I think is an insult to the people of Australia who voted in this way. This question should be asked: Why was this legislation introduced? Was it to change the constitutional relationship between the 2 Houses of Parliament? Was it to rob the Senate of its independence and the parliamentary system of its meaning? I express my view that this legislation should not be passed. It has been before the Senate previously. It was twice rejected. The people of this country supported the action of the Senate. In those circumstances I cannot see why the Government should be so determined to go against the opinion of this House of Parliament and of the people of Australia.
The Senate has made its stand in various ways. The government of the day always hates a parliament that turns down its legislation. Even one’s own party gets pretty annoyed- I have had experience of this- if one opposes something. As far as I am concerned, people in the Parliament have the right to express themselves and to vote according to their conscience. I have always done that and I shall be expressing my conscience in this way. When my Party was in government there were times when I opposed it strongly on certain questions. I was not elected to this chamber to be a yes man; I was elected to this chamber to speak and to vote according to the way I feel.
As to what the Senate has done over a period of time, whilst the Government may feel frustrated and Mr Whitlam may feel that his grandiose views cannot be fully carried out, he must remember that senators in this chamber were sent here by the people of Australia. They have a right to interpret what the people of Australia wish the Senate to do, because this country is a democracy and is not an autocracy which is run by Mr Whitlam for Mr Whitlam ‘s views. I believe that the people of this country will realise all the more clearly when this matter is put before them that the Senate is doing a job. The people of this country must be very grateful that the Senate is here as an institution.
It is quite clear from the expressions of opinion that one hears wherever one goes that this Government is far out of tune with the thinking of the people of Australia. I say quite definitely that if there was an election in this country today this Government would be landslided out of office. In refusing to pass some of the Government’s legislation the Senate no doubt is expressing what the people of Australia feel. In rejecting this legislation the Senate is carrying out exactly the wishes of the people of Australia which they expressed when the referendum questions, and this question in particular, were put before them. The Opposition opposes the legislation. We resent the type of language that Mr Whitlam has used about us. We are not thugs; nor are we wreckers. We are here to do the best for Australia according to our lights.
– The Senate is considering the Constitution Alteration (Simultaneous Elections) Bill 1975. Major parts of the Bill have been before the Senate on two previous occasions. On those occasions the Australian Country Party, as part of the Opposition in this chamber, opposed the Bill, and it will oppose the Bill on this occasion. In opposing the Bill we must support the arguments that were enunciated so clearly by Senator Wood in the chamber this afternoon. The very first question that I ask myself is why there is an urgency to bring this Bill, which was one of 4 parts of a referendum which was held less than 12 months ago, before the Parliament at this time. I can answer that question only with an assumption that it is the program of this Government, as has been indicated by the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) on a number of occasions over many years, to see the ultimate, and preferably early, abolition of the Senate. I have heard no clamouring among Australians for this sort of legislation- none whatever.
As I said a moment ago, the people of Australia were asked this question in a referendum on which they voted on 18 May 1974. They were asked whether they wanted simultaneous elections for the House of Representatives and the Senate. In spite of the various attitudes to the answer they gave- attitudes from members of the Government Party in the main- the fact is that there was a majority of a quarter of a million people against that referendum question. In anybody’s estimation that is a significant majority; but what is more important, particularly as one of the major objectives of the Senate is to serve the States- is that five States out of six voted against that referendum question. I believe that the question was defeated quite resoundingly, contrary to the various suggestions that we hear from time to time. Whether or not that is so- I believe it is so- in a decision what does the margin matter? Whether it is a thin edge or a thick edge, when one is caught one is out. This was the situation in the referendum which was held less than 12 months ago.
I believe that it would do the Government well to accept the decision that the people made on that occasion. The Government is constantly asking us, as members of the Opposition, to accept the decision of the people, which most definitely we do accept. That decision was extremely close. It was far closer than a five to one vote on this referendum question. That decision brought about a marked reduction in the majority of the Government in the House of Representatives and brought about virtually a tied situation in the Senate. There could hardly be a closer decision than that one. With regard to electoral matters, what fairer system could there be than the one under which Australians voted on that occasion? On that occasion 49.3 per cent of the votes gave this Government 5 1.2 per cent of the seats. I cannot imagine a much closer or fairer decision than that. We accept that decision. I believe that the Government should accept the decision that the people made by referendum on 18 May 1974.
I would have thought- indeed, I would have hoped- that the Government would have found a way to oppose a piece of legislation such as this which is virtually setting up a set of circumstances in which this chamber ultimately must be abolished by the Government. It seems to be a strange twist of logic that 29 members of the Government Party are doing their utmost to establish conditions which will virtually say to the Australian people that the Senate, as a responsible brake in the Australian parliamentary system, is totally unnecessary and we do not need it. This sort of thing must follow the implementation of simultaneous elections. I believe that we should be aware of the real significance of the role of the Senate. It has a well known three-fold role. As I mentioned earlier and as Senator Wood mentioned, in the first place it has the role of representing the States in this Parliament. It is the very essence of the strength of the theory of federalism as opposed to the theory of centralism. So, it is very important if this country is not ultimately to decline into a form of dictatorship, whether it be of the Right or of the Left. That is the first, and perhaps the most important, area of the Senate’s responsibility. In the second place it is, of course, as it should be, a House of review. In that situation it has the responsibility of examining every piece of legislation, of amending it, of throwing it out or of passing it. It does all those things within its proper concept. It has the responsibility to examine legislation. It is, in fact, the people’s brake for legislation of this country. Its significance in that area is immense. Its final area is in the area of the committee system whereby its investigations become basic to the establishment of all important legislation in the Parliament of this country.
How can this body be effective as a responsible brake of the community if it is to be elected simultaneously forever with the House of Representatives? In this circumstance it must constantly reflect the very often emotional circumstances of an election for the House of Representatives. If this be the case, and there is a landslide to the Left or to the Right, the Senate undoubtedly will become purely and simply a rubber stamp of the government of the day and of no value whatever to the community that it is written into the Constitution to serve in the form of a responsible brake, a guardian. I believe that the introduction of simultaneous elections for the House of Representatives and the Senate must most definitely deny Australians that most important province whereby the Senate is a responsible House of review. It is, in fact, a brake on would-be dictators no matter what their political Une or their ideology may be. No democracy can survive if it has not a responsible and recognisable brake within its constitutional set-up.
I have searched for the Government’s argument that suggests that simultaneous elections should be introduced. I find it extremely difficult to establish that argument. The matter seems to me to resolve itself purely and simply around the area that it would be cheaper and simpler to have simultaneous elections. Of course there can be no doubt that both those arguments are valid, but the weakness surely is that they must ultimately lead to the abolition of the Senate and they must ultimately lead to the total uselessness of the Senate in carrying out the function which the founders of this Constitution envisaged for it. Simultaneous elections may be cheaper and simpler but they would produce a Senate which was totally and absolutely ineffectual. I am convinced that the people of Australia deserve a far more responsible watchdog than would be produced by the introduction of simultaneous elections. Recently in the House of Representatives the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) said about the Bill:
Most importantly it will assist in reflecting in both Houses simultaneously the people’s will, so that the Government of the day and the Parliament may get on with their job.
That is a most revealing statement. It reveals totally and unequivocally the fact that the Prime Minister certainly has no regard- I believe he must understand the role of the Senate- for the role of the Senate in its province as an adjudicator, as a House of review and as a people’s brake on the legislation that comes before it.
It is equally important, I believe, that the Senate elections should occur not simultaneously with the House of Representatives but that they should occur as they do now and produce half the members of the Senate at any one election, so that there is a change not of the total Senate but of half the Senate. In doing so, surely the Australian people receive something of a continuing measure in their effort of guardianship over the legislation before the Parliament. If half the members of the Senate are elected at a time they will represent a continuing view which changes over the years, and a real measure of stability must be introduced by that measure alone. The other most significant feature of the Senate’s being elected in halves is that it provides the Australian people- the electorate- with a real opportunity to pass judgment on the government of the day. I believe that this is a provision, a right and a responsibility which the electorate must accept and which it needs.
In any democracy surely it is important for people to be able to pass judgment on a government as it proceeds along the line, otherwise there will be the establishment of a totalitarian circumstance from which there will be no return, no matter, to what end that totalitarian circumstance may be directed. On the grounds that the legislation is unnecessary- there is no clamour for it- that it has been rejected by the Australian people less than 12 months ago, that it would destroy the very significance of the Senate in the Australian parliamentary system and thereby be the prelude to its abolition and that it would deny the Australian people an opportunity to pass judgment on the government of the day as it proceeds along its course, I strongly oppose the Bill.
– We have been treated, while debating the second electoral Bill in 2 weeks, to a display by members of the Opposition similar to that which we saw last week. Lacking a rational or logical case to present against the Bill, the Opposition’s case degenerates into attempts to paint a frightening picture of the results which will ensue if this legislation is passed. Senator Withers, when debating the previous electoral Bill, the Electoral Bill 1975, told us, in some way which was not explained, that if political parties were forced to disclose the sources of their funds it would lead to one party rule. Today Senator Scott informed us that, once again in some way which is totally unexplained, if a Bill is passed which compels the Senate to have elections simultaneously with elections for the House of Representatives it will lead to totalitarianism.
I was also amused to hear Senator Scott’s pontificating about accepting the decisions of the people. I suggest that gratuitous advice directed towards politicians on accepting the decisions of the people would be best directed to the leader of his own Party, Mr Anthony, and the Leader of the Opposition, Mr Snedden, who do not yet appear to have accepted the decision that the people made in May 1974. They did not accept it in May 1974; they did not accept it in June; they did not accept it in October or November; and they do not accept it now. It ill behoves members of the Opposition to lecture our Party, the
Government Party, on the virtues of accepting the decisions of the people.
The standard reasons why this legislation is necessary have been fairly clearly detailed in the second reading speech of the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Senator Willesee). Of course it is much simpler to hold elections conjointly. It leads to more stable government in a time of unprecendented instability of government in Australia, and of course it was recommended very strongly by an all-party committee in 1959. As well as the self evident reasons for synchronising elections in the House of Representatives and the Senate, ever since May last year there has been another particularly compelling reason why this should be done. If elections are not synchronised and if the Government does not have the qualifications to force a double dissolution, having had Bills twice rejected by the Senate, the Senate can reject a Supply Bill and force the House of Representatives and the Government to an election without exposing itself to the verdict of the electors. Prior to May 1974 it may have seemed that this was not very important, but since we have witnessed that reckless grab for power last year it has become important that, if the Senate is to reject Supply, at least some of the senators who vote to reject Supply present themselves to the electors as well as forcing the Government and the House of Representatives to face the electors.
I have read the substitute for an argument presented in the House of Representatives once again, I regret to say, by the erudite honourable member for Moreton (Mr Killen). It is very hard on the honourable member for Moreton to be continually handed these lame duck cases to present by his Party. I presume that it picked its most eloquent speaker because it realised that it never had a case so it would have to have a very eloquent speaker to try to conceal the fact that it did not have a case. On the one hand the honourable member for Moreton lambasted the Government for re-presenting this referendum question which was rejected by the people only 10 or 11 months before by a small margin. He then proceeded to ask why the Government did not re-present all 4 questions it presented at the May referendums. On the one hand he said: Why are you presenting the one?’ On the other hand he said: ‘Why have you not presented four instead of re-presenting the question which was defeated in the referendum by a very narrow margin?’ I must confess that I could not follow his logic.
I have endeavoured to check what I am about to put as an added reason why the Senate should support this Bill. Unfortunately I have not been able to do so. I have not been able to obtain a copy of the relevant document, but I have been informed- and I see no reason to doubt the accuracy of this information- that the Liberal Party’s official platform states that elections for the House of Representatives and the Senate should be synchronised. If that is the case- I cannot be certain, as I have mentioned, because I have not been able to procure the relevant document- as I have been reliably informed that it is, I think that the members of the Liberal Party at least have a very heavy responsibility to explain to the Senate why they believe that in this instance their platform should be disregarded.
Senator Wood’s comment, of which unfortunately I heard only the tail end, appeared in parts to have very little to do with the Bill which is before the Senate. I note that he also, like Mr Killen, complained about the Government’s resubmitting this piece of legislation only 10 months after it had previously been submitted to the people by way of referendum. The obvious reason of course is that it is a very good Bill which seeks to enact a very necessary law. Over and beyond that- I am sure that privately members of the Opposition would acknowledge thisthe circumstances which existed at the time of the May 1974 elections and referendums were such that the electorate was overwhelmingly involved in the question of the election for the survival, the return or the defeat of the Government. The referendum questions received little informative ventilation and little informative discussion. It is unfortunate that there is a tendency in all referendums for this to happen. The people do not really understand what the issues are about, and there is a tendency when in doubt to vote no.
In the case of these referendums the normal dangers of misunderstanding were exacerbated by the lies- I use that word advisedly- which were contained in the official ‘No’ case circulated by the Electoral Office in opposition to one of the referendum proposals. The deliberate lie did not refer to this Bill, but all the questions were associated with the same pamphlet and the same campaign. It referred to the referendum on the question of having electorates with equal population. The official ‘No’ case, which I presume was endorsed by at least the majority of the members of the Opposition in this chamber and /or in the House of Representatives, argued that it was not appropriate to have electorate sizes determined by population instead of enrolment. That is certainly a point of view that has a good deal to commend it and they were quite entitled to argue in that way. The case then went on to state:
Equal numbers of electors, which is what we have now . . .
That, I repeat, was a conscious and deliberate lie perpetrated by members of the Opposition and circulated by the Electoral Office at the expense of the Australian taxpayer. I place on record in the Senate a query of the Minister representing the Attorney-General as to whether there is any provision in the Electoral Act to prevent the circulation, in official publications, of blatant lies of this nature.
I mention that incident to supplement the argument that there was a very confused, emotional and heady situation existing in May 1 974. The referendum questions were not properly understood. They were all defeated. The one we are considering now was defeated by a very narrow margin only. It-was defeated by a margin somewhat greater in terms of absolute numbers of votes cast than the margin by which the Opposition was defeated by the Government. I emphasise that it was only slightly greater. Because it is such an innately logical Bill and no rational case can be presented against it, the Government has decided that the people once again should be given an opportunity to express their will on this issue. The members of the Opposition claim to represent the permanent will of the people. The adversaries of Senator Hall in South Australia used to refer to their representation of the permanent will of the people, and Senator Wood seemed to go close to accepting that belief. Those members of the Opposition who claim to know and represent the permanent will of the people will vote against this Bill and prevent the people from expressing that will.
– I have been somewhat bewildered by the logic of the 2 honourable senators who have spoken for the Opposition this afternoon. For example, Senator Wood advanced as an argument against the introduction of this Bill the proposition that there was nothing in the Australian Constitution requiring the holding of elections for the House of Representatives and for the Senate simultaneously. It would be rather surprising of the Government to introduce a Bill such as this if that were already in the Constitution. The purpose of our introducing this Bill is to change the Constitution because we consider it to be unsatisfactory. In support of his opposition to the Bill Senator Wood dragged out some of the tired old cliches about this place being a
States House. If that were so, if the Senate were a States House, there is nothing in this Bill which would alter that situation. But once again seeing that this tired old cliche keeps recurring, I would like briefly to dispose of this proposition that there is any factual basis for the suggestion that this is a States House.
In support of his proposition Senator Wood instanced an occasion some years ago when Senator McKenna walked into the chamber when there was a division on, looked around and did not knew where to go. This evidently suggests that it is commonplace in this House for honourable senators from the various States and the various parties to be dispersed willy-nilly around the benches voting according either to their consciences or the interests of their States when we all know, of course, that that happens on the rarest of occasions. It happens only very seldom and, to Senator Wood ‘s credit, he is one of the people who does make the exception a little less exceptional. It is only on the rarest of occasions that anybody wandering into this chamber after having had no idea of what was being debated, is left in any doubt as to where his side stands in the division.
This is not a States House. This is another party House. This is one of the things which makes it something of an anachronism. We go to the people to find out what they want in the way of a government according to the more democratic standards that are set for a vote for the House of Representatives. The people give their verdict and a government is established according to the way in which the people have voted for the House of Representatives. Then, by the quaint old-fashioned method of giving the people of Tasmania as many senators as the people of New South Wales, we get another House here which seems, of recent years, to have tried to set itself up as some sort of court of appeal from the decision of the people as registered in the result for the House of Representatives.
If the Senate is going to reject this Bill again let us not do so on the ground that in some way we will be doing violence to an idea which has no validity anyway, that is, that this is a States House. As I have said, it is not a States House and even if it were this Bill would not be making any inroads on such an imagined principle.
I found Senator Scott’s contribution even more bewildering. He offered the proposition that somehow there was some totalitarian flavour to this Bill. He said that if we go in for the practice of simultaneous elections for the House of Representatives and half of the Senate, this inevitably must lead to the abolition of the Senate. That <a proposition that strikes me as a magnificient non sequitur. I cannot see the connection between the proposition that we should try to minimise the number of elections by allowing the people to have their say simultaneously about half of the Senate and the whole of the House of Representatives, and a proposition to abolish to Senate. In order to defend a proposition like that Senator Scott has to get around the fact that until 1954 there had been only one occasion- in 1929- when there had not been simultaneous elections for the House of Representatives and the Senate. In order to justify his thesis he has to show somehow or other that chaos reigned in Australia until 1954. He has to explain why we did not get totalitarianism throughout that period. He has to show that since 1954 things have been more stable than they were before 1 954 when it is notorious, of course, that our system of government has never shown greater signs of instability than in recent years, in the time sine 1959 when we have had 9 national elections and only twice were there simultaneous elections for the House of Representatives and the Senate. I suggest that history is against Senator Scott and that his fears of the onset of some evil totalitarian regime, of some sinister plot by the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) to demolish democracy, just do not hold water.
Senator Scott also has to explain, as does Senator Wood, why such sinister interpretations were not placed upon a proposal such as we are advancing when the matter was considered back in 1958 and 1959 by the Joint Committee on Constitutional Review. That was an all party committee set up by the Menzies Government. Surely it is not to be suggested that there was any sinister totalitarian streak in the late great white father. Surely it is not suggested that the Joint Committee on Constitutional Review was some sort of subversive bolshevist organisation. That Committee consisted of a number of people, including such fire-eating radicals as Senator Wright, Senator O’sullivan, Mr Downer and Mr Joske of the House of Representatives, and Mr Drummond of the Country Party. The Committee recommended, I think with only Senator Wright dissenting precisely what we are contending for in this proposition. I listened in vain for some argument designed to show that what was considered a progressive, sensible and moderate suggestion, as indeed it had to be, coming from a Committee of that composition, has suddenly become a proposition of fire-eating radicals with a sinister connotation of the subversion of democracy. It is nothing of the kind. It is a rational sensible proposition designed to get a little more stability into a system of government which is becoming increasingly unstable.
It is obvious- the point does not need labouring- that if we have an election every year, which seems to be the pattern our opponents are trying to establish, we do not achieve greater stability in government. We do not achieve the sort of attitude which one must expect from governments- that we can wait for the long term to show that we have been correct, even though we may have done something unpopular because, to paraphrase or to try to bring into the local context an oft quoted remark of the economist John Maynard Keynes, in the long run we are all dead. This is being paraphrased by our opponents: ‘In the short run you will all be out of office if you attempt to do anything which may momentarily bring you into some sort of unpopularity with the electorate’. I suggest to those who argue that stability is achieved in some way by having more and more elections is to turn logic upside down. The argument that the electors decided the matter a short time ago by a majority of a quarter of a million, which is not an enormous majority considering the numbers who voted, and that that must put an end to the matter for all time is also a curious form of logic.
The Opposition, to be consistent, must argue that because the electors said last May that they wanted a Labor government we should not be going to them again in the foreseeable future and asking them whether they have changed their minds. From everything that we have heard falling from the Opposition lately, this is the proposition they put in relation to who will be the government of this country. They say that the fact that the electors decided 9 months ago that they wanted a Labor government is a verdict which they are entitled to seek to have reversed at the drop of a hat and at any moment which suits them. Yet they deny us the right to say on a matter like this that, in the light of the instability which the electors of Australia have witnessed in the atmosphere of more and more frequent elections, sufficient numbers of them may have changed their minds to make the recommittal of this proposition to them a worthwhile exercise. Surely the Opposition gets bogged down in its own lack of logic here also. We believe that it is worthwhile asking the electors, in the light of the experience they have had since they last turned down this referendum, whether they are still of the same mind. There is nothing sinister, subversive or illogical in our attempt to ask them to change their minds on this matter.
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The Senate divided. (The President- Senator the Hon. Justin O ‘Byrne)
Question so resolved in the negative.
Sitting suspended from 5.57 to 8 p.m.
Debate resumed from 19 February, on motion by Senator Wriedt:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
-Mr President, the Opposition will vote against the second reading of this Bill. At the outset I think 2 fundamental points must be stressed. The first is that the Opposition accepts the general principle that the High Court ought to be the final court of appeal in Australia. The Opposition’s general attitude is that on those matters which are within the federal power and which are matters of federal jurisdiction we should look to the High Court, as a court composed of Australians and existing within Australia, as the final body to which legal matters should be taken. This was the attitude expressed in legislation which the
Liberal and Country parties sponsored in 1968 and which represents the general attitude of the Opposition parties today. The second point which I stress is that with regard to Privy Council appeals which are outside the competence of the Federal Parliament, that is, appeals which citizens desire to take from decisions of the State Supreme Courts, it is for the States, in conjunction with the Commonwealth or on their own arrangements with the British Parliament, to determine what should be the ultimate resolution of appeals to the Privy Council. The point which must be stressed with regard to appeals which are taken from the State Supreme Courts is that the Opposition regards the Commonwealth as having no legislative power to abolish those appeals. Whether or not those appeals should be abolished is for the States to negotiate with the English Parliament or, as I indicated, in negotiation with the Commonwealth and by referendum of the Australian people.
The objections which the Opposition has to this legislation are primarily and fundamentally based upon the way in which the Government is acting. In the first place, it is bypassing and ignoring the State governments in a matter which is of State concern and which is not a matter of Commonwealth concern. I stress that the only appeals which can be taken to the Privy Council at the present time in Australia are those appeals which exist in non-federal matters or in matters which are not concerned with federal jurisdiction. Whilst some of those matters do go to the Privy Council from the High Court, most of them ordinarily would go from the State Supreme Courts. That right of appeal which citizens have to take cases on appeal from State Supreme Courts is a right which is conferred upon them not by Commonwealth legislation, not by State legislation, but by the legislation of the Imperial Parliament, passed in 1833 and expanded in 1 844. Whether or not that right of appeal should be taken away is a matter which could be rectified by a decision of the Australian people, if the Government were prepared to take that issue to the Australian people, or it could be resolved by arrangement between the States and the English Parliament, if the English Parliament were prepared to take that action at the request of the States.
The Bill states in quite specific language in clause 4: no appeal to the Queen in Council lies or shall be brought . . . from or in respect of any decision of an Australian court.
This Bill therefore purports to take away a right which is conferred upon Australian citizens by an
English Act of Parliament to have an appeal to a Privy Council from a decision of an Australian court. As I have suggested, if the Opposition’s view is to prevail, we would like to see the High Court of Australia as the final court of appeal in Australia. But this is a right which citizens have which, if it is to be taken away, ought to be taken away by those who have the power to take it away. It ought not to be usurped- I think ‘usurped’ is a fair word to use in the circumstancesby those who seek to exercise a power which they do not possess. There are not many avenues of appeal to the Privy Council which are currently availed of or which are likely to be availed of in the future. From my researches, I think there have been some 20 appeals in the last four or five years from either the High Court or the State Supreme Courts which did not encompass federal matters or matters which were not part of federal jurisdiction. The right of appeal is, and I stress this, a right of the citizen and under the present provisions a citizen may take an appeal to the Privy Council in only those matters which have no federal law or federal jursidiction component. Of course, those appeals may go from the decisions of State Supreme Courts or from the High Court, and it is the function of this Bill to deal with the appeals from the Supreme Courts.
One of the misconceptions, and I raise it at this time because I think it is important to note it, is that it is popularly supposed that the existing appeal to the Privy Council still protects States in respect of their relations with the Commonwealth. This popular supposition is a misconception. Under the Constitution, the High Court is the sole voice in deteriming whether matters which affect the relations of the State and the Commonwealth inter se may be taken to the Privy Council and it is generally thought that the High Court, in the reasonings which it has used in recent years, would not grant the certificate which would enable that matter to be taken to the Privy Council. Notwithstanding this limited area in regard to which appeals still lie to the Privy Council, there is a wealth of emotion which still attaches to the retention of the Privy Council appeal. It is that issue which I think does concern people. It appears to many to epitomise the efforts of this, the Whitlam Government, to sever or denigrate the English connection. The reaction against those efforts, the feeling that this is not what Australians really want, is the militating factor against recognition of the relatively unimportnat questions which are still raised by the broad issue of what is called the Privy Council appeal.
The action of the Commonwealth Government as demonstrated in this Bill is a unilateral action. It is repugnant to the States and I think the States have made their opposition to it quite clear. It is repugnant to the federal system, as the Opposition sees the measure. Furthermore, it ultimately cannot succeed. The measure is a vain and dictatorial effort to achieve what seems to be a personal objective of a Prime Minister who wants to have this particular objective to his credit. I repeat that this Bill is Commonwealth action in a matter which is of State concern and not of Commonwealth concern. A second factor which ought to be considered is that it is not and ought not to be regarded as consistent with Australia’s standing as an independent nation to go cap in hand to the British Parliament.
– That is the Prime Minister’s attitude, I assume.
– It was the Prime Minister’s attitude before he became Prime Minister, as the record shows, but he appears to regard it as being his function as the Australian Prime Minister to go, as colonial Premiers of old were wont to go, to Westminster to doff his cap to the Queen and to ask the British Parliament to legislate with respect to Australia. The Opposition does not accept that approach as being a proper approach that is consonant with Australia’s standing as an independent nation in the 1970s. One might concede that there might be some merit in the abolition of appeals to the Privy Council by the British Parliament if all the States, together with the Commonwealth, were to go to Westminster and to ask the British Parliament to pass such legislation. I hope that that will never occur. I would much prefer to see this issue resolved within Australia and determined by referendum of the Australian people because it can be done by referendum and that would be consistent with the position which Australia ought to hold in the independent stature which it has now reached. Let me quote the view which the Prime Minister held when he was the Leader of the Opposition. The then Opposition Party introduced a Bill in 1968 which sought to limit effectively the right of appeal from the High Court to the Privy Council and the Prime Minister, Mr Whitlam, spoke on that measure in the House of Representatives.
– As Leader of the Opposition? senator GREENWOOD-He spoke as Leader of the Opposition. I cite to the Senate what Mr Whitlam then said. I think that it is revealing to find out how the acceptance and the holding of power can so change a person’s attitudes that in relation to matters which were once fundamental he can undergo an absolute transformation. Mr Whitlam said in 1968, as recorded in Volume 58 of the House of Representatives Hansard:
It is impossible for this Parliament or for the State Parliaments, by legislation, to abolish appeals from the State Supreme Courts to the Privy Council. This is because the Australian States opted out of the Statute of Westminster. The Australian States are still British colonies. If they wanted to abolish appeals from their Supreme Courts to the Privy Council they would have to ask the British Parliament to repeal the Judicial Committee Appeals Acts of 1833 and 1844. This would emphasise Australia’s dependence on Britain. An alternative course- and I do not suggest that this is free of legal doubt- would be for this Parliament to pass a Bill for a referendum and for the Government to put that referendum to the people to abolish these appeals. This would emphasise our independence.
It ought to be noted that in 1 968 the Prime Minister acknowledged that which he now denies, namely, that it is impossible for this Parliament or for the State Parliaments by legislation to abolish appeals from the State Supreme Courts to the Privy Council. Yet this BUI, which the Prime Minister introduced in the House of Representatives, purports to abolish appeals to the Privy Council. A course which he said would emphasise our dependence upon Britain he now puts forward as the appropriate course of an independent country to follow. Power tends to corrupt. The action of the Commonwealth is a unilateral action. It is repugnant to the States and to the federal system and, as I have said, it cannot succeed. What the Prime Minister is doing is following the course which is contrary to the independence which we in the Opposition Parties regard Australia as possessing and which we feel it should uphold.
Thirdly, the method of requesting the United Kingdom to act is a misuse of the restrictions which are contained in the Statute of Westminster. The Statute of Westminster, of course, was passed by the British Parliament in 1 93 1 . It was a voluntary acceptance of restraint by the British Parliament with respect to legislation affecting the Dominions. The Statute of Westminster was accepted by Australia in 1942. Section 4 of the Statute of Westminster- I quote it because it is the relevant section in the context in which are debating this matter- states:
No Act of Parliament of the United Kingdom passed after the commencement of this Act shall extend, or be deemed to extend, to a Dominion as part of the law of that Dominion, unless it is expressly declared in that Act that that Dominion has requested, and consented to, the enactment thereof.
In short, the British Parliament voluntarily said: We will not enact laws which will apply to a Dominion unless that Dominion requests us to act and indicates that it will consent to the enactment’, and in the Act of the British Parliament that request and consent appear. At the time there had been some controversy as to whether that might enable the Commonwealth Parliament of Australia to request the United Kingdom Parliament to pass laws which might affect matters affecting the States. The States were concerned. They sought and received advice from Professor Bailey, who subsequently became and held for many years with respect throughout Australia and internationally the position of Solicitor-General of the Commonwealth, that that argument was untenable. The States, far from opting out of the Statute of Westminster, were not parties to the Statute of Westminster because the advice they received was that it was unnecessary for them to become parties to the Statute of Westminster because it was unthinkable, inconceivable that what they feared could come to pass. I cite again for the benefit of the present supporters of the Government, in particular the Prime Minister, what the AttorneyGeneral of the day, Dr Evatt, had to say on this question. In the course of the debate on the Statute of Westminster in the Australian Parliament in 1 942 Dr Evatt used these words:
The practical effect of the adoption of section 4 -
That is section 4 of the Statute of Westminster will be two fold. First, a ready indication to the courts of whether or not the legislation applies to the Commonwealth; that is, does it contain the requesting and consenting clause, or not? The request and consent must go from both the Parliament and the Government of the Commonwealth, not merely from the Government itself. Some years ago . . . one or two of the States said that they did not like section 4, without a preamble in the adopting legislation to the effect that the Commonwealth would not ask the Imperial Parliament for legislation in respect of a matter that really came within the jurisdiction of a State. My answer to that would be, first, that the Parliament of this country would not make such a request; and secondly, that if it did, the Imperial Parliament would not enact the legislation. Honourable members will notice that this does not say that the Imperial Parliament will always act upon the request and consent; the provision is negative- not to pass legislation without the request and consent . . . This Bill will not in any way disturb the balance of powers between the Commonwealth and the States. This can be altered only by the people acting under section 12S of the Constitution.
– Does he imply in that statement that Westminster would not act upon a request of the Commonwealth that is adverse to the view of the States?
– I could not interpret this in any other way than the way that Senator Wright has suggested to me. I suggest to members of the Government that the views of Dr Evatt in this context are deserving of weight. He is the author of a text which is still respected and referred to, ‘The King and His Dominion Governors’, and that was written, as I recall it, some 5 years before he made this statement. It is an interesting question as to how the present Government can reconcile what it is now doing with the statement so positively made by Dr Evatt in 1942 that the action which this Government is now giving effect to would not happen and indeed, if it were to happen that the British Government would not enact legislation so requested. It is one of those remarkable transformations which it is hard to explain.
The fourth point to which I would refer is that the Government’s action is creating if not an impossible position then a tremendously difficult position for the British Government, a position from which the British Government undoubtedly would desire to be free. When Mr Whitlam went to England in early 1973 he discussed this question of the Privy Council appeal with the British Government and on his return, as we remember, made a statement to the Parliament. In Mr Whitlam ‘s ministerial statement of 1 May 1973 he stated:
The United Kingdom takes the view that the question whether appeals should be brought to the Privy Council from the courts of a Commonwealth country is essentially a question for the Commonwealth country concerned. An Australian initiative is therefore required. I think it correct to say that the United Kingdom would wish moreover that whatever can be done in and by Australia should be done in and by Australia herself.
I stop to interpolate that Dr Evatt had said in 1942 that one way in which Australia could act would be by way of referendum. I also interpolate that one way in which Dr Evatt said the Australian Parliament surely would never act would be to take requesting and consenting legislation to the Imperial Parliament in defiance of the States. But what did Mr Whitlam say? I continue reading from his statement:
One way of proceeding is for the Australian Government and Parliament to request and consent to the enactment of United Kingdom legislation. There will then be opportunity for the validity of the legislation of the Australian Parliament to be challenged.
This approach -
– Who said that?
-That was Mr Whitlam in his ministerial statement of 1 May 1973. That approach of Mr Whitlam was challenged by the States which in unison proceeded to Westminster and placed their own memorandum before the British Government. In due course the contents of that memorandum have become known. For example, on 19 June the Premier of Victoria put the view of the States in a parliamentary statement to the Victorian Parliament. He said that he would point out:
He said further on in his statement:
When the terms of the Statute of Westminster were being considered some concern was expressed by the States that section 4 might be interpreted so as to permit the Commonwealth to request the British Parliament to legislate upon matters which were considered to be of State and not of Commonwealth interest. An examination of the debates both at Westminster and in Canberra will reveal that clear assurances were repeatedly given that no such effect would follow the enactment of the statute.
– Whose statement is that?
-That is the statement of Mr Hamer to the Victorian Parliament and he was expressing a view which was contained in the memorandum which all the States had presented to the British Government when they went to England in June 1973. 1 quote from that memorandum.
– Was Tasmania represented?
– All the States were represented without exception- Liberal-Country Party governed States and Labor governed States. They were concerned not so much with the question of whether or not the appeal which citizens held from the State Supreme Courts to the Privy Council should be abolished but with the method by which the British Government was proceeding to deal with the question. The memorandum says:
The view hitherto accepted by all Governments, Commonwealth and State, in Australia has been that if United Kingdom action, whether executive or legislative, is to be taken the request for it should come from the Government which it exclusively or primarily concerns, and from both the Federal and a State Government after joint consultation if it concerns them both. All this is consistent with the concept of the central element and the constituent elements in the Federation. The sovereign legislative power exercised by the Commonwealth Parliament on the subjects of legislation assigned to it is no different from the sovereign legislative power exercised by State Parliaments on the subjects of legislation assigned to them, and of course the division of executive power follows the division of legislative power. It is important to keep in mind the equality of status under the Commonwealth Constitution of the Commonwealth body and the State bodies.
The Commonwealth may seek to justify its failure to consult the States on the ground that it is a question of relationships between separate governments which may be properly categorised as external affairs and therefore the exclusive concern of the Commonwealth. But even if the external affairs power were exclusive, and there is nothing in the Commonwealth Constitution to make it- so, relations between the United Kingdom and the States on matters that form pan of the constitutional structure of the States, such as the position of a State Governor or appeals to Her Majesty in Council, are clearly not external affairs. It would be to deny history and the very essence of State constitutional institutions to describe constitutional relationships with the United Kingdom as an external affair. The right of a State to approach United Kingdom authorities direct on a matter that exclusively or primary concerns the State is well recognised and the absence of any right in the Commonwealth to approach those authorities on such a matter is equally well recognised. This constitutional principle was affirmed in 1935 by the Report by the Joint Committee of the House of Lords and the House of Commons appointed to consider the Petition of the State of Western Australia.
One can only stress that the unilateral action of the Commonwealth in this area does deny the essence of the Federation and does deny what is the proper relationship between the States and the Commonwealth and the Westminster Parliament. But take the position a little further. One might refer to what Mr Bjelke-Petersen, -
– And a very good lawyer.
-The Premier of Queensland, said as recently as 1 February 1975. I heard the interjection of the Minister which was designed to ridicule Mr Bjelke-Petersen by the sneering statement that he was a brilliant lawyer. Mr Bjelke-Petersen would not claim to be a lawyer. He would claim to be a very successful Premier concerned to defend the rights of his State as he sees those rights, and to protect the interests of the citizens of that State.
– And his Government. What is the Opposition in Queensland representing today?
– I forbear from taking up Senator Wright’s invitation to refer to the debacle which hit the Minister’s Party when it contested the last State election in Queensland.
– Order! I think it would be better if the honourable senator applied himself to the Bill before the Senate.
– I welcome your invitation, Mr President. Mr Bjelke-Petersen, in the passage to which I referred, was not speaking as a lawyer; he was speaking as a man who had been concerned and who had gone to London to find out the facts. He is reported in this way in the Australian’ newspaper on his return to Australia:
He had been given firm assurances that the British Government would not help Canberra abolish appeals from State courts to the Privy Council unless this was the wish of the States.
– Why did he make that statement?
– It is reported in the Australian’ newspaper of 1 February 1975. It indicates the attitude, the opinion, of the Premier of that State after he had been to London, that the action which was being taken or was being proposed by the Commonwealth would not succeed unless the States concurred. Therefore, I repeat that the Australian Government is creating an impossible position for the British Government by the passage of this legislation, and it will not succeed unless the States concur. I would urge that a proper evolution of the constitutional development of Australia warrants that this whole question should be considered by a body such as the Constitutional Convention and ultimately put before the Australian people by way of referendum. It would be a much more fruitful exercise than the holding of the type of referenda with which the Government of this country has been concerned over the past few years. I do not elaborate reasons why in my opinion we ought to work towards the end of the Privy Council appeal. We desire to maintain the integrity of our judicial institutions. Whatever might be the views held by people on recent events, anything which detracts from the integrity with which our judicial institutions are held is to be regarded as a misfortune. I think that the High Court is regarded as a court of renown. It is a court to which Australians can appeal with the satisfaction that justice will be done in issues with which they are concerned. I hope that we can reach a situation in which there will be a confidence throughout the Commonwealth, and felt by the constituted elements of the Commonwealth, that the High Court is the appropriate body which can be accepted as the final court.
To me it is incredible that the Labor Party and its Prime Minister who, in the past, have sought to emphasise Australia’s independence should be seeking the exercise of a colonial power to effect in Australia what could be achieved by Australians themselves in Australia. It is not surprising that the Labor Party and its Prime Minister should be ignoring the States because we have seen many instances of the assertion of the central power overriding the provincial or the local power. What is surprising is that they should ask the Senate as the States House to approve such a course. The States ‘ co-operation has not been sought in any real or meaningful way. The States and the Constitutional Convention which has been operating over the past 2 years have been by-passed. The Opposition believes that we ought not to look outside Australia for answers to Australia’s problems of a character which are involved in this legislation and which can be resolved in Australia itself. For those reasons the Opposition will oppose the motion for the second reading of this Bill.
– I rise to speak very briefly in the debate on this Bill, Senator Greenwood having gone to some length to elaborate the history of the matter. Listening to what he had to say I was reminded of a dictum by a famous British jurist, Lord Mansfield, who said: ‘Give your decisions and never your reasons. Your decisions may be right; your reasons are sure to be wrong’. I was reminded of that dictum during Senator Greenwood’s speech when he advanced his reasons why this legislation should be opposed. Senator Greenwood has tonight, as he has often done in the Senate, sought to fulfil 2 roles. The first role is a political role as a defender of the States in this matter. He describes this legislation as being repugnant to the States. The second role which he seeks to assume on this occasion as on other occasions is a judicial role. He seeks to pronounce in the Senate upon the validity or otherwise of this legislation before the Senate. I think that that second role is appropriate to the High Court and to no one else. I think that this was recognised by the Minister for Manufacturing Industry (Senator James McClelland) who introduced this Bill. He said in his second reading speech that if the question of the legislative competence of the Parliament to deal with this matter had to be determined, then it was appropriately a matter to be dealt with by the High Court and the Government was prepared for that to happen.
– The Parliament is entitled to express an opinion.
-I understand that. Senator Sir Magnus Cormack has expressed a number of opinions during the course of this debate. The point I was making in relation to Senator Greenwood ‘s objection to the legislation is that they are twofold. The real objection is a political one, not the second objection which he seeks to put forward. The nub of what Senator Greenwood had to say is contained in expressions of this kind which he used: ‘This is a matter of State concern and not a matter of Commonwealth concern ‘. He went on to say: ‘The right of appeal is a right of the citizen’. Stripped of all the peripheral arguments, that is essentially what we are talking about- the right of the citizen. We are talking about that in the context of whether the expression ‘citizen’ means citizen of Australia, or whether it means citizen of the State of Queensland or citizen of the State of Victoria. That is the important distinction we are trying to make. That was the purpose of trying to change the emphasis on that distinction. That was the purpose of the legislation introduced by the former Attorney-General, Mr Nigel Bowen, in 1968, namely, to try to attach greater emphasis on the importance of being a citizen of Australia. The argument that we are basically left with in this matter is whether the expression ‘citizens’ means citizen of Australia or citizen of a particular State.
The argument is put on 2 levels. Firstly, it is argued that it is a matter for the States and citizens of the States, and secondly, it is argued that the method adopted which in essence is contained in clause 7 of the Bill is reprehensible and possibly unconstitutional. Clause 7 states:
The Parliament requests and consents to the enactment by the Parliament of the United Kingdom of an Act in, or substantially in, the terms set out in the Schedule.
The Schedule sets out the Act which this Parliament would request the United Kingdom Parliament to pass. In dealing firstly with the question of methodology, as it might be described, let me simply say that this is not the first time this Parliament has requested the United Kingdom Parliament to act in this way. Admittedly, on the 2 previous occasions under Liberal-Country Party governments the legislation in question related to matters which might be regarded as of lesser importance. As J recall, the Bills related to various islands- Christmas Island and, I think, the Cocos Islands- and were passed by the Parliament approximately 1 5 years ago.
– They did not affect the States in any way.
-I follow that, and I would have thought that that really related to the second part of the honourable senator’s argument. The argument is put on 2 levels: Firstly, it is said that the method adopted is wrong and perhaps unconstitutional. Secondly, it is said that it is a matter which is the exclusive concern of the States rather than of the Commonwealth Government.
I wish to reiterate very briefly why we take the view that the matter is appropriate for this Parliament, as the national Parliament of Australia. A lot of sentiment has been expressed here. The reasons for accepting the first Bill probably apply very well to the reasons which we say should be advanced for accepting the other Bill. I do not want to put an argument about ends and means, but I say quite sincerely that if the Opposition believes that Australia has now arrived at a sufficient degree of national maturity and identity, as Canada did in 1947, its quarrel with the method adopted, which has been used before, is a rather unimportant one, having regard to the subject matter in question. We are told that the Opposition is firmly of the view that it is desirable that appeals to the Privy Council be abolished. We are told that it should be done, first of all, by means of the Constitutional Convention which in fact was aborted in its activities by action taken by the Opposition in the Senate only a few months ago.
– That does not do your argument justice.
– No, but we have heard so much about the Constitutional Convention. In the course of all the referendum campaigns we have been told that these matters should be left to the Constitutional Convention. When this legislation comes before the Senate we are told that this matter should be left to the Constitutional Convention. When this legislation comes before the Senate we are told that this matter should be left to the Constitutional Convention. What is lacking in an approach to the Constitutional Convention is any enthusiasm to get on with it and to get on with any of thes issues. The Constitutional Convention has become a large filing tray in which the Opposition can insert anything it does not want to deal with at this stage. According to the Opposition, it will all be left until the Constitutional Convention is held. The Constitutional Convention may be asked at some stage to consider this matter; but, if the Opposition thinks it is right now that appeals to the Privy Council should be abolished, now is the time to do it. Of course the reasons are quite apparent. First of all, there is no reason any longer, as a matter of law, why appeals from supreme courts of the States should go to the Privy Council. The Privy Council has suggested in a number of judgments that it is undesirable for these matters to go from State courts to the Privy Council. There are potentially grave difficulties of confusing interpretations between the Privy Council and the High Court of Australia on a variety of issues which may go either to the High Court or to the Privy Council. The suggestion that appeals should continue to go to the Privy Council is in some way a reflection on the High Court of Australia, although I know that Senator Greenwood, for one, would not intend it to be so regarded. But it is a reflection on a court which has been spoken of by eminent jurists throughout the world as a court of the highest significance and quality. It is frequently referred to by British judges as a court which is almost preeminent in the British Commonwealth and it is highly regarded throughout the areas where the
British common law system exists. To say at this stage that we are still not prepared to leave appeals in the hands of the High Court for reasons which date back to 1900, and in 1900 were foreseen by Deakin as sources of possible problems in the future, is in effect to reflect adversely on that Court as a national institution.
The next consideration as to why these appeals should be abolished relates to the question of national identity and national self-respect. That has been recognised by courts such as the Privy Council and it has been recognised by other countries such as Canada, where similar appeals have been abolished. That leaves the question of the High Court itself and the view which is put forward that somehow this legislation is an infringement of State rights. It may be seen as an infringement of the rights of certain State politicians. That is what Deakin foresaw in 1900 as possibly happening. It can be said to be so. But as a national Parliament surely we are concerned not with that but with the rights of Australian citizens, and in 1975 we ought to be concerned with that above everything else. As far as the ordinary Australian citizen is concerned, nothing can be said in favour of the retention of this system. Nothing can be said in favour of it from the point of view of the ordinary litigant who would be horrified not only by the possibility of appeals to the Privy Council but also by the possibility of appeals being taken against him to the Privy Council by insurance companies and others. The very high cost to the ordinary Australian citizen of Privy Council appeals is a factor which militates strongly against their continued existence. Senator Greenwood referred to the wealth of emotion which attaches to Privy Council appeals.
– To the English connection, and the feeling that that connection is in some way impaired by the removal of the right of appeal. That is what the emotionalism seems to be attached to.
-I understand that, but that is not the way the honourable senator expressed it. The emotionalism may beat very strongly in the heart of Senator Sir Magnus Cormack, who has now left the chamber, and in the heart of Senator Greenwood himself. But that is not a test of the wealth of emotion amongst the Australian people; that is a test of the strength of the emotions of those honourable senators, which really is not the relevant factor in this discussion. If I may turn it round the other way, what does attach to Privy Council appeals is a tremendous emotion about wealth, because that is what is involved. The Privy Council appeal is a device which is open only to the wealthiest litigants, it is not open to ordinary litigants at all. Senator Greenwood has put his finger on the point by referring to what he calls ‘the British connection’. It sounds like another spy novel. The fact of the matter is that nobody can be pointed to as valuing this connection not even the Premier of Queensland. He does not put his criticism of this type of activity in those terms. He puts it in the light of his own particular positionan apparent feeling of threat to his own situation and not in the light of maintaining the British connection at all. The Privy Council has never put it as being desirable. In 1900 Deakin, as I have said before, did not even regard it as desirable that the British connection as represented in this way should be maintained.
We are not talking about the British connections in any real sense. We are talking about a mechanical, legal situation. This legislation is designed to overcome the adverse effects of this mechanical, legal situation. I am concerned that the Opposition does not appear to be consistent in its stated attitudes. If the British connection was the important factor the Privy Council (Appeals from the High Court) Bill would also have been opposed. It is a significant part of the British connection if the other appeals from the State Supreme Courts can be said to be part of the British connection too. It is not really the British connection we are talking about, although we have heard much about it. I urge the Opposition in its consideration of this legislation to heed the virtues of intelligent conservatism rather than the other kind which has been clearly manifest in the one speech we have heard on this Bill in the chamber tonight. I say no more upon this matter because the issue has been very thoroughly canvassed by the Minister’s second reading speech and by Senator Greenwood’s reply. I am concerned that the reply is misdirected and has a confusion of issues involved which are not strictly relevant to the Bill.
Senator Sir MAGNUS CORMACK (Victoria) (8.52)- I rise to speak merely to display an attitude in which members of the laity can get their feet into this argument. I do not think that all arguments in relation to constitutional law should be confined to those who have been trained to argue legal cases and who, in political terms, move into the area of sophistry and do not acknowledge that nations are built to a large degree on an emotional content. I am well aware that the law is the law and the elements of law may be debated by those who engage themselves constantly in these exercises.
I heard Senator Button saying in a sort of shadowy whisper when I left the chamber to look up something that he was sorry I had left because I appeared to be the last remnant of an emotional content towards the question of the Privy Council. I am not involved in an emotional content in that way at all, but if I am, I look upon the arguments that have been adduced by Senator Button and other lawyers on the Government side as involving them in emotionalism. They are involved in a strident sort of emotionalism in that they must demonstrate that they are a pure people who have a purity of mind which can be described in one sense as a form of strident xenophobia.
– Do you mean purity or clarity, Senator?
Senator Sir MAGNUS CORMACKXenophobia, a fear of strangers. We have coined a word in Australia to describe Senator Button and others on the Government side these days. We describe them as the ockers. They are people who go round in a sort of legal slip slop with sandals which go flip flop along the pavement. We can see them every day. They have hair down over their shoulders and a beard half way to the navel. This is a sort of ocker syndrome we have in Australia at present. It adds nothing to this country. There is a collection of legally trained men on the Government side at present who I can describe only as legal ockers. Their mental processes can be demonstrated quite clearly by looking at the sort of characters who go round with flip flop sandals on their feet. It is true there is a looseness in thinking on this matter.
Senator Button involved himself in the most ancient of devices. His airing of his legal education and his historical education beginning somewhere at the time of the French Revolution forced me to interject and Mr President, at the time, quite properly rebuked me by saying that all interjections are disorderly. The Committee of Public Safety of the French Revolution- the Committee of Twelve- were people who constantly beseeched their Legal power by saying that the purity came from the people. In Senator Button’s way it comes from the citizens. What this Government is doing in a whole wide range of activities which it is invoking at present, not the least of which is this Bill, is an appeal to an amorphous citizenry who allege to be the people from which all intellectual power is derived. This is the basis of the argument.
An event occurred in 1901 which Senator James McClelland, Senator Button and everybody else on the other side prefer to disregard. I refer to the treaty formed between the 6 States and an element known as the Commonwealth of Australia. I find that it is completely disregarded. The Bill before us refers to the Parliament of Australia. The Constitution says that there shall be a parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia. This is one illustration of where an attack has been launched upon all the elements that compose the treaty which formed the Constitution of Australia and created the Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia. By every device that is possible to the cunning of the legal mind, an attempt is being made to break this treaty. The Constitution means a treaty between the 6 States to set up a central government.
– Not forever.
-Out of the mouth of Senator Georges comes the truth. A characteristic of a socialist society, for example, is that a treaty once it has been made is only a means of renegotiation. The moment an agreement is made between an employer and a union in the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission it becomes a point of renegotiation. Out of the mouth of Senator Georges tonight comes the real basis of the problem with which we are involved. Once a treaty is made, once an award is made, once an undertaking is given and once an agreement has been achieved a position of renegotiation is reached. This is what has happened at present with this one single phase. Having created a treaty which contains certain reserved rights to the constituents of the treaty, namely, the States of Australia, the means must be sought by which the treaty can be abrogated.
This is the whole gravamen of Senator Greenwood’s argument in the Senate tonight. The interesting observation derived from listening to honourable senators opposite was that this was a bit of old hat. The conventions under which this treaty was made now have to be subverted by legal sophistries, and a whole new language is invoked in order to give credibility to the sophistries which honourable senators opposite utter. We have reached such an absurd situation in Australia today that politics are conducted on the basis which find their focal point in this Senate on the thoughts of the Australian Mao. He is constantly rewriting the thoughts of Mao. There is a deluge of legislation appearing in the Senate at the present moment, and it is all based on the thoughts of Mao. We almost have to go round -
– Come off it. Don’t be childish.
-I am using this in a metaphorical sense. I do not say that we are actually adopting the thoughts of Mao. I am saying that the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) constantly rewrites his little red book. The Bill that is before the Senate at the present moment contains a whole lot of the thoughts of Mao, I remember Senator Greenwood in his maiden speech in the Senate making a brilliant exposition on the subject of whether or not there should be appeals from the High Court of Australia to the Privy Council. He made his speech on the basis that there should be no appeals from the High Court in matters that related to the jurisdiction of the Commonwealth of Australia under the Australian Constitution. I agreed with it. I sent him a note. In fact, I sent a note to his wife saying that I had known him since he was a young man and had heard many speeches from him but that I thought this was one of the most able speeches he had ever made. But that is not what Senator Greenwood has been arguing on behalf of the Opposition this evening. What Senator Greenwood has been arguing is that the constituent parts of the Australian treaty, that is, the Constitution, have a residual right, and this residual right resides in their ability to appeal to the parents from which the authority was originally derived, so there is no emotional content at all in me in this matter.
All I say is that the original subscribers to the treaty which set up this country have a residual right to appeal to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, and we have no right in this chamber, which draws its constituent elements from all the States, to take that right away. You, Mr Acting Deputy President, coming from the State of Tasmania, of which you are a most distinguished representative, have an equal right to be in this place to that of someone representing the metropolitan State of New South Wales. There are 10 senators from Tasmania and 10 Senators from New South Wales. This right to go to the parental authority from which the Constitution derives is one that the States are reluctant to forsake. I believe they have a right not to forsake it, and this chamber has no right to attempt to deprive them of this right.
– But the parent has given us away.
-Who has given you away?
– The parent you are talking about has given us away.
-The parent has not given us away at all. What the parent says is that the matter must be resolved in our own country. I agree with that, but in the absence of Chairman Mao, who says you have not got a right, then surely in this chamber, represented by people such as you, Mr Acting Deputy President, as one of the ten senators from Tasmania- a small and weak State compared with the metropolitan powers of, say, New South Wales and Victoria- we have a right to demand that this chamber, which was created to represent the views of the States and to protect them against the onslaught of the central government, use every force it can. In constitutional terms the States cannot appeal from the High Court but they have residual powers in terms of the common law, for example. The State of Victoria in its Act of Constitution carries the expression that the common law of the United Kingdom shall be the common law of Victoria.
Where is the element of the area of the common law? The great area of the expression of the common law in Australia and the rights and the protection of the citizens will be found to reside in the States, not in a superior court which is proposed in Canberra. You must agree with me on this, Mr Acting Deputy President. You cannot sit in this place as a senator and say that in your Sates you are going to deprive Mr Reece and his Government- you may advise me as to what government exists in Tasmania at the moment, but I assume it is Mr Reece and his Government- of the right of going to the fount of common law, which they regard as the fount of common law. Yet unilaterally this Bill seeks to take away from the States that powerful right, that residual right that they feel they possess. It is this chamber’s duty and responsibility to sustain them in this.
I apologise for taking up the Senate’s time, but I demand the right of the common man sitting in this place to express an opinion against the sophistries of lawyers whom 1 hear speaking from the Government side, and I rest my case on that.
Senator BUTTON (Victoria)-Mr Acting Deputy President, I wish to make a personal explanation.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Devitt)- Does the honourable senator claim to have been misrepresented?
-Yes, only in relation to my dress. I was accused early in the debate of being a person who wears ‘flip-flop, flip-flop, flip-flop’ sandals. That is not true. I assure Senator Sir Magnus Cormack that when I am not in this chamber, where many Australians might wear ‘flip-flop’ sandals I endeavour to go with bare feet. I want what Senator Sir Magnus Cormack said corrected and not to remain in the Hansard uncorrected as it would be if I had not made this explanation.
– I wish to make it perfectly clear.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENTOrder! Does the honourable senator claim to have been misrepresented?
– No, not at all. I wish to respond because there is an implication involved.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT- If you want to do that you must seek leave.
– I seek leave to make an explanation.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
Senator Sir MAGNUS CORMACK (Victoria) I wish to thank all honourable senators who have granted me leave. I had no intention to convey to Senator Button that he was a man who went along ‘flip-flop, flip-flop’ in his sandals. What I clearly said- I am sure that the Hansard proofs tomorrow will demonstrate this- is that he had the intellectual looseness of a man who goes around ‘ flip-flop, flip-flop ‘ in sandals.
-As we very seriously debate a measure, the fate of which is obvious, I think it would be fair to say that throughout the cities of the nation at this moment, in the country towns, in the ships at sea round the coast, and indeed throughout the nation, the people are waiting with bated breath to know whether or not they are going to have a right of appeal to the Privy Council retained. I can imagine the sadness with which the persons in the clubs and the hotels, on the bowling greens or wherever they are treat this matter. If you were to ask 1000 people in the streets of this nation whether appeals to the Privy Council should be retained- perhaps one might put it in a little more dignified way and ask whether appeals to Her Majesty the Queen in Council should be retained- half of them would stare at you and ask you what this august body was, and 99 per cent of the remainder would say: ‘So what?’ So let us not take ourselves too seriously in this matter. Let us get down to fundamentals.
The fundamental issue that arises in this debate is simply whether the Opposition is sincere in opposing this Bill but, as I understand it, agreeing to the next Bill which will abolish appeals from the High Court to the Privy Council, or whether the Opposition is simply using these 2 pieces of legislation, particularly this one, as a vehicle for a political attack upon the Government. That is the point at issue. The Opposition cannot have it both ways so far as the intrinsic merits of this legislation are concerned because the Opposition has said in another place, and again tonight, that it considers that the High Court should be the final court of appeal within Australia. This Bill that we are debating sets out to produce that result, and either it produces it in a manner that is constitutionally valid or it does not. If the Bill is constitutionally invalid- in other words, if there has been an invasion of a legal right- then it achieves nothing because one does not doubt that action would be taken by at least the State of Queensland and probably other States to challenge the validity of it in the High Court of Australia. The Bill either stands up or it does not.
I would have thought that if the Opposition was sincere in saying that appeals to the Privy Council ought to be abolished, that the High Court ought to be the final court of appeal within Australia, then it would have supported this Bill albeit expressing whatever reservations it might have as to its constitutional validity. That, to my mind, would have been a logical approach, but that is not the approach of the Opposition. It advances, through Senator Greenwood, 4 arguments why this legislation should be defeated. Each one of those arguments ignores the purpose of the Bill, ignores the intrinsic merits of the Bill and ignores the real issue which is whether appeals to the Privy Council should be abolished or the present system should be retained. Let me examine the 4 reasons given by the Opposition through Senator Greenwood. He said that the Government is acting in a matter which is not one of Commonwealth interest. I think I quote his words precisely.
– A matter of State concern and not a matter of Commonwealth concern.
-Not a matter of Commonwealth concern. Is it not a matter of concern to the Government of this nation what the rights of appeal of its citizens should be? When Senator Greenwood used that as an argument he was using it in the context of a division of constitutional and legal authority. He was not using the argument in relation to what ought to concern governments, and that is the real and true interests of its citizens. As I have said before, if this legislation transcends constitutional power it will be struck down by the High Court in the proper and normal way. If it does not transcend constitutional and legal power, then it achieves a purpose that the Opposition says it wishes to see achieved. How can that be in any way logical?
The second argument advanced by Senator Greenwood was that it was not proper to approach the Queen cap in hand. I repeat- Not proper to approach the Queen cap in hand. Why did the Australian Parliament adopt the Statute of Westminster in 1942, section 4 of which specifically states that there is provision for request and consent type legislation? Why did it do that if to invoke that jurisdiction is so unseemly? I thought that was the poorest argument of all. The third argument was that it would be an abuse of the Statute of Westminster to follow this procedure. I think the Government has to face up to the situation that was created in 1942 when the then Attorney-General, Dr Evatt, made certain comments. I admit the things that Senator Greenwood attributed to him tonight. I face up to that situation so far as I personally am concerned on the simple basis that more than 30 years since that statement was made we face a completely different situation. The war during which Dr Evatt spoke the relevant words has concluded and we have had since then more than a quarter of a century of nation building in Australia. If the argument of Senator Greenwood is correct, that the Government is virtually estopped from doing this because of what Dr Evatt said in 1942, it means that in perpetuity section 4 of the Statute of Westminister could not be used in this particular area. I reject that argument. I submit that it cannot be binding on all governments in perpetuity that such a restriction of the application of section 4 of the Statute of Westminster should be held.
The fourth argument that he used was that the Government’s action was creating a tremendously difficult position for the British Government. I would have thought that in view of the troubles which beset Britain at this stage, Britain would not be concerned very much about this matter and, as the second reading speech in this chamber indicated, there have been recent discussions with the Prime Minister of Great Britain. So on those 4 tenuous grounds the Opposition seeks to defeat something which it says it would like to see if a different procedure were adopted. Sophistry? Good heavens, there ought to be a stronger word for it, and there is, but I cannot use it.
Let me make certain things perfectly clear. Since I have been involved in politics I have been in favour of the abolition of appeals to the Privy
Council. On 21 December 1972 I came to Canberra and discussed the matter with the new Attorney-General, then Senator Murphy. I returned to Tasmania and initiated a proposal that the Tasmanian Government would support the abolition of appeals to the Privy Council. That proposal was adopted and I made a public statement to that effect. I leave the matter at that because there is complete consistency in my attitude that irrespective of what advantage may be taken for legal and political reasons of a situation which exists at a particular time- that is a political decision- nevertheless it is wrong that in 1975 we should continue this archaic system.
The framers of the Constitution had the question of the ambit of appeals to the Privy Council firmly in their minds. The matter arose specifically so far as they were concerned under what became section 74 of the Constitution. I think all honourable senators know the history of the dispute that took place between the representatives of Australia and of the British Government in relation to that clause but the persistence and the arguing skill of the Australian delegation, particularly that of Deakin, prevailed and section 74 preserved the final original draft in relation to this matter. The framers of the Constitution saw that there should be limitations even in 1900 with respect to appeals to the Privy Council, and so they provided for limitation in 2 respects. The first was that there should be no appeal from a decision of the High Court on a matter involving the limits inter se of the constitutional powers of the Commonwealth, and those of any State or States without the certificate of the High Court. The second manner in which limitation was imposed was the provision in the final paragraph of section 74 that Parliament could make laws limiting the matters in which special leave of appeal from the High Court to Her Majesty in Council could be asked pursuant to the exercise of the royal prerogative. The High Court took a significant step, I think it was in 1 943, when it decided that it would not be bound by decisions of the Privy Council. Since then there has been a continuing indication that the appropriate final court -
– The High Court has never said that it would not be bound by decisions of the Privy Council, has it?
-Yes, in 1943.
– Certainly not.
– I am told: Certainly not’. Well, we will have a look at the report.
– We will have a look at the report. I may make a personal explanation. I think I should be able to make one either way after that interjection. Since 1942 when the Statute of Westminster was adopted and other developments by the High Court a situation has been reached where the High Court is regarded throughout the common law world as one of the most competent courts that any common law system has ever known. One should perhaps add, in view of contemporary criticism: Despite the fact that 6 Attorneys-General have been appointed to the High Court from the Australian Parliament.
Having regard to the history of the existence of the right of appeal to the Privy Council, both through the medium of State supreme courts and pursuant to section 74 of the Constitution, today we are faced with a completely different situation from that which existed in 1900. I wonder how many persons not connected with the law realise that it is not an appeal in the completely pure sense of other appeals but the board, as it is called, ends up saying that Her Majesty will be humbly advised whatever way the case goes. Although that is not generally appreciated, do we want to perpetuate it? We come back to the difference between the Opposition and the Government on this issue. The Opposition say: No, we do not want to perpetuate it, but it has to be done another way’. When the Opposition say that it makes it very clear that it is concerned only with political considerations. For those reasons, because the matter was fully canvassed in the House of Representatives and because it has been canvassed, to some degree, tonight I do not think it is necessary to labour the point.
The simple question is this: Should appeals to the Privy Council both from State supreme courts and generally right across the board be abolished? The Government says yes and the Opposition says yes. The second point is that the Government has chosen this vehicle- the Bill before the Senate- as the means of achieving that common objective. If the Government’s Bill is constitutionally and legally valid, then the result desired by both the Government and the Opposition has been achieved. If the Bill is not constitutionally valid, then, as I said earlier, it is struck down and the Government’s aim is not achieved. Surely the issue is extremely simple and it ought not to be bound up with political considerations.
I sense that the Opposition’s attitudealthough not expressly stated by Senator Greenwoodis really another manifestation of its attitude to the Government in relation to all matters in which there is some interplay of power between the Australian Governments and the State governments. The Liberal Party States at least have taken the view that wherever that situation arises the measure will be opposed, regardless of the intrinsic merits of it and putting the matter purely on that narrow political level. In those circumstances I submit that the complaints of the Opposition in relation to this legislation are seen in their true perspective. They are political complaints. They are the manifestation of the difference between the Government and the Opposition in relation to matters generally as between the Australian Government and the States. They do not bear on the essential provisions of the Bill. They do not bear on the purpose the Bill sets out to achieve which, as I have said, is a common purpose as far as the Government and the Opposition are concerned.
One could go on deeply into the legal issues which lie at the heart of this matter, as did some speakers in another place. I do not take the view that it is proper to debate the constitutional legality of measures at any length. Of course I concede the right of anyone to draw attention to these matters, but I do not propose to debate them at any length. It is clear that although contrary views have been taken by others over recent years the Government has been advised that it is constitutionally proper for it to submit this legislation to the Parliament. In other words, there is power to do what this Bill sets out to do. No government can proceed on any other basis. If, as I have said, it turns out that that advice is not correct- of course, this would not be the first time- the legislation will fall.
I would have thought that the Opposition would have shown its sincerity in its expressed desire to abolish appeals to the Privy Council if it had put its opposition to this measure more on the basis of constitutional legal power if it wanted to oppose, or if it had taken the alternative course of saying: ‘We support this Bill because it achieves the result which we wish to be achieved. We have reservations or doubts as to whether there is power to do so. We are content for those doubts to be resolved in the proper forum of the land’. I would have thought that that would have been the proper way to have done this if the Opposition were sincere and if it did not wish merely to make the debate on this Bill a vehicle for repeating its criticism of the Government in relation to the issue of CommonwealthState relations. But the Opposition has not taken that view and so this Bill is doomed.
The practical result is that we will still have a right of appeal from State supreme courts to the
Privy Council. Let me give just one instance in which that right was exercised recently. It is within my knowledge. I submit that when the facts are known they will indicate that this right of appeal from the State supreme courts should be done away with as quickly as possible. It was a case concerning two very equal contenders, namely, the Hydro-Electric Commission of Tasmania and an 11 -year-old boy who had been injured quite severely when he strayed on to the Commission’s property. The issue was whether he was a trespasser or an invitee, or what was he? The matter began in the Tasmanian Supreme Court. It went through the full range of the Tasmanian Supreme Court and eventually reached the High Court where learned judgments were delivered which indicated very clearly the measure of liability of the Hydro-Electric Commission. The damages were of the order of $1 1,000, if I am correct. Not content with that, the Hydro-Electric Commission -
– Oh, no.
-Oh yes, it did. The Hydro-Electric Commission decided that a little dose of the Privy Council was what this trespassing boy needed, so off to London they went.
– How much would that cost?
– Fortunately, wiser counsel prevailed when there was a change of government and the Hydro-Electric Commission was persuaded to put its very big file away, pay the damages, read the High Court’s judgment again if it was in doubt as to what the measure of its liability generally was, and get on with the business of generating hydro-electric power. That is just one example that I can give. It was said in the debate in another place that it is only the legal profession, the wealthy and the conservatives who are interested in retaining appeals to the Privy Council. I do not associate myself with that view because I would have to put Senator Greenwood into one of those categories. I would not be sure which one to put him into; therefore I am not going to run the risk of offending him.
– What about appeals in murder cases? Are they in that category?
-No, of course they are not in that category. I was quoting what was said in another place and I do not necessarily agree that they are the only persons- I was about to say this, Senator Missen- who are interested in appeals. But since Senator Missen interjects with a somewhat emotive reference to convicted murderers I would answer him by saying that his own Party agrees that the High Court of Australia should be the final court of appeal in all cases, be they murder cases or otherwise, so what is the relevance of the interjection?
– It is a challenge to your statement, that is all.
-If Senator Missen wishes to make any challenge to what I have said I would urge him to read the Hansard record of it because I merely quoted what was said in another place. Senator Missen now accepts that, so that little issue is disposed of. I simply quoted the case of the Hydro-Electric Commission and the 1 1 -year-old boy to indicate how heavily the scales are weighted in favour of the strong and the wealthy in this issue and how disadvantaged the ordinary citizen is when his opponent says: Let us go along to the Privy Council’. It is true that in that case there is no doubt that the HydroElectric Commission would have had to pay all the costs in any event if the appeal had gone on, but that was not the point. Of necessity, the case had dragged on for some years. This boy had been severely injured, his parents were battlers and the further delay involved in invoking this century-old jurisdiction, as it is, would have been personally intolerable to that family.
Looking at the cases that have gone before the Privy Council from Australia in the last 10 years, are there any that could not have been adequately dealt with finally in Australia? The answer must be no. Therefore, why keep this right of appeal? If there is a valid measure which gets rid of the right of appeal, why does the Opposition not support it instead of adopting the double dealing standard- I do not say that offensively, but it is a double dealing standard- of saying: We would love to do it, but you have got on the wrong tram’? That is what the Opposition is saying. I do not labour it any further. I want to say that this measure, if it is agreed to and if it is legally valid, will effectuate a purpose which I personally have always supported, and have done so publicly. I support the measure.
– I am glad that the honourable senator has finally felt the impulse not to labour his argument any further. I rise with some hesitation to respond to him because I fear the man who commences his argument on a purely constitutional legal matter, parading sincerity and finishing on sincerity, putting forward an argument which was hopelessly inadequate in the Labor conference in Launceston and expecting it to be effective here in the Senate; that is especially so when that exponent of sincerity went to London as a member of the 6-State delegation to argue the proposition that the Commonwealth was incompetent to request this legislation and that it was the prerogative of the States to say whether or not an appeal from the States’ common law jurisdiction should be abolished. When 1 have to argue with people who resort to conscience and people who trail the frayed embryo of sincerity, and then harken to people who say of their erstwhile Premier that it is time for him to get out if he has run out of steam, that is, if he has been embarrassed by the person who I assume was the Deputy Premier and Attorney-General of Tasmania -
– I rise to a point of order, Mr Deputy President. I see a very remote connection between the affairs of the Australian Labor Party in Launceston over the last couple of days and appeals to the Privy Council. 1 suggest that Senator Wright be confined to the debate on the matters before the Senate.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Webster)- Senator Wright, you may connect your remarks in the context of the debate. I am sure that the honourable senator who raised the point of order will wish me to do that for all concerned.
– I am most anxious to take merit from any suggestion, even from the senator in charge of the Bill.
– The Minister.
– The honourable Minister, of course. I will always heed meritorious suggestions, but exert my right under your judgment, Mr Deputy President, in accordance with Standing Orders.
– Get on with it.
-I will return to the Deputy Premier and Attorney-General of Tasmania, who used the unique, unprecedented constitutional occasion of unanimity on the part of the 6 States to impress London with the argument that it was the States and the States alone who had the authority under the Statute of Westminster to request an amendment to the right of citizens of the States to appeal to the Privy Council.
– Was that the Mr Everett who is now Senator Everett?
-That was Mr Mervyn George Everett, Q.C., who I think went there armed with the same advisers who advised on the Privy Council appeal to which he has disparagingly referred on technical grounds and which his Government, on coming into power, ruled against. Belatedly he said that the appeal was permitted to the Privy Council only on the condition that the appellant paid all the costs in any case, and it was an appeal to establish a common law liability in a huge undertaking, on a Tasmanian outlook.
What relevance has that to this argument? The first argument that sincere people should advance is one that is governed by self discipline and one to which, by all the proprieties of lifeconstitutional ones not accepted- and the decencies of citizens’ rights, they feel bound to abide by. When one comes into a State parliament one feels entitled to exert the rights of the State Parliament as the representative of the citizens of the State in the State sphere. When one comes into a Federal Parliament one has other parameters, but they are equally definite and they are denned by one’s constitutional rights. When one looks to the Constitution, which should be the first talisman for all sincere advocates in the Senate, one notices that it is very cautious to point out as follows:
The Constitution of each State of the Commonwealth shall, subject to this Constitution, continue as at the establishment of the Commonwealth, or as at the admission or establishment of the State, as the case may be, until altered in accordance with the Constitution of the State.
I do not have to go on ad infinitum. There are provisions for change, but sincere people would read into that an injunction that we should respect the Constitution of a State until it is altered in accordance with the Constitution of the State. Having dealt with the Constitution of the States, 1 turn to the next section of the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Australia, which deals with the power of the Parliament of a State. It reads:
Every power of the Parliament of a Colony which has become or becomes a State, shall, unless it is by this Constitution exclusively vested in the Parliament of the Commonwealth or withdrawn from the Parliament of the State, continue as at the establishment of the Commonwealth, or as at the admission or establishment of the State, as the case may be.
Sincere people would, 1 think, respect the right of a State to continue that power subject to this Constitution. The next section of the Constitutionsection 108- states that every law in force in a State shall continue in operation until it is superseded by this Constitution or inconsistent Commonwealth laws. With those guidelines, sincere people desiring to expose but not to expand the true constitutional limits would say: ‘When Federation was established we established a High Court and a federal judiciary’, which in relation to the next Bill to be debated by the Senate I shall try to demonstrate that the Government is seeking to confuse and condemn the country by exploitation ‘but in the State sphere we maintained the Supreme Courts, the State judiciaries, the State Constitutions, the State powers and the State laws’. The only question for sincere people to consider on this occasion is whether we have guiding ourselves a sense of self discipline or an expansionist idea, as Dr Cairns had on ‘ Monday Conference ‘ last night, to fly by the seat of the pants on the last impulsive notion that comes to us on the basis that we are a self established constitutional authority.
If we are going to guide ourselves by self discipline and if we look to the Statute of Westminster we will see that there is a power there for a Dominion to request and consent to future enactments by the British Parliament not for all the people in all their functions in Australia but only in respect of those people who become subject to the federal functions of Australia. The citizens of the States are entitled to enjoy their rights to have access to the State judiciary. The State Parliaments, which at one time were composed of representatives who would represent the people, although I am not saying that as of a recent date there has been a change, have the prerogative of saying whether that situation should be changed. In this context in the Statute of Westminster the Dominion legislature of Australia has the right to request and consent to laws being passed for it by the legislature of Britain only within the ambit of the Federal sphere.
That disposes of the specious piece of hypocrisy advocated under the cloak of sincerity. The point is that we would be trespassing upon the State jurisdiction if we were to put forward a request and consent in the name of the Commonwealth Parliament on a matter which is peculiarly within the State jurisdiction, but it is entirely within our right to put forward a request and consent to abolish an appeal absolutely from the High Court or the Federal judiciary because that is our responsibility and within our sphere. I think that I have said sufficient to dispose of the last argument that we heard in support of the Bill.
– I shall be very brief in my remarks. I want to say that I am going to oppose the Bill for the very reasons which Senator Everett said that it ought not to be opposed and they are the political considerations. I do not for one minute believe that the mood of the Premiers of Australia is really to acknowledge the national Parliament today. I think that it is altogether too divisive for the Opposition to continue its tactics of creating a division in Australia to take this one further even to the States and say that it is a matter of CommonwealthState relations. Almost every argument we hear from the Opposition in this chamber about matters such as this resolves for them into an attack upon the States. This argument has been much used even today in a debate on another matter, that is, the proposed conjunction of elections between this and the Lower House. Again we ran into the States issue. I believe, as I have said, that the Opposition has deliberately made it so and will deliberately continue to make it so as long as it is in Opposition. It will continue to destroy the healthy development of the Australian nation by the attitudes that it adopts to every one of these questions. I am not willing to further that argument by, rather uselessly in my case, supporting this Bill tonight, although I agree with the objects which are set out within it.
I have said that the divisions within the Australian scene are very dangerous to the development of the Australian nation. They are fostered by the members of the Liberal and Country Parties in the Queensland Parliament, the New South Wales Parliament and this House. Those who sit on this side of the House cannot decide for themselves whether this House is a House of Review or a House which makes and breaks governments. We hear this argument from one speaker to another with each adopting a different attitude to suit his particular stance at the time. I believe that to vote for this Bill will be to further the divisions which I deplore in the Australian community. It is up to this side of the House to decide really where it is going on this national argument, to decide whether it really means what the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Snedden) said at the weekend, that is, that he is going to destroy and dismantle the Grants Commission in Australia and set up some other unnamed and unexplained device for the maintenance of the one living standard throughout this community. I believe that this Opposition is not in a fit state to vote for this legislation and I do not intend to vote for it to further -
– At least we are not sanctimonious.
– I do not care whether I am labelled sanctimonious or not. I am rather tired, as are so many of Senator Baume ‘s supporters in New South Wales at a very high level, of the duplicity of the Opposition in this House, and for a number of reason which are rather mixed, as I have illustrated, I do not intend to vote for this legislation.
Senator JAMES MCCLELLAND (New South Wales- Minister for Manufacturing
Industry)- in reply- Senator Wright has exhibited his unflagging, if slightly windy, devotion to consistency by flaying Senator Everett for his alleged inconsistency in relation to appeals to the Privy Council. I admire Senator Wright’s devotion to consistency but would remind him of his own slightly bent record in this regard. One of the matters which has engaged this Parliament over the last couple of weeks has been of particular concern to this Senate and that is the manner of filling casual vacancies. One would have thought that a stern admirer of consistency such as Senator Wright would have raised his voice in support of the principle which he enunciated as long ago as 1959 as a member of the Joint Committee on Constitutional Review when he went along with this proposition:
Since proportional representation has been the system for electing senators, various State Parliaments have been called upon to make appointment to fill a casual vacancy and in each instance the States have scrupulously observed the principle which the Committee would have liked to be incorporated in the Constitution.
The Committee recommended:
That the Constitution be amended to provide that in the circumstances mentioned in paragraph 61 a place which becomes vacant should become vacant within the meaning of section 15.
We have not heard from Senator Wright on this. Maybe he has been adverting to more serious matters but when he chooses to let the Senate have a little homily on the matter of consistency we would like to hear him in defence of the sentiments he espoused 16 years ago but about which he is curiously silent today.
– But do you not take his vote as indicating where he stood on the Senate vacancy?
– I would have liked him to speak up on the matter.
– Then you growl when we get up and speak and say that we are wasting your time.
-Senator Wright is a man who manages to be vocal on matters of some triviality and I would have thought on this most important constitutional matter of the day we would have heard from him. I was also diverted by Senator Sir Magnus Cormack ‘s reference to the despised breed of ockers. The assumption behind his remarks was that his was the voice of enlightenment in a world of Philistines. I totally reject this phoney patrician slur on a man as cultivated as Senator Button, and it was in that context that he made his remarks.
I would suggest to honourable senators that much more ludicrous than the ockers in our midst are the Neanderthal worshippers of the British connection among whom Senator Sir Magnus Cormack staked his claim tonight. His is the old fashioned view of ‘God Bless the Queen and all her relations and keep us in our proper stations’. Of course, all this sentimental talk tonight about appeals to the Privy Council was really a reflection of this old-fashioned corny view. Senator Greenwood expressed it in a little more sophisticated way than did Senator Sir Magnus Cormack. In fact, it might be said that his was music to Senator Sir Magnus Cormack ‘s Muzak. But all the same, when we come to have a good look at what Senator Greenwood had to say, it was really an expression of the most classical form of conservative politics. I am always pleased to see that grin on Senator Greenwood ‘s face because it indicates that we are striking home; it is his form of recognising that he has not a leg to stand on. So let us look at the mealy mouthed proposition he put to the Senate tonight. He started off by saying that the Opposition accepts the general principle that the High Court should be the final court of appeal in Australia. From then on he proceeded to say why we should not do what he said we should do. In other words, ‘We approve of what you are trying to achieve but we do not want it to happen’. This is the most old-fashioned and the most tedious form of conservatism of which Senator Greenwood is a practised exponent. He said that it is for the States in conjunction with the Commonwealth or the British Parliament to be the final arbiter on whether there should be appeals from the States to the Privy Council.
– In matters concerning the States.
– In matters concerning the States. Senator Everett, as I will show, completely disposed of this hollow proposition that it is not the concern of the Commonwealth at all, that there should be another court outside this country which will be the final arbiter on matters which are supposed to be the concern only of the States. Senator Greenwood said that the power that we are seeking to abolish was conferred by an Imperial Parliament and should be abrogated presumably only by the States and the Imperial Parliament. Of course, I suggest that this is a disguised way of putting the lickspittle approach that I referred to earlier, of regarding the Imperial connection as something that lasts forever, a sort of grovelling attitude that somehow or other the mother country, as it used to be called, is the final arbiter in these matters.
He said that there was a wealth of emotion attaching to appeals to the Privy Council and that to sever or denigrate the English connection was something which we should avoid, that the unilateral action which we are taking was repugnant to the States, and that somehow or other if we went ahead with this we would be insulting the mother country. By the way, it is an odd thing that we do not seem to hear anything from Britain itself or from the Privy Council abhorring or objecting to the proposition that we should cut the umbilical cord. Senator Greenwood said also that this is a proposition which cannot succeed. This sits oddly with his alleged reverence to the standing of the High Court. If there is some doubt as to the constitutional power of the Australian Parliament to pass this legislation and if Senator Greenwood holds the High Court in such reverence, why is he so reluctant to allow the High Court to decide this matter? Why is he so reluctant? I note that the frequent interjector appears to be lost for words when challenged on this point.
I also found odd the devotion of Senator Greenwood and of the Opposition to the notion of a referendum on this matter. Only this afternoon when we were discussing the question of a referendum to decide another matter we found a lot of approbium poured on the idea that the Australian Parliament should be called upon to decide matters of constitutional importance. But on this issue Senator Greenwood found some great value in the notion that the Australian people should be called upon to decide this matter. Senator Greenwood complained that the Australian Government is bypassing the State governments with this proposal. The fact of the matter is that some of the State governments are attempting to bypass the High Court which Senator Greenwood constantly claims to hold in such reverence. For example, they are attempting to do this by endeavouring to persuade Her Majesty to refer matters for the advisory opinion of the Privy Council under an ancient statute of 1833. It does not matter how archaic this is. Senator Greenwood and those seeking for arguments on the other side find some virtue in an appeal under this archaic statute. I suggest that this is an insult to the High Court. What the Bill does is to make the High Court in all respects the final court of appeal for the whole of Australia and of all Australians.
Senator Greenwood is attempting to have a little bit each way in the argument that he puts to the Senate. On the one hand, he says that the Opposition agrees that the High Court should be the final court of appeal of Australia and, on the other hand, he wants to leave certain appeals to continue to lie to the Privy Council, despite his disclaimer to that effect. For instance, what does Senator Greenwood say about the attempts by Tasmania and Queensland to bypass the High Court? The Tasmanian and Queensland governments have tried to do so in connection with claims to the seabed, a matter which will now come before the High Court next month. Queensland also has subsequently sought to do the same thing in regard to an attempted redefining of the Queen’s royal style and title to make her the Queen of Queensland.
To rebuff the argument that we are intruding into matters of State concern that are not matters of Federal concern, I would refer Senator Greenwood above all else to the arguments that have been put by Senator Everett. The best argument is that the status of the High Court is a matter of concern to the Australian Government and the Parliament. It is the Australian Government and the Parliament that speak for Australia internationally. Australia’s prestige before the world depends on this. It is the concern of this Government and the Parliament that disputes between Australian citizens should still be capable of being heard by a court of another country. It demeans Australia’s standing before the world that there is an appeal from judges of a court of our own to a court constituted in another country.
– You are advocating that they be bound by the International Court.
– I am grateful to Senator Wright for that contribution. I take it that he is opposed to the jurisdiction of the International Court being accepted by this country. Of course, this is a totally phoney interjection. Does anybody here suggest that there should be an appeal from the High Court of Australia to the International Court? The jurisdiction of the International Court, as Senator Wright well knows, is confined to disputes between nations. But he and Senator Greenwood would allow jurisdiction to a foreign court, to a court of the mother country, if he wants to call it that, in matters concerning Australian citizens which should be of no concern to any other court. In short, I suggest that the proposition that it is of no concern to the Australian Government to care about the sorts of disputes that now go to the Privy Council is an acknowledgment that we are not really a sovereign state. It indicates a desire to cling to the coat tails of a country from which we claim to have achieved independence many years ago. This is not to denigrate Great Britain. This is not to suggest that we do not owe anything to Great Britain. It is not to deny the common heritage that we have. I suggest that we can show our respect for the country to which we owe a great deal in our origins and in our traditions without in any way remaining lickspittles of that country. One way of remaining lickspittles is to try to preserve this absurd connection between our courts and the court of another country.
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The Senate divided. (The President- Senator the Hon. Justin O ‘Byrne)
Question so resolved in the negative.
– I have received the following message from the House of Representatives:
Mr President, The House of Representatives returns to the Senate the Bill intituled ‘A Bill for an Act to establish a Darwin Reconstruction Commission for purposes arising out of the Devastation of Darwin by Cyclone’, and acquaints the Senate that the House of Representatives has considered the message of the Senate requesting the House to make certain amendments in such Bill.
The House of Representatives has agreed to amendments Nos 1,3,4,6, 7,8, 11, 12, 17 and 34 made by the Senate; has disagreed to amendments Nos 2, 9, 13, 15 and 16, but, in place thereof, has amended the Bill as indicated by the annexed Schedule; has disagreed to amendments Nos 5,10,14 and 18 to 33 indicated by the said Schedule, and for the reasons shown therein; and has made an amendment to clause 61 of the Bill.
The House of Representatives desires the reconsideration of the Bill by the Senate in respect of the amendments disagreed to, and the concurrence of the Senate in the amendments made by the House of Representatives.
The House of Representatives also desires the concurrence of the Senate in the amendment made by the House to clause 6 1 of the Bill as shown in the annexed Schedule.
Motion (by Senator Cavanagh) agreed to:
That the message be taken into consideration in Committee of the Whole forthwith.
After clause 6, insert the following new clause: 6a. ( 1 ) Where a person suffers loss or damage as a result of a decision or determination of the Commission or of the Minister or of a person acting under the authority of the Commission or of the Minister affecting land or the use of land or the performance of any contract entered into before the commencement of this Act such person may apply to the Court for an award or compensation.
Upon any such application the Court may assess and award compensation for any loss or damage suffered by a person as a result of any such decision or determination and shall determine by whom any compensation so awarded shall be paid.
“The Court” means the Supreme Court of the Northern Territory.’.
House of Representatives’ amendments to Senate’s amendment.
Amendment disagreed to, but, in place thereof, the following amendments made:
In clause 6 1 omit paragraph (d).
In clause 61, after sub-clause 1, insert the following subclause: ( 1 A) Without limiting the generality of sub-section ( 1 ). provision shall be made by the regulations for and in relation to the payment of compensation by the Commission or by Australia in respect of matters to which this Act or the regulations relate.’.
In clause 18, sub-clause (I), paragraph (c), leave out ‘the General Manager’, insert ‘ 1 member nominated by the Darwin Citizens ‘ Council ‘.
House of Representatives’ amendment to Senate’s amendment.
Amendment disagreed to, but, in place thereof, the following amendment made:
In clause 18, omit sub-clause (1), substitute the following sub-clause:
The Commission shall consist of 8 members, namely-
In clause 1 9, sub-clause ( 1 ), after ‘(b),’, insert ‘(c), ‘.
House of Representatives’ amendments to Senate’s amendment.
Amendment disagreed to, but, in place thereof, the following amendments made:
In clause 19, omit ‘(d) or (e)’, substitute ‘(d), (e) or (f)’-
In clause 1 9, omit ‘(f) ‘, substitute ‘(g) ‘.
In clause 24, sub-clause ( 1 ), after ‘(b),’, insert ‘(c),’.
House of Representatives ‘ amendment to Senate ‘s amendment.
Amendment disagreed to, but, in place thereof, the following amendment made:
In clause 24, omit ‘(d) or (e)’, substitute ‘(d), (e) or(f)’-
In clause 24, sub-clause (2), after ‘(b),’, insert ‘(c),’.
House of Representatives’ amendment to Senate’s amendment.
Amendment disagreed to, but, in place thereof, the following amendment made:
In clause 24, omit ‘(e) or (f) ‘, substitute ‘(e), (f) or (g) ‘.
In clause 9, leave out the clause, insert the following clause: 9. ( 1 ) The Commission shall keep the Minister informed of the decisions of the Commission with respect to matters of policy in relation to the performance of its functions.
In the event of a difference of opinion between the Minister and the Commission as to the policy which should be followed by the Commission in relation to any matter, the Minister and the Commission shall endeavour to reach agreement.
If the Minister and the Commission are unable to reach agreement, the Governor-General may, by order, determine the policy to be adopted by the Commission in relation to the matter.
The Commission shall thereupon give effect to the policy determined by the order and shall, if the order so requires, continue to give effect to that policy while the order remains in operation. ‘.
Reasons of the House of Representatives for disagreeing to Senate’s amendment.
This Amendment substitutes for a Ministerial power of direction (formerly Clause 9 of the Bill) over the Commission an archaic device with built in delay taken from the National Capital Development Commission Act 1957 whereby disputes between the Commission and the Minister may be determined by Order of the Governor-General.
The reconstruction of Darwin is a task of enormous magnitude involving tremendous Government expenditure and responsibility. It is only consistent with this that the Government through the Minister, has the right to intervene if necessary in the exercise of the grave responsibilities vested in the Commission.
The Amendment is not acceptable to the Government. It is the wish of the Government that Clause 9 of the original Bill be restored.
In clause 18, sub-clause (2), leave out ‘other than the member referred to in paragraph ( 1 ) (c) ‘.
In clause 22, sub-clause ( 3 ), leave out the sub-clause.
Reasons of the House of Representatives for disagreeing to Senate’s amendments.
Because these Amendments were consequential upon acceptance of Senate Amendment No. 9 which has been disagreed to by the House and the Amendments are no longer relevant.
In clause 28, sub-clause (1), leave out ‘GovernorGeneral ‘, insert ‘ Commission ‘.
In clause 28, sub-clause (2), leave out ‘shall be the executive member of the Commission and ‘.
In clause 28, sub-clause (3), leave out ‘GovernorGeneral ‘, insert ‘ Commission ‘.
In clause 30, sub-clause (1), leave out ‘is prescribed’, insert ‘ determined by the Commission ‘.
In clause 30, sub-clause (2), leave out ‘are prescribed’, insert ‘determined by the Commission ‘.
In clause 31, leave out the clause.
In clause 32, leave out ‘Governor-General’, insert ‘Commission’.
In clause 33, sub-clause (1), leave out ‘Minister’, insert Commission’.
In clause 33, sub-clause (2), leave out ‘Minister’, insert Commission’.
In clause 33, sub-clause (3), leave out ‘Minister’, insert Commission’.
In clause 33, sub-clause (4), leave out ‘Minister’, insert Commission’.
In clause 34, sub-clause (1), leave out ‘GovernorGeneral ‘, insert ‘ Commission ‘.
In clause 34, sub-clause (2), paragraph (a), leave out Minister ‘, insert ‘ Commission ‘.
In clause 34, sub-clause (2), paragraph (b), leave out Minister’, insert ‘Commission’.
In clause 34, sub-clause (2), paragraph (c), leave out the paragraph.
In clause 34, sub-clause (2), leave out ‘GovernorGeneral ‘, insert ‘ Commission ‘.
Reasons of the House of Representatives for disagreeing to Senate’s amendments.
Because these Amendments are relevant to whether or not the General Manager is a member of the Commission. If he is a member of the Commission as the Government insists, clearly then he should be appointed, as are the part time members of the Commission, by the Governor-General. Clearly also those matters which are relevant to his terms and conditions of appointment should be within the purview of the Governor-General, the Minister and the Remuneration Tribunal as the case may be. The Government does not agree to these Amendments.
House of Representatives’ amendment to clause 61.
In clause 61, omit paragraph (e), substitute the following paragraph:
– I move:
I understand that this matter has been debated in the other place. While, there was not complete agreement, the other place accepted 10 of the Senate’s amendments. The people representing the Northern Territory have agreed to the passage of the Bill. In view of the time factor, I propose the motion without going into all the details and I ask the Committee to agree to it.
– The message which has been received from the House of Representatives and which is the subject of Senator Cavanagh ‘s motion fully justifies the stand which the Opposition took in regard to this Bill in the Senate last week.
– Not the stand of the whole Senate.
-I said ‘the stand’. Of the 33 amendments which were made to the Bill by the Senate, a large number of which were purely consequential amendments, the House of Representatives has agreed to 10 amendments and in respect of another 5 amendments the House of Representatives, although not agreeing to them, has proposed amendments of its own which go some way, if not the whole way, towards meeting the amendments made by the Senate. The message indicates that the House of Representatives has disagreed with the other amendments.
Looking at the situation as a whole I think there were approximately 4 major areas of the Bill with which the Senate was concerned. One was the very wide powers of the Minister and the discretions that were given to both the Minister and the Commission. The second area was the arbitrary powers that appeared to be given to the Commission without any rights of appeal or compensation. The third area was the composition of the Commission in which the Senate felt there was inadequate representation of the citizens of Darwin or of the Northern Territory. The fourth area of concern was the powers of the General Manager and his position, not as a servant of the Commission, but as an appointee of the Governor-General.
Looking at the message generally and the treatment that the House of Representatives has given to the amendments made by the Senate, the Opposition finds that 2 areas of major concern to the Opposition have been favourably received by the House of Representatives. In the first place, the House of Representatives has agreed- in that respect of course the Government has agreed- to the insertion into the Bill of procedures whereby objections can be made to determinations relating to town planning made by the Commission. Proper publication of those determinations must be made and objections are required to be heard by the Commission before the plan becomes final. We regarded this as a very important matter indeed.
Another area of great concern to the Senate was the compensation which would be available to citizens of Darwin who were not able to redevelop their properties as a result of decisions of the Commission. Although the House of Representatives has not fully met the amendment which the Senate inserted into the Bill, the principle of payment of compensation, which was accepted by the Government in the Senate, has been reaffirmed by the Government in the House of Representatives. A new clause has been proposed in the Bill which indicates that regulations will be brought down to govern this question. This is a special power to make regulations which is really more than a power because it is an obligation that is placed on the Government to make regulations providing for compensation. Although we do not accept that the new clause is as satisfactory as our own amendment, in all the circumstances we are prepared to accept that provision.
Another area of great concern to the Opposition in the Senate, and to the Opposition generally, was the composition of the Commission which we believe was quite deficient in that only two of the 7 members of the Commission came from Darwin or the Northern Territory. Although the Government has not accepted our amendment in the terms in which it was passed here, nevertheless it has accepted that an additional member of the Commission will be nominated by the Darwin Citizens’ Council. As a result of that the Commission of 8 people will comprise 3 members representing the local area and local interests and, combined with the vote of an independent chairman, will ensure that the Government will not be in a position to dominate the Commission and to get its own way, as the proposal that was originally contained in the Bill may have resulted.
The Opposition is disappointed and concerned that the Government has not seen fit to accept its amendment which endeavoured to attenuate the powers of the Minister generally to give directions to the Commission. It does appear that the Government has now completely resiled from the attitude which it much vaunted in the early days following the disaster when it made great play of the fact that it was setting up an independent commission with a very independent chairman to rebuild Darwin. However, it now seems clear from the Government’s stand that it is prepared to rebuild Darwin only on its own terms and not on the terms as determined by an independent commission. The Opposition is thus placed in the dilemma of whether it is prepared to agree to the Bill on the stand and deliver terms that the Government has laid down or whether it inevitably will prevent any reconstruction taking place in Darwin and any availability of government money. Faced with that position we regard as imperative and as of prime importance the speedy rebuilding of Darwin and the provision of necessary government funds for that to be done. We can only express our great regret and disappointment that the Government should have maintained a stand and deliver attitude on this matter.
This is a complete repudiation and a breaking of a promise of this Government. It is another example of promises being broken by the Government. In the wake of the disaster and in the light of the grave concern throughout the community at that time the Government made great play of the fact that it was to set up this independent Commission under the chairmanship of a notable Australian, Sir Leslie Thiess. I think the taking of this stand by the Government allayed great public concern about the future of. Darwin. Now, when the Government brings forward the legislation, all it can do is indicate that it is going to carry out the rebuilding completely on its own terms and that it insists on retaining the overweening power of the Minister to give the Commission any directions that he likes. As I have said, that seems to be the basis on which the Government is prepared to make available the necessary public funds for this purpose. The Opposition regards the provision of the funds as being of prime importance. For those reasons we propose to support the motion before the Committee.
– I thank the Opposition for the attitude it has taken. I think all the questions that have been raised by Senator Durack were replied to in the 2 days that the Bill was at the Committee stage and when the Bill was explained thoroughly at the second reading stage. The other place has accepted ten of the Senate’s amendments, disagreed to five, insisting on its own amendments, and has made a further amendment to clause 61.I think possibly there has been a compromise by the other place, as was the Government’s original intention. It appears that the compromise will be accepted by the Senate this evening. I think it is unfair to say at this stage that a promise was broken. The Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam), after he saw the devastation, declared that the Government would rebuild Darwin. That is what we are seeking to do. Cabinet decided to establish the Commission for the purpose of assistance to the people of Darwin and to be the active organisation within Darwin for the purpose of rebuilding. We have now finally reached agreement. We go ahead prepared, with the Bill as it is, to make some inroads and some progress in the rebuilding of Darwin. I thank the Opposition for its attitude this evening.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Resolutions reported; report adopted.
Motion (by Senator Douglas McClelland) proposed:
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– I rise to deal with a matter that is becoming of increasing importance. It is the failure of Ministers to answer questions. The importance of questions to parliamentary procedures cannot be overstressed. Questions emerged in our parliamentary system as a convenient means of avoiding long debates in which persons who had information which they were uncertain was true or false and which they wished to air would have to engage in a debate on the motion that the House do now adjourn in order to get a response. The parliamentary question gained acceptance as a means by which the circuitous and time consuming processes could be avoided. It is therefore imperative that questions be answered, otherwise the time of the Parliament will be taken up in seeking information by other means.
I have raised this question on occasions in the past. On 4 December 1974 when I last raised it I was given an answer which in effect indicated that this Government would please itself whether or not questions were answered. Senator Murphy, the then Leader of the Government in the Senate, replied:
I suppose it is a matter of priorities. It may conceivably be that those in Government, and particularly myself, think that there are matters of more importance than the residue of the questions which the honourable senator asked’
Once Ministers take the view that they do not have to answer questions, once Ministers take the view that the facts which are relevant to matters of inquiry asked by senators are of no concern to them and that the questions may go begging, we will find that parliamentary procedures and the essence of our democratic system are under an excessive threat.
I raise this matter because I have had on the notice paper some 36 unanswered questions. I have not asked one question on notice this year because I desire to have questions answered which I have already asked. Some of the questions first appeared on the notice paper in November 1973, approximately 16 months ago. They were replaced on the notice paper after the prorogation in February 1973. They remained unanswered. They were placed on the notice paper again on 1 1 July, and they have remained unanswered. 1 put on the notice paper 2 questions directed to the Minister for Labor and Immigration (Mr Clyde Cameron) about allegations he had made. Those questions were placed on the notice paper on 10 July 1974. No answer has been forthcoming and no indication of when an answer will be forthcoming has been given. The questions to which I have referred as having been unanswered since November 1 973 were directed to the Attorney-General. They related to the raids on various premises which took place on 1 April 1973 and in respect of which I had constantly asked questions without notice of the relevant Minister and had been given no answers. Might I say with regard to these matters that public concern has been aired as to the proprieties of the issue of search warrants and the seizing of goods which were not returned and in respect of which persons are entitled through a parliamentary member to have the reasons for the action disclosed in the public interest.
On 3 October I asked a number of questions relating to the use of the Commonwealth Police during the 1 974 election campaign. I have information which I am unable to verify completely as to events which took place in New South
Wales, Tasmania and Western Australia in which the Commonwealth Police acted, as it appeared to me, in a manner which can only be described as partisan. I do not know the full facts, and rather than raise the matter in the Parliament and give to it a publicity which might in the event be unwarranted, I placed the questions on the notice paper. I wanted the information. If the information gave to me what I sought and it was apparent there was no case for further inquiry, then no further matter would have been raised. If on the other hand the answers to the questions raised matters which warranted inquiry, then there would be a factual basis for the argument which took place. Not one answer has been given to the questions which were then raised, and there has been no indication as to when answers will be forthcoming. Those answers were, of course, directed to the former Attorney-General, but they still remain on the notice paper to be answered by the present incumbent in that office.
On 12 November I asked 3 questions about a non-prosecution in the Australian Capital Territory. On the information available to me a police inspector had stated there was a clear case in which prosecution ought to take place. I do not know whether or not the information given to me as to what the police inspector had said was correct but I sought information from the AttorneyGeneral as to whether or not that statement had been made, and if it had been made why no prosecution had taken place. The AttorneyGeneral is the Minister now in charge of the police and prosecutions in the Australian Capital Territory. No answer has been forthcoming, and I am led to believe that unless some information is forthcoming within the next month then the time limit for prosecution will have expired. This is a matter which requires attention and it requires answers by Ministers.
On 1 1 December I asked a number of question seeking information regarding the controversy surrounding Miss Morosi, Mr Ditchburn’s appointment to the Film Board of Review and Senator Murphy’s activities in regard to matters which were then the subject of public comment. I asked the questions because I desired information. They were made known to the Minister on the night of 1 1 December and they were printed in Hansard, although of course they did not appear on the notice paper until the Parliament resumed on 1 1 February. Those questions have not been answered. I have not been given any indication of when they will be answered.
I have raised the matter, because what is the point of asking questions unless you can get answers? What is the point of continuing to put questions on the notice paper unless you can be assured of answers? This is the occasion when non-answers ought to be highlighted and indications given that if questions are not answered then the ordinary parliamentary processes available to senators may be availed of. If there is a pattern of concealment, if there is an unwillingness to answer because of the fact that incriminating facts might be disclosed, then the position only becomes worse if the questions are not answered. I repeat that it is an abuse of the parliamentary process and a departure from the conventions and the traditions of Parliament not to answer the questions. I raise this matter now. I notice that the Minister representing the AttorneyGeneral and the Minister representing the Minister for Labor and Immigration are both in the chamber. I feel that all one can say is that if this matter is not attended to then there are more substantive ways in which the issue can be raised. Parliament must assert itself and Ministers, notwithstanding their predilections, must be responsive to Parliament.
– It is true, as Senator Greenwood has indicated, that there are many questions on notice which have been on the notice paper for some time. There is no point in saying otherwise. However, in fairness it should be said that this is not an experience peculiar to this Government. There were many occasions in the past when, under the previous Government, it was necessary for members of the then Opposition to seek information as to why questions had not been answered. Both sides of the Senate, having been in Government and understanding the difficulties of the machinery which so often occur, appreciate those difficulties. I can assure Senator Greenwood that there is no intention on the part of any of my colleagues either here or in the House of Representatives to delay deliberately answers to questions. Many of them are very difficult and many are complex. I draw the attention of the Senate to the fact that many of those remaining unanswered have been asked by members on the Government side, so it is not a matter of any intention to delay answers. However I feel that there is a legitimate strain in the comments that have been made by Senator Greenwood. I can only indicate to him that I shall draw this matter to the attention of my colleagues to ensure that whatever questions can possibly be answered within the next 14 days are brought within a more reasonable time span. I give that undertaking to the Senate.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 10.38 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 25 February 1975, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1975/19750225_senate_29_s63/>.