29th Parliament · 1st Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Justin O’Byrne) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
-Mr President, I inform the Senate that the Treasurer, Dr J. F. Cairns, is attending the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development Ministerial Council meeting in Paris. During his absence, the Minister for Social Security, Mr Hayden, will act as Treasurer.
– I present the following petition from 1 17 citizens of Australia:
To the Honourable the President and Senators in Parliament assembled. The humble Petition of undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth that the establishment of an Australian Government Insurance Office will:
Lead to the nationalisation of the Insurance Industry.
Divert a substantial flow of funds from the private to the public sector.
Depress the private sector still further and create unemployment both within the Insurance Industry and elsewhere.
Your Petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Senate rejects completely the Australian Government Insurance Office Bill 1975.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
– I present the following petition from 127 citizens of Australia:
To the Honourable the President and Senators in Parliament assembled. The humble Petition of undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth that the establishment of an Australian Government Insurance Office will:
. Lead to the nationalisation of the Insurance Industry.
Divert a substantial flow of funds from the private to the public sector.
Depress the private sector still further and create unemployment both within the Insurance Industry and elsewhere.
Your Petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Senate rejects completely the Australian Government Insurance Office Bill 1975.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
– Petitions have been lodged for presentation as follows:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The humble Petition of the undersigned employees and agents of the Australian insurance industry and citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the insurance industry is already coping with
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the House will reject the Bill.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Senator Drake-Brockman.
To the Honourable the President and Senators in Parliament assembled. The humble Petition of undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth that the establishment of an Australian Government Insurance Office will:
Your Petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Senate rejects completely the Australian Government Insurance Office Bill 1975.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Senator Drake-Brockman.
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled: The humble Petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully sheweth:
That the insurance industry is already faced with
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the House will reject the Bill.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Senator Drake-Brockman.
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The humble Petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully sheweth:
That the insurance industry is already faced with
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the House will reject the Bill.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Senator Sir Magnus Cormack.
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The humble Petition of the undersigned employees and agents of the Australian insurance industry and citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the insurance industry is already coping with
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray the House will reject the Bill.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Senator Missen (2 petitions).
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The humble Petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the insurance industry is already faced with
Your Petitioners therefore humbly pray that the House will reject the Bill.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Senator Keefle.
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament established. The humble Petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
Australian Government competition with private enterprise ) has been given by the Government.
That the insurance industry is already coping with
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Senate will reject the Bill.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Senator Martin.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Senator Scott.
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The humble Petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully sheweth:
That the insurance industry is already faced with
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the House will reject the Bill.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Senator Marriott.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Senator Cotton.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Senator Cotton.
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled: The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully sheweth:
That the insurance industry is already faced with:
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the House will reject the Bill.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Senator Cotton.
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully sheweth:
That the insurance industry is already faced with:
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the House will reject the Bill.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Senators Grimes, Greenwood, Button and Davidson.
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate assembled. We, the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully refer to the Bill concerning the establishment of an Australian Government Insurance Office.
We are not necessarily against the formation of such an organisation.
We do, however, feel that the Bill could be rushed through Parliament without sufficient deliberation.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Bill be referred to a Senate Select Committee or Public Enquiry Committee. In this way submissions from interested parties can be called for.
Recommendations from this Committee would then reflect the true wishes of the Australian electorate.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Senator Martin.
(1975) be restored to the Notice Paper and made an order ofthe day for the next day of sitting.
– I give notice that on the next day of sitting I shall move:
That the sessional orders as varied relating to the days and times of meeting of the Senate and adjournment of the Senate be further varied as follows:
) that, unless otherwise ordered, for the week beginning Tuesday, 3 June 1 975, the days of meeting of the Senate shall be Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and
Friday, and on Friday the hour of meeting of the Senate shall be 10 a.m.; and
that, unless otherwise ordered, the sessional order relating to the adjournment of the Senate take effect at half-past four p.m. on Friday.
Senator BISHOP (South AustraliaPostmasterGeneral) I give notice that on the next day of sitting I shall move:
That the second reading of the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill [No. 2] (1975) be restored to the notice paper and made an order of the day for the next day of sitting.
– I give notice that on the next day of sitting I shall move:
That the variation of the plan of layout of the city of Canberra and its environs dated 8 May 1975 made under the Seat of Government (Administration) Act 1910-1973 and tabled in the Senate on 14 May 1975 be disallowed.
-I address my question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. I refer to today’s reversal of the last week’s decision to reduce the wool reserve price from 250c to 200c a kilogram. Will the Minister make a firm, unequivocal statement reassuring the wool and allied industries that the Government supports and gives its financial backing to the 250c a kilogram clean base? Will he give this assurance immediately as a means of repairing some of the damage caused by the Government’s incredible decision-making performance of the past few days.
– The decision concerning the wool selling season for 1975-76 was made by the Government this morning. The arrangements that have operated during 1974-75 will continue during the forthcoming wool selling season. I know that this will be a matter of great disappointment to the National Country Party. It is not a question of any matters concerning Government decision-making; that is a matter for the Government.
– You cannot even make up your minds. We can make up ours.
– We made up our minds for the benefit of the wool industry last year. When honourable senators opposite had the same challenge in front of them 3 years ago they did not have the backbone to do what we did and what we are prepared to do again. I hope that every wool farmer in Australia remembers the fact that 3 years ago the National Country Party, supported by the Liberal Party, ratted on the wool industry. But the Labor Government has not.
– I ask the Minister for Agriculture: Is there any truth in the report that a large shipment of South American bananas is heading for the east coast markets of Australia? If this report is true, what damage will the shipment cause to the banana growing industry of Queensland and northern New South Wales?
-I only hope there is no floor price for any bananas which are coming here. This is almost the beginning of an ancient mariner’s story. If there is such a ship coming to Australia it will be at sea a long time because we do not permit the importation of bananas. I have seen reports of this shipment. It certainly will not have any impact on the Queensland banana industry because the bananas would not be permitted to be landed.
-Was the Minister for Repatriation and Compensation aware that Mr Hawke, the President of the Australian Labor Party and the President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions, was going to let the cat out of the bag when he advocated the nationalisation of the oil industry and said that it could be achieved by establishing an Australian Government oil company on the lines of Trans-Australia Airlines or the planned Australian Government Insurance Corporation? Will be Minister explain what secret information he gave to Mr Hawke and to the Executive of the ALP? Will he explain why he has been telling the ALP Executive one thing and telling this Parliament the opposite?
– I did not give any secret information to Mr Hawke but if I had given him any secret information I would not be passing it on to Senator Greenwood. Senator Greenwood says that I have been telling the Australian Labor Party’s Executive one thing and the Parliament another thing. I should like him to be specific regarding what it is I have told anyone contrary to what I have said in the Parliament. I have not read Mr Hawke ‘s statement and I believe that, possibly, Senator Greenwood has misunderstood it, if he has read it. If he is arguing that the establishment of Trans-Australia Airlines has meant that the airlines have been nationalised, he must have a very curious idea of the definition of ‘nationalised ‘, because I thought that Ansett Airlines of Australia was still flying. I do not know what problems Senator Greenwood has had with Mr Hawke, but I suggest that he take them up with him. I stand by what I have said, namely, that the Australian Government Insurance Corporation will be a purely competitive insurance corporation along the same lines as the State Government insurance offices.
– Tell it to the big bird.
-Senator Greenwood is becoming hysterical at a very early time in the day: The moon has not yet risen. What I have said is what I repeat, namely, that the Australian Government Insurance Corporation in its commercial activities will be completely competitive with other insurance offices and it will be engaging in fields of national interest insurance which are of vital importance to the Australian people but in which the private insurance offices have not engaged.
– I address my question to the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. In view of the fact that the Department of Aboriginal Affairs in New South Wales has now been transferred to the Australian Government Department of Aboriginal Affairs, will this give Aboriginal people in that State more or less control over their homes and Aboriginal programs generally?
-The New South Wales Department of Aboriginal Affairs has not yet been transferred to the Australian Government Department of Aboriginal Affairs. However, negotiations are proceeding between the Australian Government and the New South Wales Government, mostly at a departmental level, to arranging a date. Legislation will need to be passed by the New South Wales Parliament before such a transfer takes place. There is complete agreement on the transfer. The transfer will make very little difference to the control of Aboriginal affairs or the self-determination of Aboriginal people in the State. We now have Australian Government financial support for any project which Aborigines establish and which is approved by the Australian Government, other than the erection of structures on settlements. Even the erecting of structures now is permitted on those settlements which the New South Wales Government is handing over to the New South Wales Lands Trust to be held in perpetuity for the Aboriginal people, and this plan and program will continue.
– I direct my question to the Minister for Agriculture. The May edition of a private newsletter named ‘Follicle’ has queried the fairness of wool selling agents being able to earn commission on the 7.75 per cent tax paid by wool growers. Of this tax, 5 per cent is used to underwrite Government moneys for the market support fund and the balance is used to augment Government moneys allocated to the promotion and research programs for wool, to which agents make no contribution. As the tax is a joint Government-grower agreement to assist the industry and therefore entirely different from other forms of tax, will the Minister consider having the tax deducted from the growers’ gross sales prior to agents applying commission rates?
– A number of procedures have been laid down in respect of wool tax over the years- certainly before the time of the present Government- and those procedures have been maintained, although there have been variations in the rates. The actual procedures have been maintained as they were originally. The woolgrowing industry has not brought to my attention any desire to alter the present system. If the industry were to make an approach to me along the lines suggested by the honourable senator I would be happy to discuss it with the Treasurer. But I think it would be necessary for the industry to indicate to me that it is dissatisfied on the point that has been raised by Senator Laucke. If it does so, I will certainly take the matter up with the Treasurer.
– My question is directed to the Minister for the Media. In view of the fact that there are no Australian children’s television programs on commercial television between 4 p.m. and 6.30 p.m., when the majority of viewers are children, would the Minister encourage the Australian Broadcasting Control Board to use its powers to initiate a public hearing on the question of Australian children’s television programs?
-As the honourable senator would know, the program standards under the existing Broadcasting and Television Act are entirely the responsibility of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board. Last November the Government sought to amend the law to give the Government some say in programming arrangements, but unfortunately the Senate rejected that legislation. Since then the legislation has been re-presented to the House of Representatives, has passed that House, has been re-introduced into this chamber and is awaiting debate here. Until that legislation is passed program standards remain completely the responsibility of the Broadcasting Control Board. It is the Government’s policy that public hearings be held for the renewal of licences, just as they are now held for the granting of licences to commercial broadcasting and television stations. However, the legal advice tendered to me is that before that section of the Government’s policy can be implemented further amendments will be required to be made to the Broadcasting and Television Act. I can tell the honourable senator that a Cabinet submission is now in the course of being prepared.
If it is a fact that no Australian children’s television programs are being shown by commercial television between 4.30 p.m. and 6.30 p.m.- in children’s viewing time- I personally deprecate that. I know that the Broadcasting Control Board is reviewing the points presently being awarded under the points system. I most certainly will draw the honourable senator’s question to the attention of the Control Board. At my direction research is continuing within my own department and material is being collected for the preparation of a positions paper concerning children’s programming on television. The whole spectrum of programming for children is being examined, in addition to the available programs that are not shown locally.
– I refer the Minister for Repatriation and Compensation to the speech of the Prime Minister which is reported on page 214 of the Australian Government Weekly Digest where the Prime Minister said that the Australian Government Insurance Corporation would be providing insurance cover that cannot be obtained from other companies, either because they are not interested or because it is not sufficiently profitable. I ask the Minister whether he can state precisely, without undue rhetoric or excitement, what are the areas in which existing companies are not interested but which are profitable as against those areas which are not profitable and will require the Government to meet losses? »
– I am sure that if there were any areas which were profitable and which were known to the insurance companies they would be most interested in them. I do not think that the Prime Minister said that there were profitable areas in which the insurance companies were not wishing to indulge. 1 am glad to see that the honourable senator is interested in this matter and I am pleased to get his support for the proposal, but the matters which the Prime Minister had in mind, to which attention has been drawn quite frequently, are those types of insurance which can be described as ‘national interest insurance’ and which cover, for example, floods. As Senator Chaney has raised the matter, it may well be remembered that Sir Gordon Chalk, the Deputy Premier and Treasurer in the Queensland Government and the Leader of the Liberal Party in that State, found himself in an unfortunate predicament after the Brisbane floods. Although apparently he had received finance for his house from the Queensland Government Insurance Office, he found that his house was not covered by any form of flood insurance. As the Prime Minister remarked at the time, Sir Gordon Chalk was left high and dry by the Brisbane floods.
Those are the sorts of fields that we intend to consider. -There are also other areas, such as crop and livestock insurance. We know that there are problems in the field of crop and livestock insurance, but it is a field that is covered in other countries. The United States Government, for example, does make quite a major financial contribution towards the maintenance of crop and livestock insurance in the United States. I am sure that would be an additional reason for Senator Chaney to wish to emulate what is done in the United States as he would like to emulate most things American, particularly in regard to foreign policy. I think that should apply also to domestic policy. Those are the sorts of matters at which we are looking. They are matters that are not covered in this country because there is no profit in them for the private insurance companies but are covered in other countries, even countries with a much more uniform dedication to the capitalist system than is to be found in Australia.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. Has the Minister been given the opportunity of studying the book entitle’d ‘Voices From Other Cultures’, which was edited by Robin Burns? The book implies that there have been blatant examples of racial discrimination against a trained Aboriginal nursing sister who is employed by the Aboriginal Medical Service in Sydney. The woman concerned was asked to leave a restaurant in Kings Cross during the course of a meal by a member of the staff of the restaurant because of -
- Mr President, I take the point of order that the honourable senator is asking a question that relates to a matter on the notice paper of the Senate.
– I wish to speak very briefly to the point of order, Mr President. I raised this very matter many times when Senator Sir Magnus Cormack was in your position, Mr President, and he always ruled me out of order. I would suggest that you should do the same to him on this occasion.
– It is my interpretation of the situation that Senator Primmer is genuinely seeking information from the Minister. Senator Primmer can proceed with his question.
– The woman concerned was asked to leave a restaurant in Kings Cross during the course of a meal by a member of the staff of the restaurant because of ‘trouble in the past from her people’. Has the Minister received any official complaint from the Aboriginal Medical Service about that incident? Will he indicate what action can be taken with regard to incidents of that type?
-It is difficult to answer the question without supporting the point of order raised by Senator Sir Magnus Cormack. I have seen extracts from the book ‘Voices From Other Cultures’ in which it is stated that an officer of the Aboriginal Medical Service was asked to leave a restaurant because people of her race had caused trouble there previously and that the officer, who was with companions, felt humiliated because she was being victimised or discriminated against somewhat in being asked to leave because of what someone of her colour had done in the past. Happenings of this kind that are humiliating to the individuals involved are to be deplored. They show the existence of racial discrimination. I have not received reports on this incident. Reports are continually received, not in regard to restaurants but in regard to house-letting and other matters of that nature. It is apparent from them that racial discrimination is in fact occurring. It is one of the earnest desires of the Government to do something about that. At the present time it is quite legal to discriminate against anyone because of colour, creed or ethnic grouping, but we hope to be able to rectify that situation by obtaining the support of the Senate on the matter that is at present on the notice paper. We hope that what is at present an intolerable attitude will be an offence against Australian law before this session is out.
– My question is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. When will the Government announce the total of its borrowing program, both overseas and domestic, to fund and finance its massive emerging deficit?
– To describe the emerging budget deficit as massive is a matter of judgment. If that is the way Senator Cotton wishes to describe it, naturally it is his prerogative to do so. Several options are open to the Government in respect of this matter, and it would not be proper for me even to suggest the procedures which the Treasurer might adopt. I will refer the question to him, but I think it would be premature to expect him to answer it in any definitive manner. However, I shall refer it to him and leave to his discretion how he answers it.
-Has the Minister representing the Minister for Social Security seen advertisements in which the Hospital Benefits Association of Victoria purports to offer cover for 1 3 medical benefits not covered by Medibank? Is it a fact that these 13 benefits are not available under Medibank?
– I have seen the advertisement. It would be difficult not to have seen it. There has been quite extensive advertising by the Hospital Benefits Association of Victoria in a number of newspapers in which it claims that it is offering 13 services which are not available under Medibank. I think it is rather interesting to note that in this regard the HBA is proposing that to get these benefits people who subscribe at present to the HBA continue to pay the present family rate of $ 1 .82 a week even after Medibank commences, despite the fact that the Minister for Social Security has said quite clearly that the Government would refuse to register any private health insurance fund which provided this socalled medical gap insurance of more than 1 5 per cent. From a study of the proposals made by the Victorian HBA, it would seem that the gap insurance which it would be offering would be up to 25 per cent. Thirteen benefits are offered by the HBA which, it claims, are not available under Medibank. They are physiotherapy, chiropody and various others including artificial limbs and a form of life insurance against death by accident for a sum of $2,500 for a member of the fund or the spouse of a member of the fund, which is certainly something which is not offered by Medibank but would be competing with the already hard-pressed private insurance companies.
I think one needs to comment on some of these things. For example, the HBA says that it will provide artificial limbs. The fact is that since 1973 this Government, through my Departmentit was then the Department of Repatriation and subsequently became the Department of Repatriation and Compensation- has been providing free artificial limbs to anybody in the community who needs them. The service is certainly not covered by Medibank. There was no need to have it covered by Medibank. The free service is already available. Certainly some of the other services would seem to be well beyond the ambit of Medibank. If Senator Poyser would like to study the matter further I refer him to an article in the ‘Age’ of 23 May 1975. 1 know that the ‘Age’ is a newspaper which irritates Senator Greenwood, but it is not always very complimentary of me either. On 23 May the ‘Age’ pointed out that it would be very difficult to get a good return on yearly premiums amounting to $94.64. I think the concluding words of the writer really sum up the position regarding the offer by HBA. The article concluded:
If I were an accident-prone, one-legged neurotic diabetic with ingrowing toenails, I would snap up the HBA offer.
– I direct to the Minister for the Media a question which relates to 2 ethnic radio stations to be established in Sydney and Melbourne. Was a meeting, organised by Mr Grassby, held in the offices of the Department of the Media prior to and in relation to the appointment of a committee to deal with and prepare programs for these 2 ethnic radio stations? If so, was the Minister aware that such a meeting was to take place? Who gave authority for Mr Grassby to hold such a meeting? Has a committee been established? If so, by whose authority was it established?
-Realising the tremendous amount of loneliness in a large number of migrant families, especially womenfolk who are at home for most or all of the day by themselves while their husbands are at work and their children are at school, I and the Government for some time have been keen to establish a form of ethnic broadcasting to try to help break down these tremendous language barriers and this horrible feeling of isolation on the part of a large number of people, especially the womenfolk to whom I have referred. Therefore it was at my request, and at no one else’s, that my Department- I think in February or March last- organised a meeting of representatives of a number of departments that would be interested in such a proposal. I speak subject to recollection, but represented at the meeting were the Department of the Prime Minister, the Australian Broadcasting Control Board, the Special Consultant on Community Relations -
– Is that Mr Grassby?
-Yes, Mr Grassby. I think the Department of Labor and Immigration was also represented at this meeting which was held to discuss this matter generally. Mr Grassby was present at the meeting in his capacity as the Special Consultant on Community Relations, and he was there as an invitee. A recommendation arising from that discussion was that experimental ethnic broadcasting should be undertaken on low powered frequencies, if the frequencies were available, for a trial period. I think that those who were in attendance recommended that a committee should be appointed to give the prospective licensee some advice on programming arrangements. I think there was also a proposal put forward, either at that meeting or later, that a committee of the mayors of the municipalities in which the broadcast would be received should be established in an advisory capacity.
I can inform the honourable senator that last Thursday Senator Bishop, being the PostmasterGeneral and having the responsibility for licencing such stations under the Wireless Telegraphy Act, and I conferred and made a recommendation to the Prime Minister that an ethnic radio experimental committee should be formed to conduct radio broadcasting in Sydney and Melbourne for a period of 13 weeks. The Prime Minister has approved of that recommendation. Senator Bishop has been extending invitations to the proposed members of the committee. I assume that Senator Bishop shortly, if not now, would be in a position to announce the proposed members of that committee. It is proposed that that committee will be responsible for the formulation of the program policies for the 2 services that will be provided on an experimental basis for a period of 13 weeks and at the end of that trial period of 13 weeks the committee is to tender a report to the Government.
– Has the Minister representing the Attorney-General noted the public admission by a Sydney private inquiry agent, Mr Monte, that he is acting as a recruiting sergeant for certain Middle East mercenary forces which at best can be described as meddling in our foreign policy in the Middle East area? What can be done to curb the actions of such people and put them into active work rather than have them bludge on the community, which is the case with all private inquiry agents?
-Mr Frank Monte has been interviewed by the Australian Police regarding advertisments in the Sydney Press for bodyguards for work in security teams overseas. He has also been in contact by letter with the Chief Commissioner of the Australian Police as to whether he could be in breach of Australian law in acting as agent for a person who desires to interview suitable persons to engage in this work in a Middle East country as a security adviser. The question as to whether a breach of the law might be involved has been referred to officers of the Attorney-General ‘s Department. I might say Mr Monte has not had any further contact with his client at this stage.
– Will the Minister representing the Minister for Minerals and Energy inform the Senate whether Australia has agreed to sell uranium to any foreign country? If so, with what countries and for what quantities have the contracts been made? Has the Australian Labor Party’s Caucus agreed to permit the Government to honour any Cabinet decision to export Australian uranium?
– I will not comment on the last part of the question because, as I said earlier today, the decision-making machinery of the Government is a matter for the Government. I will need to refer the earlier part of the honourable senator’s question to the Minister himself to get a full answer.
– I draw the attention of the Senate to the presence in the gallery of a delegation from the National Parliament of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh, led by the Speaker, the Honourable Abdul Malek Ukil. The delegation has just begun an 11 -day tour of Australia and after leaving Canberra will visit Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia. On behalf of honourable senators, I bid them welcome and trust that their visit will be both interesting and rewarding.
– Can the Minister representing the Minister for Defence give any further information as to the situation regarding the future of the Woomera rocket range in South Australia? Last October the Minister for Defence announced that the Woomera range would be run down and placed on a care and maintenance basis. Have there been any further developments in relation to this matter?
– I do not think the situation has changed from that referred to by Senator Drury and which has been commented upon by Mr Barnard only today. We have stated that the activities of the Woomera rocket range would be run down and the instrumentation and facilities held in readiness for a revival. Negotiations have been proceeding with officials of the British Government. Those negotiations will depend upon the arrangements for the completion of some British trials which will run beyond the period of the present agreement and the level of maintenance necessary to ensure that, in the event of a requirement by either country, the range would be reactivated. It is intended, however, that minor trials within the available capacity will be conducted while the range is under care and maintenance. Included among these trials will be some types of military training operations.
– I direct my question to the Minister for Foreign Affairs. Was Tran Van Lam, former South Vietnamese Ambassador to Australia and former President of the South Vietnamese Senate, assured by the former Australian Ambassador to South Vietnam, Mr Price, that he would be welcome to settle in Australia? Is it also a fact that Mr Lam ‘s wife and family are resident in Australia? If these facts be correct, why is the Government now giving Mr Lam the run around? Is the reason that the Prime Minister is more concerned with currying favour with Hanoi than the humane and decent treatment of Mr Lam and his family?
-I do not know what conversations Mr Price had with Mr Tran Van Lam. I can answer the other allegations made by Senator Sim only by saying that we have approved the application of Mr Tran Van Lam to settle in Australia.
-Has the Minister for Agriculture seen the report in today’s ‘Australian Financial Review’ of the somewhat nebulous proposal from the Western Australian Premier, Sir Charles Court, which implies that the Premier is contemplating paying a subsidy of 50c per kilo on 2 1 micron clean wool to Western Australian growers? Does the Minister know the approximate cost of such a scheme? Has the Western Australian Premier consulted the Australian Government or detailed any firm plans for funding his idea? Is it likely that he will demand finally that the Australian Government foot the bill or can the whole plan of Sir Charles be regarded as a piece of cheap political grandstanding designed to reconstruct the LiberalNational Country Party coalition which he blew apart earlier this month?
-I understand that some comment was made over the weekend by the Western Australian Premier. Of course, events of today have completely decided that matter. It would be quite impossible- I doubt very much whether Sir Charles Court was serious when he made the suggestion- for the Western Australian Government to undertake such an underwriting because it would work out probably in the order of $30m or $40m; maybe more than that. The same thing applied, I recall, when the wheat stabilisation discussions were on 2 years ago. He was going to make some moves to underwrite the Western Australian wheat crop. He also found that that was quite impractical. For any State government to take on such a venture is just outside the bounds of economic possibility.
– I direct my question to the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. Is it a fact that the Everard Park cattle station in South Australia which was purchased by the Government for use as an Aboriginal reserve, I think some time last year or the year before, is in a bad state of repair and that, due to a lack of maintenance, most of the bores on the property are now nonoperative? Is it also a fact that as a result 400 cattle have died? Can the Minister tell me the present condition of the bores? How many cattle remain on the station? How many Aborigines are employed there? If it is correct that the bores are out of action, what is the Government doing to rectify the situation?
-Everard Park was handed over to an Aboriginal community to run as a cattle station. It has been re-named Mimili. There were some problems following a disagreement with the manager of the station which had been neglected and was run down. We sent a team there to report on the question of installing a new manager on the property. To the best of my knowledge the station is running satisfactorily as a cattle station project at the present time. If any of the cattle have died, this has not been reported to me. Of course, I have not counted the number of cattle on the station. If there are bores out of action, this has not been reported. Of course, I have not counted the number of bores but it does happen frequently on cattle stations that bores go out. It is a problem that needs continual attention. I shall try to get an uptodate report on the matters which are disturbing the honourable senator, but I suggest that he is referring to a period well before the present manager of the station was appointed.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for the Media. The Minister would be aware of an Australian Broadcasting Commission radio program called ‘The Coming Out, Ready or Not Show’. He would also no doubt be aware that the program is produced and presented entirely by women. Can the Minister tell the Senate whether this is a genuine attempt by the ABC to involve women in all aspects of program production and presentation, or is it just a sop to International Women’s Year?
– I am aware of the radio program and I congratulate the ABC on its foresight in introducing it. The show apparently has resulted from a women’s workshop program within the ABC which has been designed to give any female ABC staff member a chance to participate in all aspects of program making. One basic aim of the women’s workshop program is to involve women in more technical fields with the result that typists, librarians and other staff engaged in that sort of activity will become producers, technical operators and so on. An ABC women’s co-operative has been formed to organise the venture with workshop results being channelled into a weekly radio program that Senator Melzer has referred to as ‘The Coming Out, Ready or Not Show’. I am told by the Commission that 2 female staff employees have been seconded from their usual work to co-ordinate the project and that they will be travelling to other States to encourage women to form similar workshops elsewhere. I am told that as a result of this co-operative over 200 women are attending radio workshops, 50 of them on a television course, and that there is a steadily growing waiting list. The program is broadcast on Saturdays by the Australian Broadcasting Commission at 5.5 p.m. on Radio 2. 1 am told that it has been well received and is creating a great deal of interest in the community. Finally, the Commission tells me that a T-shirt which was produced to advertise the show has been selling in staggering numbers.
– My question, which is addressed to the Minister for Manufacturing Industry, refers to the reported statement by the Minister at, I think, the Harvard Club, that he supports a general lowering of tariffs in Australia. Is it not a fact that the general lowering of tariffs last year resulted in severe unemployment, particularly in the textile, clothing, footwear, electronics and automotive industries? Are these and other industries now to be subject to further major disruption and unemployment as a result of the Minister’s foreshadowed policies? Does the Minister appreciate that a wide range of Australian industries, however highly efficient in their management, are seriously threatened by the record inflation created by the Government and will face the danger of collapse if the Minister’s low tariff policies are implemented at this stage?
– I regret that I have not given Senator Carrick a full copy of the speech I delivered to the Harvard Club on Friday night last. I will repair that omission as soon as I leave this chamber. If he had read the entire speech he would have said that what I was advocating was precisely the opposite of what he suggested. I said that this is not the moment for a wholesale reduction of tariffs. I also made out a thesis, very carefully documented I thought and soberly argued, that -
– Were you wrongly reported?
-No, I was not fully reported. I will repair any misconceptions Senator Carrick formed by letting him have the speech in full. The thesis I set out was that structural adjustment in Australian industry is eminently desirable but that if social disruption is to be avoided this sort of change effected by the tariff has to be introduced gradually and with plenty of forethought as to the disruption of human lives and resources which may be involved. In other words, as I pointed out, the chances of genuine lasting tariff reform in a period of recession like the present one are nil and it is not until we have industry back on its feet that we can contemplate a wide-ranging review of the tariff with the aim of having a more rational use of physical, human and capital resources. A careful reading of the speech- I will let Senator Carrick or any other member of the
Opposition who wishes to read it have a copywill show that tariff reform as a weapon of structural adjustment is something which has to be undertaken carefully, gradually and with an eye to the human disruption that may be involved. There is no such disruption or no such plan involved in the immediate future.
-Has the attention of the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs been drawn to a recent statement by Mrs Lorna Hume, the Manager of the Western Australian Aboriginal Advancement Council, regarding criticism of the Australian Government by the Western Australian Minister for Housing, Mr O’Neil? Will the Minister advise the Senate whether the Australian Government can take any action to improve the homemaking service that Mrs Hume has asked the State Government to set up?
-Yes, I have seen the reply by Mrs Hume to the Minister. I also have seen the Minister’s criticism of the Federal Government for not trying to bridge the cultural gap by supplying greater homemaking services although we are supplying many homes. Mr O’Neil has expressed to me the view that he believes Western Australia, with the Australian Government’s support, has now housed every Aboriginal family in that State that meets the tenancy requirements of the Housing Commission of Western Australia. Those yet to be housed are Aboriginal families which do not meet such tenancy requirements and who are causing so much trouble. As a result, the Australian Government, which is committed to a policy of housing all Aboriginal families, whatever requirements they meet, within 10 years from the time of elections, has provided funds to the Western Australian Government for a housekeeping service whereby women who are employed for the purpose will visit the homes and try to instruct the tenants as to how properly to look after a European home.
This year we supplied $99,370 to Western Australia for a housekeeping service. That sum has gone into a fund, for which the Western Australian Government has supplied $411,500, the Australian Government through my Department financing the housekeeping service of those who have to call on Aboriginal families. The Western Australian Government is, in the provision of the housekeeping service, calling on European families. The disproportionate cost would indicate that there are more European families than Aborigines who cannot meet the tenancy requirements of the Western Australian Housing Commission, but as there are still more Aborigines outside the requirements of the Housing Commission my Department would willingly provide greater housekeeping services. We are committed to a policy of full housing and cannot have this policy retarded by the inability of Western Australia to keep up with the housekeeping service, which Mr O’Neil finds so necessary for housing future tenants in Housing Commission homes.
-I ask the PostmasterGeneral whether any licences have been granted by him under the Wireless Telegraphy Act for non-commercial broadcasting to any Governmentsponsored groups or authorities other than the one that he has in question at the moment. If so, how many such licences have been granted and to whom have they been granted? Have any conditions been laid down as a term of the licence? If such conditions have been laid down will he make details of them available to the Senate?
– I am not sure whether other licences have been issued by myself or other Postmasters-General but I will research that matter. However, when Senator Douglas McClelland, the Prime Minister’s officers and I discussed the benefits that might accrue from such a committee, my Director-General said the suggestion was consistent with the practice in the past. Maybe I could tell Senator Durack the names of the people who have been invited to serve on the committee. It might be the right time to do so now.
– It was the other matters I was asking about.
-Regarding the others, I will have to seek the information for the honourable senator; but it might be a good time to indicate, following the discussions of the Ministers whom I have mentioned and the Prime Minister’s officers, those who have been invited to attend and who have accepted. Senator Mulvihill has accepted and Senator Davidson has accepted. Mr G. A. Bayutti, who is President of the Apia Club, Sydney, has accepted the invitation to act as Chairman, and he will be issued with a licence. Mr Walter Lippman, who is the Chairman of the Ethnic Communities Council of Victoria, has accepted. Professor Renwick, Director of the Hunter Valley Research Station, has accepted. Mr N. Brennan, Secretary of the Good Neighbour Council of Victoria, has accepted. Mr T. Fairbairn, Secretary of the Good Neighbour
Council of New South Wales, has accepted. Mr J. Gogos, Editor of the New World Newspaper, Melbourne, has accepted. Mrs R. Huber, Lecturer in Humanities at the New South Wales Institute of Technology, has accepted. Mr Kosovic, editor of the Yugoslav newspaper Novo Dobra’, New South Wales, has accepted. He is presently sick. Those people would form the Committee. Senator Douglas McClelland and I will be making a statement sometime today, I hope, which relates to the formation of the Committee and its responsibilities.
– I direct my question to the Minister representing the Treasurer. Is he aware that the world renowned micro-surgical team at St Vincent’s Hospital in Melbourne is facing a crisis through lack of finance and that one of the surgeons on the micro-surgical team is reported in the ‘Sunday Press’ magazine as having said:
If we do not get more money for salaries we will lose staff and will have to close down some of the unit.
I ask the Minister: Has the Victorian Government asked for any financial assistance to retain this outstanding surgical unit? If not, will the Minister give consideration to making a financial grant from the Australian Government to ensure the continuity of the unique work of this team in the interests of our community?
– I am not able to comment on the question. In fact it may well come within the responsibility of Dr Everingham, the Minister for Health. Nevertheless, I will find out who has responsibility for this matter and refer the question accordingly.
– Order! The delegation from the National Parliament of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh is about the leave the gallery. I hope the delegation has enjoyed its short stay with us.
– I ask the Minister for the Media: Why are the new ethnic radio stations in Sydney and Melbourne, which are to be licensed to a committee connected with the Special Consultant on Community Relations, to be licensed under the Wireless Telegraphy Act, while other community stations, for example, those at Campbelltown and in central Melbourne, are to be licensed under the Broadcasting and Television Act? Is it a fact that section 8 1 of the latter Act admits only licensees with a share capital and that this has been interpreted to exclude co-operatives, thus penalising some applicants for those licences who are constituted as co-operatives? Is it also a fact that the setting up of those stations will be subject to delays because of the Australian Broadcasting Control Board hearings required under section 83 of the Broadcasting and Television Act? Is this a case of preferred treatment to Mr Grassby ‘s committee? Why could not arrangements for community stations be consistent?
– I think I pointed out to Senator Young when I replied to him on the matter of ethnic broadcasting stations that it was proposed that the stations would be of an experimental nature. It is for that reason that these stations are being licensed under the Wireless Telegraphy Act. If after the end of 1 3 weeks a report is received and considered by the Government and it is then decided to proceed with the establishment of ethnic radio broadcasting stations I assume that any such stations would be established under the Broadcasting and Television Act. It is mandatory under the Act to call for applicants for licences and for the hearings to be held in public. It was decided in the case of Campbelltown to call for a restrictive commercial licence and 2 competing groups have lodged applications. Those applications have been heard by the Australian Broadcasting Control Board and I am awaiting a report from it.
The frequency modulation community stations that have been established in Sydney and Melbourne- I refer to the music broadcasting stations- have been licensed under the Wireless Telegraphy Act but operate under the conditions of the Broadcasting Control Board. Station 5UV, Adelaide- I think that is the number from recollection- also operates under the Wireless Telegraphy Act, because those licences also have been issued on an experimental basis.
-The PostmasterGeneral will recall the answer he gave me on 20 May in relation to an article in the ND column of the Melbourne ‘Age’ of that date in respect to Canadian and Australian telephone charges. I now ask the Minister whether his attention has been drawn to a further article in today’s ‘Age’ by the same correspondent in which the writer states ‘PMG may have wrong number’. Can the Minister say whether the figures quoted under that heading are as misleading as those which were quoted on 20 May?
-Towards the end of my reply on 20 May to the honourable senator I said:
I might mention that the rates Tor STD calls in Canada are on the whole more expensive than those in Australia. That applies in most countries. Various countries have different tariff settings and it is misleading, I suggest, to pick out what suits the writer of an article.
I have since had my Department check the position and, for the honourable senator’s information, I am advised that it does not cost the United States domestic telephone subscriber $43 rental a year with unlimited free local calls. My Department had informed me that it costs him from about 20 per cent to well over 100 per cent more than that, depending on where he lives. It does not cost the United States business subscriber $54 a year with 960 free local calls a year. In New York, for example, it costs him nearly double that, with 600 free local calls and, by the way, many local calls are scarcely farther than around the corner in New York. The reporter also neglected to add that federal and State taxes may be additional in that country.
It does cost the New Zealand domestic telephone subscriber about $61 a year in rental, but the reporter omitted to say that the business subscriber pays more than double that amountapproximately $130. It does not cost $1.80 in Australia for a 3-minute STD call over a distance of 220 miles during the day and $ 1.20 at night; it costs $1.38 and 90c respectively. The 3-minute minimum charge is presently applying in North America, but the basis is different in Australia. In Australia- I am told that the same thing applies in North America- we are considering moving to the one minute minimum. In this country users of STD pay only for what they say, whether that takes 20 seconds or 20 minutes. The final answer must be that in some areas of telecommunications charges subscribers in certain overseas countries are better off than their Australian counterparts, but in other areas it works in the Australian subscribers’ favour.
– Is the Minister for Foreign Affairs aware that the Australian Society for Inter-Country Aid to Children, known as ASIAC, has a medical team of 13 personnel presently working among refugees on Guam? Is the Minister also aware of a request by Mr Michael Darby of that Society that the Australian Government assists with transport to Guam of a team of volunteers to replace those already there? What plans has the Australian Government to assist volunteers from ASIAC and other humanitarian organisations with transport to and from Guam in order to maintain an Australian presence?
– There is general liaison between the aid branch and many overseas agencies which render assistance in all kinds of ways, not necessarily at the time on Guam. As to the specific details, I will have to find out and let the honourable senator know.
-I address my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Labor and Immigration. I refer the Minister to a recent application under the Regional Employment Development scheme by the Corporation of the Town of Hindmarsh in South Australia for the funding of improvements for parks and council properties. Can the Minister say whether the project has been approved? If it has, can he give details of the project?
– The Ministers responsible for the administration of the RED scheme met on 2 1 May and considered the application by the Hindmarsh Council. The project provides for improvements to be made in respect of a number of sporting facilities, including the installation of an automatic watering system in the Jervois Avenue Reserve. The project also covers renovations to council properties and will provide employment for females. The Ministers approved the amount of $134,000 out of the total estimated cost of the project of about $ 1 50,000.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Foreign Affairs. Will the Minister indicate the current situation in relation to the admission to Australia of South Vietnamese refugees? Is it a fact that the direct relations, that is parents, brothers and sisters and so forth, of Australian citizens who were formerly Vietnamese cannot be brought to Australia by the Australian citizens from Guam and other refugee camps? If this is so, will the Minister seek to have the rules reviewed to accord with what most Australians would agree is our minimum humanitarian obligation?
– As I understand the question, it concerns the general rules that are laid down.
– For the relations of Australian citizens.
-Provision for the entry of certain relations has been made. Is the honourable senator suggesting that it be extended?
– To parents, brothers and sisters.
-I will look at the matter.
– I preface a question to the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs by referring to a report in today’s ‘West Australian’ newspaper which states that the State Government may pay all or part of the costs of police officers involved in giving evidence to the Laverton Royal Commission. Has the Minister changed his view that these costs should be paid by the Australian Government now that the Western Australian Minister for Police, Mr O’Connor, has said ‘the Commonwealth’s decision was more than a little bit unfair’?
-There has been no alteration in the Australian Government’s decision on this question. When I was in Western Australia I received a deputation from the President and the Secretary of the Western Australia Police Union who stated that they were not opposed to a royal commission into the affairs at Laverton but they were concerned at the cost to the Police Union to exonerate members from any imputations against them. At that time I said to Mr Fraser from the Police Union that to my knowledge it was not an impoverished union and I thought it could afford to pay. As it was a union of policemen in Western Australia I thought no better use could be made of its funds than trying to defend members who had contributed to the funds. While Mr Fraser did not deny this, he said that the cost could be astronomical and the Union did not want to use its funds for that purpose. When I was discussing the terms of the royal commission with the Premier of Western Australia, he proposed that there should be some payment of the costs of the Police Union. I stated then that we would give consideration to an application if it were made by the Police Union, although I was not favourably disposed to paying Police Union costs in connection with a royal commission into police behaviour. I have received no application from the Police Union asking us to contribute to its costs but I am of the belief that such an application would not receive a sympathetic hearing if it were made to me.
– I ask the Minister for the Media: In view of the announced intention of the Department of Environment to proceed with 2-minute radio commercials to inform the public about environmental issues, and the subsequent statement by a representative of private industry that it is a most unusual length of advertisement which apparently has not been available previously to private advertisers, is the Australian Broadcasting Control Board giving special consideration to the Government to enable it to broadcast radio advertisements of a most unusual length which is not available to private industry?
– I have some information on this matter from the Australian Broadcasting Control Board. I am told that the environment and conservation advertising campaign is conducted on radio only and is sponsored by the Department of Environment. Apparently the advertising is arranged through my Department and my Department is the servicing department but the actual preparation of the advertisements is the responsibility of the Department of Environment. The campaign has commenced with a 3-week trial period on 5 stations in both Sydney and Melbourne in order to test the market. The campaign started on 25 May and is due to run until 14 June. The commercials are of 60 seconds, 90 seconds and 120 seconds duration. The Broadcasting Control Board has advised me that the 120-second commercials were allowed by it after the stations were advised that they would be permissible as long as the Broadcasting Control Board’s regulations were followed. The regulations state that there has to be a proper amount of program material- music and so on- before and after such a lengthy commercial. The cost of the total campaign has been estimated at $58,000. The campaign, which deals with the problems of the environment generally, pollution, conservation and so on, is designed to make the community aware of the tremendous problems that exist in this area.
– I would like to ask a supplementary question of the Minister for the Media. Is advertising available to private interests under the same conditions as have been laid down by the Australian Broadcasting Control Board in that instance?
– I assume so. I will check with the Broadcasting Control Board and advise the honourable senator.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Repatriation and Compensation. I ask: Has the Minister been correctly reported as having said that he intends delaying the introduction of the Australian
Government Insurance Corporation Bill into the Senate?
– Yes. Yesterday I made a statement to the effect that I would be delaying the introduction of the Bill until next Tuesday. I will be doing that so that the Opposition parties, in conjunction with the various insurance companies, can have another look at the Bill. As honourable senators would be aware, a number of amendments already have been made to the Bill. The proposition I put forward is that if the Opposition believes that there are any problems -
– Why do you not put this down in the form of a ministerial statement? This is not an answer to a question.
-Yes, it is. If there are any problems that the Opposition believes still exist with regard to lack of fairness of competition between the Australian Government Insurance Corporation and other offices I will be prepared to accept any amendments provided they are reasonable amendments and provided that the Bill is passed and not further delayed.
– I do not know what is bothering Senator Sir Magnus Cormack. If he wants to deal with it today I will be happy to do so. I am giving the Opposition an extra week’s opportunity to have a look at the matter and I am saying that I will be prepared to accept any amendments that are made provided the substance of the Bill- that is, the establishment of such an office- is retained.
-I am not too sure of the 2 people to whom Senator Sir Magnus Cormack is referring.
– You know as well as I do.
-There are at the moment- I think they are still in Australia- 2 students who are here -
– They are from Cairo. I mean El Salim or whatever his name is.
-That is a help. I take it that Sir Magnus is not referring to the 2 students in Australia but to Mr el Surani about whom I answered a question from Senator Wright on Wednesday, 14 May. The note I have- I gave this answer to Senator Wright that dayindicates I am not aware that somebody is coming with Mr el Surani. Maybe somebody is. Mr el Surani is scheduled to arrive in early June. He is visiting India, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore before coming here. Both his visit and the visit by the 2 students are of a private nature and do not involve Australian Government sponsorship. The Government has no indication whether the Palestine Liberation Organisation or other organisations will request visas for further visits to Australia. 1 understand that the answer to the other point about whether Mr el Surani is travelling on a diplomatic passport is no.
– I present the full report of the Taxation Review Committee chaired by Mr Justice K. W. Asprey, dated 3 1 January 1975.
– I present the report of the committee of inquiry appointed to inquire into the effects of inflation on taxation paid by persons and business enterprises, dated this month.
– For the information of honourable senators I present the following 3 reports by the Industries Assistance Commission:
Stress relieved strand wire cable (by-law), dated 10 January 1975.
Polyester yarn for use in the manufacture of automotive seat belt webbing (by-law), dated 19 November 1974.
Tomatoes; tomato paste, etc. (by-law), dated 13 November 1974.
– Pursuant to section 32B of the Albury-Wodonga Development Act 1973, 1 present the first annual report of the Albury-Wodonga Development Corporation for the year ended 30 June 1974, together with financial statements and the AuditorGeneral ‘s report on those statements.
Report of Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence
– I present the report and transcript of evidence from the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defence on its inquiry into the Omega navigational installation.
Ordered that the report be printed.
– I seek leave to move a motion that the Senate take note of the report.
-Is leave granted? There being no dissent, leave is granted.
– I move:
In tabling this report I commend my fellow Committee members for the effort they have devoted to this inquiry. I also thank those who have placed evidence before the Committee and many others who have assisted our inquiry. It is perhaps not unexpected that unanimity has not been achieved in this report on all aspects of its conclusions. This is a reflection of the community debate on the issue which has led to strong opinions being expressed both for and against an installation of an Omega transmitter in Australia. Nevertheless, I think it is worth drawing attention to the fact that even though the Committee has not achieved unanimity, the dissenting views expressed by seven of the 21 members of the Committee- of whom I am one- are couched in moderate terms and do not support many of the extreme views placed before the Committee as evidence. In a report on a subject as complex as this, the Committee has not been able to present what would be regarded as a layman’s report because of the need to go into considerable technical detail to explain the background of the Committee ‘s conclusions and to clarify misunderstandings about technical aspects of the navigational installation.
There is no doubt that an Omega installation in Australia, completing as it would a worldwide navigational network, would be of advantage to ships and aircraft engaged in the pursuit of normal trade and commerce. It is equally clear that it is not a communications transmission system but rather an aid to navigation with each unit of the network capable of being directly controlled by the nation in which it is located.
The Committee has been concerned at several recent newspaper reports which indicate that certain newspapers have had access to all or part of the Committee’s draft report and its final report in advance of this tabling. Particularly, it was concerned with an article appearing in the ‘Australian’ on 19 May which made direct quotes from sections of the report and in other parts drew inaccurate inferences. The Committee’s concern is on 2 grounds: First, that access to the report should have been provided by any person properly having possession of a copy, and second, the impropriety of a journalist using such an opportunity to publish sections of a report prior to its tabling. I commend the report for serious consideration by the Parliament and the Government.
Debate (on motion by Senator Sim) adjourned.
-Mr President, on behalf of the Senate Standing Committee on Social Environment I present a general report on 4 references.
Ordered that the report be printed.
-Mr President, I seek leave to move a motion that the Senate take note of the report.
-Is leave granted? There being no dissent, leave is granted.
– I move:
In presenting this general report, I wish to inform the Senate that it deals briefly with 4 references and records that the Committee has brought to an end its consideration of the reference on petitions relating to the Postmaster-General’s Department and that on environmental and ecological factors in Aboriginal advancement programs and enterprises.
Honourable senators are well aware that the Australia Post Office Commission of Inquiry recommended that the postal and telecommunications functions of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department be separated and that each be administered by an appropriate statutory corporation. As legislation for this purpose has been placed before the Parliament, the Committee believes that there is no need for it to take further action on this reference.
With reference to environmental and ecological factors in Aboriginal advancement programs and enterprises, the Committee believes that the question of whether adequate consideration is being given to these can be considered to come within the scope of its current examination of the environmental conditions of Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders and the preservation of their sacred sites. As to whether the Committee should report on the social and environmental aspects of all future enterprises financed by the Australian Government, we see no practical reasons for continuing reports by this Committee on all such enterprises. In taking this view, we are not unmindful that the House of Representatives has appointed a Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs, which could at any time exercise such oversight should it see a need to do so. For these reasons, the Committee sees no need for it to take action under the terms of this reference.
I turn now to the 2 references on which progress is reported. The Committee has commenced its inquiry into the effects of the development in Australia of large inland cities upon inland waters, a matter referred by the Senate on 15 October last year. Each authority responsible for the development of a new inland city in Australia is being approached to provide uptodate information on the effects of that city’s growth on inland waters. We propose to engage a consultant to evaluate this material which, with the consultant’s report, will provide a basis for a public inquiry by the Committee.
With the examination of the environmental conditions of Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders now in its final stages, the Committee has decided that its next area of concern should be the environmental impact of the current woodchip industry program, which was referred to us on 28 November last year. This program has significant implications for Australian forests and those who derive a living from them, and it has aroused significant concern among many who fear its ecological consequences.
The inquiry has been widely publicised, and the Committee will welcome submissions from all interested individuals and organisations embracing the whole range of views. The response at this stage has been particularly pleasing. We hope that the majority of written submissions will be received by the end of June, and that we shall be able to commence public hearings and field work soon after. I should like to add my appreciation of the co-operation of the members of the Committee and of the excellent work done by the staff to the Committee.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
– I move:
I am doing this after consultation with Senator Greenwood.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Assent to the following Bills reported:
Supply Bill (No. 1) 1975-76. Supply Bill (No. 2) 1975-76. Public Service Acts Amendment Bill 1975.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Ordered that the Bill may be taken through all its stages without delay.
Bill (on motion by Senator Wheeldon) read a first time.
– I move:
I seek leave to have the 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 will give effect to the undertaking given by the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) on 29 April 1 974 when he stated in his policy speech:
We will extend medical benefits to cover consultations with optometrists.
Subsequently, in more detailed announcements, the Deputy Prime Minister, Dr Cairns, and the
Minister for Social Security (Mr Hayden) have reiterated this Government’s intention that benefits for optometrical consultations would be introduced within this Government’s health insurance program. This Bill authorises the payment of such benefits to the whole community under Medibank.
The provisions in the Bill enable benefits to be provided for services performed by optometrists, agreeing to participate in the new arrangements, and who enter into an undertaking with the Australian Government. Benefits will be payable for services by participating optometrists in accordance with Part II of the Health Insurance Act. The Bill provides for this to be achieved by the inclusion of four new items, relating to professional attendances by participating optometrists, in Part I of Schedule I to the Health Insurance Act. As will apply in relation to all medical benefits under Medibank, the benefits will be paid at the rate of 85 per cent of the negotiated schedule fees with a maximum patient payment of $5. Participating optometrists will agree to provide consultations covered by the undertaking at fees no higher than those negotiated between the Australian Optometrical Association and the Australian Government.
Where a participating optometrist elects to accept the assignment of benefits, he will accept the benefits in full settlement and the patient will not be required to meet any portion of the fee. Participating optometrists will undertake to accept the assignment of benefits for most consultations with persons with pensioner medical service entitlement, any other low income groups agreed between the Australian Optometrical Association and the Australian Government and dependants of these 2 groups. The provisions of the Bill authorising the payment of benefits under the new arrangements will be effective from 1 July 1975 the date from which medical benefits under Medibank will be payable.
Honourable senators will recognise that the introduction of the arrangements authorised by this Bill will further expand the already wide range of services to be available under Medibank. They will also remove the limitation existing under the present health insurance scheme where Australian Government benefits are not payable for a professional service resulting in the prescription of spectacles. I might mention that the present proposals do not extend to the provision of financial assistance towards the costs of spectacles or contact lenses. The Government is fully aware of the factors which need to be considered in relation to the provision of such assistance and the matter is currently under examination.
Before I outline the new arrangements in greater detail and draw to the attention of honourable senators the more important provisions in the Bill, I wish to emphasise 2 points. Firstly, the proposed optometrical benefit arrangements were developed in close consultation with representatives of the Australian Optometrical Association. The proposals have also been discussed with representatives of the Australian Medical Association and the Australian College of Ophthalmologists. Secondly, participation in the new arrangements will be entirely at the option of the optometrist concerned. It is considered that in the great majority of cases patients seeking optometrical attention, not involving the prescription and fitting of contact lenses, will require only one or two consultations. However, it is recognised that there may be special cases in which more than 2 consultations may be necessary during a course of attention. It is further considered that generally such attention should not need to be sought more frequently than at intervals of 12 months.
The Bill therefore provides for benefits in respect of professional attendances by participating optometrists for 2 separate items- an initial consultation and a subsequent consultation- in any 12 months period. It further provides for the payment of benefits for additional consultations, in excess of an initial and subsequent consultation, where the attending optometrist has certified that in his professional opinion, the patient required the additional consultations. Available information indicates that these patients comprise about 9 per cent of optometrists’ patients. The operation of this provision will be kept under review to ensure that no significant changes in optometrical practice develop. Any significant change would, of course, cause a reconsideration of this provision. The Australian Optometrical Association has given a quite clear indication of expected utilisation. If this utilisation rate is exceeded we will move to review the procedures associated with this benefit. The new benefit arrangements authorised by this Bill will also extend to consultations resulting in the prescription and fitting of contact lenses. In these cases benefits for the initial consultation will be paid at the rate of 85 per cent of the schedule fee. However, 2 levels of benefits for all consultations following the initial consultation will be payable, based on whether the contact lenses were prescribed and fitted to provide significantly improved vision as compared with spectacles, or as a patient preference.
It is proposed that the regulations will prescribe, as prescribed classes of patients, persons with the following conditions, being patients whose vision will be significantly improved by the use of contact lenses rather than spectacles:
The first 8 conditions which I have outlined were drawn up by an independent ophthalmologist. The list of conditions has been accepted by the Australian Optometrical Association. The operation of these conditions will be reviewed periodically to ensure that patients who reasonably require the prescription and fitting of contact lenses are not disadvantaged. All consultations associated with the prescription and fitting of contact lenses, other than the initial consultation, will be covered by the one benefit item. In the case of condition 9, the Australian College of Ophthalmologists has expressed reservations about the utilisation rates which might follow this provision. If, in fact, utilisation rates under this provision seem excessive, the conditions will be promptly reviewed.
In cases where contact lenses are prescribed and fitted to persons, included in a prescribed class of patients, and a full benefit of $60 has not been paid in respect of a similar course of attention commencing within the previous three years, the full benefit of $60 will be payable. In all other cases the Government believes such patients should not be entitled to higher benefits for a subsequent consultation than would be payable in respect of a normal course of attention not related to the prescription and fitting of contact lenses. Clause 6 of the Bill provides, therefore, for the benefit payable in these cases to be an amount equivalent to the benefit for a normal subsequent consultation, or such other amount as is prescribed by regulation.
Clause 8 of the Bill is a key provision. It provides for the Minister for Social Security to draw up a common form of undertaking. An optometrist wishing to participate in the new benefit arrangements will be required to give an undertaking in accordance with the common form. The Minister may draw up the common form of undertaking only after consultation with the Australian Optometrical Association and he may only vary the common form of undertaking following consultation with that Association. For the information of honourable senators I would like to briefly outline the more important matters to be included in the common form of undertaking. The undertaking will outline the kinds of services to be provided by participating optometrists and will detail the maximum fee to be charged by the optometrist for a service to which the undertaking relates. Regard will be had in the common form of undertaking to the fact that a participating optometrist may be a person or a company employing optometrists. In such cases the participating optometrist providing optometrical services at a number of practice locations may wish to enter into an undertaking in respect of only some of those locations. The locations to be covered by the undertaking will be specified in the undertaking.
Honourable senators will recall that earlier I referred to the fact that a participating optometrist in most cases will provide consultations to persons with pensioner medical service entitlement and their dependants without charge to the patients. This will be achieved by the inclusion in the common form of undertaking of a provision whereby the participating optometrist will undertake to make arrangements, in accordance with sub-section 20 (3) of the Health Insurance Act, for the assignment of benefits in respect of these patients. The effect of this assignment will be that for consultations provided to these persons, the participating optometrist will accept benefits in full settlement. The participating optometrist will not undertake to accept assignment of benefits for these patients in cases where the provisions in clause 6, to which I have already referred, apply. The common form of undertaking will also state the amount a participating optometrist may charge, in addition to the normal consultation fee, for a domiciliary visit made at the request of the patient. This charge will not attract benefits under the new arrangements.
The Bill also provides for the establishment of Optometrical Services Committees of Inquiry and Optometrical Services Review Tribunals. These bodies are to have similar roles, and are to be established and function similarly to the Medical Services Committees of Inquiry and the Medical Services Review Tribunals, already authorised by the Health Insurance Act.
Honourable senators will be aware that a Bill has already been introduced in another place setting up an Administrative Appeals Tribunal. It is proposed that the question of appeals against decisions which may be taken under the provisions of the Bill, being transferred to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal, will be taken up when the Tribunal commences to operate. It will be taken up as part of a comprehensive review of similar types of decisions, already authorised by the provisions of the Health Insurance Act, being considered by the Administrative Appeals Tribunal.
This Government recognises that special arrangements may be necessary in respect of persons living in isolated areas. In a situation where an optometrist with a principal practice in one town visits outlying areas periodically, higher charges are necessarily made to offset the additional costs involved. To ensure that persons in such areas are not deprived of the benefits under the proposed new arrangements, because of the requirement that fees be no higher than the negotiated schedule fees, the Bill, in clause 18, empowers the Minister for Social Security to make special arrangements for the provision of optometrical services, by participating optometrists, to persons in isolated areas.
Clause 20 of the Bill is a transitional provision designed to cover the situation where at the commencement of the new arrangements a patient is in the process of a course of attention at 1 July 1975 and the course extends beyond that date. In conjunction with authorising the new optometrical benefit arrangements, the Bill also repeals existing section 13 of the Health Insurance Act. This section provides for regulations to prescribe reduced amounts of medical benefits to be paid in respect of medical consultations as a result of which spectacles are prescribed.
In line with the philosophy of the Medibank legislation as a whole, the purpose of this Bill is to extend to all Australians an improved system of health benefits. We believe in universal availability of health services as a right and that belief commits us to make changes in the existing pattern of benefits. The lack of benefits for optometrical consultations has been an obvious flaw amongst the very many other deficiencies of the present scheme of health insurance but nothing had been done about it by the previous LiberalCountry Party Government.
When we came to plan a national, equitable and universal health insurance program we saw that optometrical benefits not only should, but could, be included by a Government which had a real commitment to progress. Because we had a vision of what was possible and because we were prepared to form policies, enter into negotiation and then make decisions we have been able to produce a well constructed system for the provision of optometrical benefits which can be integrated within the comprehensive Medibank program.
Before commending the Bill to honourable senators I would like to express appreciation to the Australian Optometrical Association for the constructive approach it has adopted in negotiations which enabled the optometrical benefit arrangements in this Bill to be formulated. The advice and views offered by the Australian Medical Association and the Australian College of Ophthalmologists on this matter is also appreciated. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Jessop) 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 James McClelland) read a first time.
– I move:
I seek leave to have my second reading speech incorporated in Hansard.
-Is leave granted?
– There being objection, leave is not granted.
-The purpose of this Bill is to establish an Administrative Appeals Tribunal. The function of the Tribunal will be to review decisions by Ministers and officials given under powers conferred by legislation of this Parliament or by ordinances of the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory. An inevitable development of modern government has been the vesting of extensive discretionary powers in ministers and officials in matters that affect a wide spectrum of business and personal life. Unfortunately, this development has not been accompanied by a parallel development of comprehensive machinery to provide for an independent review of the way these discretions are exercised. While there has been established a considerable number of review tribunals of one kind or another under the legislation of this Parliament, these have not developed in any co-ordinated fashion.
The intention of this Bill is to establish a single independent tribunal with the purpose of dealing with appeals against administrative decisions on as wide a basis as possible. The Bill would establish the Tribunal and provide for its membership, powers and procedures. The Tribunal thus established would be a standing body that could be given jurisdiction as new legislation creating administrative discretions is introduced. Existing legislation is to be reviewed in order to determine those statutory powers in respect of which the Tribunal could be given jurisdiction under other legislation, soon after the Tribunal is established.
During the consideration of the Bill in the other House, the Attorney-General (Mr Enderby) gave an assurance that endeavours would be made to provide a schedule to the Bill, setting out matters in respect of which the Tribunal would have jurisdiction. Work is proceeding on the preparation of an amendment for this purpose. I hope that the amendment will be available when the debate of the Bill resumes. The Attorney-General also gave an undertaking that an amendment would be moved in the Senate to establish an Administrative Review Council. An amendment for this purpose has been circulated with the Bill. The establishment of a body of this type was recommended by the Commonwealth Administrative Review Committee and also by the Bland Committee. Although the Bill as originally introduced by the AttorneyGeneral in the other House did not include provisions for these purposes, it was always the Government’s intention to look to these and other remaining matters once the Administrative Appeals Tribunal was established. The Council would exercise important functions in advising on developments that should be made from time to time in the area of administrative decisionmaking and the review of those decisions. The members of the Council will be appointed both from officials concerned in these matters and from other persons able to contribute to the work of the Council. It will be an important means of ensuring that the citizen’s rights to the review of administrative decisions develop along with changes in this area of the law.
I turn now to the detailed provisions of the Bill. Part II of the Bill provides for the establishment of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal, the appointment of the members of the Tribunal and the qualifications of members. The Tribunal will consist of a President, a number of presidential members and a number of other members. The President and the presidential members of the Tribunal will have the status of judges. The Bill accords them this status because it is considered by the Government to be essential to the successful operation of the Tribunal that it should enjoy a high standing in the Australian community. It will be called upon to review decisions of Ministers and of the most senior officials of Government. In the words of the Franks Committee on Tribunals and Enquiries, the Tribunal is not to be an ordinary court, but neither is it to be an appendage of government departments. The Tribunal is to be regarded as machinery provided by Parliament for adjudication rather than as part of the machinery of departmental administration. Nothing less than a tribunal of full judicial status would be satisfactory for these purposes.
Furthermore, the new Tribunal will acquire the jurisdiction of some existing tribunals which are chaired by or to which it is expected that judges will be appointed. It will also take over some of the review functions now vested in State supreme courts, the Australian Industrial Court and the High Court of Australia.
It is not clear at this stage how many presidential members will be required for the work of the Tribunal and accordingly the Bill does not propose any limit. It may be expected, however, that there would be a sufficient workload in Canberra, Sydney and Melbourne for there to be a full-time presidential member in each of those cities. The Bill provides that judges of courts established by the Parliament or of the courts of the States may be appointed to be presidential members. It is therefore possible for such a judge to be appointed to sit from time to time as a presidential member of the Tribunal in those places where the workload of the Tribunal would not be sufficient to justify a full-time appointment, or to provide assistance in coping with periods of heavy demand on the services of the Tribunal.
The qualifications for the members of the Tribunal other than the presidential members are set out in sub-clause 7 (2). The other members of the Tribunal will bring to the Tribunal professional and technical expertise in various fields. These other members may be appointed as fulltime members or part-time members. In some areas of the Tribunal’s operation it is expected that there will be a sufficient workload to justify the appointment of some full-time members. In other cases, the need for persons of particular skills will arise only occasionally and this can best be met by the appointment of part-time members.
The provisions of clause 14 of the Bill are intended to give the members of the Tribunal a proper independence from the executive Government. A member of the Tribunal may be removed from office only upon an address by each House of the Parliament. Part III of the Bill provides for the organisation of the Tribunal. The Tribunal will sit in divisions. The Bill provides specifically for 3 divisions, namely, a General Administrative Division, a Medical Appeals Division, and a Valuation and Compensation Division. It permits other divisions to be established by regulation. The 3 divisions set out in the Bill correspond broadly with what is expected to be the 3 main areas of operation of the Tribunal. The non-presidential members of the Tribunal will be assigned to divisions in accordance with their particular fields of expert knowledge.
Ordinarily, the Tribunal will be comprised of a President and 2 non-presidential members for the hearing of a matter. If the parties so agree, the Tribunal may be constituted by a presidential member sitting alone. Where a question of law arises during the proceedings of the Tribunal, the question is to be decided by the presidential member. Clause 25 empowers the Tribunal to sit at any place in Australia or in an external Territory other than Papua New Guinea. Part IV of the Bill sets out the powers of the Tribunal and the procedure to be followed by the Tribunal in carrying out its functions of reviewing decisions. To avoid the congestion of the legislative program that would be caused by bringing a large number of separate Bills before the Parliament to amend other Acts to confer jurisdiction on the Tribunal, clause 26 proposes that regulations may be made under other Acts to provide for appeals to the Tribunal. Regulations so made will, of course, be subject to disallowance of either House of Parliament in the ordinary way, so that Parliament will retain control over the matters that are to go before the Tribunal.
Where the Tribunal has jurisdiction to hear an appeal it will be empowered to affirm, modify or reverse the decision appealed from, to substitute a fresh decision of its own, or to send the matter back to the original decision-maker for reconsideration in the light of any directions or recommendations made by the Tribunal. The procedure before the Tribunal is to be informal. The Tribunal is not to be bound by the rules of evidence, but is empowered to inform itself in any way in which it sees fit. If in the circumstances of a particular case the Tribunal thinks it desirable to do so it will be able to have inquiries made by its own staff. Provision has been made for the Tribunal to call a preliminary conference of the parties to a matter before it in cases where the holding of such a conference may bring about a settlement of the matter.
One of the difficulties that a person wishing to challenge a decision now faces is that of obtaining reasons for the decision. Although it is often the practice for reasons to be given for a decision, there is no general requirement that a decisionmaker must give reasons for his decision. Clause 28 of the Bill therefore provides that a person who wishes to appeal to the Tribunal is entitled to obtain reasons for the decision from which he wishes to appeal. Special provision is made for a case where the giving of reasons for a decision would necessarily involve the disclosure of confidential material. In such a case, the statement of reasons is required to be lodged with the Tribunal itself. The Attorney-General is examining the recommendations of the Bland Committee that there should be a general requirement for reasons to be given for decisions made under powers conferred by statute.
Where there is an appeal to the Tribunal, the department concerned is required to make available to the Tribunal all relevant material. Special provision is made in clause 36 of the Bill to safeguard confidential material. Provision is made for an appeal from the Tribunal on a question of law to the proposed Superior Court of Australia and for the Tribunal to refer a question of law to the Superior Court. Pending the establishment of the Superior Court, this jurisdiction will be vested in the Australian Industrial Court. The Government believes strongly that appeals from the Tribunal on questions of law should go to a single federal court. This principle is essential to ensure the emergence of a uniform system of administrative law in the federal jurisdiction.
With the establishment of the new Tribunal, the policy of the Government is that ad hoc appeal tribunals will not be established under future legislation except where special circumstances make it desirable that there should be special tribunals. Mr President, the establishment of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal will be a significant milestone in the development in the administrative law of this country. The establishment of the Administrative Review Council, as proposed in the amendments already circulated, will be another step of great significance. Together both bodies will provide an opportunity to build up a significant body of administrative law and practice of general application. There will then be the machinery to ensure both that persons are dealt with fairly and properly in their relationships with government, and that future developments in that machinery are made after proper consideration and advice. Mr President, I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Greenwood) adjourned.
– I move:
– I think I ought to ask the Minister whether or not the statement appearing in the typescript of his second reading speech is in fact the position. It is said that an amendment to set up the Administrative Review Council has been prepared and has been circulated, or is it proposed that it will be?
– I thought it had been. I have seen it and I had assumed that it had been circulated. If it has not, I will repair the omission as soon as possible.
Question resolved in affirmative.
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 Cavanagh) read a first time.
– I move: That the Bill be now read a second time.
I seek leave to incorporate the second reading speech in Hansard.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Georges)- Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The speech read as follows)-
The purpose of this Bill is to enable a grant of up to $200,000 to be made available to Victoria for the construction of urgently needed flood mitigation works at Whitehead’s Creek, Seymour. This represents 40 per cent of the estimated cost of the works and the grant is conditional upon the State of Victoria providing the remainder of the expenditure required. When the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) visited Seymour during the 1974 flood he suggested immediate steps be taken to prevent floods hitting the town, and expressed a desire for a joint Australian Government and Victorian Government undertaking to enlarge the waterway capacity of the broad and standard gauge railway crossing at Whitehead’s Creek. Subsequently, the Victorian Government requested financial assistance from the Australian Government under the national water policy to carry out flood mitigation work at Whitehead ‘s Creek.
The town of Seymour was subject to disastrous floods from Whitehead’s Creek in 1973 and 1974 causing loss of life and considerable damage. Flash flooding from Whitehead ‘s Creek had not previously been known in the town, and these recent occurrences have caused considerable social distress, particularly among the older residents. The flood of February 1973 caused an urgent situation when the rail bridges of the Melbourne to Albury and Sydney lines at Whitehead’s Creek could not cope with flood waters, causing rapid back-up flooding in the older residential portion of Seymour, and breaching of the railway and the High Street road bridge. The flood mitigation works include provision of enlarged waterways through the existing railway embankment and at a number of road bridges and culverts plus some river improvement and flood protection works. Construction has commenced on the flood mitigation works which are estimated to cost about $500,000.
The Australian Government has considered that assistance for flood mitigation works for Seymour is a matter of urgency to greatly reduce the risk of disastrous flooding which might occur in the future. This Bill to provide financial assistance for these works is warranted, and this is in keeping with the Australian Government’s realistic and constructive approach towards flood mitigation. I commend the Bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Withers) adjourned.
Message received from the House of Representatives intimating that it had disagreed to the amendments made by the Senate to this Bill.
Bill returned from the House of Representatives without amendment.
– On behalf of Senator Wriedt, the Leader of the Government in the Senate, I move:
I have a statement on the Queensland distribution, which has been dealt with in another place, and at the end of the statement there is an appendage containing a lot of figures. I ask for leave to incorporate it in Hansard.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Georges)- Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The statement read as follows)-
The Government, having considered the report of the Distribution Commissioners for the State of Queensland, as tabled in this chamber on 17
April 1975, pursuant to section 23A of the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918-1973, together with suggestions, comments and objections lodged with the Commissioners, now recommends approval of the Distribution Commissioners’ proposals for that State.
In order to place the proposals in context, let me refer briefly to the situation which has developed in Queensland since the 1968 redistribution. The rate of growth has accelerated sharply. In the 13 years between the 1955 and the 1968 redistributions, the quota rose by nearly 23 per cent. Three electorates grew by more than 20 000 and a further two by more than 10 000. In the 6 years between the 1968 and 1975 redistributions the quota rose by nearly 28 per cent. Five electorates grew by more than 20 000 and a further five by more than 10 000. Thus, there has been much more growth in half the time. As may be seen by reference to the table presented by the Distribution Commissioners at page 2 of volume 1 of their report, enrolment growth rates have varied drastically from division to division over the past 6 years. For instance, while enrolment in the Division of McPherson increased from 47 371, as at the 1968 redistribution, to 93 108 as at December 1974, enrolment in the Division of Maranoa increased by only 1 526, from 44 788 to 46 3 14; in the Division of Brisbane by only 1 878, from 58 546 to 60 424; and in the Division of Griffith actually decreased by 70, from 58 868 to 58 798.
The anomalous situation which had developed under the existing electoral boundaries in Queensland may also be illustrated by reference to the current substantial variations from the quota. Thus, as at 28 March 1975 enrolments in 9 of the 18 existing divisions varied from the quota by more than 10 per cent, including four which varied by over 20 per cent. Enrolments ranged from 94 437 or 45.28 per cent above quota for the Division of McPherson to 46 497 or 28.47 per cent below quota for the Division of Maranoa. The identity of the 1 8 divisions drawn in 1948 remained unchanged for over a quarter of a century, a period when new divisions were created in all other States but Tasmania. The extent of growth and its uneven spread compels change. As a consequence of postponed major revisions, it is now necessary to make substantial alterations.
The Distribution Commissioners’ proposals represent a substantial improvement on the present situation and a response to the previous developments. The proposed enrolments, based on December 1974 enrolments, range from 58 537 or 9.76 per cent below quota for the new
Division of Glasgow to 68 515 or 5.63 per cent above quota for the Division of Brisbane. It is proposed to extend the area of the metropolitan divisions slightly to the north as far as Caboolture and to the south as far as Beenleigh, which will then correspond with the census definition of the metropolitan area and with the reality of urban growth in recent years. The metropolitan area will now contain 9 quotas and therefore must have 9 divisions.
Given the low existing enrolment, it was logical to alter drastically the Division of Maranoa. It combines with the western part of Kennedy. Again, in order to adjust boundaries within the Brisbane metropolitan area adequately and to define the two new proposed metropolitan divisions, the Commissioners found it necessary to abolish one of the existing metropolitan divisions. The Division of Griffith is proposed to be abolished, being the only metropolitan division with a negative enrolment growth rate during the 1 968- 1 974 period.
A careful examination of the character of the proposed Division of Flynn, which the Government intends should be renamed Kennedy, will show that it is basically the old Maranoa plus some modest border extensions and the city of Mount Isa. Kennedy would still be much smaller than the Division of Kalgoorlie, Western Australia. As noted in paragraph 12, page 3, of the Distribution Commissioners’ report, particular consideration was given to the proposed Division of Flynn, and to the problem of striking a balance among the various criteria laid down by section 19 of the Commonwealth Electoral Act. As a result, following consideration of objections to the preliminary proposals, a substantial modification to boundaries of the proposed Division of Flynn was effected, involving compensatory adjustments to the proposed Division of Dawson.
Those proposed Divisions for which enrolments have been fixed at below quota are all either non-metropolitan- Capricornia, Fisher, Flynn, Herbert or incorporate rapidly expanding outer metropolitan components- Fadden, Glasgow, McPherson, Oxley and Petrie. In those cases where the proposed enrolment for a nonmetropolitan division has been fixed above the quota- Darling Downs, Dawson, Leichhardt, Wide Bay- either the proposed variation from the quota is extremely small, for example, under one percent for both Dawson and Leichhardt or else it can be anticipated that population growth rate will be such as to reduce the degree of variation from the quota over the next couple of years.
It is interesting to note the projected enrolments of the three existing divisions with the highest enrolments as at May 1977, based on the assumption that the House of Representatives will run its full term. The enrolment of the existing Division of Bowman, which was 79 629 at 25 April 1975, is expected to increase to 87 000 by May 1977. The existing Division of McPherson is expected to move from 94 024 to 104 000 during the same period, and the existing Division of Petrie would increase from 77 459 to 84 000.
It is appropriate that the name ‘Kennedy’ be substituted for ‘Flynn’ and ‘Forde’ for ‘Glasgow’. The Right Honourable Frank Forde was a former Prime Minister of Australia. Like the late Sir Arthur Fadden, after whom a Division has also been named, he served the people of Queensland with great distinction in State and Federal Parliaments for a lifetime. To sum up, the proposals by no means favour the Australian Labor Party and, as a matter of fact, weaken certain divisions held by Government members. The Government considers, however, that the Distribution Commissioners’ proposals for Queensland are the result of a commendably painstaking and impartial study of the problems involved in the fixing of electoral boundaries for the most decentralised State in Australia. I urge the Senate to approve the motion for the redistribution of the State of Queensland into electoral divisions. I have already sought the leave of the Senate to incorporate the latest enrolment figures available for all divisions in Queensland as at 25 April 1975, as provided by the Chief Australian Electoral Officer. They are as follows:
– I oppose the distribution of seats in Queensland as outlined in the proposal before the Senate. I do so because from the Queensland point of view the proposal is contrary to what would be in the best interests of a proper distribution of seats in that State. Probably this proposal represents the most striking alteration made to electoral boundaries in Queensland. The alterations relate to the seats of Kennedy and Maranoa. It is proposed that there be added to Maranoa, already a very large electorate, a great proportion of the Kennedy electorate which also is a very big one. The people who made this distribution seem to think that electorates of this size in Queensland are easy to encompass within the activities of parliamentarians. The proposal indicates that they really do not consider the diversity of interests in such electorates. One of the big mining developments, located at Mount Isa, together with the Maranoa electorate is being thrown into the new electorate of Kennedy although there is absolutely no community of interests between the mining in Mount Isa and the rural pursuits engaged in in the grazing areas of the Maranoa electorate.
The new electorate will be more than 1000 miles deep and over 1000 miles wide and that is a fair area to expect a parliamentarian to be able to get around. I know it will be a feature of the Government’s argument that in Western Australia there is the big seat of Kalgoorlie but there is no comparison so far as representation is concerned. The Kalgoorlie electorate contains only a few centres of population whereas over the years it has been recognised that there has been much decentralisation of population in Queensland. Towns and cities have sprung up throughout Queensland. This indicates that over the years there has been a very good distribution of population in that State.
– Do you know how far it is from Kalgoorlie to Port Hedland and Kununurra?
-When the know-all from Western Australia finishes I will proceed with my speech. In the State of Queensland the population is well distributed in centres, towns and cities. This area is a far different proposition altogether to the electorate of Kalgoorlie. Members of Parliament do not represent miles of sand; they represent areas and people. The existing electorates of Maranoa and Kennedy have to be represented and the people in the communities in those electorates have to be represented. It is well recognised that parliamentarians, particularly members of the House of Representatives, have to maintain contact with the people in their various communities. To enlarge the present electorate of Maranoa by the addition of so much of the Mount Isa area and then calling it by a new name, or even using the old name ‘Kennedy’, will put a terrific load on any one parliamentarian. I think, Mr Acting Deputy President, that you, as a Queenslander, would agree that it would be a pretty hefty piece of land and population to represent properly. Therefore I think that the people who made this distribution made a serious mistake. It is not only a matter of the area but of the utilisation of the area. People are using the land embraced in these electorates and the population is clustered into the cities and towns throughout this very large region. Despite what is said, people in distant areas require just as much representation as do people in cities or towns on the coast.
It is very easy to talk purely on a population basis but it is the population together with the areas being utilised and developed in a proper way, as is the land in both these electorates, that has to be considered. Therefore I think more consideration should have been given to this aspect. I know it is the tendency to favour the people on the coast and the people in the larger cities but those people have much more convenient access to members of Parliament, as do members of Parliament to them, than people living in these particular areas. A rather amazing lack of knowledge of these areas is shown by some people. For instance, I want to refer to a submission by the Australian Labor Party to the electoral Distribution Commissioners for Queensland for the 1974 distribution. They talked about the western Queensland electorate covering such places as Mount Isa, Chinchilla, Cunnamulla, Dalby and other areas which are in the electorates I am speaking of at present, Maranoa and Kennedy. They said:
Communication by commercial airline and three western rail lines would facilitate servicing the large western seat, a consideration which did not seem apparent when the boundaries for Kennedy were set in 1968.
As a Queenslander, Sir, you will know that the air service and the rail links to those areas have not been established since 1968. Rail communication has been there for as long as you and I can remember, and air services have been there for many years. But it is rather surprising that they should mention this, because at this time services provided by Trans-Australian Airlines have been reduced and have been only partly restored by private enterprise. For the Labor Party to come forward and say: ‘Now that we have these rail and air service links in these areas, everything will be jake ‘, indicates that they are a little bit behind the times, I think, and it would indicate that the thinking of the Labor Party has not really caught up with the requirements of these western areas, or that it does not realise what is really necessary.
Another amazing thing when there were proposals for redistribution in 1968 was that the present Chief Electoral Officer of Queensland, Mr Weise, was then a distribution commissioner for the State of Queensland, as he was on this occasion too. What did he say when the proposed Division of Kennedy was being made to encroach more on to the south-east boundary? It is interesting to note that the proposed 1968 redistribution boundaries of Kennedy and Maranoa, comprising areas of 247 500 square miles and 194 565 square miles respectively, extended from the western boundary of Queensland to within 140 miles of the city of Brisbane. Mr Weise said then:
The proposed Division of Kennedy encroaches upon the area of south-east Queensland with which it has little or no community of interest.
Here, the same Mr Weise now throws all these things into the Maranoa electorate taking it to the south-east to which he objected in 1968, and he has forgotten all about the fact that there is no community of interest. That is what he said himself in his own submission in 1968, and now he does exactly the reverse. Why has this come about? Was there any influence used? Was there any political thinking? Was there a feeling that the government of the day might want this sort of thing? It does seem to be a reversal of form by this gentleman. His submission in 1968 bears out what I have been saying, and that is that there is not a community of interest within the areas that are being amalgamated into one large electorate. Then, of course, some of the area of Kennedy has been thrown into other areas.
The electorate in which I live is the Dawson electorate, and I think honourable senators will agree with me that the grazing interests of some of the western towns such as Longreach have not much of a twin feeling with the sugar industry of Queensland which forms the great bulk of the industry of the Dawson electorate. Once again, we find the inclusion of the grazing areas in the Dawson electorate. This indicates that for some reason or another on this occasion the people rearranging the boundaries of Queensland have gone ofl” the beam and forgotten what was said before about the lack of community interest. Therefore, it would seem to me that so far as my own State of Queensland is concerned it has not been a very good redistribution at all. Also, along the coast towards Brisbane there have been various alterations made. It does look as though there may have been a building up of the strength of liberalism in some places, probably packing more Liberal voters into some areas, and also throwing out Labor oriented sections of some divisions into others such as the new seat of Fadden, making it a possible Labor seat.
I know there is a suggestion that there may be partisanship in this sort of thing. It does look to me to be a very clear re-aligning of the boundaries of Queensland on this occasion. My own feeling, right from the time that I saw the redistribution proposals, was that what the commissioners did to Maranoa and Kennedy in the western part of Queensland was ridiculous in the extreme. I do not think any parliamentarian here could honestly say that he could represent those areas and keep in contact with the people as a member of the House of Representatives nearly as well as a member representing a division on the coast could do with his electorate. It seems to me that throughout this redistribution the commissioners have completely forgotten about community of interest and have just stuck pieces of one electorate onto another electorate, and so on, making it a State without the community of interest that we have had in the past in the various electorates. In those circumstances, I oppose this redistribution for my own State, and I have no hesitation in saying so.
I notice that Mr Daly, who is a very good Minister so far as parliamentarians are concerned, has more or less indicated that we were off the beam and were not doing the right thing when we rejected the redistribution for some other States. It is very nice to hear some of the Labor parliamentarians saying how the redistribution proposals should appeal to the Liberals, meaning of course it will help to build up the Liberal Party to the detriment of the National Country Party. I have never seen in all the years I have been here any indication that Mr Daly has really been very interested in building up the Liberal Party. Of course there is nothing like throwing out a sprat to catch a mackerel. Mr Daly is no fool politically, and I think it is quite fair to say of him- I have said this to him and he knows itthat he is a numbers man. The predominant feature in the mind of Mr Daly is getting as many seats for his own Labor Party as he possibly can. There is no question about that and he does not deny it.
So, as I said, for Mr Daly to suggest that he is worrying about building up a Liberal Party is just utter nonsense. Therefore, I definitely oppose these redistribution proposals for Queensland, and I remind honourable senators of the inconsistency of at least one of the people making the redistribution, bearing in mind his arguments in 1968 and what he said now.
- Senator Wood has just regurgitated the old fable about these dedicated politicians. They are usually National Country Party politicians. He did not identify them as Country Party politicians but according to the fable they are usually dedicated Country Party politicians who spend all their non-parliamentary life tramping around their vast electorates serving the needs of their electors. Having been born and lived until 12 months ago in a rural area where, except for a brief interregnum when the Federal seat was held by the Liberal Party, at both State and Federal levels we were nominally represented by Country Party politicians, I know that the fable does not withstand the test against reality.
In fact what used to happen was that, instead of these Country Party politicians tramping around their vast electorates, within a year of being elected they moved to the city to live, outside their electorates and they were never seen except when they were canvassing for an election or when the local show was on. So much for servicing their electors. I know that in Queensland some of the members at least nominally reside outside their electorates, as indeed nominally the ex-member for Moore used to do. He always maintained a Dowerin address, having the privilege to do so under the Electoral Act. In fact he lived in South Perth at Cottesloe. But I know that some Country Party members or country members in Queensland do at least nominally maintain a country home too. I have been to Queensland and to Longreach and I have heard from the people who live in these areas about the member for Kennedy, who maintains an office in Mt Isa and rings up from Brisbane asking his secretary in Mt Isa to send telegrams from the member for Kennedy with a Mount Isa address on them, though he has not set foot in Mount Isa for months.
– He is the member who attacked Senator Keeffe.
– Yes, the same member for Kennedy who threatened Senator Keeffe, from the visitor’s gallery in the Senate about 3 months ago, with physical violence. It is the same member for Kennedy.
– Tell us where the honourable member for Macarthur- the absentee landlord for Macarthur- lives.
– The honourable member for Macarthur (Mr Kerin) does not try to rationalise a gerrymander on the basis of fiction. From the very outset the Liberal Party’s attitude to this debate has been based upon fallacy, misrepresentation and Ulogie. From the very beginning, even before the debate commenced, the present Leader of the Opposition (Mr Malcolm Fraser) in the House of Representatives, tried to obstruct proceedings on a procedural matter by arguing that the debate should be conducted cognately notwithstanding the fact that when his Party was last in office it introduced and debated the proposition on a State basis as it is being done now. He added:
The Liberal Party organisations in the States are opposed to these maps.
I understand that so far as Queensland is concerned that statement is factually inaccurate, and that in fact the Liberal Party organisation in Queensland wanted these propositions. We also heard a lot of cant about how there ought to be a redistribution after a census and how a redistribution should be delayed until after a census. It is interesting to hear that from the Liberal Party when one once again tests that against its record. A census was taken in 1 96 1 and the redistribution pursuant to that census was not conducted until 1968. Why? Because the bushrangers were standing over the Liberal Party throughout the 1960s as they have throughout the 1970s.
– Who are the bushrangers?
-The Country Party. The then member for Murray, Black Jack McEwen as he was affectionately known, was standing over the Liberal Party just as the National Country Party, alias the Country Party, alias the National Alliance, stands over the Liberal Party still.
Let me refer to the arguments raised in the House of Representatives. The leading speaker for the Opposition, Mr Howard, the honourable member for Bennelong, complained that under the existing boundaries a 3 per cent swing against the Government would give the Opposition 12 extra seats. That, Mr Howard suggested- in fact, more than suggested; argued very strongly- was a proper result. In other words Mr Howard was saying that on the basis of a one party preferred analysis it would be proper for the Labor Party, polling 48.7 per cent of the votes, to win 44.5 per cent of the seats and the Liberal Party, polling 51.3 per cent of the votes, to win 55.5 per cent of the seats. A lot of people would agree with Mr Howard that under a single constituency electoral system that would be a proper result, but what interests me is that it totally destroys the arguments which have been used by Senator Withers in this House every time electoral Bills have been debated. Senator Withers has argued that it is quite appropriate now for the Labor Party, on a one party preferred system, with just under 52 per cent of the votes to obtain just over 52 per cent of the votes. That, Senator Withers has always maintained, is the proper result, it is the way it should be and any attempt to change it represents a blatant gerrymander. That argument was totally destroyed by his own colleague in the House of Representatives. As Mr Howard said, it is absolute humbug to tie yourself entirely to an overall examination of percentages.
Moreover, the honourable member for Gwydir, Mr Hunt, disagreed with the honourable member for Bennelong, not on a value judgment about what does or does not constitute a proper and fair result for a particular number of votes polled, but on the facts of what would happen as a result of a 3 per cent swing. According to the honourable member for Gwydir, if Labor obtained 45 per cent of the primary vote- that is a figure somewhat less than the 48.7 per cent vote to which Mr Howard referred- under these new boundaries it would hold 66 seats. According to the honourable member for Bennelong, Mr Howard, Labor, with a slightly higher vote, would hold 59 seats. 1 do not know how the members of the Opposition reconcile that contradiction in the arguments put by their 2 parties; that is, one claims that a party polls 45 per cent of the votes and wins 66 seats and another says the same party polls more than that and wins 59 seats. I will have to leave the Opposition parties to resolve between themselves that disputation about the facts, that is if they have finished resolving their other disputes in Western Australia and elsewhere; if they do manage ever to resolve them.
However the prize- the egg beater- for an irrational argument must surely be presented to the honourable member for Bendigo (Mr Bourchier) who said, when referring to Tasmania:
Not only will the seats which were marginal at the last election be safe- -
That is safe for Labor- but also safe scats will be gilt-edged.
The honourable member for Bendigo is saying that in the State where Labor holds all the seats it will simultaneously be able to increase its vote in all of the seats as a result of drawing new boundaries. If there are to be any succeeding speakers from the Opposition, I hope they can also unravel that riddle for the enlightenment of the
Senate. What emerges from all these contradictions, the cant, the humbug and the nonsense- I do not think it is really that the members of the Opposition who used those arguments are innately stupid or incapable of reasoning- is that members of the Opposition have not got a valid case against this redistribution and as a result they drift into nonsense, into self-contradiction and into contradiction within their parties and between their parties because they are trying to dredge up some sort of spurious substitute for an argument where no valid argument exists; and they know this very well. As one of their better known supporters, Mr Malcolm Mackerras, remarked when the distribution proposals came out- this has been quoted before but it bears repeating:
In overall political terms the 197S redistribution is the fairest set of proposed boundaries ever to be presented to any Australian Parliament in my lifetime. The Commissioners have bent over backwards to avoid any suggestion of gerrymander. My impression is that they have set out to draw boundaries so patently fair that rejection by the Senate would reflect discredit on the Senate, not on the Commissioners.
Members of the Opposition are about to repeat the discrediting of themselves. As Senator Hall remarked rhetorically the other day in the chamber, but not on the record: On what day did the Liberal Party die? I do not suppose one can pinpoint the day, but it is apparent that the Liberal Party has been dying ever since the Country Party has been parasitising it. We do at least know that classical liberalism or the embodiment of the spirit of John Stuart Mill was probably purged from the Liberal Party in the second decade of this century. It has been regularly purged ever since.
– When they liquidated John Gorton.
-When the Liberal Party broke the link with John Gorton is the day, Senator Mulvihill suggests, the Liberal Party, as a liberal party, died. The date is arguable; the conclusion is not arguable. Liberalism in the Liberal Party is dead, so dead that its carcass pollutes this chamber. Whenever the subject of electoral reform comes up or there is an attempt at democratising the electoral laws, anyone in the Liberal Party who tries to resurrect true liberalism is gunned down by the Country Party’s bushrangers. It is not surprising that on this subject there is a great deal of antipathy between Opposition members and Senator Hall, because Senator Hall hits continually on a raw nerve and cuts very close to the bone. He embarrasses the Opposition considerably. Senator Withers said the other day, in response to a very cutting interjection from Senator Hall: ‘Perhaps the best thing that could be said about Senator Hall is that he was such a political genius in his State that he had a redistribution which was unfavourable to himself, and then had an election.’ That is the cardinal sin apparently in this perverted form of liberalism that survives in Australia in 1975.
Senator Withers was really saying that Senator Hall was a mug because he allowed the electoral laws of South Australia to be amended in such a way that the Labor Party was able to form a government with 53 per cent of the vote, whereas formerly it had not been permitted to form a government with 54 per cent of the vote. Senator Withers was saying that Senator Hall was a mug because he allowed that to happen. We are indeed indebted to Senator Withers for that insight into his political morality. Senator Withers, who in this chamber throws, like confetti at a wedding, , accusations about gerrymandering, is a self-confessed and unabashed gerrymanderer. He has imbibed deeply of the Orwellian concept of Newspeak; that is, call gerrymander a democracy and call democracy a gerrymander, distract attention from your own villainies by planting them on your opponents.
In conclusion, let us look at the numbers. The Country Party, in the 3 States in which it holds seats, holds a total of 20 seats. The fable would have us believe that the Country Party represents the sparsely populated outback areas of Australia. In fact, there are 7 electorates with an area greater than 100 000 square miles, four of which are held by the Australian Labor Party, two by the Country Party and one by the Liberal Party. There are no fewer than 15 Country Party seats with an area of less than 15 000 square miles, whereas the average area of electorates in all States is 20 000 square miles. There are 7 Country Party seats with an area of less than 9000 square miles. Of those seats which are a mean distance of more than 400 miles from the State capital- there are in total nine- five are held by the Australian Labor Party, two by the Country Party and two by the Liberal Party.
So the Country Party, although it represents non-metropolitan areas, does not and never has represented the really remote sparcely populated areas of Australia. However, when we look at the number of electors in each electorate on the basis of party categorisation, we find that the Country Party seats in every State have average enrolments more than 10 per cent below the average for that State. Despite all the cant, what the present electoral laws are designed to do is to overrepresent the Country Party under the camouflage of providing greater than proportional representation for remote areas. As to particular seats, the electorate of Kalgoorlie has been mentioned. Incidentally, for the benefit of Queensland members I point out that there is no direct air service from the city of Kalgoorlie to the other population centres in the Kalgoorlie electorate, some of which are about as far away from Kalgoorlie as the south-western tip of Queensland is from Cape York, if not farther. On 28 June last the electorate of Kalgoorlie had 52 92 1 electors on the roll.
Pertinent to the difficulties of representing Kalgoorlie is the fact that it has the lowest proportion of enrolled electors to total population in Australia for 2 reasons, namely many of the Aborigines are not enrolled and many of the people who work in the Kalgoorlie electorate are transitory workers who are enrolled elsewhere. Its population is very much higher than its enrolment would suggest. Let us look at the figure of nearly 53 000 for the Kalgoorlie electorate, which in area is 40 per cent greater than the entire State of Queensland. In Queensland, under the old boundaries on the same date, Kennedy had 51 500 electors and Maranoa had a similar number- fewer electors in these 2 electorates in Queensland than were enrolled in Kalgoorlie, which is 40 per cent larger than the entire State of Queensland.
In Victoria, the seats of Mallee and Wimmera combined have an area equal to 4 per cent of the Kalgoorlie seat, and the enrolments were just over 50 000 and 49 500 respectively. In New South Wales, the seats of Hume and Riverina, which together have an area 7 per cent of that of the Kalgoorlie electorate, had enrolments of 50 500 and 52 173 respectively. All those seats, apart from the fact that they are very much smaller than the Kalgoorlie electorate- down to one-fiftieth of its size- have fewer electors than Kalgoorlie and share another common feature: They are all held by the Country Party. That is the reason why this redistribution, which Malcolm Mackerras described as the fairest that had ever been presented to an Australian Parliament in his lifetime, is being rejected. It is not because it is unfair, but because it is fair.
It is being rejected by the Country Party gerrymandered who have gerrymandered the electorate and who have blackmailed the Liberal Party for as long as it has existed, aided and abetted by such self-confessed and unabashed gerrymandered as Senator Withers, who has just returned to the chamber.
– We have just heard another remarkable contribution from the new member from Western Australia. It is amazing that we should be talking about redistribution in Queensland and have a Western Australian speak, who would not have a clue about Queensland and who demonstrated that in his speech, except that he has been to Longreach. I have checked on his visit and I do not think that anyone there was very enthused about it.
Let us return to the real issues. We know why Senator Walsh has vented all that spleen today. Normally it is because he could not get anywhere with the National Country Party, he has always had a chip on the shoulder because the National Country Party would not accept him over there. Undoubtedly the real reason today is that, along with many other Labor Party members, particularly those associated with the rural industry, he has received a whole flood of telegrams over the debacle in relation to the wool industry. No doubt he is trying to take it out somewhere else, and the National Country Party is the one that comes in for it. Let us forget about Senator Walsh, because his contribution is not even worth mentioning, and get down to the reason why we are opposing the redistribution in Queensland and why the Opposition parties are opposing redistribution in all States.
First, there is no need for a redistribution because we will have a census next year and, irrespective of what is done now, we will have to do something about it next year when we know what the shift in population is from one area to another. Therefore, there is no need for this redistribution. The only reason for it is if the Government could see an opportunity to rig the boundaries before the next election and so ensure that it could maintain office for at least another 3 years. That is probably the main reason.
The second reason why I oppose this redistribution is that I am completely opposed to the principle of taking representation away from the remoter areas, despite what members of the Government might say in their great support for the one vote one value concept which of course they do not practice at any stage. I am opposed to that principle because eventually the complete say in politics will be concentrated in the big cities of Sydney and Melbourne. If we take this concept of one vote one value right down to the grass roots we will find that because Sydney and Melbourne and their environs will have more than half the population of Australia they will have more than half the representatives in Parliament.
If the Labor Party carries on with its view of getting rid of State governments and getting rid of this chamber Sydney and Melbourne will dominate politics in the whole of Australia. That is what honourable senators opposite are trying to do.
People who live in country areas will appreciate that when a big city has a lot of representatives, whatever is done in the interests of any part of it benefits the whole city, and that about 20 people fight for one cause. But in the rural remoter areas and the provincial cities what might be good for one area is not particularly good for another. Therefore the people in those areas must have representatives to make sure that their view is put. It has always been a process of democracy that minority groups have a say. We could get to the stage where minority groups have no say at all. We could reach a stage where 20 per cent of the population living in a certain area are supposed to have 20 per cent of the say but they have no say at all. This is what happens unfortunately. It is one of the failures of the democratic system that the majority- more than 50 per cent- has the complete say.
The third reason that I am completely opposed to the creation of big seats in remote rural areas of Queensland is that although we have a set up today which is probably not as good as a lot of us would like, at least there are 3 main big seats covering those remoter areas. The electorate of Leichhardt covers the Top End, Kennedy covers the centre and Maranoa covers the southern end. At least there is some community of interest in all those areas. Leichhardt is concentrated on Cairns and most of the people of the Cape York peninsula and the Gulf country use Cairns as their main city. All the lines of communication are with Cairns. In Kennedy there is the northern railway line to Mount Isa and the central railway line from Rockhampton to Longreach. There is a community of interest there. Although the member for Kennedy, Bob Katter, is able to look after those areas, communications between them other than road communications, is very difficult. There is very little air, rail or bus communication between the northern line and the southern line, but there is communication.
– Blame the National Country Party for that.
– This is the way people operate. Communications are established when people are prepared to travel and where there is a community of interest. Mount Isa people travel into Townsville. They do not bother going to
Rockhampton. Longreach people also prefer to go to Rockhampton rather than Townsville to do their business. But this great new seat of Flynn will not only take in all that northern line but also will go down the southern line out to Charleville and Dirrambandi. There is no community of interest whatsoever between those areas. How a member could move from one area to another is beyond me.
We have heard Senator Walsh speak about Kalgoorlie. We all know that the big seat of Kalgoorlie has only 2 or 3 centres of population which really matter. But in the seats of Kennedy and Maranoa there are areas of population of up to 1000 people every 70 miles. It is almost impossible for a member to travel from one end of those seats to another and see all those people dotted in between. Those people have as much right to representation as everyone else. If we are to concentrate everyone in the city and to say that what is good for Brisbane is good for Queensland, which seems to be the attitude of the Government, let us all go to Brisbane because it will not be long before there is another State outside Brisbane and probably another country as well.
– What is this rubbish?
-This is not rubbish, because the people in remote areas and minority groups must retain a voice. Every other country appreciates that. I certainly will support the move of the Opposition to reject this proposed distribution in Queensland.
- Mr Acting President, as I was in the Chair while you were speaking I was at a disadvantage and could not respond. However, I would like to come to the defence of the Distribution Commissioners in Queensland. Mr Acting Deputy President, you inferred that an inconsistency on the part of Mr Weise- one of the Commissionerswas revealed because in 1968 he recommended one thing and in this Bill he has recommended the opposite. That is quite untrue. Before I show Senator Wood how untrue it is I should say to him that the reflection upon the integrity of the Commissioners is something one would not expect from a senator of such longstanding. It was quite unfair to the Commissioners. Perhaps at the time I should have attracted Senator Wood’s attention to the fact that perhaps he was being a little unfair and perhaps unparliamentary. The Commissioners in Queensland have come down with a redistribution within the guidelines that were given to them which is extremely fair and not to the disadvantage of any party, even accepting that Maranoa or Kennedy would be lost in the merging of seats.
To any political realist the redistribution in Queensland would indicate that the National Country Party could gain rather than lose a seat. The redistribution in Queensland will possibly indicate that the Liberal Party would also gain, not lose a seat. A political realist would accept that the Australian Labor Party does not come out very well from this redistribution. Therefore it is grossly unfair to infer that one of the Commissioners was got at, which is what 1 think Senator Wood inferred quite unfairly, quite unjustly and not in accordance with the facts. If I remember rightly, in 1 968 a minority report recommended the formation of what we would term ‘the great western seat’ of Queensland. The person who was responsible for the minority recommendation was the person whom Senator Wood has denigrated. It was Mr Weise. So he has not been inconsistent. He has been very consistent in recommending by way of a minority report last year that there should be a great western seat and in recommending in this report exactly the same thing, which is a recommendation of all the Commissioners. The Commissioners throughout Australia have approached their job in a very judicial manner. They have shown no favour. I think that, especially in Queensland, one cannot question their judgment. There has been no political bias.
I should like to take some time to dispute the constant National Country Party reiteration that people only partly count. When dealing with the democratic system the vote of each person is measured equally. The area of the electorate which a member represents should not be taken into account. The facilities provided to the representative of an electorate that may be great in size are another matter and one that can be easily adjusted. If we move away from the principle of one vote one value, as the Country Party has suggested, we will fall back into the errors of the pocket borough system that once existed in the United Kingdom and that exists in Queensland at the present time.
I am also against the proposition that because the area of an electorate is large the vote of each person in it should be weighted against that of the city dweller. As senators we have the largest electorates in the system, if I may put it that way. I know that the responsibility I have as a senatorI hope that it is shared equally by the other 9 senators from Queensland- is to represent an area that stretches from Brisbane right into the
Torres Strait, which is a distance of 1500 miles from north to south, and that goes west to Mount Isa and Cunnamulla. In order to represent such an area one has to travel a considerable distance. No one questions that our area of representation is great, but we cover it. Ten senators are required to represent the whole of Queensland. My colleagues from Queensland and I make no complaint about that. That is our task. We could complain. We could point to Tasmania and say that Tasmania has 10 senators although a person could drive across Tasmania in a day and that their load correspondingly to ours is much less, but we do not complain. We have accepted the responsibility of representing Queensland. The areas of Queensland and Tasmania are different and the populations are different; nevertheless all of us go about our tasks as we are required.
To my mind the Queensland redistribution proposals should have been accepted by all parties without question. I cannot understand why the Liberal Party of Australia has taken a short term view of this matter. The long term result of the rejection of these proposals will be the strengthening of the Liberal Party’s rival. The supporters of the Liberal Party should make no mistake about that. The new arrival is a rival that will enter into their area of responsibility electorally. The new National Country Party of Australia as such is no longer a country Party. The new National Country Party is a party that has set itself up to represent the country people, and at the same time demands that it ought to have the right to represent also the city people. It is an entirely new Party and, as such, is a Party that will come into direct competition with the Liberal Party. I make the point, in spite of what Senator Wood has said, that it would be in the long term interests of the Liberal Party to accept this redistribution because it would be to its advantage to do so. It is certainly not a redistribution that, as a member of the Austraiian Labor Party, I am very happy about, but I accept, as all other honourable senators should accept, the judgment of the Distribution Commissioners in Queensland and do not criticise them. In fact I support them. I should say that they have done an exceptionally fair job, even though one could complain about what will be the electoral result as far as the Party I represent is concerned.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Wood)- I call Senator Willesee.
– in reply- I shall be very brief in my remarks. Mr Acting Deputy President, in another role a few minutes ago you made some criticism of the proposal for the division of Flynn, which we suggest should be renamed Kennedy. I wish to point out for the consideration of the Senate that since 1948 Queensland has had three sprawling outback divisions. It still has three under the proposalsLeichhardt, Dawson and Flynn. With regard to the size of the proposed division of Flynn it might be noted that almost half the area of the proposed division is accounted for by 2 subdivisions that contain between them fewer than 2000 electors. An examination of the character of the proposed division of Flynn will show that it is basically the present division of Maranoa plus some modest border extensions of the city of Mount Isa. The proposed division of Flynn is much smaller than the division of Kalgoorlie, which is in Western Australia of course, and which contains a number of fairly significant population centres apart from Kalgoorlie. For example, it contains Geraldton, Port Hedland, Derby and the group of places that have grown up with reasonable size populations in the Pilbara area.
That the Senate approves of the redistribution of the State of Queensland into the electoral divisions as proposed.
The Senate divided.
Question so resolved in the negative.
– I move:
I have a statement which is basically the same as that which was delivered in the House of Representatives, except it has been truncatednothing extra has been put into it- plus a long list of divisions and their enrolments. I ask for leave to incorporate the document in Hansard.
-Is leave granted? There being no dissent, leave is granted. (The document read as follows)-
Victorian Redistribution Motion for Approval of Proposals by The Minister Representing the Minister for Services and Property
The Government, having considered the report of the Distribution Commissioners for the State of Victoria, as tabled in this Chamber on 14 May 1975, pursuant to section 23A of the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918-1973, together with suggestions, comments and objections lodged with the Commissioners, now recommends approval of the Distribution Commissioners’ proposals for that State.
In the course of my remarks supporting the redistribution proposals for South Australia, I have already commented on the general background to the redistributions which are to be considered for all States other than Western Australia, indicating why the situation is one which cannot be tolerated by any Government committed to the principle of ‘one vote, one value’. I do not intend to go over that ground again now. However, in order to place the proposals for Victoria in their proper context, I want to refer briefly to the way in which the situation in respect of electoral inequalities has deteriorated in that State since the boundaries of existing Divisions were fixed by the 1968 redistribution.
As may be seen by reference to the table set out by the Commissioners at paragraph 6 of Volume 1 of their Report, enrolment growth rates between the 1968 redistribution and December 1974 have varied substantially in respect of the 34 existing Victorian Divisions.
For instance, the overall enrolment growth rate for outer metropolitan Divisions has very greatly exceeded that for non-metropolitan Divisions. Thus, the average enrolment for the existing outer metropolitan Divisions (Bruce, Burke, Casey, Deakin, Diamond Valley, Flinders, Holt, Lalor and La Trobe) as at the 1968 distribution was 49 383. By 13 December 1974, the average enrolment for these 9 Divisions had increased to 78 121.
By contrast, the average enrolment for the 1 1 existing non-metropolitan Divisions as at the 1968 redistribution was 48 426. By 13 December 1974, the average enrolment for these 11 Divisions had increased to 56 738. Thus, whereas at the 1968 redistribution the average enrolment for outer metropolitan Divisions exceeded that for non-metropolitan Divisions by 957, this difference had increased to 21 383 as at 13 December 1974.
Let me further illustrate this important point by referring to some of the more striking examples of enrolment growth in existing Divisions over the period between the 1968 redistribution and December 1974. During this period, enrolment in the Division of Burke increased from 47 472 to 83 245; and in the Division of Diamond Valley, from 50 668 to 86 053. By contrast, several of the inner metropolitan Divisions actually experienced a decrease in enrolments over this period. For example, enrolments for the Division of Melbourne Ports decreased by 13 16.
During the period between the 1968 redistribution and December 1974, enrolments in metropolitan Divisions, taken overall, increased far more rapidly than enrolments in nonmetropolitan Divisions, though there were exceptions to the rule, as in the case of a few inner metropolitan Divisions.
Thus, by December 1 974, there were 1 1 metropolitan Divisions for which enrolments exceeded the quota by over 10 per cent, including 6 for which the variation from the quota was over 20 per cent. By contrast, there were 5 nonmetropolitan Divisions for which enrolments were more than 10 per cent under quota, including 2 for which the variation was over 20 per cent. Altogether, therefore as at 13 December 1974, enrolments in 16 of the 34 existing Divisions varied from the quota by more than 10 per cent, including 8 which varied by over 20 per cent. Enrolments ranged from 86 053(Diamond Valley) to 49 150 (Wimmera).
Under the Distribution Commissioners’ proposals, this grossly inequitable situation would be greatly improved. For example, the enrolments for proposed Divisions, as at 1 3 December 1974, ranged from 59 355 (6.54 per cent below quota) for the proposed new Division of Doncaster and Templestowe to 66 949 (5.42 per cent above quota) for the proposed Division of Melbourne.
The projected enrolments as at May 1977, the date which has been taken for projection purposes on the assumption that the present House of Representatives will run its full term, the three existing Divisions in Victoria with the highest enrolments as at 25 April 1975 will be as follows:
As the Distribution Commissioners point out (paragraph 9, page 9 of their Report), the abolition of one of the existing rural Divisions was unavoidable, given the trend of population changes and dispersal of electors throughout the State, as was the creation of a new Division within the metropolitan area. Given the comparative enrolment growth rates to which I have already referred, it was obvious that this new Division should be situated in the outer metropolitan area. It was also logical that the rural Division to be abolished should be Wimmera, since this Division contains fewer electors than any other existing Division.
As with the Redistribution proposals for the other States, the Government is far from being in complete agreement with the Victorian proposals. For example, it strongly disagrees with the proposal to remove the Subdivision of Holmesglen from the Division of Henty.
The Commissioners acknowledged the strong objections received by them in this connection and, in fact, agreed that there is a strong community of interest between Holmesglen and the existing Division of Henty. However, the Commissioners apparently felt that the retention of that subdivision in Henty would have resulted in a violation of the ‘community of interest’ criterion as it related to other electors. In fact, the Government’s position has been significantly weakened in the Division of Henty.
The Distribution Commissioners for Victoria gave full and careful consideration to the 35 submissions lodged by members of the general public following publication of their preliminary proposals. As a result, alterations were made to these preliminary proposals in respect of a number of Divisions.
The Government believes that the proposals of the Distribution Commissioners for Victoria represent a thorough-going attempt to provide the citizens of that State with electoral boundaries which will go a great distance towards the achievement of electoral justice for all voters and political parties.
It is proposed to substitute the name Menzies for Doncaster/Templestowe after the Right Honourable Sir Robert Gordon Menzies, K.T., former Prime Minister of Australia.
I urge the Senate to approve the motion for the redistribution of the State of Victoria into Electoral Divisions.
I ask leave of the Senate to incorporate the latest enrolment figures available for all Divisions as at 25 April 1975 in Victoria, provided by the Chief Australian Electoral Officer.
Senator Sir MAGNUS CORMACK (Victoria) (5.17)- I was interested in the observation of the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Senator Willesee), who is in charge of the business before the Senate at present, when he sought leave to incorporate what is in effect a second reading speech. He described it to honourable senators as basically the speech that was delivered in another place by the Minister for Services and Property (Mr Daly) and added the observation that the speech was slightly truncated. I assume that the speech, which I have not yet seen, has truncated some of the parts of Mr Daly’s speech to which I am about to refer. I guess that is what it will amount to. For the last week or two we have been hearing the word ‘gerrymander’ scattered around in another place and in here. I do not know why the name of a former citizen of the state of Massachusetts should have crept into our language. His name is identified with the adjustment of electoral boundaries. As honourable senators are aware, that citizen of that state of the United States of America was Govenor Gerry. The word ‘gerrymander’ was derived from his name and from an electorate which was in the shape of a salamander. Perhaps we should describe the alterations of boundaries which have weightings that favour a political party as, for example, Walpolean redistributions. In our constant observations on these redistributions it might even be proper to refer to such alterations as Daly redistributions.
It was in Victoria that I was first introduced to the problem of the redistribution of electoral boundaries where there had grown up, as there had grown up in many other Australian States, a means of entrenching parties in political power by adjustment of boundaries. In the post-war period the matter that interested me immensely was our confrontation, in our struggle to obtain electoral power and to form a government in Victoria, with this situation: One seat, which was held by another party, had 33 000 voters and a Liberal seat in Dandenong had 75 000 voters. I think that could be described as a Walpolean system, a rotten borough system, a gerrymander, a Daly redistribution or whatever one likes to call it. I remember raising the matter with the then leader of my party in Victoria. He said: Redistributions are the most difficult of all problems that confront a parliament’. Being a novitiate in politics, 1 asked him why. His reply was:
The moment you produce a map for electoral redistribution each honourable member’s eyes swivel to his electorate. If it does not suit him, he is against the redistribution’. I think that is pretty fair. I do not think honourable members in the popular House should be condemned for looking after their own interests, nor do I condemn a government for attempting to preserve its position.
I do not care two pennyworth of beer drips for the statements of this so-called psephologist who had made a profession out of forecasting political trends. The word ‘psephologist’- as I am on this historical trail at the moment- is derived from the ancient Greek language. He is a man who solved all problems by putting a hand in a bowl of pebbles which was held upright, taking out a pebble and looking at the pebble. He was the only man who could read the striae on the pebbles. Therefore he conveyed to the assembly in Athens the impression that the wish of the assembly was what he thought was on a pebble. I think the real psephologist in this redistribution would not be Mr Malcolm Mackerras but the Minister for Services and Property.
I have taken the trouble to look at the Minister’s speech in relation to the redistribution of electoral boundaries in Victoria. He made this charming statement:
The Australian Labor Party representation would remain at 16 and the non-Labor parties 18. Certainly the National Country Party of Australia would have to continue its Western Australian war with the Liberal Party over the couple of seats involved.
I shall not say any more about that matt-jr as it relates to Western Australia. That is not the fact. That is not the truth. What will happen in Victoria is that 56 per cent of the seats will be won by the Australian Labor Party with 48 per cent of the vote. That is on the 1974 voting figures. That is not a bad deal. Why is this so? We get back to the eye-swivelling operation. Honourable members in another place have had their eyes swivelled at the map. So the redistribution in Victoria has been carried out to ensure that the Labor members who won seats at the election in 1974 following the double dissolution will be entrenched in those seats. What is that- a Dalyism a gerrymander or what? In the aggregate what it amounts to is that on the 1974 figures 56 per cent of the seats in Victoria will be won by the Australian Labor Party with 48 per cent of the vote.
There has been a lot of talk around the place about democracy. Senator Walsh has been making great forensic noises about democracy. Other honourable senators have been saying: ‘It is people who count’. This redistribution in Victoria has been carried out on the basis of entrenching in power a party which obtained the majority of seats in Victoria- 56 per cent of the seats- with 48 per cent of the vote. I do not consider that a reasonable distribution. It is reasonable for the sitting members in seats south-east of Melbourne such as Diamond Valley, Casey, La Trobe and Isaacs. They are happy. Why should they not be happy? The only one who is unhappy is the honourable member for Henty (Mrs Child) who apparently has had the best bit carved out of her electorate to make another electorate good for someone else.
– She is the one who alleged that the Senate delayed the pension rises.
-She is the one. The other things about the operation- I have sympathy with the National Country Party on this matter- is this: What is the method by which these electoral boundaries are changed? For the last quarter of a century I have been interested in the methodology by which redistributions are carried out. I am speaking of the position in my State, as a senator for that State. The redistributions are carried out in what I describe as the internal expanding system. This means that you take a notional seat in the centre of the population of Melbourne, you start putting seats together and you expand out into the country. When you expand out into the country you are then confronted with the problem of getting a mix of all sorts of things in order to build up a number situation.
This has happened with the map for Victoria at which I have been looking. The Commissioners have started on the internal expanding system, they have satisfied themselves as to the seats that could properly be awarded to sitting members in Melbourne and they have proceeded to carve up what is left into country seats. In the process of doing this they have cut clean across the traditional methods by which electoral boundaries are established in the countrynamely, on the basis of common interest, of natural features and so on- just to obtain numbers in order to make it look as though this is a fair redistribution.
For example, in my State of Victoria the Commissioners have put one subdivision south of the Great Dividing Range and another subdivision north of the Great Dividing Range with only one road through. They have mixed up fruit growing areas and wheat growing areas; they have mixed up provincial cities and wheat growing areas, and so on. The natural affinity which has existed in the country of Victoria, where there is a basic community of interest, has been destroyed in the interests of building on these notional seats in the centre of the urban population in Victoria. I do not intend to continue any further with that theme. It is not my duty to advocate that the honourable member for La Trobe (Mr Lamb) should be entrenched in his seat with a certain percentage of the votes, whereas in the last election he just scraped through. The Liberal vote in La Trobe, which was 45 percent at the last election, has been brought down to 43 per cent. In the last election the Liberal vote in the electorate of Isaacs was slightly more than 50 per cent, and there was a very close finish in that seat. The Liberal vote for that electorate has been reduced to 45 per cent.
These are simple indicators of the fact that the Minister for Services and Property, who is well known in this Parliament as a figuring guy, has been faithful to his teacher. He learned his trade under ex-Senator Kennelly, a former distinguished senator who sat in this chamber for many years. Ex-Senator Kennelly always said that there is really no truth in politics. He said: ‘It has nothing to do with arguments, it is just numbers. That is the game. Just stick to numbers and all your political causes are immediately espoused in the numbers game ‘. I shall revert to Mr Daly for a moment. In his speech- I do not know whether this has been truncated- which appears at page 2695 of the House of Representatives Hansard of 22 May 1975, he said:
The Liberal Party went to great pains in its objections of 14 November 1974 to present extensive proposals in opposition to those displayed by the Commissioners.
What happened was that there was a bit of a domestic administrative problem in this. That domestic administrative problem was that the Liberal Party secretary in Victoria sent a submission to the Commissioners without showing it to his Party organisation- to his president or to anyone else. With horror many of us- 1 was one of them- discovered this and we proceeded to say that this submission was nonsense, but it was in the hands of the Commissioners so we could not withdraw it. When we proceeded to draw up a map of redistribution in Victoria on the basis on which the Distribution Commissioners would draw it up, that is, on the internal expanding system, we got a map that looked something like the map which is now before the Senate. When I say that we got a map that looked something like the map which is now before the Senate, it looked like a map of a fair redistribution. No doubt the editor of the ‘Age’ or whoever is responsible for writing that newspaper’s leading articlesmaybe Mr Mackerras writes them- was not competent either to examine the details of this matter. For example, when one looks at the actual boundaries on the ground and not on the map one finds that the Commissioners have made it uncomfortable for the honourable member for Bendigo (Mr Bourchier). They have shifted some people from his electorate, in which he had a reasonable majority at the last election, into the electorate of Indi. In order to achieve this, they drew a line down the middle of the Army parade ground at Puckapunyal. So the guns which have not got a vote in Australia at present- they have a vote in China- are in the electorate of Bendigo, and the people who want to vote are in the electorate of Indi. If one goes over the whole of the Victorian map one finds these little distinctions, like a drain going down the middle of a certain area with the voters on one side of the drain in one electorate, and the voters on the other side of the drain in another electorate. The Commissioners were so careful to ensure that they got the numbers right that they adopted this system of drawing lines on the map.
I simply rest on this point: I represent the State of Victoria. I think that the State of Victoria is entitled to express its will in the House of government, which is the House of Representatives. It is entitled to have a better deal. We find that the ruling Party in this Parliament at present can be entrenched in a majority of seats with 48 per cent of the votes. On those grounds I beseech honourable senators who sit on this side of the chamber, when it comes to a vote, to reject this map for Victoria in accordance with section 24 of the Electoral Act.
That the Senate approves of the redistribution of the State of Victoria into the electoral divisions as proposed.
The Senate divided.
Question so resolved in the negative.
– I move:
I have before me the statement appropriate to the proposed redistribution in New South Wales, along with the list of divisions and their numbers. I seek leave to incorporate them in Hansard.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The documents read as follows)-
The Government, in having considered the report by the Distribution Commissioners for the State of New South Wales, as tabled in this chamber on 14 May 1975, pursuant to section 23a of the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1 9 1 8- 1 973, together with suggestions, comments and objections lodged with the Distribution Commissioners, now recommends approval of the Distribution Commissioners ‘ proposals.
Before dealing with some of the major features of the Distribution Commissioners’ proposals for New South Wales, I want to refer briefly to the current electoral inequalities which are evident in all four of the most heavily populated States, and which provide ample justification for the proposed redistribution in these States. For example, as at 25 April 1975, enrolments for divisions in New South Wales varied from 83 941 in Mitchell to 46 975 in Darling; in Victoria, from 87 522 in Diamond Valley to 49 200 in Wimmera; in Queensland, from 94 024 in McPherson to 46 456 in Maranoa; in South Australia, from 83 388 in Bonython to 49 561 in Wakefield. In no less than 52 of the 109 electorates in these States the enrolments vary from the quota by over 10 per cent- a situation which is clearly unjust and which must be righted as soon as possible.
I wish to outline some major features of the redistribution proposals for New South Wales in order to demonstrate that these proposals are fair and reasonable, taken as a whole. The Distribution Commissioners for New South Wales have proposed the abolition of 3 existing divisions- Evans, Lowe and Riverina- and the creation of 3 new divisions- Concord, Eastwood and Toongabbie. Two of the 3 divisions to be abolished are in the Sydney metropolitan area, while one is a southern rural division. All three of the new divisions created are in the Sydney metropolitan area. Hence, the net result of these variations is a reduction of one in the number of rural seats. In this respect, it is worth noting the Commissioners’ comment in paragraph 10 of volume 1 of their report that ‘after consideration of the dispersal of the population throughout the State it was obvious that there were insufficient electors in the country to retain therein the existing number of electoral divisions’.
It should be stressed that the Commissioners did not arrive at this conclusion lightly. They travelled to 37 centres, representative of most areas of the State, in order to gain first hand knowledge of local conditions, administrative arrangements and particular requirements of local government bodies. In all, the Commissioners proposed alterations to the boundaries of all but three of the existing divisions- Banks, Barton and Blaxland- with some of these alterations being quite minor, while others are inevitably more substantial.
The Commissioners have proposed a very significant reduction in the overall range of percentage variations from the State quota, which was 62 765 as at December 1974. Thus, taking enrolments as at December 1974, on which the Commissioners’ proposals were based, percentage variations from the quota for the existing divisions ranged from 25.72 per cent below quota for Darling division to 31.83 per cent above quota for Mitchell division. Furthermore, as at that date 4 of the other existing divisionsChifley, Hume, Macarthur and Robertsonvaried from the quota by over 20 per cent, while a further 12 divisions varied from the quota by over 10 percent.
Under the proposals now before the Senate, the extent of these variations from the quota is substantially reduced. Thus, the maximum divisional enrolment proposed is 65 625, or 4.56 per cent above quota, for the Division of Hume, while the minimum proposed divisional enrolment is 60 008, or 4.39 per cent below quota, for the Division of Macarthur. Apart from the proposed divisions of Hume and Macarthur, variations from the quota for the remaining 43 proposed divisions range from 4.09 per cent below in the Division of Prospect to 3.83 per cent above in the Division of Newcastle.
The Commissioners found themselves faced with the substantial task of examining some 277 suggestions, comments and objections lodged with them in pursuance of sections 1 8A and 2 1 of the Commonwealth Electoral Act. That the Commissioners performed this task diligently is evident from the fact that as a result of those comments and objections lodged after the preliminary proposals were published, the Commissioners altered the boundaries of no less than 13 of the 45 proposed divisions. Thus, there can be no doubt that the Commissioners have paid due heed to the views of a wide cross-section of the general public before presenting their final proposals.
While the Government does not agree with a number of the proposals contained in the report by the Distribution Commissioners for New South Wales, it has no doubt whatsoever that they have performed a most exacting task with competence, dedication and integrity. The Government proposes that the name of Gilmore be substituted for Eastwood, Evatt for Toongabbie, and Evans for Concord. Evatt is to honour the Right Honourable H. V. Evatt, eminent Australian, judge, statesman and scholar. Gilmore is to be named after Dame Mary Gilmore, poet, author, schoolteacher, journalist, wife and mother, who during her later years achieved unique status as a public figure who was listened to with respect on any subject simply because she was Mary Gilmore- a great person. It is most appropriate in International Women’s Year to honour her as a great Australian. I urge the Senate to approve the motion for the redistribution of the State of New South Wales into electoral divisions.
The latest enrolment figures available for all divisions as at 25 April 1975 in New South Wales as provided by the Chief Australian Electoral Officer are as follows:
– The Senate is debating a motion to approve of the redistribution of New South Wales into electoral divisions as proposed by the Commissioners. It is interesting to note that the largest State has been left until last. With 45 seats New South Wales is the State in which the redistribution will have greatest effect upon electoral justice in Australia. The Liberal Party and the National Country Party have carefully considered the .proposed redistribution in New South Wales and we are determined to oppose it on the following grounds: We do not believe that the redistribution will ensure that a majority of voters in New South Wales can obtain representation by a majority of the seats. We do not believe that the redistribution gives consideration, as it is bound to do, to the provisions of section 19 of the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918-1973. We also believe that the redistribution is premature and will need to be repeated. 1 remind the Senate that the New South Wales division of the Liberal Party, in making a submission to the Commissioners, included the following statement:
Although we realise that the matter is outside the authority of the Commissioners, our first submission is that it is undesirable to carry out a redistribution at this particular time. A national census is due in 1976, and this may well have the effect of altering the allocation of electoral divisions as between the States, resulting in the need for another redistribution for New South Wales during 1 977.
The information that has been made public by a number of analysts indicates that New South Wales might well lose a seat following the next census, making a further redistribution necessary within a very short time.
In criticising the proposals before the Senate today I would make it clear that we are concentrating on the proposals themselves and we are not criticising in any way the probity of the Commissioners who were appointed to draw up the proposals; nor should any criticism which I will offer be construed as criticism of the Commissioners. We will confine ourselves to criticising the proposals and the effects of those proposals without offering any comment which in any way suggests that the Commissioners have done anything else but approach the job in a manner as to aim to do it as they see it should be done. It is the substance of the proposals that concerns us. I was shocked to read in the House of Representatives Hansard of 20 May last that the honourable member for Macarthur (Mr Kerin) in another place made the following statement:
The honourable member for Macarthur who, as we pointed out before in an exchange with Senator Walsh, does not live in Macarthur but lives in Canberra, was saying that he believes that these proposals have been set up to favour the Labor Party marginally. I do not believe that they were set up in that way. If they have turned out that way that is a matter that we can analyse, but I do not think there is anything deliberate on the part of the Commissioners in that regard. I would reject any proposals that we were suggesting that in any degree. We disagree with the substance of the proposals.
In summary, the proposed redistribution for New South Wales affects seats in the following ways: Of the seats presently held by the Liberal and National Country parties, Lowe and Riverina will be lost by abolition. The seats of Parramatta and Paterson will be lost to the Liberal and National Country parties by boundary changes. The new seats of Concord and Eastwood will probably be won by the Liberal and National Country parties. Of the seats held by the Labor Party, the seat of Evans- that is the present seat of Evans, not the proposed seat- will be lost by abolition. The seat of Toongabbie will be created a safe Labor seat, and Labor will gain by boundary changes the seats of Paterson and Parramatta. The effects of the redistribution in New South Wales will be that the Liberal and National Country parties, which at present hold 20 of the 45 seats, will hold 18 seats and the Labor Party, which at present holds 25 seats, will hold 27 seats.
I remind the Senate further that we have had 2 sets of proposals from the Commissioners- a set of proposals that reached us in March and a further set of proposals contained in the final report of the Commissioners which was tabled by the Minister for Services and Property (Mr Daly) on 13 May. The Commissioners, in their final report, made alterations to 13 of the seats in New South Wales. Anyone entering this debate should be working on the basis of these final proposals. Of the 13 seats eight- that is, Berowra, Eastwood, Robertson, Hughes, Lang, Sydney, Kingsford-Smith and Grayndler- have been altered in minor ways that have no real bearing upon the electoral result or the result of any future election. But 5 seats have been changed significantly. The seat of Cook, which is the second most marginal seat in New South Wales, has been weakened for the Liberal Party and strengthened for the Labor member, Mr Thorburn, by the subdivision of Kareela being taken back into the seat of Hughes and with the subdivision of Kirawee coming back into the electorate of Cook. The result will be that the Liberal vote will be reduced from 48.8 per cent, which could have been expected on the March proposals, to 48.34 percent at the present time. If that proposal were accepted the position in that electorate would be made worse than the position which obtains at the present time.
The seat of St George, which will remain a safe Labor seat, has been slightly weakened for Labor. The seat of Phillip which is another marginal seat has been strengthened for the Labor
Party by about 1.5 per cent. The seat of Macquarie has been altered marginally as has the seat of Mitchell, but the general effect of the changes proposed by the Commissioners has been to weaken the position of the Liberal Party by making it more difficult for it to regain the seats of Cook and Phillip while in no way making any changes which significantly assist the Liberal Party or make life more difficult for the Labor Party.
I remind the Senate that for the election held on 18 May 1974 the vote in New South Wales for the Australian Labor Party was 52.7 per cent of the total. If, however, one looks at Mr Malcolm Mackerras ‘s 2-party preferred vote system the Labor Party can be stated to have gained approximately 54.9 per cent. On the present basis Labor, holding 54.9 per cent of the 2-party preferred vote, holds 56 per cent of the seats; but on the new redistribution, if the proposals are adopted, Labor would come to hold 60 per cent of the seats. The Liberal and Country parties have on the expressed 2-party preferred vote system 45.1 per cent of the vote. We hold 44 per cent of the seats but under the redistribution we would hold only 40 per cent of the seats.
When we examine the redistribution we find that if the Labor Party lost some of its votes, if it polled only 48 per cent of the popular vote, it could continue to hold 53 per cent of the seats. That is, it could hold 24 out of 45 seats in New South Wales. The Liberal and Country Parties could obtain more than 50 per cent of the votes in New South Wales and could do no better than win 47 per cent of the seats. This is really the crux of the matter because the question concerning us is whether we can ensure that the majority will as expressed in the vote in New South Wales can be represented in the House of Representatives by a majority of the seats going to that Party. We believe that the electoral will of the majority should be reflected in a majority of the seats. We do not believe that the present redistribution proposed for New South Wales will allow this to happen.
I remind the Senate again that the Liberal and Country Parties won 45. 1 per cent of the vote using the Mackerras preferred 2-party extrapolation. If we examine a 5 per cent swing away from Labor we can see that on the Mackerras system this would bring the Liberal vote to above 50 per cent. At the present time the Liberal and Country Parties would win 5 seats. We hold 20 seats; we would go to 25 seats. Under the proposed boundaries which are before the Senate at the present time, we would start off with only 18 seats and with a 5 per cent swing we would gain only 3 seats. We would move to only 2 1 seats out of 25 seats and that 5 per cent swing would give us a majority of the popular vote. It would leave us 2 seats short of a majority of the seats in the House of Representatives. I go back to my argument. I do not believe and I have never believed that I am criticising the Commissioners. I believe I am criticising the proposals in respect of what they will do to representation in the House of Representatives. It is not good enough for a 5 per cent swing not to be reflected in an appropriate change of seats. It is the essence of a gerrymander that a change in the popular vote does not remove a government which fails to get a majority of votes. We reject this and we reject it because it has also resulted in the strengthening of Labor marginal seats.
I just remind the Senate again that under the present boundaries a one per cent swing to the Liberal and Country Parties would win us the seats of Eden-Monaro and Cook and if we had a swing of 5 per cent we would also win the seats of Macarthur, Evans and Phillip whereas under the proposed distribution we would win with a 5 per cent swing only Eden-Monaro, Cook and the seat of Paterson which we would have lost on the boundary changes. That is one arm of our argument.
The other arm concerns section 1 9 of the Commonwealth Electoral Act (No. 2) 1918-1973. I remind the Senate that this section was amended at the Joint Sitting of the Houses last year and was assented to on 7 August. Section 19 of the Act states:
In making any proposed distribution of a State into Divisions, the Distribution Commissioners shall give -
I emphasise the words ‘shall give’; it does not say may give’- due consideration, in relation to each proposed Division, to-
I do not believe that the present proposals fulfil the conditions demanded in section 19 of the Act.
Let me examine several of these instructions to the Commissioners to ascertain how well they have been considered. Section 19(a) refers to community of interests within a division. I remind the Senate that we have in Bathurst and in Orange in New South Wales a single designated growth area. It is reasonable to say that Bathurst and Orange have a community of interests. It is reasonable to say that the proposals which sought to place them together were reasonable proposals which fulfilled the conditions set down in section 19 (a) that the Commissioners shall give consideration to a community of interests. This was not done in the proposals before us. Secondly, we find that Oaks Flat has been moved from the seat of Cunningham to the seat of Macarthur. The seat of Cunningham is part of the Wollongong conurbation. The seat of Macarthur is predominantly a rural seat soon to be won by the Liberal Party, I hope. We have here in these proposals an attempt to move a part of what is essentially suburban Wollongong into rural Macarthur. There is no community of interests and no account was taken of objections against these proposals.
If we look at section 19 (b), which insists that the Commissioners shall take account of means of communication and travel within a division, we find some other shortcomings in the proposals before us. I would direct the attention of the Senate first to the seat of Bradfield. It has been proposed that the portion of the suburb of Killarney Heights at present in the seat of Bradfield should be transferred to the seat of Warringah. It will make no difference as to who holds those seats but it will make a lot of difference to the people of Killarney Heights because for the honourable member for Warringah (Mr MacKellar) to travel from the areas in Mosman and around Middle Harbour where his seat is situated into the proposed Killarney Heights subdivision he will have to do so by travelling through the seat of Mackellar. There is no possible way for him to pass from his present seat of Warringah into the proposed new Killarney Heights subdivision except by traversing another electorate.
– What is wrong with that?
– Because it is not in keeping with the requirements that note shall be taken of the means of communication and travel within a division. There was no need to separate these places. This is the kind of Labor Party thinking that would have had us join the divisions of North Sydney and Sydney together. After all, the Labor Party has said that it is only a small harbour and there is a great community of interest and there are no travel difficulties there.
If honourable senators want another example I will refer them to the situation proposed for Maitland. There is the single city of Maitland which at the present time is in one electorate. It has been proposed that the city of Maitland should be split. It has been proposed that East Maitland should be taken out of Paterson and put into the seat of Lyne and that the rest of Maitland should remain in the Paterson electorate. This is ridiculous and makes no sense.
If we look at section 19(c) of the Commonwealth Electoral Act we see it insists that the trend of population changes shall be taken into account. I believe that this is where this proposal has its greatest failing. The Commissioners are required to give due consideration to trends in population changes. The permissible limits, as a result of the Joint Sitting of Parliament, are for a division to have 10 per cent more or less electors than the quota; that is to say that there is a possible variation in numbers of 20 per cent, from a division that might be 10 per cent above quota to a division that might be 10 per cent below quota. But the Commissioners have chosen not to exercise this latitude. In fact they have provided for variations from only 4.4 per cent below quota to 4.6 per cent above quota. They have used only 9 per cent of the permissible 20 per cent variation. The effect of this is going to be that seats are very rapidly going to become unequal.
For example, the seat of Robertson is at present 63 per cent above quota and is enlarging quickly. The Commissioners, however, have decided to make it only 1.2 per cent under quota and within a couple of years it will be too large again. Commonsense would demand that Robertson be made a small seat. I remind the Senate that when a redistribution was carried out in New South Wales last year the smallest seat created in the State was that of Mount Druitt, a safe Labor seat. It was made the smallest seat for a very good reason- the population in the area was increasing very rapidly and it would quickly come up to and exceed the quota.
For another example take the seat of Sydney which was 1 1 per cent below the quota on the present boundaries. The Commissioners have only taken it 3 per cent above the quota and because of this it will rapidly again sink below the quota. If the Labor Party wants to make such a song and dance about equality of divisions let it make some real effort to so arrange the divisions that they maintain a parity of size, not to do it in such a way that they will very rapidly move apart again. On the projected population movements, by 1981 the seat of Robertson, under the proposed boundaries, would have over 101 000 voters. Under the proposed boundary changes which we are considering the seat of Sydney in 1981, only 6 years away, will have 577000 voters. The Commissioners have failed to exercise the requirements under section 19(c) that the trend of population changes within the State shall be given due consideration.
Of course, the Labor Party proposals to the Commissioners equally ignored these factors. The Labor Party proposed, as I mentioned before, that the seat of Sydney should include the present area held by Mr Cope and should jump the Harbour Bridge and take in a large wedge of North Sydney. The Labor Party obviously could not care less about the requirements of section 1 9 which provides for community of interest, means of communication and trends of population. The fact that its submission to the Commissioners took no account of these things probably is the reason why it does not understand our objections today.
This redistribution does not meet the requirements of justice, nor does it meet the requirements of section 19 of the Commonwealth Electoral Act. It does not hold out any opportunity for the Liberal-Country Parties to win a majority of seats in the House of Representatives, commensurate with the popular vote, lt makes it virtually impossible for the non-Labor parties to get more than 23 seats even if their vote goes to 52 per cent of the popular vote. We reject the proposed boundaries. We reject the proposed division of New South Wales. We demand a better redistribution proposal and suggest that it takes place after the next census.
– The last speaker, Senator Baume, did not do justice to his cause. I did not like the way he played down the major reforms of this distribution of New South Wales. I want to refer to the 3 seats that have been created and I challenge him on this. On the 1974 figures for the seat of Concord the Liberal vote would be 49.93 per cent and the Labor vote 46.54 per cent. For Eastwood the Liberal Party vote would be 58.09 per cent and the Labor Party vote 37.3 per cent.
– Why would you get different figures from those we had from Senator Baume?
– I stand by the figures I present. I am quoting from page 6 of the Australian Liberal Party journal of May 1975. I do not think Senator Baume has any answer. I want to take the matter a little further. The whole concept of the distribution is electoral parity, a matter to which Senator Baume referred in the latter part of his speech. We want a situation whereby a quota is devised and there is no violent fluctuation. In December 1974 the quota was 62 765 and the Darling electorate was 25 per cent below quota and the Mitchell electorate was 3 1 per cent above quota. We are trying to remove this anomaly. Under our design Hume will be 4 per cent above quota and Macarthur about 6 per cent below. I see nothing wrong with that. Senator Baume talked about how many seats his Party could regain. He knows in his heart that the great leveller at elections is the migratory trend of the electors. I think honourable senators would find that in a 3-year span over 1 million Australian electors change their place of residence. That factor is the great leveller. It is the unknown factor. Nobody knows the political allegiance of the people who replace those who have moved to a new electorate. The honourable senator and I know, as does Senator Sir Magnus Cormack, that whether it be Mackerras or anybody else you can never be 100 per cent sure of what an outcome will be. For that reason I think that, despite all the witch doctors’ talk that goes on about how many seats a Party can win, it is impossible to get an effective system. The only way to operate is to strike a quota by dividing the number of people on the roll by the number of electorates.
Honourable senators opposite talk about community of interests. I was amazed at Senator Baume ‘s distortions about the electorate of Macarthur. There was talk about kindred occupations and about the grafting of Oak Flats onto the seat of Macarthur. The honourable senator would know, if he went into Dapto, Kiama and Shellharbour and then visited Oak Flats, that the majority of the people are in heavy industry. It is quite obvious that there is nothing unusual about placing Oak Flats in Macarthur. I would say that it is impossible for any member, Labor or Liberal, to service properly the needs of the electorate of Macarthur, as it now exists, because of the diversity of interest.
– Especially if the member does not live there.
– Today is the day of the specialist. I know that the member for Macarthur, Mr Kerin, is an outstanding member. There is no doubt that he is going to hold the seat, whether it be on the present boundaries or what is proposed. There is talk about seats being submerged. I am being a little difficult because it is possible that Senator Scott will be the next speaker to enter the debate. It does not matter whether a distribution is carried out under a Liberal government or under the present Labor Government; the exodus of people from rural areas makes it necessary to reduce country seats in New South Wales. Even under the last Liberal-Country Party Government that conducted a distribution we saw the liquidation of the electorate of Lawson. That is one of the facts of life. People can talk about allowing a certain amount of tolerance, and we believe in that principle, but a 20 per cent tolerance is a complete negation of democracy. Let us compare the number of seats that the Labor Party wins, whether in favour or out of favour, with massive majorities with Liberal bastions like Bradfield. Honourable senators opposite would find that we have more seats like Blaxland and Reid than the Liberals have seats like Bradfield and our big majority in these seats is virtually useless when it comes to getting the maximum number of seats. That is the particular point I want to hammer. I notice that it is just on 6 p.m. I was in the middle of a burst of rhetoric, so I will stop at this stage rather than be cut off in the middle of a sentence.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
-I think it was President Roosevelt who said that the greatest threat to our institution was those who refused to face up to change and that applies to the opponents of this redistribution. All that this redistribution endeavours to do is to provide a certain degree of parity as between the number of electors in each of the 45 electorates in New South Wales. I know, in deference to Senator Scott, that it is inevitable that there will be certain contractions as far as some rural electorates are concerned, but after all he cannot apportion the blame directly to this Government, because it is a trend that manifested itself in the 1 960s. Like Senator Carrick and others, I go along the highways and byways of rural electorates and I know a lot of the disappointment experienced in what was the old Lawson electorate, so I repeat that I am not approaching this from a party angle.
After the last election there was a tremendous amount of agitation, particularly among young voters, for certain changes in our electoral system. I cannot canvass the rather staid response to some of the other reforms, but whether or not it is felt that the one vote one value concept is a Utopian one, I repeat that if the numbers of enrolments in electorates are really close- the big Labor vote locked up in an electorate such as Reid or Blaxland- it certainly means that in the closely contested seats overall the Labor Party is always at a disadvantage. Opposition senators say: ‘Well, you won the last two elections’ but I put it to them in another way. If they looked back to the 1969 election they would find that there were one or two seats at least throughout the Commonwealth where there had been vital variations. I am not making any reference to the Distribution Commissioners. I am simply saying that it was a fact of life, and I am complaining mainly about the inconsistency voiced by the No. 1 batsman for the Liberal Party, Senator Baume. He raised several points about community of interest.
I did not hear the Liberal Party complain when the then Prime Minister, Mr McMahon, got a political bonus when the Lowe electorate went across the Parramatta River up to the rather conservative area around Eastwood. I never heard any member of the then Government say: ‘Well, look, this is a distortion; it is a retreat from the community interest’. I am simply pointing out the political facts of life. The strategy of members of the Opposition is to fight a rearguard action, deny us any electoral reform and to say to themselves: ‘When we come to the election next year we will feel a little easier’. My answer to that is simply that the great leveller in elections is the mobility of electors. I said in this chamber before the sitting was suspended that well over one million people change their residence in a 3-year span, and as a matter of fact with our job pattern today I am certain it will be more. I do not have the latest figures for Australia but the figures relating to congressional districts in the United States lead me to the conclusion that on the current trend of population more than one million people will change their address in a 3-year span. The point I am making is that today with people owning power boats and surface craft we are getting a better class of resident on, say, the Parramatta River foreshores. That is a factor in an electoral redistribution.
I know Mr Malton, and I know that Senator Carrick, who is an opposite number to me as a party official, would not question the man’s integrity. He has served this nation well. The significant point is that the redistribution that has occurred is not ideally what any party wanted. The best analogy I can give is that when a log of claims is presented by a trade union it is a sort of testing time to see what the other side- in that case the employer- is prepared to offer. It may be said that this is like that record ‘Play it again, Sam ‘. We have gone over this two or three times, and listening to Senator Baume and hearing other comments one would think we were some European country that was going through a political upheaval and that the light of democracy was going out. I can remember in the 1 960s those opposite telling us that the Labor Party would be no more. Of course we bounced back and we are the Government. I think that our future and the Opposition’s future lies in who will gain the political middle ground. A man who was in this Senate and was a very illustrious leader of the Liberal Party- John Grey Gorton- said that.
– It is most unfair of Senator Wright to sneer at a former Prime Minister. I might as well tell Senator Wright a little story. I went to a function in the Lowe electorate the other night and when I made a eulogistic reference to John Gorton the honourable senator would have been astounded that the State Liberal member, Mr Mutton, and a few other people were remarkably scornful about it. They were quite unfair. Prime Ministers should be above this type of criticism. I note that Senator Cavanagh nods his head in agreement with me. I think there should be at least some admission of this. I want to sum up by saying that the people get the sort of government they deserve. If we wander among the young voters we find they believe the present system is not good enough. It is of no use having these bastions with massive majorities. As a matter of fact, Senator Sir Magnus Cormack referred to a semi-scandal in Britain in the 1800s. I can remember that people sat in the House of Commons with electorates comprising little hamlets. We are trying to get over that by introducing electoral parity.
Senator Sir Magnus Cormack hinted at gerrymandering. I would be very careful if I advanced that argument because it was his Party’s redistribution, not ours, that took an electorate across the Parramatta River. I think it was a river in New Jersey that gave rise to the word ‘gerrymander’, so if the Opposition is going to throw that argument around, it was its redistribution and not ours that created the situation. Anyhow, I simply say that we have put up positive reforms. We believe it is an injection of vitamins into democracy at the ballot box. I have met members of the Young Liberals at the universities and they have said: ‘Senator, we know the electoral system has to be reformed’. We know that the Young Liberal associations have said they want electoral reform. I must say that Senator Wright has put me off my speech by the way he interjected. I leave it at that.
– I rise on behalf of my Party in this coalition Opposition- the Country Party- to oppose the redistribution in New South Wales. I hope that name ‘Country Party’ does not disturb Senator Walsh too much.
– I though you were the National Country Party.
– I will use that name if the honourable senator prefers it. I have always been somewhat suspicious that Senator Walsh may at some time have tried to consume and digest a glossary of economic terms. I suggest he will be unlikely to succeed in consuming the words National Country Party’. It is much more likely that they may be relevant ultimately to his own destruction.
In my remarks I will make no reflection whatever on the efforts of the Commissioners in New South Wales to do the job that was set before them with the emphasis and the guidelines that were directed to them. I suggest a number of things and what I suggest probably will be more referrable to the country areas of New South Wales, and rightly so. I refer not only to farming communities but also to the people of the country towns and the provincial cities. The problems that this redistribution would create in metropolitan New South Wales have been made eloquently clear by Senator Baume. There is a need for redistribution for 2 main reasons at any time. One main reason is to establish electoral equality. The other reason is to change the number of electorates within the various States.
So far as electoral equality is concerned, there seems to be no real reason for a redistribution such as confronts us now in New South Wales or indeed in the Commonwealth. Senator Baume indicated that 54.9 per cent of the votes in New South Wales produced for the Labor Party 56 per cent of the seats. If we go further afield to the Australian scene we find that 49 per cent of the votes produced 5 1 per cent of the seats for the Australian Labor Party.
– First preference votes.
– Does the honourable senator deny people the right to preference?
– No. I just make the point -
– This appears to me to be incredibly close to total equality in the electoral field and makes quite unnecessary a redistribution at this time. A redistribution at this time on the ground of the States themselves and the numbers of seats relevant to those States once again becomes totally unnecessary in view of the 1976 census. After the census mayhap there will be one fewer seat in New South Wales and maybe one more seat in Queensland and in Western Australia. So, this redistribution will apply to no more than one election. It is a totally unnecessary state of affairs.
I should like to make a remark or two concerning equality of representation because I believe that in any democracy this is of extreme importance. The important issue is the representation and the capacity of electors to be properly and equally represented in the parliaments of the nation. In spite of the somewhat cynical remarks of the Minister for Services and Property, Mr Daly, from time to time when he refers to gaining votes for cars, sheep, haystacks and so forth there is no doubt that behind it all there is in the Minister a determination, electorally if necessary, to destroy the National Country Party. For some reason he seems to have this great grief at the existence of a protector of the rights of country people. I want to make it quite clear that the sort of redistribution that is proposed in New South Wales would bring about a situation in which, in round figures, 45 per cent of the votes would bring the Labor Party to government and 55 per cent of the votes would be necessary to bring the Liberal-National Country Party force into government.
The proposition that is put to us tonight is one that amongst other things sees the total elimination cf the electorate of Riverina in New South Wales. It is an electorate which has been an important entity in that State since Federation and an electorate which probably meets the guidelines of community of interests better than almost any other electorate in the State. In this redistribution the electorate is to be eliminated. Let me comment on the question of the margin which has been reduced. This redistribution has been brought about with the guideline of the margin of the quota being reduced from 20 per cent to 10 per cent. I believe that as that is the law it is proper, of course, that this redistribution should take note of that margin. I think it is worthwhile recalling to the Senate that the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam), before he became involved in the establishment of a socialist dictatorship by whatever means seem best to suit his needs, said in Parliament some years ago:
At least, the numbers should be approximately equal, within the perfectly reasonable latitude of 20 per cent above or below the quota as allowed by the Commonwealth Electoral Act. Country members experience difficulties in representing their electorates.
That was not a member of the National Country Party speaking; those were the words of the present Prime Minister, Mr Whitlam. The fact is that the redistribution is now carried out on a margin of 10 per cent above or below the quota. I accept that, but what I find hard to accept is the way it has been implemented in my State of New South Wales. Indeed the variance in virtually every democracy is enormously in excess even of a margin of 20 per cent. In Great Britain, America, Canada and so on, the variance between the numbers of electors in electorates is quite enormous and runs from, for instance, somewhere in the vicinity of 15 000 to 105 000. 1 want to make the point that in applying the 10 per cent rule above and below the quota we have seen a circumstance in which the redistribution finds that those electorates in New South Wales which have the greatest area and the greatest problems of communication, community of interest, physical structure, travel and so onthese are the most enormous electorates physically- are the electorates that have the greatest numbers of electors. This is crazy injustice, in my view.
– It is zero growth rate.
-If it is zero growth rate, which of course it is not, it is even more significant of the need for concentration on proper balance in the development of this country. It is significant of the need for a proper measure of decentralisation, and with this is bound up a real measure of electoral justice. The electorate of Gwydir in New South Wales, for instance, is suggested under the proposed redistribution to cover some third of the State. In that electorate there are not one, two or three concentrations of people, as is the case in some of the far flung and enormous electorates, but there are something like thirty or forty specific concentrations of people. There are 40 or 50 different areas of local government, community interest and organisation, and all this tends to make the capacity of a member adequately to represent the electorates practically impossible. This attempt to increase that kind of circumstance is one of the major reasons why we deplore this particular redistribution. Riverina, as I have already mentioned, is made not larger but is to be abolished; yet, it is probably the most perfect example of an electorate with a real measure of community interest. The electorate of Hume, not far from Canberra now, under this legislation will stretch to about 15 000 square miles and will have the greatest number of electors of any electorate in the State. That, to me, is a crazy circumstance. The number of electors in the electorate of Hume is 3000 more than the average number for the electorates of New South Wales.
I will draw the Senate’s attention for a moment or two to some of the significant features of the figures in this electoral redistribution so far as country New South Wales is concerned. I remind the Senate that, of the 12 country electorates in my State, only 2 are below the State average, namely, New England and Farrer, which are below by a mere 400 electors. Ten of those 12 country electorates are significantly above the State average and are significantly larger than they have been previously. The average size of the 12 country electorates of New South Wales to which I have referred is 63 362 electors, which is about 1000 above the average size of New
South Wales electorates. I cannot see the fairness, the justice, if we are in any way interested in equality of representation, in this kind of distortion.
On the other side of the New South Wales picture, of the 33 urban and suburban electorates 1 9 are significantly below the State average, lt is an interesting exercise to observe that, if the number of country electorates in this State had been increased by one, it would have involved a divergence from the quota of 6.4 per cent, only comfortably within the 10 per cent margin. If- I am not suggesting that this is desirable- the suburban and urban electorates of New South Wales were decreased by one in number, it would make them 2.4 per cent above the quota, so that there would be a total margin of between 8 per cent and 9 per cent in a circumstance in which only 20 per cent is allowed. It is interesting to note that that is the circumstance.
I emphasise once again that this electoral redistribution in New South Wales basically is of unquestionable advantage to the Labor Party but of disadvantage to the Liberal Party in its metropolitan areas and to all country people in New South Wales of whatever political colour they may be. It is on these grounds that I and my Party oppose this proposal.
– The issue before the Senate can be stated simply in this way: Are we to allow the map maker’s pen or the electors by vote in the ballot box to decide who will govern this country? That is the simple issue, and I demonstrate it this way: The map maker’s pen proposes in the New South Wales redistribution to increase the number of seats to be held by the Labor Party in the State by three, without one change of one vote in the ballot box. I repeat: Who shall decide who will govern the country- The map maker or the people? The map makers here and elsewhere have laid down a series of maps which are in frustration of the will of the people and of majority rule. As much has been said about majority rule and of one vote one value, I will have a little to say about it.
We have before us as the last of 5 sets of maps the New South Wales maps. The Opposition has opposed the 5 sets of maps in globo and also singly. The Opposition has said that in general these maps should be opposed because of main principles and then State by State it has indicated the very glaring defects in the maps. The Leader of the Opposition (Senator Withers) has pointed out fundamentally that this redistribution should not have occurred. He and others have pointed out that there is to be a census within a year and that it is normal to hold a redistribution immediately after a census. It therefore follows that there should be a redistribution in a year or 18 months dme. More fundamentally than that, it was known to the Government that, when the census occured, the distribution of population in Australia as revealed by the census would make fundamental redistributions necessary in a number of States.
At the moment, we are discussing New South Wales. The census almost certainly will reduce the number of seats in that State from 45 to 44, and as a result it will be necessary to have a major redistribution affecting virtually every seat. The Liberal Party in New South Wales, when submitting its proposals, made clear that there ought not be a redistribution, because of the coming census and because of the likely fundamental alterations. Equally, the Liberal Party and the Country Party have pointed out to the Senate that there is pending in the High Court a case that could invalidate the very basis on which these maps have been drawn. Furthermore, we have pointed out some extraordinary paradoxes. The Government has proceeded with a redistribution in Tasmania, where all seats are within the quota, but has not set a redistribution in Western Australia where one seat, namely, Kalgoorlie is in defiance of the principle.
Why did the Government not do so in Western Australia? Basically, had it done so the seat of Kalgoorlie, when reduced, would have become a non-Labor seat, and this is the basis of the situation. The Government knew that there was to be a census and that there would be fundamental changes demanding a redistribution in a year or so. It also knew that there was no need for a distribution in States such as Tasmania. It knew, too, that Western Australia should have one, and it chose selectively to suit its purpose. As a result, the map makers in the State of New South Wales, to be analysed now, have given in their proposal 3 extra seats in net gain to the Labor Party without the alteration of a vote. Much has been said about majority rule and the concept of one vote one value. If there is to be one vote one value the party or parties which command a majority of votes must win a majority of seats. That is absolutely fundamental. The primary reason for one vote one value is that it shall ensure majority rule. The whole of the argument of the Labor Party on the question of the differentials in seats, whether it be a 20 per cent tolerance or 10 per cent tolerance, was based on the principle of one vote one value. Yet in its defence it is asserting the use of maps which, whether taken separately or in toto, are in defiance of that principle.
The Minister in another place, Mr Daly, who has been so vocal on this matter, comes from an electorate which is traditionally in defiance of the principle of one vote one value, and the proposal of the map makers will entrench that defiance. Mr Daly’s electorate at this moment contains approximately 50 000 electors compared with the average of almost 70 000. Five voters in Mr Daly’s electorate are equivalent to 7 voters elsewhere. Is that one vote one value? If the Government sticks to this principle why can it defend a situation in which Grayndler, one of the most rapidly declining seats in Australia, should be given 64 868 electors, which is barely 2100 above the quota? Everybody, including the map makers, must have known that within the space of a year on past trends the decline would be such that in Grayndler the numbers would be below the quota, which is 62 765, and would be well on the way to the kind of seat it is now with approximately 50 000 electors. The very man who leads this crusade for one vote one value represents a seat which remains continually in defiance of that concept. The seat next to Grayndler, the seat of Sydney, is represented by an ex-Speaker. Sydney is one of the most rapidly shrinking seats in Australia with 50 309 electors at the time of this redistribution.
– This is under your boundaries.
– It is indeed. I am grateful for the interjection because I will take it up in a moment. Sydney has been given an electoral enrolment of 1255 above the quota so that in a year it will be below the quota. I could cite the seats one by one which will be in defiance of the principle of one vote one value within a year. The interjection from the Government Whip was that this is under our boundaries. Every one of the various distributions that were done during the 23 years of the former Liberal-Country Party Government enshrined the principle of majority rule. The only redistribution that did not do so was one done by the Labor Party under Mr Calwell. Every one of the distributions done in our time meant that the party or parties that gained a majority of votes would get a majority of seats. The very electoral boundaries on which Labor won in 1972 and 1974 enabled the Labor Party to get a majority of seats by polling 49.3 per cent of the vote.
Let me talk to this party that proudly asserts these lovely principles of majority rule and one vote one value. Perhaps I should address myself to the 2 Ministers in the chamber. The Labor Party put in a submission in New South Wales which is now a matter of documentation. Had that submission been accepted by the map makers- it was not very far from being accepteda party which won 25 seats one year ago would now win 29 seats on the same vote. So by its skill of penmanship the Australian Labor Party proposes that the Party should gain 4 seats with no more votes. It proposes to change the balance in New South Wales from 25 seats to 20 seats, as it now is, to 29 seats to 16 seats. It proposes that with 52 per cent of the vote it should get 64.4 per cent of the seats. That is the same Labor Party which here mouths the hypocritical platitudes of one vote one value. Yet when it puts m a representation for its own seats it puts in what amounts to a corruption of every principle of democracy. This is enshrined in the documents we have. Is it one vote one value when 52 per cent of the votes will produce 64.4 per cent of the seats? These are the kind of principles that this debate is all about.
Let me examine the matter further. In May 1974, one year ago, the Government was returned with a total majority of 3 seats in Australiaa very narrow majority. So when a map maker alters the balance by 3 seats by drawing a map he gives to the Government of the day an enormous benefit. Let us not forget that this has been done in New South Wales alone. The Government was returned on the basis of 49.3 per cent of the vote giving 52 per cent of the seats. The Labor Party sought to get 64.4 per cent of the seats by the skill of map making. Entrenched in this proposal is a net gain of 3 seats. The Ministers who mouthed the principle of one vote one value are now supporting a redistribution which will give preferment to themselves. What have they done now? As Senator Scott so ably said, they have not given one vote one value to the country areas, but 6 city votes are equivalent to 7 country votes. Now we see the scheme of things. These proposals come from the people who mouthed these great platitudes, these hypocrisies, at the Joint Sitting of the Parliament. Senator Scott has rightly pointed this out.
Let us see how the map makers have worked because it is very illuminating when we do so. To analyse a redistribution we should look at not only how it alters the final fall of the seats but also at how it affects the individual borderline seats, because as the Senate and all Government members would very shrewdly know, the whole balance of power depends on who holds the marginal seats. Let us see what happened to the marginal seats in New South Wales because of the map makers and nobody else. I repeat that the electors have not changed their votes with regard to this balance; the map makers have changed the balance despite the electors. The Government is defending this system. One marginal seat in New South Wales today is Evans. The situation is very simple: Evans has been abolished and has been replaced by Toongabbie which is a blue ribbon Labor seat. It is not a bad gain to take a seat which the Opposition had held repeatedly and would be likely to win again and to replace it with an entrenched blue ribbon Labor seat.
Let us take another simple illustration. The seat of Macarthur, which on present boundaries would take a swing of approximately 3 per cent or 4 per cent to win, will take a 9.8 per cent swing to win. Did the electors decide this? Not one bit of it. The map makers decided who shall hold Macarthur, not the electors by way of the ballot box. It has become 5.1 per cent more difficult to win. The map makers have made the seat of Phillip, which is another borderline seat, more difficult to win. That seat will take a further 1 .2 per cent swing to win. On these boundaries Labor would technically win Paterson which is a seat now held by the National Country Party. It would be necessary to have a swing of 4.5 per cent from the present voting pattern to retain that seat. Again I ask: Who decided that? Was it the electors- the people who the Government says shall decide by their majority vote and the people each of whose vote shall have one value? Not on your life. It was the map makers in whom the Australian Labor Party biblically finds no fault.
The electorate of Parramatta, which is a seat that is now held vigorously for the Liberal Party of Australia, by Philip Ruddock, has on paper been converted to an Australian Labor Party seat that would require a 6.5 per cent swing to be won back. Again I ask: Is that democracy? It is true that the electorate of Riverina has been replaced by the electorate of Eastwood, but the central thrust of this redistribution is simply this: Where the Labor Party has been vulnerable before its position has been waterproofed and its own notional holding of seats has been increased by three. Does the Government proudly say now that that is fair and equitable? Let us work on this basis: The boundaries that exist today are fair and fair beyond doubt- in fact, they favour the Labor Party. The boundaries that the Labor Party has proposed in this tabling of papers -
– That the Commissioners have proposed.
– The boundaries that the Labor Party has proposed for adoption -
– That the Commissioners have proposed.
– Has the Labor Party not proposed these boundaries? Have members of the Labor Party not got to their feet to do so? Have the brain fevered birds from the west, in their prattling and prattling, not proposed these boundaries? My goodness the west carries a burden. Is it any wonder that the Labor Party is continually beaten in the west? The Charlie Courts of this world must be enormously proud of their victories. Let me make the point quite clear that speaker after speaker from the Australian Labor Party, including the brain fevered birds of this world, have stood up and asserted their support for these proposals. These proposals have come here as the proposals of the Labor Party. In so doing they seek to give to the Labor Party 3 more seats without another vote being recorded, they seek to entrench Labor in the swinging seats and they defy every rule of the Electoral Act in their interpretation. Where has note been taken of possible population growths? How can the Labor Party get up and support the principles of the Act when the seat of one of its Ministers- the seat of Grayndler- will be in defiance of the principle of one vote one value, as will Mr Cope’s seat. These proposals have, incredibly, put the electorate of Lang, which, with a voting population of 60 261 electors, has a slower growth rate than some others in the place, way down the list. What an interesting situation that is.
Senator Scott has drawn attention to the phenomenon of making certain metropolitan electorates well below the quota and putting the vast majority of country electorates up at the top of the list. What an interesting thing it is that in the whole of the metropolitan area the only seats which have been put in the 60 000 to 61 000 bracket- that is the rapid growth seats- are 3 Australian Labor Party seats. Does Berowra not grow as fast? Does Bradfield not grow as fast? Do all of the other seats not grow as fast? It is a strange coincidence that that is so? Of course, it confers an enormous advantage upon the Labor Party if its votes are spread and spread widely while the votes of the Liberal and Country Parties are herded together. That is in fact what has happened. There has been a stacking of votes in the country. Where is the one vote one value principle in the fact that, as I have said, the votes of 7 country voters will equal the votes formerly of 6 country voters?. Where is the one vote one value principle when in a short and measurable period of time the Grayndlers and the Sydneys of this world will have the votes of 5 of their voters equal to the votes of 7 voters in certain other electorates. What has been corrected here? What has been done in this situation? What has happened, of course, is that the situation has been brought about that Senator Mulvihill struggled in terms of history to recall; that is, there has been essentially a gerrymander. Governor Gerry of America has been immortalised for his actions in this respect.
The fact is that he was the first person to go down in history as demonstrating the skill of the map makers’ pen in defiance of the electors’ vote. That is precisely what has happened in this respect.
Senator McLaren- Who were the second and the third? Playford and Bjelke-Petersen.
– I am always instructed by Senator McLaren. I come from a State in which for 24 years a Labor Party government created and maintained the worst gerrymander in Australia and in which, in defiance of the people, it abolished postal voting and would not allow postal voting as such because that sort of voting went against it. Because it did not like the fact that 3 or even 4 out of every 5 voted against it the famous party that Senator McLaren clucks and clucks about and, of course, broods about on his perch abolished such a democratic right and some 100 000 people in New South Wales were denied the right to vote from 1950 until 1965. Indeed, the maps that were drawn were of such exotic quality that they not only hopped roads but also quite frequently came out of one electorate and went through another. A seat that Senator Sir Kenneth Anderson will remember quite well is the seat of Ryde. It was deliberately drawn. Indeed, the seat of Goulburn ran down on the map like a long cow’s teat to the top of Captains Flat. There was corruption of every principle. Despite the fact that the Liberal and Country Parties polled a majority of the votes twice out of three times in each of those 2 decades they were kept out of government. It finally took something like 56 per cent of the vote in New South Wales to defeat a government of the political complexion about which Senator McLaren now preaches.
– The same thing happened in South Australia in 1 965.
- Senator McLaren should talk. He should remember the saying ‘Physician heal thyself. If ever anybody should talk about gerrymanders it is the members of the Labor Party because the Labor Party has been the high priest of gerrymanders as such. The Liberal Party’s record in the Federal Parliament and in New South Wales has been one of absolute integrity. So let us have none of this talk about high principles and majority rule. Throughout its history the Labor Party has sought to pervert and to deny majority rule. Throughout its history the Labor Party has tried to deny the principle of one vote one value. This redistribution stands in defiance of the principle of one vote one value. Because it does, because it is grossly unfair, because it is in fact -
– Tell us what Malcolm Mackerras has said.
– Malcolm Mackerras was an office boy of mine. Often when I read the kind of documents that he produces -
– He had bad training, did he not?
– I agree. Let me answer Senator Walsh’s interjection. Senator Poyser said: ‘Do not trust Mr Mackerras. He has had bad training.’
– I would blame you, Senator Carrick, if his training was so bad.
– My training was such that my own influence on redistribution in my own State and throughout the Commonwealth has been such that the principle of one vote one value and majority rule have persisted at all times. I want to say finally that the very principles that the Labor Party for months and months and months stood up in this chamber and in another place and mouthed- the principle of one vote one value and the right of majority rule- are the reasons why these proposals should be rejected. They should be rejected because they are grossly unfair. They should be rejected because only the electors by way of the ballot box and not the map makers should decide who governs Australia.
– I had not intended to intervene in this debate, but I was more or less challenged to do so by Senator Carrick whom, I may say with respect, I regard as a serious, intelligent and admirable senator. However I fear that his long standing as the holder of the position of Leader of the Liberal machine in New South Wales induces in him, in a debate such as this, a line of argument in which I fear he does not even believe. There is a sort of selective indignation, a sort of ersatz holiness in what he puts to us in his argument. Let us take, for example, the last argument that he was putting, that is that in New South Wales for many years we had a Labor government which was dedicated to the gerrymander. I would be the last to deny that charge. I think that for many years the dice were loaded against, not to put too fine a point on it, the conservative forces in New South Wales. I think there was a long period in which a Labor government, by one device or another, sought to perpetuate its rule. I think the same happened in Queensland. I think during the long period of Labor government in Queensland there was an unconscionable gerrymander.
– And in Western Australia.
-And in Western Australia. Are we not in an era in which we would like to put paid to that situation?
– What about South Australia under Playford?
– I will come to that. There is no excuse for a gerrymander, no matter who engineers it. In New South Wales there was an unconscionable gerrymander for many years, engineered and defended by the Labor Party. In Queensland the same thing happened- a gerrymander engineered and defended by the Labor Party. In South Australia there was probably the most unconscionable gerrymander in the history of almost any so-called democratic government in the world. In Queensland at present a gerrymander has the effect of giving to the people of an admirable State- a State with all sorts of delightful peoplethe name ‘deep northerners’. There is a blot on everybody who comes from Queensland because they are represented by a hillbilly Premier who is elected by 17 per cent or 18 per cent of the population.
Every gerrymander, no matter who is responsible, casts a blot on the country, the State or the community which is responsible for it. I was astonished to hear Senator Carrick, thrown back on the ropes by an interjection from Senator McLaren, defending the gerrymanders, or at least being silent about them, which favour his Party- the terrible gerrymander in Queensland at present-
– And in Victoria.
-And in Victoria. He was defending them on the basis that the Labor side of politics had been responsible for defending or engineering gerrymanders in the past.
– It is what is known in logic as the tu quoque argument.
– Exactly. As my learned colleague, Senator Wheeldon points out to me, it is the tu quoque argument in logic: You did it, so we are justified in doing it. I am ashamed- I say it publicly- of every gerrymander with which my Party has been associated. I do not think Senator Carrick is entitled to throw a comforting umbrella over the gerrymanders which he now defends because of the sins of the Labor Party in the past. I suggest that his slurs on the mapmakers and his irrelevant comments on the bad practices of my Party in the past are no defence against gerrymanders of today. I think we have entered an era in which we who are really devoted to having the voice of the people heard should publicly condemn all gerrymanders. I did not hear, for instance, any comment by Senator Carrick on the fact that in 1953 or 1954-1 am not quite certain of the date- when Dr Evatt was Leader of the Labor Party, it polled something like 53 per cent or 54 per cent -
– I commented on it. I said that the boundaries on which Arthur Calwell fought an election were not a fair distribution.
-The historical fact is that the Labor Party polled 53 per cent of the vote throughout Australia in 1953 or 1954 but did not become the Government.
– We corrected that.
– It is irrelevant whether you did. I want to be fair. As I have said, with respect, I think Senator Carrick was forced, in the heat of parliamentary debate into the argumentation that he adopted. I honestly think, knowing him as I do, he does not in his heart defend a gerrymander.
– I do not.
– I know. I suggest that our approach to this problem of redistribution at this moment in history should not be clouded by the sins of either Party in the past. Let us try to be fair now. Let us not throw some childish argument at each other: You did this in Queensland, we did this in South Australia, you did that in Victoria, therefore that is what politics is about and we should not try to improve our political manners. I think it is time we grew up and adopted different standards.
– I oppose the redistribution in New South Wales. I do so on entirely different lines from the Opposition which has been expressed and the comments which have been made from both sides of the chamber. I take the stand that this proposal envisages an increased electoral strength in the city and a reduced electoral strength in the country. I do not think it is good or wholesome that such should be the case. New South Wales has been divided into 1 1 regions by the State Government. Nine of those regions are in country areas, and two are in the metropolitan area. It is evident that from the point of view of development, the State Government maintains that the development should be in accordance with those areas- with the productivity of those areas and in accordance with the populations of those areas. I feel that what is good enough from a development point of view on a State basis should be good enough also as a measuring rod in connection with electoral matters.
It has been stated by all speakers, I think, that the sole consideration seems to be the advantage or disadvantage to parties. They have looked into the crystal ball, but I do not think they have taken into account the ever changing population. I do not think that they have taken into account the swinging voter. I do not think that they have taken into account new names that may appear on the roll. In all probability their calculations are wrong. But that is not the basis on which this discussion should take place. The amending electoral legislation which was passed by this Parliament states:
In making any proposed distribution of a State into Divisions, the Distribution Commissioners shall give due consideration, in relation to each proposed Division, to-
community of interests within the Division, including economic, social and regional interests;
means of communication and travel within the Division;
the trend of population changes within the State;
the physical features of the Division; and
existing boundaries of Divisions and Subdivisions,
It is interesting to note that that amending legislation which was presented to the Parliament in July 1974 omitted some very important sections from the previous legislation. It omitted the following phrases: ‘means of communication and travel within the Division, with special reference to disabilities arising out of remoteness or distance’; ‘the density or sparsity of population of the Division’; and ‘the area of the Division’. They are crucial points. I do not know why they were taken out of the previous legislation, but it is unfortunate that they were. It has set the Distribution Commissioners an unenviable task. The Commissioners, acting within the briefing of this amended legislation, have brought down certain recommendations. I have no hesitation in saying that the Commissioners have no doubt acted with an honesty of purpose and in good faith, but their briefing was incomplete. It should have included not only the principle on which emphasis has been placed, that is, one vote one value, but also the questions of area and the productivity of an area which is of vital concern in the light of our export trade. The briefing should also have included reference to the question of distance. I think that if that had been the case we would have probably received a different recommendation.
I do not think we would have received, for instance, the recommendation that the electorate of Riverina should be abolished. I live close to the electorate of Riverina. I live in a very prosperous area. From a productivity point of view it is to be regretted that the electorate of Riverina is to be abolished. It is not in the best interests of Australia. It is also not in the best interests of Australia if at any time we find that city controlthe city does exert control from a voting point of view- supersedes country control. Let us make no error about the fact that a successful country area means a successful Australia. We are still a rural producing nation. I am sure that overall country electors take a greater interest in the matter we are discussing tonight than do city electors. Last week and again today my mailbag has been filled with letters from people from all over New South Wales, but particularly from the electorates of Riverina, Farrer and Hume- areas with which I am closely associated- asking me to do my part in an endeavour not to have this proposal carried into effect.
– Did you get a letter from Mr Lewis?
-There is no need to get hot under the collar about this matter. I appreciate very sincerely the points of view expressed by Government senators and by Opposition senators. But as one who is on the outside looking in, as it were, as one who is somewhat of a novice in these matters and as one who knows nothing whatever about gerrymandering, I should like to state quite conclusively that it is essential that the values of the country area should not be lost sight of; that the electorates in the country area should not be altered, and indeed should be increased from a voting point of view.
– in reply- I shall reply very briefly because after the bitterness of Senator Carrick I think that it has gone beyond the point of trying to put any sense into the debate. Since the 1968 redistribution on the previous guidelines, the inequalities in enrolments have progressively worsened as a result of trends in population growth. If one would like to sit down and look at this one would see that that is pretty obvious. We have a clearly unjust and indefensible situation in each of the States, with some electorates having current enrolments which are approximately double the enrolments in other electorates. The situation today is that the maximum variations from the quota for the existing divisions in New South Wales, as at the same date, December 1974, range from minus 25.72 per cent to plus 31.83 per cent. Although the divisions in New South Wales in the proposal that is before us tonight are allowed a variation of 10 per cent above or 10 per cent below the quota, the fact is that the variation ranges from minus 4.39 per cent- as against 25.72 per cent under the situation in which Senator Carrick says that everything is holy- to plus 4.56 per cent. That is the situation that we are trying to correct. We have a variation from minus 25.72 per cent to plus 31.83 per cent under the present boundaries and we propose boundaries with a variation from minus 4.39 per cent to plus 4.56 per cent. Senator Carrick defends the present position and says that this is the sort of thing that ought to happen.
We have said that we of the Australian Labor Party do not altogether like what these independent people have brought about. But we set up this independent body- it is the most skilled body that we could get- and it has brought down a redistribution which does not please anybody in totality. If we thought about this matter we would like to alter a boundary here and there, and so would the Liberal Party and the National Country Party of Australia. The point is that we have set up this independent body and we are prepared to accept its recommendations. Senator Bunton said that we should consider the question of productivity. I suppose that if we were to do that the people in the Pilbara area would have 10 votes to every one else ‘s one vote because there is more productivity there than in any other place in Australia. The fact is that that is just not on. The fact that this would contravene the Commonwealth Electoral Act does not seem to worry Senator Bunton. This is a nice philosophical sort of an attitude to adopt.
When I was younger I used to hear the argument that people of greater intelligence and people with more money should have greater weight placed on their votes than was placed on the votes of ordinary mortals like myself who were not born into the world with these sorts of things. The fact is that we are looking at a gerrymander, and what we have done is to set up an independent body to finally kill this gerrymander. All the bitterness and hatred that Senator Carrick can put into these things does not alter the situation. As I listened to Senator Carrick tonight I was thinking of a television interview which I saw a year or two ago when Sir Gordon Chalk- I think it may have been before he got that appellation- was interviewed on television concerning a gerrymander in Queensland which surely nobody would deny obtains. The interviewer asked Sir Gordon Chalk: ‘Do you believe that people in the country should get four, five or six votes to everyone else’s one?’ I do not remember the exact figures now. Sir Gordon Chalk said: ‘Yes, of course’. The interviewer asked: ‘Why?’ Sir Gordon Chalk said: ‘Anything is justified to keep a Labor Government out of office’.
– Is that right?
- Senator Baume says ‘Is that right?’ He agrees that that is the sort of thing you should do. This is the great justice!
– I rise to a point of order, Mr President. The Minister has just made an allegation against Senator Baume. I heard what he said.
– What is your point of order?
– My point of order is that the Minister made an insulting reference to Senator Baume, alleging that he had made remarks which he had not made. I heard what Senator Baume said. He did not make the remarks that the Minister alleges.
– Even Senator Missen, who is pretty naive and who has not been here very long, knows that that is not a point of order. If Senator Baume did not say that, I certainly withdraw my remark. If Senator Baume says that that is what I said- I do not accept Senator Missen’s word- most certainly I will withdraw the remark. It is not important, anyway. All I am saying is that Sir Gordon Chalk said on television that any gerrymander was justified provided it served to keep a Labor government out of office. I thought that Senator Baume agreed with that proposition. It is not a matter on which to take a point of order. If Senator Baume claims that I misrepresented him, I certainly withdraw what I said. I said that Senator Carrick based his whole argument on the proposition that as long as Labor can be kept out of office that is all right.
– I have listened to the point of order which Senator Missen raised and to which the Minister has spoken. The words objected to have not been quoted, and Senator Missen is obliged to ask that the words he objects to be taken down and be specified. Unless we know the exact words that were-
– I believe the Minister used the words: ‘Senator Baume said: “And that is right”.’ I think they are the words he used, whereas the words that the Minister claims he used are quite different from those words and have no relationship whatever to them.
– I am grateful for the trouble that has been taken on the point of order. Senator Willesee actually apologised in anticipation. He misheard the words that were said. I was actually querying a statement that he made and was anxious to have him confirm or deny the correctness of what he had said. He misquoted what I said. I take no great exception since he has offered to withdraw.
– I was pointing out to the Senate the premise on which Senator Carrick based his whole argument tonight. Somebody said: ‘Whatever is good for General Motors is good for America’. Senator Carrick says: ‘Whatever is good for the Liberal Party is good for Australia’. That is a quite unreasonable proposition. What we have done has been to set up an independent body to bring down what in its view is as near as one can get to a fair electoral distribution in Australia. We have said in support of the various proposals for electoral redistribution that what is proposed is not completely what we would like but we accept it because it is what we should have in Australia. Senator Carrick does not accept that point of view but believes that whatever can be done to get a gerrymander for the Liberal Party is good. We reject that. That is all I have to say, Mr President.
That the Senate agrees with the redistribution of the State of New South Wales into electoral divisions as proposed.
The Senate divided. (The President- Senator the Hon. Justin O ‘Byrne)
Question so resolved in the negative.
Debate resumed from 22 May on motion by Senator James McClelland:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– Just before the close of business last Thursday evening the Racial Discrimination Bill came before the Senate and I spent 2 minutes speaking by way of introduction. The matters which have been engaging the attention of the Senate this afternoon and this evening have been of tremendous importance to the nation because they have related to the redistribution of electorates. Such a redistribution would have an important influence on the composition of the Parliament and therefore would have an effect upon national affairs and the international relations in which this country is involved.
The Racial Discrimination Bill comes to the Senate at this hour of the evening by way of contrast. It is not involved in the electoral affairs of the nation; it is not involved in the international relations of the nation; but it is very closely involved in and intimately related to the personal affairs of the nation, and therefore has its own degree of importance. Matters of racial discrimination, matters of social equality and indeed matters of social inequality are very important and in current conversation have become popular issues today. When I say popular issues I mean that they are issues which have become popular subjects for discussion at seminars and conferences. They become popular subjects for writers, journalists, speakers and broadcasters and anyone who is involved in the discussion areas and has a concern for these affairs.
I think it is true to say that it is very important that society constantly review the relationships that exist within it. We have had in recent times a long and extensive and detailed debate devoted to the Family Law Bill which Bill is on the Senate notice paper and this is an area in which society is reviewing the relationships that exist within it. So it is imperative that communities always take the opportunity to provide an atmosphere for people to develop their personalities, to exercise their talents and to maintain proper standards and always through all of these things it is important that our society provide machinery for people to maintain their freedom of choice. This freedom of choice, this development of personality and this exercise of talents should always be permitted without interference, domination or hindrance from any group. This especially applies if people are of a different nationality, of a different ethnic origin or even of a different skin colour. After all, the criterion of a place among our fellows should be ensconced in the characteristics of mind, of heart and of soul. The criterion of a place among our fellows should always be ensconced in the abilities arising from education and experience. It should be related to the contributions that emerge from the disciplines of work and the attention to detail. We should always be mindful of the attitudes that are associated with the qualities of consideration and of courtesy. All of these many-sided facets determine the status of a person in our community whatever his race, whatever his origin or colour.
This Racial Discrimination Bill implements into our Australian law the obligations that are contained in the International Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination. This Convention was signed by Australia in October 1966. In short, the Bill now before the Senate seeks to make racial discrimination unlawful. I use the term ‘racial discrimination’ in the sense in which I read it in the United Nations Convention. The Bill makes it unlawful for a person to do an act- I am looking very broadly at the Schedule which is contained in the Bill- involving discrimination based on race, colour, descent and national or ethnic origin. When I refer to an act I add the words that ‘when such an act impairs the enjoyment of fundamental rights and freedoms’. I point out that the Bill also provides legal remedies and formal administrative machinery for the enforcement of human rights.
The legislation which has been brought into the Senate envisages the application of conciliation procedures. These procedures are related to complaints of racial discrimination. The Bill also refers to legal proceedings which may be taken should conciliation fail. There is an aspect of the Bill which relates to the development of programs of education and research which are designed to combat racial discrimination. From my reading of the Bill and having listened to speeches in this debate I think this is probably the most commendable part of the legislation. At least it has the greatest attraction for me.
The United Nations International Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination- this is the area, as every honourable senator knows, to which this legislation is related- evolved after a good deal of study and analysis of the very difficult and sensitive matter of racial discrimination around the world. After all, any discussion, study or research into the whole area of racial discrimination involves human relations, a whole lot of economic conditions and a whole lot of international conditions. As most honourable senators know, a declaration on the elimination of all forms of racial discrimination was drafted and was adopted in 1963. The Convention was later drafted and it was open for signature in 1966. Australia signed the Convention the same year. It finally came into force in January 1969 when the requisite 27 countries had signed the Convention. In general terms the Convention condemns and seeks the elimination of all forms of racial discrimination. The term ‘racial discrimination’ is one on which we can have debate and discussion over a long period of time but I take it at this point of speaking to the Senate in this debate to mean, as it was quoted in the Convention:
It is true to say that the Convention provides for us comprehensive measures of implementation and there is also the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. This Committee has been established to receive reports on the existence of racial discrimination and to implement methods of conciliation. An international convention is very important and very impressive. The fact that we have signed this Convention and the fact that we have claimed to model a Bill upon it might also be very impressive and very important, but may I say that it does not solve all the problems. While we may have some support for the thrust of the Bill and the principles which it puts forward, legislation alone does not solve the problem of racial discrimination, the problem of relationships between person and person. In the second reading speech the Minister for Manufacturing Industry (Senator James McClelland) has conceded this very fact. If I recall his words correctly, he made reference to the fact that legislation has only a role to play in the elimination of racial discrimination. Indeed by the Minister’s words the Government has conceded that legislation, important though it may be, does not solve all the problems but only has a significant part to play. The Minister said the Bill is a step towards the objective as outlined in the Bill, so the Government has put down a measure which, while it is very comprehensive, is conceded by the Minister in presenting it to the Senate as having only a role to play and is a step towards the elimination of racial discrimination.
It is all very well for governments to put down measures. It is all very well for governments to introduce Bills. It is all very well for Houses of Parliament to pass legislation. In any program for the abolition of racial discrimination which involves the well being of a total community, a state or a nation the community must be reminded over and over again that it has a role and there are steps that it must take and that it has involvement and a responsibility in such a program. The Convention to which I have referred takes up this reference to the community’s role and the role of men and women in society. Since its adoption numerous countries have implemented various provisions of the Convention but they have not sought to implement the Convention in its total form. It is worth noting, particularly in the light of the Bill introduced by the Government and which is before the Senate now, that in a similar measure the United States of America reserved the right not to implement sections of the Convention which, as the Americans put it, contradicted America’s own constitutional provision for the freedom of speech. This is referred to in various clauses of the Bill, and it relates to the dissemination of ideas on racial discrimination as contained in article 4. I direct honourable senators to the Schedule at the end of the Bill and in particular to article 4 of the Convention. While it may be said that in a general way the Government’s Bill implements the United Nations Convention, the details of domestic legislation are left to the countries concerned. I think that in any discussion on racial discrimination it is important that nations involved take unto themelves the high responsibility of legislating as far as domestic matters are concerned. The Government’s claim that the Bill implements the United Nations Convention in a direct way may be fairly straightforward but I have some questions in my mind as to whether it actually achieves that end.
There is no doubt in my mind that racial discrimination is something that we should seek to eliminate by the most effective means possible. In seeking this end the Bill has general support although I, like others, do have some general reservations about it. After all, as I said earlier, it is comparatively easy to lay down legislative processes that would seek to eliminate racial discrimination but when you come to implementing them in human terms I ask the question: How do we really do it, do it effectively, and how do we do it so that the total society benefits and so that relations between persons and person, group and group, and community and community are maintained for the benefit and total development of the whole?
I suppose it is easy to say that racial discrimination exists right round the world. The fact of life is that it does exist right round the world at various levels. It also exists in varying intensity. While I might say that racial discrimination has existed throughout history that does not excuse me from being involved in legislative processes, or any other processes, that may help to avoid discrimination. The fact is that mankind has had to wrestle, at some level almost throughout history, with the fact that racial and other discriminations have existed. In about 500 BC there were groups within the European society that believed that one section of Europe was intellectually superior to another. The African slave era developed theories that there were differences between races, differences in habits, attitudes and beliefs. Later there were claims to justify racism on the ground that certain people were a deviation from what was then called the white norm of the human race. There were writers in those days who talked about men and sub-men. But I leave all that on one side, save to add that racism became embedded in people’s cultural experience although the reasons which existed for racism had long been abolished and, in some cases, forgotten.
Examples of racism which continue have been due largely to individual factors. I do not think we should pass a Bill of this kind without acknowledging and writing into the record that which is very well known to us- that it is very natural for people to drift towards other people with whom they have something in common. In short, we tend to join groups in which we have some fellow interest or in which we have a great deal in common. This gives us a sense of solidarity. It tends to give us a sense of permanence. A sense of solidarity and permanence also gives us a sense of identity which probably, after all, is the ambition of everyone. Unfortunately, an identification with a particular group of people tends to lead to a lack of communication with other groups. This also tends to develop prejudices on the part of what I call the larger group, the big battalion, as opposed to the minority group. Membership of a large group also tends to give us the habit of stereotyping the characteristics of members of other groups. Because we might exist in a majority group and because we have got into the habit of stereotyping other groups, believe it or not we develop into a situation whereby discrimination unfortunately thrives.
We of a European society and tradition are concerned about racial discrimination. It is not without importance to observe that racial discrimination has been a factor not only of European society, it also has been a factor of other societies, and references have been made in this debate to discrimination in other communities. Because discrimination exists in other communities, that does not give us any justification whatever for allowing it to continue and exist in our own. Most ethnic discrimination that we see in Australia is related to differences which occur as a result of the circumstances which have developed, particularly in the last 50 to 100 years. Some people say it is not of great significance; some people say it is of a minor nature and that it is forced out of all proportion by certain radical groups. There are some of us who claim that it has developed unconsciously rather than deliberately. I guess we could have some debate and argument on all of these things, but the fact is that some discrimination has been developing within our Australian society. I think it probably is true to say that we have been spared the worst excesses of racial discrimination simply because of the other conditions that developed in our society at the time that there were discriminating references and habits. But we have had, as honourable senators know, our problems in this area and as a society the Australian community bears responsibility for what might be called racial offences. I suppose that in this regard we have to examine ourselves constantly in respect of our relationships to those people within our midst, and I am thinking particularly of the Aboriginal community.
The Senate will know that I, with others, am a member of one of the Senate Standing Committees, the Committee on Social Environment.
That Committee has before it at the moment a reference relating to the environmental conditions of Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders. A number of honourable senators have been members of that Committee and for various reasons have moved on to other responsibilities. Some amongst our number have been chairmen of that Committee. Quite a number of honourable senators have been involved, through their membership of that Committee, be it long or short, in examining this particular reference. The Senate also may know that that Committee still is working on its reference and therefore it is neither proper nor appropriate that one should talk about the work it has done. The Committee will report in due course. Any honourable senator standing in his place is not able to speak on behalf of the Committee, nor is it appropriate that one should refer in detail to that which we, its members, have seen or experienced. I make this reference because I think it is important in a discussion on a racial discrimination Bill but I do not speak for the Committee and therefore my references must be general and I must speak purely from personal observation. Allegations of racial discrimination within our Australian society have been many in the experiences I have had in relation to that Committee, but I would not be prepared to stand up and prove them in this Senate because there is a whole range of other circumstances related to such incidents.
I am not one of those people who has lived within any section of the Australian society where I have come up personally against the conditions and circumstances in which there is a situation whereby a European-Australian community and an Aboriginal-Australian community live side by side. But I have been greatly concerned as I have gone around and heard evidence of the existence of what appears to me to be discrimination which is unfortunate and hurtful to the people concerned. I think of remote communities within our Australian society where there appears to me to be serious objection on the part of what I will call the white community to proposals for housing or for community benefits that were arranged for the Aboriginal community. The proposals related to social opportunities for the Aboriginal community, and it was a matter of some concern to me that there seemed to be some objection to them by other sections of the community. I may be wrong in describing this as racial discrimination. I merely refer to it as an experience which I have had and which appears to me to be discrimination against a section of our community.
In other instances I recall opposition to town planning and housing programs for Aborigines. This opposition was alleged- and I use that word knowing what it means- to take the form of delaying tactics in exerting various pressures to postpone and alter the plan. Whether or not this can be proved or whether or not it is true I am unable to say at this stage but I became aware of what appeared to me to be an example of racial discrimination within our Australian community. I have heard allegations of discrimination against the Aboriginal community by various other sections of our society; of exploitation carried out over the counters of shops, and exploitation by people involved in the delivery business. I recall other stories of discrimination in the field of employment particularly as it applied to apprentices. These could be expanded maybe but it becomes, as honourable senators would very well know, difficult to prove that a situation of racial discrimination occurs.
In the outline of the allegations and in the observations it has been presented to me as a member of the Senate Committee that there was a section of our Australian community that was suffering some disadvantage that it should not have suffered; that there was a section of our Australian community that felt that it was being discriminated against and was offended or hurt as a result of this discrimination which it believed it was not entitled to receive. I think it also should be mentioned that there is a growing number of people within our Australian community- there is a growing number of communities within Australiawho are seriously concerned, as have been speakers in this debate, about racial discrimination in Australia and who through the various opportunities available to them are doing constructive work to combat discrimination. They are doing constructive work to heal previous mistakes and I want to pay tribute because I have been impressed with the work carried out by a whole range of groups within our community, such groups that are known as task forces and the educational institutions and centres.
I think of Aboriginal legal services and of various schools and colleges within our Australian community, but more particularly I pay tribute to individual citizens, privately and those who are involved in public affairs, who take upon themselves very seriously tasks and opportunities to rid the country of discrimination and particularly to serve people who may feel that they have been victims of discrimination. Every senator will know that the whole area is a very sensitive one and it becomes difficult to prove a given case.
Each case is influenced by local conditions and local circumstances. Unless one has been involved in those local circumstances and local conditions it is neither proper nor appropriate, nor indeed is one able, to pass judgment on any given situation. Some of the circumstances are particularly difficult and I think we all acknowledge that public opinion on this matter tends to be deeply entrenched. As I have just said, this is a sensitive area within the Australian society but it is one with which we who are entrusted with public office have to grapple and which we have to take upon ourselves with great responsibility and seriousness.
There is another area within our Australian community in which I have had a particular interest, and this is the field of immigration. Immigration has been a prominent and influential factor of Australian life for a long time but particularly so in the last 25 years. Our policies pursued by this country over these years have allowed not only a great development of our country but also a development of what I really believe to be good inter-community and interracial relations. I want to draw a distinction between the earlier inter-racial relations which have not been successful- at least in my viewand I am thinking of the discipline of assimilation. I have seen assimilation described as a subtle form of institutional racism. The policy of assimilation is a policy where one enables a minority ethnic group to discard its own culture in favour of the culture of the dominant group. When we do that it concedes that there is a superiority of the culture of the dominant group. This is not good for society, certainly is not good for the people concerned and might very well be described as a form of racial discrimination.
However, the discipline of integration is another policy altogether and this means that people can develop their personalities and their cultures far more effectively. This policy of integration is a process of diverse elements that are combined into a unity. It means that they retain their own basic identity- they retain thenown characteristics- and integration becomes a 2-way process which quite splendidly, if it is carried through into its ultimate, does not involve the disappearance of the minority institution and does not involve the disappearance of the minority traditions, because integration guarantees the same rights, opportunities and responsibilities to all citizens whatever their group membership. Indeed, in my thinking it is the most effective way to destroy racial discrimination. I believe, as I pick up the Bill, that this is the goal of the legislation before us and it is the goal that all of us, if we are concerned about this very important matter, must strive to achieve. We must recognise, as I am sure we do, that there is value in diversity, because it not only broadens horizons and improves knowledge but also gives us a greater appreciation of other cultures and other men.
As a society we must not fear that which is different, because with all of our various superficial differences there is a great similarity between the various ethnic groups and communities within Australia. This condition of integration has been very well developed in Australia, involving many organisations and people. The Commonwealth Immigration Advisory Council, which was set up long years ago under the honourable Arthur Calwell, then Minister for Immigration, and in which in later years I was privileged to be involved for a while, through its many inquiries, committees, concern and deliberations has played a very notable part in developing the whole discipline of integration. Not every migrant group has been satisfied. Not every racial group in this country has been satisfied, but times and attitudes have changed and needs today are different from what they were even 5 or 10 years ago. Developments in the last 2 years have been different and it is still a matter of concern to us all that there should be groups within our society- ethnic, racial and migrant groups- that are not satisfied.
I am a little reluctant but I do mention that it is a matter of regret and indeed grief to some groups within our society that the Baltic community in Australia still has a very strong feeling that it has been the victim of some discrimination, so that when we undertake legislation here, whether it be the Government or the whole Senate, in connection with the matter of racial discrimination, I think we have to be aware of the complexities that exist and aware of the fact that even the most finely developed legislation cannot solve all of the human and the personal problems in racial matters. I take the opportunity to draw the Government’s attention to this. If Australia is successfully to face the challenge of the next decade and in particular to solve its present problems it cannot afford the self destroying tendency to discrimination which unfortunately exists within the community.
While I acknowledge that the Bill seeks the goal of removing racial discrimination, I question sometimes in my mind whether it over emphasises the legal remedies to these problems as compared with other remedies. There are many other remedies, one of which appeals to me and which I think is referred to in clause 3 1 of the
Bill. I refer to educating people against racial discrimination particularly as a long term solution. I question whether legislation and legal remedies effectively bring about reform of a moral or social nature. Whilst legislation may seek to guard against complaints it may well be, as we look at this Bill, that we are seeing the development of what I will call a race relations business with a whole range of staffs seeking to justify their existence in earning their living through the investigation of complaints. Truly, if we set up such an organisation we have to have a staff and a group of people whose business it will be to investigate complaints.
– They could almost only keep their jobs by rinding business to keep them in jobs.
– It will become an industry.
-Senator Greenwood and Senator Sir Magnus Cormack have intervened and I draw the attention of the Minister and the Government to this matter. I warn the Minister and the Government that the nation is not prepared to set up an empire building machine for the sole business of investigating complaints. I hope that the legislation will not result in a set of circumstances which provide for an institution of this kind. The clauses relating to discriminatory propaganda, to which I have just referred, at least give an insight that this is the sort of thing which may very well develop.
In legislating against these matters we see a set of competing values. On the one hand there is freedom of expression and on the other hand the protection of the individual against discrimination. The problems that are related to this Bill strongly emphasise the fact that prevention is better than cure. Therefore I feel, looking at clause 31 again, that systematic and extensive programs of community education may in the long run very well be the most effective way of creating and maintaining a harmonious social environment that is free from discrimination. If we talk about this we have to remember that we must undertake a vigorous and active program of education not only for our students and young people but also for our adult community. We today talk about a multicultural society. This must require that education be broad and flexible. There is a need for a curriculum so that all people understand the variety of ethnic groups and the various syndromes which make a total society work. We must understand the areas in which the various groups and multiracial groups within our society can make their own contribution.
We must not forget that about a quarter of the Australian population consists of either post-war migrants or children of migrants and that 50 per cent to 55 per cent of these people have a nonEnglish speaking background. We need to incorporate an appreciation of the culture of these groups within our society and their contribution to the Australian way of life. It is very difficult to assert that in an Australian context we should have a greater knowledge of other languages. After all we are a nation that does not lend itself to this. A United States study recently showed that learning a foreign language was a significant attitude towards people, and in particular that language learning beginning at primary level helped with the removal of prejudices and helped to develop appropriate social attitudes and social interests. We have had lots of discussions on migrant language and everybody knows the problems associated with it. I merely cite it as an example as one way in which if not a knowledge of a language at least an appreciation of a language would help in this matter of racial discrimination.
We should endeavour to get a social attitude towards the Bill which is before us. We talk about education and we talk about other matters, but the Bill should have what I will call social support. In short, the community should take unto itself not only the advantages and factors which the Bill lays down but also should be aware of the responsibilities which the Bill imposes. The only way, as the Bill states I think in clause 31, to bring about desirable human relationships is to change attitudes, customs, habits and practices. Long term education is really the only way in which this can be achieved. I said at the beginning that this Bill concerns human relationships as well as legislative processes. I believe, to be perfectly true, that legislation, worthy though it may be, cannot guarantee to heal racial discrimination. As we take up the Committee stage of the Bill, I commend to the Government the attitudes which have been put forward by Opposition senators. We endeavour in our society to try to solve everything by law. We seem to think that we can solve all the problems by Acts of Parliament. It is true that legislation is needed to help society, but for a society to live easily and happily- and that is what we are talking about- it is more important that society become aware of its own responsibilities. Therefore legislation, when it is put before society, should not so much provide things which we may not do but rather should provide guidelines so that a Bill such as this can contribute to what I will call an educated and responsible society.
It has been a great privilege to have before us a Bill of such importance and a great privilege to be involved in the debate. As one, like my fellows, who is concerned for the well being of our community I give the Bill support and look forward to the Committee stage of the debate.
– I rise to support the second reading of the Racial Discrimination Bill 1975 and also to support, at the same time, the amendments which the Liberal and National Country Parties will be proposing. I believe that together those 2 things will make this a Bill which can stand up in the community and of which we as a community can be proud. I do not intend to cover fields that already have been covered by other speakers in this debate, but I want to say in general terms that I am very much in support of the principles and the viewpoints which both Senator Chaney on a previous occasion and Senator Davidson tonight have outlined. I accord them my strong support. I believe the honourable senators have expressed the views which the joint parties are holding in respect of this legislation and which can rightly be claimed as valid justification for a Bill of this nature.
We are, of course, discussing a Bill which involves primarily and firstly the ratification of an international convention relating to the elimination of all forms of racial discrimination. There has been some tendency to take the debate beyond that. The Bill concerns racial discrimination in the broad sense in which it is interpreted in Article 1 of the Convention, namely, distinction, exclusion, restriction or preference based upon race, colour, descent or national or ethnic origin. The Bill is not in the narrow sense a mere matter of race but relates to those matters of prejudice which we know follow together in those various contexts. We have seen 81 countries ratify or accede to the International Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination. It is high time, to put it no further, that we in this country who signed the Convention on 13 October 1966 should proceed now to ratify it. Some of my colleagues have said that this is not perhaps the worst country in the world for racial discrimination, that this is certainly a country with its tradition of freedom that ought to be in the forefront of those that proclaim freedom from racial discrimination and that set a lead to other countries.
I refer again to a salient document, which was referred to by Senator Greenwood in this debate, namely, a letter we all received from the Anglican Archbishop of Melbourne, Dr Frank Woods. I refer particularly to the latter part of that letter. After he commended to members of Parliament the adoption in principle of this Bill, he said:
That there will be differences as to the manner of detailed implementation of the Convention is to be expected; indeed, it is to be welcomed so long as the differences are between individual groups or parties who share a common wish to give the values which are found in the Convention their best expression. I hope and pray that whatever differences arise are fairly and closely debated and that out of those discussions we shall have an Act which truly reflects the spirit of the Convention and is a real contribution to the better observance of Our Lord’s commandment that we love one another.
I suggest that our job is to find through debate and in the Committee stage the best possible method of implementing the Convention in this country. However, on these views there is difference in this chamber. When the subject was debated in the House of Representatives, there was a general unity of purpose on the part of members on both sides of the chamber and many were the illustrations of racial discrimination in this country. One cannot say that that has been the approach to the debate in this chamber. Because I stand here supporting the principles and views of this legislation, which the joint parties have adopted, I must refer to some of the remarks of my own colleagues on this side of the House because I do not believe they accord with the policies or with the principles which I espouse on this legislation.
I refer first to the remarks made on the Bill by Senator Sheil some time ago in this debate. I regret to say that in my opinion the speech that was made on that occasion was nothing but a denigration of the Convention and the Bill and it left no possible way in which the Bill could, in the honourable senator’s opinion, be amended so as to be satisfactory. He is, as all of us are, entitled to express his views. However, at the same time we have obligations, I believe, when we have taken part in the debate and in the deliberations that have produced the legislation or the view of the parties to this legislation. He said:
Australia over recent years has adopted an immigration policy that has allowed the immigration into this country of blacks, whites, reds, yellows and browns.
I strongly object to such expressions. They are a reflection on the general policy of immigration into this country for a number of years, and that policy has been administered by representatives from both sides of the chamber. The conclusion he draws is:
In other words, we are importing a problem into this country that has not been solved by any other country. Because of these problems, once again created by governments, we are now faced with this Racial Discrimination Bill. In my opinion, if this Bill is implemented it will create more discrimination, not less.
In other words, he takes the Bill as being totally unsatisfactory because it will in his opinion increase the discrimination that exists in this country. That is not my opinion. He continued by saying:
We must not allow the misuse of the words ‘the dignity and equality inherent in all human beings’ as used by the Minister for Manufacturing Industry (Senator James McClelland) in his second reading speech to cloud the hard scientific evidence that stands before us for all to see that wc are different.
I wonder what that means. Every one of us knows that we are all different. What is the significance of that difference? If the meaning of that is that some are inferior and some are to be regarded as such because of their colour or race, I reject that proposition. I do not think that anyone should derogate from the dignity and equality inherent in all human beings.
I will now read in this context a statement which was made on the nature of race and racial differences by a group of scientists, composed of physical anthropologists and geneticists, convened by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation in June 1951. They set out what they consider to have been scientifically established concerning individual and group differences, as follows:
The statement goes on to say that within a single race there are vast differences between people and that social changes occur without any necessary connection with race. I put it to honourable senators that one should not seek to find differences of this kind and I reject the statement to the contrary that has been made. Senator Sheil continued by saying:
Far from eliminating racial discrimination by making it illegal, the Bill will highlight the problems between the races and create an official race relations industry with a staff of dedicated anti-racists earning their living by making the most of every complaint in much the same way as does the Race Relations Board in the United Kingdom.
This is an assumption that governments cannot exercise control, an assumption that people who will enter into these groups and jobs will be seeking to build up just a business, and will not be devoted to the sincere and honest discharge of their jobs. I do not see any reason for thinking this will be so.
– It has been proven in England.
– I do not think it has been proven in England and I do not think that we have the same Act as England has. The honourable senator has not established in any way that this is the practice or that it will be so here. He continued by saying:
Any Bill which discriminates against Australians should be burnt. I hope that the amendments moved by the Opposition will lend some degree of sanity to the Bill.
That does not represent the policy of the joint parties nor does it represent the views of many members of the Opposition in the 2 Houses. I trust that it will not be thought to be so. Many senators coming into the chamber, having taken part in the efforts of creating policies and determining attitudes to Bills, sometimes find that they must work with and vote for clauses and Bills which they do not believe are particularly satisfactory. However, the honourable senator apparently prefers his own independent road in this matter. I do not believe that his attitude properly represents the attitude of the Opposition in regard to the debate.
I refer now to Senator Wood ‘s contribution to the debate. In dealing with these contributions I have no doubt of the sincerity of the speakers, but I regret to say that I believe the ideas which have been expressed are perhaps suited to the nineteenth century but not to the modern and difficult world in which we live today. Senator Wood proceeded to tell us that racialism in this country is less prevalent than in the great majority of countries. I would have thought that that was an obvious statement but, at the same time, racial discrimination is here. Undoubtedly it exists in all kinds of direction with the Aborigines and the Australians, with the Jewish people and other Australians, with the people who come here as migrants and it follows, as Senator Wood said, that if one speaks English, there is no difficulty. That is one of the problems with Australians. We expect that people who come here should immediately speak English as well as we do. In fact, we expect them to speak it better than most of us do and we discriminate against them if they cannot speak English.
– If we go to their country we are not expected to be able to speak their language.
– When we go to other countries we get very annoyed if the people do not understand us. Unfortunately this is a habit to which Australians are somewhat prone. I say there is discrimination in this country against migrants not only in respect of words but also in respect of jobs. We expect them to come here and do the dirty work in this country while at the same time we do not make friendships with them and absorb them into the best parts of our community. I say to Senator Wood that the expectation that they must speak our language is one of the indications of our discrimination against these people. Senator Wood said that if we bring in this Bill it will put ideas into the minds of people with dangerous results. If he means by that that those people will realise that there is discrimination against them and that they have a remedy, I think it is a good thing that they shall have a remedy, that they shall not continue to live in that state but will be able to improve their position in life.
Senator Wood raised an argument about the Jewish people. He said that they had developed a very worthy country and are, as I believe, people to be respected for what they have done. When it was drawn to his attention that they still suffer discrimination in this country, he preferred to say that that sort of discrimination brings the best out of people and that if they dig deep into themselves when they are discriminated against that is the way they improve their morale. I do not know how one should regard the extremes of Hitler in that regard but I do not believe that discrimination is a desirable thing for the purpose of improving the morale of people. If we can wipe it out of this country I think we will have better relationships and the morale of everybody will improve. I do not accept that type of explanation and excuse for racial discrimination in this country.
Senator Bunton was the third senator to speak in regard to this matter. If I were dealing with 3 wise monkeys I suppose that he would be the one who could see no evil because he has had a fortunate life of innocence in which he has never accepted that there is racial discrimination in this country. He said: ‘I am not prepared to admit that there is that pocket of racial discrimination in this country’. When Senator Cavanagh said that there were pockets of discrimination, Senator Bunton said that there was not even that. I think we all know, as has been established in this debate, that there are serious realms of discrimination.
– I said discrimination; not racial discrimination.
– I suggest that Senator Bunton should ask the Myer family how they will get into the Melbourne Club. Let him ask Jewish people in any of our cities how they will get into a lot of the golf clubs. He will find that they cannot doit.
– That is not racial discrimination; that is discrimination.
– The honourable senator has not read the Bill because the definition of racial discrimination in the Bill includes national discrimination and ethnic discrimination. These are matters of racial discrimination and are dealt with by this Bill. Of course they ought to be dealt with by this Bill. Consequently, in reply to Senator Bunton who said that he is not aware of blatant racial discrimination in this country, I put it to him that some of the worst forms of discrimination are those that are not even known or appreciated by people. They do not realise that someone has chosen someone else instead of them for a job on grounds of race. They do not realise that. It does not matter whether the discrimination is blatant or not. If it is there it is our duty to endeavour to stop it.
I turn from the remarks, which I regret I have had to make, in relation to the remarks of my colleagues who I believe have not appreciated the seriousness of this problem. I want to turn to what the Parties have said in support of this Bill. In his speech on the last occasion when this Bill was before the Senate Senator Chaney referred in part to the platform of the Liberal Party and the joint policies of the Liberal Party and the National Country Party. I wish to read a part of the platform of the Liberal Party under the heading of ‘Justice and Law Reform’, where we are pledged to:
Protect the civil liberties of the individual in society including the implementation of civil, political and social rights wherever applicable according to international conventions adopted by Australia, in fields of Commonwealth power or where the adoption of the convention has been approved by the States.
This is clearly one of those international conventions by which we are obliged to implement legislation and should be glad to do so. It is obvious that the common law has never developed in such a way that it would eliminate racial discrimination. Some people, generally nonlawyers, assume that the common law is a useful device for all kinds of remedies. Yet the common law allowed slavery to continue and allowed child labour. It is often necessary to provide conventions and laws whereby these things are eliminated. This Bill is important in that regard.
– When did the common law allow slavery to continue in England?
– It continued for many centuries.
– Lord Mansfield said: ‘Let the black go free, ‘ as soon as he landed.
– The honourable senator realises that England depended on the slave trade for a lot of its profit. The honourable senator is quite right in suggesting that slavery in England was outlawed in due course, but, on the other hand, for some considerable time after that until there was legislation the English people, I regret to say, flourished because of the slave trade. Legislation was required to abolish slavery.
– It took 19 consecutive sessions for Lord Wilberforce to get it through.
– That is not the question. The point I am making to the honourable senator-
– You referred to the common law.
-I did indeed. I said that statute law was necessary to eliminate this blot throughout the world and probably it has not successfully done it yet. The existing rights and remedies are costly and difficult to deal with racial discrimination. The areas covered by this Bill, such as recognition of the law dealing with employment, access to public places, land and housing accommodation, the selling of goods and even trade unions, need to be covered in this legislation. I think it is desirable that they should be covered.
Features of the Bill have already been discussed by many speakers in this debate. But I still place at the high point of my argument the fact that we are acknowledging a convention and the effect that that will have on the community from an educational point of view. One does not expect laws to overcome socially ingrained prejudices overnight. But one does expect that, within a generation, people will obey those laws. One need only remember that Catholic emancipation in England was achieved by laws. People would have said: ‘You cannot remove these prejudices’. But given a generation, the effect of the law and the effect of people’s desires to obey the law, one finds that social ideas change and these prejudices disappear. In an educational way that is an important part of this Bill. The Bill provides prohibitions. More importantly, it provides for the Commissioner for Community Relations to do what I believe should be a limited job. I will come to that matter in a few moments.
As other speakers have said, the Bill concentrates on conciliation first and the fact that people should have to undertake conciliation and then proceed to sue. I think our amendments will have some effect in highlighting that fact. I think the procedure includes no way of removing fortunately- nor does the Convention- that benign discrimination, that ability to assist people who are below the average in their standards of living or in their rights and privileges and whose standard may be brought up under the provisions of this Bill. This is carefully preserved in clause 8 of the Bill. As I have said, the Bill concentrates on the attempt to conciliate first and foremost. In respect of this matter I would like to read the words of the Director of the Ontario Human Rights Commission who explained what was done in relation to his body’s conciliation approach to racial discrimination. He said:
If the complained-of matter involves a housing matter, the respondent will be urged to act in good faith and offer the complainant housing; if it is a job, he might offer the individual immediate employment or assure him that, within a given period of time, employment will be forthcoming; if he has denied the complainant a haircut, he is asked to cut his hair; if he has denied resort accommodation, he will be required to offer it during the current or subsequent season. One of the greatest advantages of the conciliation procedure is that it encourages the specific performance of obligations, especially in relation to employment and housing, which apart from statutory powers the courts may be reluctant to enforce . . .
I put to the Senate that it is extremely important, therefore, that the concentration should be first on that area of development. The various other parts of this Bill- the protection of legal rights and the education angles which have been mentioned already- are, I think, worthy and, as Senator Davidson pointed out, will have a more long range effect in this community.
On the other hand, there are defects in this Bill that the Opposition has recognised. I want to concentrate briefly on just two of those matters with which I think it is absolutely essential to deal. One is the provisions in the Bill that allow the Commissioner of Race Relations not only to conciliate but also to proceed then to gather evidence by an unusual method and then to proceed to institute proceedings at law. It is the belief of the Opposition- I believe that it is absolutely sound- that to allow all those things to be done by one person would be inconsistent. It would be possible for the Commissioner if he were experiencing difficulty to say: ‘If you do not like this, I am going to take action against you’. It would be possible for him, therefore, to enforce and not to use the real benefits of conciliation. It is for that reason that one of the proposed amendments of the Opposition is designed to divide that task, to let the Commissioner proceed with all speed and with all power to conciliation where possible and then, if that does not succeed, to allow for and to give proper legal aid to persons to enable them to proceed to enforce the rights they then have. So they have a certificate saying that they have tried conciliation, and then you proceed. If this were not so one might run the risk of inflaming the situation and making someone a martyr. By imposing criminal penalties one might make him embittered for life. I think that the concentration should be added to by making the Commissioner a separate person and body so that he can proceed without being divided and muddled in his views.
In my opinion, the second main alteration that should be made to this Bill is the elimination of clause 28, which provides for a restriction on the dissemination of views that I, and I should think most other members of the Senate, would find objectionable. I take the view- it is not a view I have formed very quickly- that it is quite undesirable in this community to try to eliminate by force of law the expression of certain ideas. There are 3 quotations that I think we ought to bear in mind in this respect. One is the statement in the New Testament: ‘Ye shall know the truth and the truth shall make ye free’. The second is Voltaire’s statement: ‘I disapprove of what you say but I will defend to death your right to say it’. The third is Milton’s remark: ‘Whoever knew the truth put to the worst in a free and open encounter?’ We might have some doubts about the last. Sometimes the truth might appear to disappear but overall I believe it is important in this community to respect the right of people to make the disagreeable statement. I have long taken the view publicly that I think Communists ought to have the right to organise and the right to speak in this community. I take the same view of Nazis. If they do overt acts, that is a different matter, but if they only express their crazy views this society must be judged by its ability to withstand those views and to have them heard. The same applies even more so in the case of statements on racial discrimination. It does not matter whether the people who make their views known have twisted minds as long as they can express thenviews. We have to be resistant in this community. We must not try to drive them out by legislation.
It is in that respect that the Convention is somewhat obscure because, although it does call upon nations to make punishable by law the offence of the dissemination of ideas based upon racial superiority or hatred, the Convention also says that each State Party shall prohibit and bring to an end, by all appropriate means including legislation as required by the circumstances, racial discrimination by all persons, groups or organisations. Obviously in this country it is not an appropriate means to deny the dissemination of ideas. Article V of the Convention provides that one of the things that must be taken into consideration is that everybody must be able to enjoy the right to freedom of opinion and expression. So we must preserve all of those things. For that reason I believe that clause 28 must be deleted from this Bill.
Over the last few months I think all of us have received an extraordinary collection of material mostly campaigning against this Bill. A lot of documents- some of them quite anonymousexpress views in heated language. Some refer to the ‘Race Relations Bill’- they do not even get the name of the Bill right- and urge not the amendment of the Bill but the removal of the Bill. One of the documents I have in front of me talks about a new tribe of racial officials, who will be racial police, being set up, who need not be members of the Public Service, or of Australian nationality. It goes on to say:
Under the innocuous badge of banning racial discrimination the Labor Party has introduced the apparatus of the Police State, with its secret Police, empowered to engage in inquisitorial investigations, fines, imprisonment, arrest, damages and injunctions.
What we must make sure is that there is nothing in the Bill which will justify any statements like that, that one will know the extremity of the expressions which are designed to cause fear. In another document which the National White Australia Policy League has sent to us all there is reference to the ‘Stalinistic formula’ in this Bill. The document says:
It is cooked up ostensibly to protect Aborigines and other ethnic groups from so-called ‘ race hatred ‘.
I emphasise the words ‘so-called race hatred’. The document goes on to talk about this inquisition and says:
By its policy of seeking deliberately through immigration to undermine the national character, the Government has succeeded in causing an understandable disquiet and what it calls ‘racism’- but what is merely legitimate criticism.
One can see in this the high desire of organisations like that to protect themselves and, of course, they must be protected in speaking but not in putting into practice those types of attitudes. In another publication ‘Intelligence Survey ‘ one finds remarks like this:
– Like Mr Grassby, who has been commented on so unfavourably by Senator Greenwood and Senator Wright.
– I am referring, of course, to the use of the expression ‘southern European’, which is apparently to be seen in itself as a denigration, and I say that that is more evidence- I will not join in the argument- of the desire to promote racial disharmony in this country. The last of these objectionable arguments to which I wish to refer is the document received from the Immigration Restriction Council which has accused us of merely following the Party line of seeking the migrant vote. To illustrate the obscenity of the argument I read from the document:
This Bill will place a restriction on one of our basic freedoms- the freedom of choice. It is natural to discriminate . . .
Further on in the document the Council says:
People cannot be forced to accept aliens who endanger their way of life by legislative force . . .
Migrant rackets could conceivably increase as it would be difficult to reveal without the risk of prosecution under the Bill.
We know that the rate of crime among migrants in our community is remarkably low. I have referred in this House only to extracts from those documents to show that the campaign against this Bill is a campaign not to reform it, not to improve it- that is the objective of the .Oppositionbut to destroy it because those documents and the telegrams and other papers that have been received contain the words ‘Destroy the Bill’. I trust that this Parliament will see the defeat of that sort of campaign by reforming the Bill in such a way that it will be able to stand beyond challenge. I believe that with that, the Bill will be successful and will be valuable to our community. Therefore, with those amendments in mind, I warmly support the Bill.
– Unfortunately, Mr Acting Deputy President, I have not had the opportunity to hear all the debate on this Bill. I have mixed feelings about it because for so many years of my life I have known racial prejudice and discrimination. I have leaned to the thought that one could not legislate for human attitudes and human feelings. I believe that we should be looking at a very extensive program to educate all Australians to a better understanding and a better appreciation of those people in the community who have different coloured skin, who are of different nationalities or who have different religious beliefs. Over the last few years, particularly since becoming a senator for Queensland, I have had the opportunity to travel quite extensively throughout Australia. To my consternation, to my hurt and to my shame I have found throughout this country discrimination and prejudice aimed particularly at one of the minority groups. I speak particularly of the Aboriginal community.
I have had the opportunity to read some of the speeches on this Bill. Some have said that there is no discrimination. I say to all and sundry: Ask an Italian, a Sicilian, or a Greek who has been called, to use some of the denigrating terms that have been used, a wop or a greaser or ask a Jew who has been called a hooknose or a moneybags whether he knows what discrimination is. Ask some of the Aboriginal people who have been called boongs Abos and such like whether there is discrimination. There is discrimination and we must do something about it. I congratulate the Government for introducing this Bill, and 1 have congratulated it on other occasions for some of its enlightened legislation and attitudes towards the indigenous people. This evening I congratulate it again for bringing this Bill to the Parliament. I do not agree with the Bill in its entirety. Some amendments are to be moved by my Party, and I will be supporting them.
I return to my earlier remarks. For many years I believed that one could not legislate for human attitudes. I still believe that. This evening I have mixed feelings to some extent because I have travelled and have seen what has happened to members of my race. Perhaps if there is a law which says that we cannot discriminate against people some hope and some dignity will be given back to members of my race. Perhaps a law which says that they can now go to a certain area or that now they cannot be discriminated against in employment is a law that will protect them. Whether legislation can force people to do these things may not be the main issue as far as I and my people are concerned. Maybe such a law will now give them some confidence because they will know that the law of this land and the parliaments of this land have said: ‘Enough, enough. No more discrimination against those who are less fortunate in the community, those who have a different coloured skin, those who speak a different tongue or those who are not so well educated. Now they can be free citizens in our community’.
This evening someone said something about freedom that was given in England. Sure, we can say that the people in Australia are free. We say that there are opportunities for all. What are opportunities if one is not able to take advantage of them? Take this example: One is living in pretty appalling conditions, and sees an advertisement in a paper that flats are available in a certain area or a house is available to rent. One rings the number that is quoted in the newspaper and says to the person: ‘I saw your advertisement in the newspaper. You have a house to rent’. The person replies: ‘Yes’. One says: ‘Look, I am coming round to see you’. The person replies: ‘By all means do’. One goes to the address and knocks on the door. A man comes to the door. He says: What do you want?’ One replies: ‘I am here in answer to your advertisement’. He says: ‘Sorry, the house is not available. It was taken 5 minutes ago’. One cannot say that he was doing that because one is an Aborigine, but it seems very strange that within 15 or 20 minutes, somehow or other, the house has been taken and is not available. The man has seen that one is black. Is that freedom?
I quote a case in which I was involved 8 or 9 years ago. I was manager of a farm. Unfortunately the company which owned it was closing down. It gave me a month’s notice. During that month I scanned the newspapers because I had 7 children at school and I had to support and feed them. I was looking for another job. There were advertisements in the papers about a manager required for a farm or for a family to work a farm. I answered one of these advertisements. I took my son with me. We drove to the farm. A chap met us at the gate. He leaned over the gate and said: ‘What do you chaps want?’ Prior to that I had rung him and he had told me to come and look at the house and conditions, how far it would be for my children to go to school, and so on. At that time I did not tell him I was an Aborigine. I was just talking to him on the telephone. When we arrived he said: ‘Yes, what do you chaps want?’ I said: ‘I am Neville Bonner. I spoke to you on the telephone about the job on the farm’. He said: ‘I am sorry, it would not be available to you. I could not have an Aborigine working on my farm because we are supplying milk’. There is no discrimination, according to some people.
– Obviously you will vote for the Bill.
– I have already explained that I am supporting the Bill. For the benefit of the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs who was not in the chamber earlier, I have said also that on occasions 1 have congratulated his Government for some of its enlightened attitudes to Aborigines, and I was congratulating his Government for introducing this Bill. I think I should enlighten the Minister as he has just come into the chamber. I am supporting the Bill, but I am supporting also the amendments which will be moved because there are some areas in the Bill that concern me greatly. I think that certain people whom the Bill is designed to protect will not get that protection. I am afraid I do not have a copy of the Bill with me. I cannot quote the relevant clauses. I believe that freedon of speech is something that all of us have enjoyed for many years. I hope we will continue to enjoy it.
I am a little concerned because many young Aboriginal people in the community today have become impatient for change. They have become angry young men and angry young women. We have had examples of this in demonstrations against the Department of Aboriginal Affairs. I refer to demonstrations in George Street, Brisbane, and in Canberra, against the previous Government and against the present Government. I wonder whether there is an area in the Bill through which Aborigines will suffer. The Bill is supposed to protect them. Because of past discrimination and things that have happened in the past, a group of young Aboriginal men and women could become angry, and outside this place they could shout, ‘Down with the whitey ‘, or something about some race of people. Under this Bill they can then be summonsed, taken to court and gaoled or what have you. So I still have some mixed feelings about this Bill. I do not wish to go over all the ground that has been traversed by a number of speakers. I reserve my right to say more on the amendments that will be moved at the Committee stage.
-I shall be brief. I wish to add but little to the debate. I should like to subscribe to the views, philosophy and concern which I believe were very well expressed by Senator Chaney. I wish to add a little which I believe has not so far been adverted to in the debate in relation to the experience of the Race Relations Board in the United Kingdom. I think it is of some interest to look at that Board’s experience, not in any way to say that this Bill should be altered in its approach or that we could do other than perhaps give some thought to the experience in the United Kingdom in reviewing from time to time how this legislation will operate in Australia. It is of some interest to note that in the calendar year 1972 a total of 908 complaints were made to the Race Relations Board and that the Board formed the opinion that there had been some discrimination in 181 of those cases. It is a relatively low percentage but it may be of some relevance to the sort of approach that is adopted under this legislation with which we are now dealing.
Table 9 of the 1972 report of the Race Relations Board in the United Kingdom shows the completed cases for the period 1968 to 1972. One sees that in relation to only one category of complaints disposed of in that period of 5 full years did the Board, after investigation, make a finding of discrimination in more than 30 per cent of the cases in the category. In most instances the figure was less than 15 per cent of the total cases in a particular category. I thought that it would also be interesting to have discussions with some of the people who work for the Board and to inquire of them, as a result of the experience which they have had, whether they believe that their Board serves a useful purpose, structured as it is. I was somewhat surprised to find that eventually they were prepared to say that they believed it was more properly a matter of human rights than a matter of racial discrimination in the approach which should be adopted.
That has been my reservation about this legislation- not in any way in relation to the objective which is attempted to be achieved but to the mode of approach and whether you are not better to view all citizens in Australia as being entitled to certain rights and certain protection by law, whether they are of a particular race, of a particular religion, or of a background or origin which may mark them as a minority group. I have always wondered whether our approach may not be better if we were not to emphasise racial discrimination as though it were the only form of discrimination that mattered but rather to concentrate on ensuring the human rights of all Australian citizens in relation to racial discrimination or any other form of discrimination. I simply make that as a contribution not in any way to take away from this Bill which I propose to support in general but rather as a matter which I believe is worth considering. I hope that this Bill will be reviewed from time to time to see whether it has achieved and continues to achieve the objectives which I believe honourable senators from both sides of the chamber wish it to achieve. I again indicate that I warmly support and adopt the general views, philosophy and concern which were so ably expressed by Senator Chaney and others.
– In reply I will be quite brief in summing up this debate. I am very grateful that the level of the debate was raised in the latter stages by the contributions of Senator Chaney, Senator Missen, Senator Bonner and
Senator Rae. I think that we got into the doldrums, that we got on to a fairly low level, when Senator Sheil and Senator Wood, I am afraid I have to say, were discussing this matter; but I think that the debate has been brought back to the appropriate level by the last speakers for the Opposition. I know that it is always a bit embarrassing for one’s political opponents to be praised from this side of the chamber but I must say that in my dealings with Senator Missen and Senator Chaney, especially on the committees with which I have been involved with them, I have become accustomed to a very high level of involvement in the issues which we were discussing: If I may say so, with respect, I thought that the contribution made by Senator Missen tonight was on a very high level and expressed all the aspirations which we on this side of the chamber have for this Bill.
I think that I have to deal briefly with some of the objections that have been raised, especially by Senator Greenwood who, among other things, expressed some doubts as to the constitutionality of the Bill. As is well known, this Bill introduces into Australian law obligations contained in the International Convention for the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. Senator Greenwood quite correctly pointed out that in 1966 the Liberal Government, which preceded the present Government, supported this Convention before the United Nations. As he said, Senator Greenwood supports this Bill. Varying degrees of support for this Bill have emanated from the Opposition. Senator Greenwood supports the Bill with qualifications. Senator Wright, who has not contributed to the debate, opposes the Bill by grunts. Senator- Missen, Senator Chaney and Senator Bonner have expressed quite eloquent and quite moving support for the Bill. I should like to deal briefly with the legal caveat that Senator Greenwood places on the constitutionality of the Bill. He pointed out that it is based on the defence power given under placitum (xxix) of section 5 1 of the Constitution, and he expressed certain reservations.
– The external affairs power.
– I am sorry, the external affairs power. Senator Greenwood expressed certain reservations as to the dangers of this sort of extension of the Commonwealth power. I think that Senator Greenwood ‘s objection or fears about the constitutionality of the Bill have to be adverted to. He expressed the fears that have been sometimes expressed by conservatives in the country about this business of using the external affairs power to adopt
United Nations conventions and thereby to introduce new elements into our law. Senator Greenwood said that he feared that these conventions could be used to override virtually all the provisions of the Constitution simply to give effect to obligations which have been made with small and relatively insignificant neighbours. He expressed this view: . . The Bill would be challenged in due course before the High Court of Australia. If it is challenged it will provide the opportunity for which many people have been waiting when the scope of the external affairs power may be the subject of a judicial delineation.
I do not take that expression of opinion by Senator Greenwood as indicating any real reservations about the basis of this Bill or the desirability of the principles of this Bill becoming law, but it does give expression to an opinion sometimes voiced by lawyers that the foreign affairs power, especially in relation to treaties and conventions, could be abused. There is another passage in Senator Greenwood’s speech which suggests that we could enter into some snide arrangement with some unimportant country and in that way override all of the provisions of the Constitution. 1 do not think Senator Greenwood is really serious about this. I suggest that Senator Greenwood would have sufficient confidence in the good sense of the High Court to know that any abuse of the foreign affairs placitum in the Constitution would be subject to the scrutiny of the judges of the High Court. We do not really have to fear that some subterfuge would be used by any government to enlarge the powers of the Federal Parliament in the way in which he suggests. In any event, as suggested in the passage that I have quoted, if there is any doubt about the constitutionality of this Bill we can confidently leave it to the High Court to decide the matter. I am sure that Senator Greenwood would agree with me that we do not have anything to fear in regard to the impartiality of the High Court in deciding the limitations of the foreign affairs power in this regard.
I turn to another of the criticisms which Senator Greenwood made of this Bill. He said, in what I found to be a quite refreshing passage, that much as he dislikes communists, much as he dislikes fascists, he respects their right to disseminate ideas. It was very refreshing to find Senator Greenwood in this unfamiliar, Voltairian role. The appropriate passage from Voltaire was quoted by Senator Missen. Voltaire said:
I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.
Some honourable senators might find that to be an odd comment from Senator Greenwood whose comments on other matters would have suggested that he would not have been nearly so tolerant of dissident opinions as he has said in this debate he is. We on this side of the chamber applaud his conversion to libertarian views. We trust that we will hear more of this enlightened view from him when he speaks on other legislation that comes before the chamber.
– It is the view he put forward in 195 1 on the Communist Party Dissolution Bill. It is not a recent view.
-Senator Greenwood did, did he?
– Yes. In fairness to Senator Greenwood, it is no recent conversion. It was 25 years ago.
– I am grateful for those reminders from the other side of the chamber. I give Senator Greenwood full credit for his glorious past, but we on this side, judging him from his more recent history, could have been forgiven for thinking that he did not have quite such a liberal view. As I say, I do not know what Senator Greenwood stood for in 1951 or 1952.
– We do not want to go too far back into the past, do we, senator?
– I will go back as far as the honourable senator likes. It is totally irrelevant to what we are talking about, but I take Senator Greenwood’s comment to mean that my past will not stand all that much examination. I am prepared to have my past submitted to the closest scrutiny and to admit that I have espoused extreme views which I no longer hold. But I feel that I have moved from what might be calledilliberalism to an enlightened view. I fear, judging from what I have heard from Senator Greenwood, that his movement, intellectually, rationally and emotionally, has not been forward but sadly has been backward. I am glad to know that there was a time when he held enlightened views. I would love to be provided with any documentary evidence- any writings, any record- of a time when Senator Greenwood was a general liberal. I appeal to honourable senators opposite to provide me with such documentary evidence.
In any event, I got an impression in listening to Senator Greenwood in this debate that he was a reluctant supporter of a Bill to outlaw racial discrimination, and I hasten to add that I am not attempting to overstate the case. I do not for one moment believe that Senator Greenwood is in favour of racial discrimination. I believe that his innate conservatism induces him to oppose any interference with the status quo. A careful examination of his speech during the second reading debate reveals that his motivation really is that this is a Bill which alters the status quo. He says, in effect, that you cannot legislate to change human conduct. Of course, nobody on this side of the chamber believes that you can legislate to change human conduct. There would not be a person in the chamber who would believe that the most detailed, careful statute could, for instance, turn Senator Wright into anything but what he is. There is no way legislatively of turning a brontosaurus into a human being.
– Could a clydesdale win the Melbourne Cup?
– It is possible, but not by legislation. Senator Greenwood, restraining himself as best he could and doing his best not to line up with a Neanderthal wing of his Party, as represented by Senator Sheil and, I am sorry to say, Senator Wood, used a softer term. He talked about exacerbating tensions. He suggested that if this Bill were passed we would be exacerbating tensions. I have been reminded by my Whip that this is not a subject that we want to pursue indefinitely, no matter how much Senator Wright might like to grunt on into the night with his Neanderthal objection to our policy. I will content myself with closing the debate on that note, and I look forward to having a detailed examination of the measure in Committee.
-Mr Acting Deputy President, I wish to make a personal explanation.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Georges)- Does the honourable senator claim to have been misrepresented?
-The Minister for Manufacturing Industry (Senator James McClelland) in his contorted mind misrepresented me by alleging that I did not support the Bill. I support the Bill with the amendments that the Opposition will move, despite the silent noises he heard from his own environment- grunts in the stye.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Georges)- In conformity with the sessional order relating to the adjournment of the Senate, I formally put the question:
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– I rise to speak in the adjournment debate because after 10 months I was today given answers to 2 questions which I had put on notice.
– What are you complaining about? It used to take me 1 8 months.
– I hear Senator Poyser say that it took him 18 months. I will just wait for him to give chapter and verse, if he can. On 4 July 1974 the Minister for Labor and Immigration, Mr Clyde Cameron, commented on a decision of the Full Bench of the Australian Industrial Court which fined a candidate in a Miscellaneous Workers Union election $450 for illegally possessing ballot papers. I make no comment on that case or the judgment. What I comment upon is what the Minister said. What he said is contained in the ‘Australian Government Digest’ for the period July 1974 to 30 September 1974. At page 727 the Minister is quoted as having said:
Previous Governments, although they have given massive verbal support to the proposition that ballots should be conducted officially and cleanly, have never attempted to enforce the provisions that ensure they are conducted properly.
Later he said:
There is ample evidence that supporters of the National Civic Council have been committing breaches of the law, and attempting to corrupt the conduct of union ballots. Enormous amounts of money have been spent by the groups, and quite elaborate machinery has been used to manipulate the voting in officially conducted ballots.
I was interested in 2 aspects. Firstly, the allegation that previous governments had never attempted to enforce the law, and secondly, the assertion that there was ample evidence that the National Civic Council, of which I know relatively little except that it has a very vigorous record opposing communism, had committed breaches of the law and had attempted to corrupt the conduct of union ballots. If there was evidence of such breaches, obviously there should have been prosecutions and I was not aware of any such prosecutions. So I asked the Minister 2 questions and put them on the Senate notice paper on 10 July 1974. In regard to those questions I did not ask, as I have had to ask constantly in respect of other questions, for a reply. I waited to see how long it would take and in the ordinary course it took 10 months. I regret to say that I did not get answers. One question I asked was whether the Minister had made the statement I have just quoted. I asked:
The Minister evaded the answer. What he said to each of those questions was ‘Yes’. I am at a loss to understand ‘Yes’ in that context really amounts to. He went on to say:
In commenting after a decision by the Australian Industrial Court in a case involving interference with a union ballot the Minister made it clear that the Government would not tolerate a situation where officially conducted ballots were interfered with in the future. Any person who commits a breach of the Act in respect of union ballots will be prosecuted. It is a fact that in 1965 a person was fined £25 on a charge of attempting to obtain a ballot paper to which he was not entitled. However, it is not proposed to embark on a search’ through the history of union elections since section 1 7 1 was inserted into the Conciliation and Arbitration Act in 1949 to attempt to ascertain those cases in which action could have been taken but in which nothing was done.
I simply make these points: Firstly, why, after 10 months, does the Minister say that it is not proposed to embark on a search throughout history? Secondly, I entertain the suspicion that in the intervening 10 months some attempt was made to search through history to find some facts and that no facts to meet what the Minister had said were able to be found. Thirdly, why, if that be the case, did the Minister have the temerity to say that the previous Government had never attempted to enforce the law, when there was not one iota of evidence to justify that assertion? His statement received a lot of publicity at the time. It was that which attracted my attention. It was part of the campaign of denigration of the previous Government in which the present Government is adept. But this is one instance in which the Minister’s assertion is proved to be abundantly false. The Minister has not a feather to fly with, as his answer discloses. He did not answer the question and by his non-answer he revealed that tie could not justify what he had said.
The other question which was asked was whether or not the Minister had said that there was ample evidence that supporters of the National Civic Council had been committing breaches of the law and attempting to corrupt the conduct of ballots and, if so, why. I asked the Minister:
The Minister was, once again, at a loss to find an adequate answer. He answered all the questions comprehensively and simply said:
It is well known that ballots for office in trade unions have been the subject of activity by various groups seeking to gain control of the unions. It is not proposed to go back into past events on these matters.
Once again one asks: Why, after 10 months, is that said? I also entertain the suspicion that the effort was made to ascertain whether there were any examples in the past and that no examples were able to be found. The Minister’s answer continues:
The significance of the Minister’s statement was to indicate that in future any evidence of interference in officially conducted ballots would be thoroughly investigated with a view to action before the Commonwealth Industrial Court.
There was not one word to answer these questions: Have breaches of the law been committed by members of the National Civic Council? If breaches of the law have occurred, why have no prosecutions taken place? Will prosecutions take place? What is disclosed, in fact, is that there is no evidence of breaches of the law taking place. Why, therefore, has the Minister made this accusation? Is it not a further attempt to denigrate a well known anti-communist organisation?
There are further implications. In the first place, the statement of the Minister and the long delayed answer reveal that the Minister made what was apparently a considered statement and that the facts do not bear out what he said. Let there be no mistake: Those statements were untrue. They were false. But it took some 10 months for the Minister to reveal that they were false. One supposes that he feels that after a lapse of 10 months no one will be particularly concerned at the fact that he was misleading those who would read his statement. If the Standing Orders would permit it, one could accuse the Minister of standing exposed for his mendacity. I do not think the Standing Orders would permit it, so I will not say it.
The Minister, quite clearly, made a reckless statement, obviously not caring whether it was true or false. He now stands exposed for the falsity of that statement. Mr Cameron is a Minister of the Crown and one ought to be able to expect something better from him. The implications of this statement are not to be ignored. If a Minister is prepared to make statements of that character which have absolutely no basis in fact, what reliance can be put on other statements which he has made? If a Minister makes statements of that character which are found subsequently to have no truth it means that one must doubt other statements he makes from time to time.
It is not the first time that Ministers of the Government, let alone members of the Australian Labor Party, have made statements which have been proved to be false by subsequent events. It is a sorry pattern of development in this country that a government seeks to remain in office upon its support of untrue assertions about its political opponents. In this particular case widespread publicity was given in the national Press to the allegations which the Minister made and which now have been proved to be a scandalous lie. The Minister now ought to indicate to the public that it is such a lie and make the appropriate apologies. I raised this matter in an adjournment debate simply to highlight the fact and to indicate that even if 10 months have elapsed there are some people who are vigilant. There ought to be an acknowledgement by the Minister that what he said last year was completely untrue.
– I cannot do any more than re-state what the Minister for Labor and Immigration, Mr Clyde Cameron, said in answer to the questions. In reply to the question which Senator Greenwood asked about the alleged default by supporters of the National Civic Council, Mr Cameron said:
It is well known that ballots for office in trade unions have been the subject of activity by various groups seeking to gain control of the unions. It is not proposed to go back into past events on these matters. The significance of the Minister’s statement was to indicate that in future any evidence of interference in officially conducted ballots would be thoroughly investigated with a view to action before the Commonwealth Industrial Court.
I do not know what claims were made about intervention by the National Civic Council or the years in which it was complained that it was active. All I can do is advise the Minister about the comments made by Senator Greenwood. The second question was Question No. 20 and in it Senator Greenwood asked:
Did the Minister, on or about 4 July 1974, state that previous Governments had never attempted to enforce the provisions of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act so as to ensure that trade union ballots were conducted properly; …
I will read what Mr Cameron said in answer to that question. He said:
Yes. In commenting after a decision by the Australian Industrial Court in a case involving interference with a Union ballot the Minister made it clear that the Government would not tolerate a situation where offically conducted ballots were interfered with in the future. Any person who commits a breach of the Act in respect of union ballots will be prosecuted. It is a fact that in 196S a person was fined £25 on a charge of attempting to obtain a ballot paper to which he was not entitled. However, it is not proposed to embark on a search through the history of union elections since section 1 7 1 was inserted into the Conciliation and Arbitration Act in 1949 to attempt to ascertain those cases in which action could have been taken but in which nothing was done.
All I can say is that the Minister’s answer indicates to me that Senator Greenwood was asking for an examination of cases in retrospect and which might have to be researched. The Minister said that we were not going to research them but that in future we would take certain action. If Senator Greenwood disputes that, all I can do is indicate to the Minister the comments he made and ask him for a reply to what Senator Greenwood said tonight.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 11.14 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Education, upon notice:
– The Minister for Education has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Education, upon notice:
What evidence exists to prove the assertion of the Sydney Metropolitan Water, Sewerage and Drainage Board that, mindful of its large migrant workforce, it does, as an employer, participate in English classes conducted by the Australian Government.
– The Minister for Education has provided the following reply to the honourable senator ‘s question:
I am informed that the Sydney Metropolitan Water, Sewerage and Drainage Board is not aware of having made the assertion which the honourable senator has attributed to it.
Non-Government School Libraries
– On 17 April 1975, Senator Guilfoyle asked me, as Minister representing the Minister for Education, the following question, without notice:
My question to the Minister representing the Minister for Education relates to the secondary school libraries program which operates under the States Grants (Schools) Act 1973-74. The Government recently announced the provision of a sum of $ 1 .9m for non-government school libraries, part of which would be available for schools which have built libraries in terms of a previous scheme and which may have had an expectation of receiving further assistance under that scheme. Can the Minister advise the Senate of the policy used to allocate these funds? Is the Minister aware of the serious difficulties now experienced by many nongovernment schools which had built libraries in the expectation of a firm commitment of government support which in some cases has now been reduced by 50 per cent? Does the Minister agree that the Press statement and the formal advice to the schools concerned referring to the payment of short-falls for completed libraries do not fairly state that the present Government has not fulfilled government commitments which led schools to improve their library facilities?’
In my answer to the question I undertook to refer the matter to the Minister for Education for his advice. The Minister has provided the following information:
Under the States Grants (Schools) Act 1973-74, the Australian Government has provided a sum of $2,872,500 for assistance in respect of non-government secondary school libraries during the calendar years 1974 and 1975. One third of this amount is being used for books and other resources while the other two-thirds, or $1,915,000 is being used to complete libraries in accordance with the levels of provision defined in the ‘Guidelines for Library Services in Secondary Schools’.
While the greater part of this $1,915,000 will be spent on new buildings I agreed on advice from the Schools Commission that some funds would be available for schools which had already built libraries with some expectation, but with no guarantees, of further assistance from the previous libraries scheme and which were in financial difficulties. These difficulties arose because the library Grants which the schools received under legislation passed by the previous Liberal-Country Party Government were less than they had hoped to receive, and because costs have risen markedly in the period which intervened between the commencement of projects by some schools and their completion.
The first of these factors, that is the difference between the grant actually made to a school and the level of grant which that school expected it would ultimately receive is known as the project ‘shortfall’. The Schools Commission has considered the position of all schools that have a shortfall with a view to providing further assistance to those schools with the greatest relative need.
The State Priorities Committees, which have been established in each State to assist the Schools Commission in determining priorities and levels of assistance for individual building projects on all non-government schools, were asked to consider the needs of such schools. The Committees were requested to take all pertinent factors into account, including the availability of funds, the situation of schools urgently in need of new library buildings, the sizes of the shortfalls concerned, and the Committee’s assessment of financial difficulties caused by partial grant payments.
After taking account of the advice of the State Priorities Committees the Schools Commission recommended to me that grants be made to selected schools. I accepted this advice and have announced grants totalling $777,170 to assist 96 schools that received partial funding for libraries built during 1969-74. In addition I have approved further grants of $363,230 to assist another 9 schools that built libraries during the period 1969-74 without receiving any financial assistance whatsoever. As indicated above the Government was aware of the difficulties facing some schools. Within the limits of the funds available it has taken steps to alleviate the difficulties of those schools with the greatest needs in the light of the advice of the State Priorities Committees whose members for the most part are representatives of the non-government schools.
The other factor of considerable concern to schools is the fact that between the time of accepting a contract to build a library and its completion, the price of the facility increased to a level higher than originally estimated. This element is known as the ‘cost over-run’. The Australian Government, as part of its decision on the recommendations in ‘Schools in Australia’- the Karmel Report, accepted a commitment to meet increases due to inflation above the nominal cost of the library in respect of library buildings projects for nongovernment schools in the States which had been or would by 3 1 December 1974 have been approved under the legislation governing the Secondary Schools Libraries Program, i.e. the States Grants (Secondary Schools Libraries) Acts of 1968 and 1971.
The estimated cost, at the time, of those commitments arising from escalating costs was $1,280,000. Provision for the payment of this amount, of which $1,200,000 has already been paid, was made in the States Grants (Schools) Act 1973.
Because it is now clear that the significant increases in building costs have made this sum insufficient for that particular purpose, the Government will seek Parliamentary approval at a later date this year for the provision of sufficient additional funds to meet the further ‘over-run’ costs.
The Government has not failed to honour a commitment. All indications of likely Government grants to the individual non-government schools to which your question refers were given on the clear understanding that such amounts would be available only if that libraries program continued. That libraries program ended on 3 1 December 1974.
As I have said above, the difficulties referred to by Senator Guilfoyle came about under legislation introduced by the previous Government. The Labor Government has recognised these difficulties and already we have provided grants in excess of $1.14 million to assist many of the schools that received partial building grants under the previous Government’s legislation. We have also made available an additional $1.28 million to meet increases in the building costs of libraries in non-government schools and $1.20 million of this has been paid. The Government has agreed that further funds should be made available for this purpose and legislation will be introduced in the Parliament at an appropriate time. It cannot be said, therefore, that we are ignoring the predicaments of the schools to which the Senator refers. On the contrary, $2.42m has already been committed to assist those schools that got into difficulties under the previous Government’s legislation.
The whole problem arises from an ambiguous library offer formula used prior to the assumption of office of the Whitlam Government. The standard form of words for the formula was:
Ultimately we propose to pay the whole cost of an approved building project provided that the cost is agreed by us to be reasonable and to assist you with the purchase of library books, furniture and equipment to the extent recommended by the Libraries Committee. I cannot say when further assistance can be given, however, because that depends on the availability of funds, the priority recommended for your school, and Parliament agreeing to the extension of the scheme beyond the current triennium.’
The wording used is imprecise as to obligation and timing and in fact constitutes no security to the school. It encouraged schools to go into debt and it left a problematic assistance to a future Parliament.
The procedures envisaged by the previous government in that offer are followed by this Goverment, namely:
1 ) A non-government school priority committee recommends grants for the ‘shortfall ‘.
Payment is out of appropriations the Parliament agrees upon, the present Parliament being one of the future Parliaments envisaged.
Payments have been made in this biennium 1974 and 1975.
It is competent for the Schools Commission in its submission for the next triennium to make recommendations for grants to cover the neglect of previous governments and to assist schools out of predicaments into which this slipshod arrangement led them. The schools have no legal claim, but the interest burden left on them is reducing the benefit of present recurrent grants. It is a disastrous example of inadequate action.’
asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs, upon notice:
– The answers to the honourable senator’s questions are as follows:
Mercury Level in Fish (Question No. 503)
asked the Minister representing the Minster for Health, upon notice:
– The Minister for Health has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Health, upon notice:
– The Minister for Health has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Services and Property, upon notice:
Did the Australian Electoral Office computer on 18 May 1974 ascertain the aggregate votes for the House of Representatives election for Australia as a whole and also separate aggregates for each of the States; if so, will the Minister provide the seven tables showing the voting position for at least the following times, viz.: half-hourly tallies from 9.00 p.m. until the close of counting for the night.
– The Minister for Services and Property has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Yes, the computer used by the Australian Electoral Office produced details of the aggregate votes recorded for all candidates and political parties in respect of each State and Australia as a whole in relation to the 1974 House of Representatives elections. The Australian Electoral Office is undertaking a statistical study of the computer data in relation to these elections but it is not yet in a position to publish details of this study.
Roads in Indonesian Timor
– On 27 February 1975, Senator Sir Magnus Cormack directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate the following question without notice:
It is a continuation of a question I asked yesterday about the ominous and orchestrated rumours of Indonesian menaces against Portuguese Timor. Will he inform the Senate of the accuracy or otherwise of further rumours of lateral road building by the Indonesians, parallel to the boundary of the two parts of the island? Is the Government’s claim of no danger in the Australasian area still valid?
The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
It is true that the Indonesian Government is preparing to construct roads in the Timor border area. The proposed project is part of the Indonesian Government’s current ‘highway betterment’ program.
The project has been incorporated into the current Indonesian Five Year plan ( 1 974-75-1 978-79).
Military Deployments in Korea
– On 17 April Senator Carrick asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the following question without notice:
I ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs: Is there mounting evidence of aggressive acts by North Korean forces in breach of the peace agreement and also of growing military build up along the demilitarised zone by North Korea?
Is the Minister aware of incidents on 26 February and 24 March of this year in which North Korean military aircraft in considerable numbers penetrated significantly into South Korean air space?
Have the North Koreans recently constructed a number of advance tactical airstrips along the truce line?
Is there evidence of the massing of military equipment on the northern bank of the 1 mi in River?
Have a number of invasion tunnels also been dug under the demilitarised zone? Taken in association with the reported heightening of communist military activities in northern Malaysia and the recent indications that the Philippines Government may contemplate looking away from America for future defence security, will the Minister agree that there are indications of growing instability in the Asian region of which we are part?
I undertook to provide supplementary information for the honourable senator. I have received the information, which is as follows:
The Australian Embassy in Seoul has reported that there were minor incidents off the west coast of Korea on 26 February and 24 March 1 975.
On 26 February, it was reported that a Republic of Korea (ROK) destroyer collided with and sank a Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) fishing vessel while pursuing DPRK patrol vessels that had crossed the so-called Northern Patrol Limit Line. This line, which was fixed unilaterally by the ROK and is not recognised by the DPRK, though it has generally respected it, extends westward from the Demilitarised Zone (DMZ) to an undetermined point in the Western (Yellow) Sea. Following this incident, fighter aircraft of both sides were deployed in the area. At no time were they in close contact.
On 24 March two DPRK aircraft were reported to have overflown ROK-held islands in the Western Sea. Two DPRK aircraft are also reported to have flown 60 miles south of the Northern Patrol Limit Line, though they did not enter ROK airspace. ROK aircraft were sent to the area but no contact was made.
The Embassy has also forwarded ROK Government reports of some airfield construction in the southern part of the DPRK and of the discovery of tunnels leading southward under the DMZ.
In the atmosphere of rivalry and mutual suspicion that prevails on the Korean peninsula it is often difficult to know what weight to allow the charges and countercharges of aggressive preparations made by both sides. Our information on what happens or does not happen in such situations is necessarily limited. However, I am advised that there does not appear to have been any substantial recent change in the deployment of DPRK or ROK forces, which in so far as we can know, appear to remain essentially defensive.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Labor and Immigration, upon notice:
– The Minister for Labor and Immigration has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question: (1), (2) and (3) Yes. In commenting after a decision by the Australian Industrial Court in a case involving interference with a Union ballot the Minister made it clear that the Government would not tolerate a situation where officially conducted ballots were interfered with in the future. Any person who commits a breach of the Act in respect of union ballots will be prosecuted. It is a fact that in 1965 a person was fined £25 on a charge of attempting to obtain a ballot paper to which he was not entitled. However, it is not proposed to embark on a search through the history of union elections since Section 1 7 1 was inserted into the Conciliation and Arbitration Act in 1949 to attempt to ascertain those cases in which action could have been taken but in which nothing was done.
In the case before the Australian Industrial Court the defendant was charged with, and found guilty of possessing without lawful authority or excuse ballot papers in a union election. In fixing penalties the Court took into account a number of factors including the fact that these were ‘the first cases of this kind to come before the Court’.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Labor and Immigration, upon notice:
– The Minister for Labor and Immigration has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question: ( 1 ), (2), (3) and (4) It is well known that ballots for office in trade unions have been the subject of activity by various groups seeking to gain control of the unions. It is not proposed to go back into past events on these matters. The significance of the Minister’s statement was to indicate that in future any evidence of interference in officially conducted ballots would be thoroughly investigated with a view to action before the Commonwealth Industrial Court.
asked the Minister representing the Attorney-General, upon notice:
– The AttorneyGeneral has provided the following answer to the honourable Senator’s question:
Mrs Waters moved to Sydney after appointment.
Rhodesia: Mr J. D. O’Donnell’s Passport
-On 23 April 1975, Senator Greenwood asked me a question, concerning the question he asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs on 21 April 1975 (Hansard page 1116) as to why the Government had refused to allow Mr O’Donnell, an Australian born person, to come back to Australia from Rhodesia where he is currently working for the Government. Can the Minister say whether the decision to refuse Mr O ‘n—-1 entry into Australia was a Cabinet decision or whether it was a decision made by the Minister for Foreign Affairs himself? Is the Minister able to confirm whether the Government’s rejection was on the ground that it did not believe Mr O’Donnell had humanitarian reasons for wanting to return to Australia?’ I said I would refer the question to the Prime Minister, who has provided the following information:
No decision has been made to refuse Mr O’Donnell entry to Australia. On 23 June 1967 an Australian passport with a currency of 5 years was issued by the Australian Embassy, Pretoria, to Mr O’Donnell, described by the Southern Rhodesian regime as its Secretary of External Affairs, after his claim to Australian citizenship was established (House of Representatives Hansard, 1 September 1970, page 822). It was not renewed by the previous Government on the grounds that ‘he is an official of a regime not recognised by the Australian Government. In this respect Australia acted in accordance with the terms of the United Nations resolution on this matter’. (House of Representatives Hansard. 17 August 1972, page 330).
Early in 1974 the Minister for Foreign Affairs and the Minister for Labor and Immigration refused an application by Mr O’Donnell to renew his Australian passport. While the Australian Government is, of course, prepared to consider cases in which servants of the illegal Smith regime wish to enter Australia for compassionate reasons, it is the Government’s view that Mr O’Donnell ‘s reasons for wishing to visit Australia were not of a compelling humanitarian nature. (House of Representatives Hansard, 1 1 Decemeber 1973, page 4579).
The Prime Minister appreciates Senator Greenwood’s continued interest in the illegal regime whose guest he was in 1970 and assures him that the Australian Government has no intention of facilitating the private or official movement of such persons as Mr O’Donnell by the issue of Australian passports.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 27 May 1975, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1975/19750527_senate_29_s64/>.