29th Parliament · 1st Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Justin O’Byrne) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
– I present the following petition from 608 citizens of Australia:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled: The humble Petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
1 ) That Parliament should reject the Bill currently before it to establish an Australian Government Insurance Office.
That while there is a need to establish in Australia a Natural Disaster Fund to provide compensation for property damage and other losses resulting from disasters such as earthquakes, floods and cyclones, such a Fund can be established, as in other countries using the medium of the existing private enterprise insurance offices.
That a plan for such a Fund was submitted to the Treasury in October 1974.
That no reasons for the establishment of an Australian Government Insurance Office (other than the desire to provide non-commercial disaster insurance and Australian Government competition with private enterprise) have been given by the Government.
That there is already intense competition between the existing 45 life assurance offices and between over 260 general insurance companies now operating in Australia, and that further competition from a Government Office would only be harmful.
That the insurance industry is already faced with
the effects of inflation,
b ) increased taxation on life assurance offices,
the effects of recent natural disasters,
other legislative measures already in train or in prospect by the Government, e.g. the National Compensation Bill, a National Superannuation Plan and improved Commonwealth Public Service Superannuation.
That as taxpayers your petitioners are greatly concerned at the huge costs (far more than the $2 million initial capital and loan funds which it is proposed will be allocated) of establishing an Australian Government Insurance Office.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Senate will reject the Bill.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
– I present the following petition from 1 8 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:
Add to the taxpayers burden.
Create hundreds of public service jobs and cause serious unemployment in the private insurance industry throughout Australia.
Increase Bureaucracy at the time when Government spending should be curtailed.
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.
-I present the following petition from 16 citizens of Australia:
To the Honourable the President and members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. We the undersigned citizens of Australia by this our humble petition respectfully showeth:
That we respectfully call on the Senate to pass the Government Insurance bill for many reasons, one of these being constant attempts, by various means, of private insurance companies not to honour, or to try to escape, their contracted responsibilities.
Not the least of failures of private insurance companies is the constant tragic lack of performance by such companies during natural disasters such as the Brisbane floods, the Darwin cyclone etc., this latter alone establishes an urgent need for an Australian Government Insurance Corporation.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
– I present the following petition from 17 citizens of Australia:
To the Honourable the President and members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. We the undersigned citizens of Australia by this our humble petition respectfully showeth:
That we call on the Senate to pass the Australian Government Insurance Bill for many reasons, some of these being constant attempts, by various means including the use of “small print”, of private insurance companies to escape their responsibilities.
Not the least of failures of private insurance companies is the constant tragic lack of performance by such companies during the occurrences of natural disasters such as the Brisbane floods, the Darwin cyclone etc., this latter alone establishes an urgent need for the Australian Government Insurance Corporation.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
– I present the following petitions, identical in wording, from 22 and 14 citizens of Australia respectfully:
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 whereas the natural environment of Fraser Island is so outstanding that it should be identified as part of the World Natural Heritage, and whereas the Island should be conserved for the enjoyment of this and future generations,
Your petitioners humbly pray that the members, in Parliament assembled, will take the most urgent steps to ensure:
that the Australian Government uses its constitutional powers to prohibit the export of any mineral sands from Fraser Island, and
that the Australian Government uses its constitutional authority to assist the Queensland Government and any other properly constituted body to develop and conserve the recreational, educational and scientific potentials of the natural environment of Fraser Island for the long term benefit of the people of Australia.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
-My question is directed to the Minister for Foreign Affairs. I refer to the questions which I asked last week about the fate of Mr Marco Nazor held captive in Yugoslavia without trial and without anyone from Australia being allowed to talk to him, about the fate of Mr Peter Whitlock, held captive in Vietnam without trial and without anyone from Australia being allowed to talk to him, to the promise of the Minister to ascertain how many other Australians are held captive in Yugoslavia and what, if any, protests this Government has been prepared to make to the Yugoslavian Government. I ask: Does the Government view these imprisonments and inquiries about the Australians as a matter of urgency? When will the Senate be told the result of the Minister’s inquiries? Are not Australian citizens entitled to better activity from this Government than they have been receiving?
-Senator Greenwood repeats an untruth when he says that Mr Nazor is being held without trial. I informed the honourable senator last week, he may recall, in relation to Mr Nazor that we have been informed that inquiries have been completed and that a charge is pending against him.
– After 3Vi months.
– Let me remind Senator Greenwood what I told him. The honourable senator has just said that Mr Nazor was held without trial.
– He has not been tried.
-The fact is, as I told the honourable senator last week, that the Yugoslavian authorities have made inquiries and are about to charge Mr Nazor. The honourable senator also alleged that Mrs Nazor had been imprisoned for 6 years. I think that is what he said. No charges have been made against Mrs Nazor. In relation to the question about people being held in Yugoslav jails without trial and some being charged with being members of soccer clubs in Australia, I had quite a lengthy reply from the Department this morning. I sent it back to clarify in my own mind one or two matters. I expect that I will have that answer for the honourable senator tomorrow. The only reason he did not get it today is that I wanted to be clear on one or two facts.
On the question of Mr Whitlock, we have been making continuous inquiries. I have written twice about the matter. I have had continuous requests made about it. Our information is that he is still being held and that he is in good health. That is what the Vietnamese have told us. We are insisting upon every opportunity being taken to get Mr Whitlock back.
It just strikes me that these sorts of inquiries and false allegations about these people do not help the people themselves. They do, of course, give the people who want to exacerbate troubles between the 2 governments an opportunity to do so. Yes, we do consider these matters to be very important and, quite contrary to what the previous Liberal-Country Party Government did, we have made continuous attempts not only to try to get consular access to the people involved but also to get them released or to see that any charges against them are brought in a proper manner and that we know what is going on. We do that in all consular cases. We try to make arrangements with every country in the world, irrespective of whether the consular case be a small one or a large one, to be informed, and then we try to keep in touch with the people concerned and see what we can do for them.
– I wish to ask a supplementary question, Mr President. I ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs: In the light of what he said in the course of his reply, why is it that the asking of questions about the fate of those Australian citizens who are held captive does not, to use his own words, ‘help these people’?
– It does not help the situation because, quite obviously, Senator Greenwood is trying to exacerbate the situation. When the situation is that the people concerned are in the gaols of other countries- I am not sure whether Mr Whitlock is in a gaol; I think he is in some sort of confinement- and when one is trying to handle the matter at a diplomatic level it is very obvious that it does not help the situation to make false allegations, as Senator Greenwood did last week.
– My question is directed to the Minister foi Social Security. As the Department of Social Security’s appeal system has now been operating for 6 months can the Minister say to what extent the system is being used in respect of unemployment benefit cases? Will he also express the number of appeals lodged against decisions relating to the unemployment benefit as a percentage of the total number of claims lodged?
-Social security appeal tribunals have been established by way of an experiment. They have not “been established under any statutory authority in the way in which the various repatriation appeal tribunals have been set up under legislation. It has been the experience of the Government so far that they are working very successfully. As at 30 June last there had been some 3400 appeals lodged against decisions relating to the payment of unemployment benefit. During the same period, which would be from January of June of 1975, almost 400 000 claims for unemployment benefit were made throughout Australia. Approximately 5 per cent of the appeals which were made by persons objecting to decisions concerning unemployment benefit were upheld. The manner in which the procedure has been adopted is for -
– What percentage?
-Five per cent were upheld by way of a recommendation from the appeal tribunal to the Minister. Approximately 47 per cent of unemployment benefit appeals were upheld by the Department of Social Security itself, however, without reference to the appeal tribunal. On a number of instances it was not found necessary to refer matters to the appeal tribunal. The number of unemployment benefit appeals lodged as a percentage of the total unemployment benefit claims lodged was less than one per cent, which I think would indicate that the majority of applicants for unemployment benefit have been satisfied with the treatment that they have received from the Department.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Agriculture. Does the Minister agree that there is no guarantee that cattle prices will remain at the present level despite recent increases? Does he also agree that only a few producers have been able to take advantage of them and that any flooding of the market would cause a downturn? As most producers are facing serious financial difficulties, will the Minister ensure that the report of the Industries Assistance Commission that was presented yesterday will be considered by the Government as a matter of urgency?
– Last week I was asked a very similar question concerning all the IAC reports that are currently before the Government in respect of rural matters and I pointed out then that we were awaiting the IAC report on beef and that these matters would be dealt with concurrently and expeditiously by the Government. The answer to the honourable senator’s question is no, we cannot give any guarantees that prices that appear now to be on the upturn will continue at this level. I am sure that Senator Maunsell would know as well as anybody else the unstable nature of those prices. But there are good reasons to believe that at least the bottom has been reached and that we are moving up into a better price level for those producers. Notwithstanding that, there will be many producers in Australia, possibly thousands of them, who will still find the coming months very difficult.
I will not make any commitments about yesterday’s report of the Industries Assistance Commission until such time as I have had an opportunity to study it. But it is quite clear that the basic ideas behind the recommendations are very similar to those that led to the agreements which were reached between the Australian Government and the State governments some months ago in order to provide low interest money to assist producers to remain in the industry. I am quite sure as I have said before and as I say again that there are many people- in fact, the majority- in the fanning community of Australia who are not enamoured of any government making moneys available to producers for whom there is no future in agriculture. All these factors will be considered by the Government before it makes a final decision in respect to this report. I would hope this report will be before the Cabinet before the end of this month.
-I direct to the Minister representing the Minister for Transport a question which specifically concerns his area of responsibility for road safety. Is the Minister aware of the fact that a well-known brand of Australian manufactured 6-cylinder motor car reputedly capable of speeds in excess of 160 kilometres an hour and carrying a price tag in the vicinity of $5,000 has fitted to it imported tyes of only 2 ply rating?
– What is the name of it?
– In due course, perhaps it will be stated. Is the Minister aware that again these tyres carry a well known brand name? Is he aware that, apart from its very doubtful strength, this tyre has inferior road holding qualities which are especially apparent on wet roads at quite low speeds and that this is acknowledged in the industry and by road safety authorities? What recourse is available to a purchaser of a motor car in this condition- this is a new motor earboth to recover the cost of an appropriate replacement and to obtain compensation in the event of damage and injury resulting from an accident attributable to the circumstances that I have mentioned? What right has such an organisation to expect public support and credibility in the face of such a shoddy and highly dangerous practice?
– Why do you not name it?
-I will name it in due course.
- Senator Devitt gave me enough information this morning to obtain a first reply on this matter from the Minister for Transport and his Department. I have to advise that all tyres fitted to new motor cars since 1 January 1974 have been required to comply with Australian design rule No. 23. This rule which is based on the motor vehicles safety standard enforced in the United States of America includes strength, endurance and high speed tests as well as dimensional and labelling requirements. These tests can be met by 2 ply tyres if properly constructed. The rule does not at this stage include a test for traction in wet conditions but I am informed that such requirements are being investigated for inclusion in the rule. If the honourable senator can give me further details about the matter, I will pass them on to Mr Charles Jones, the Minister for Transport, and ask him to investigate the problem through his Department.
-I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Manufacturing Industry. Is it a fact that the Temporary Assistance Authority has refused to recommend temporary additional assistance to the Australian plywood industry? Does this mean that there will be further unemployment in the industry in addition to the decline in employment in that industry by about 38 per cent in the 12 months ended June 1975?
– I am unaware of the facts as stated by the honourable senator. But I have no doubt that what he says would be correct. I will make some inquiries from my colleagues and let him have a more detailed reply.
– My question is addressed to the Postmaster-General. I have received a number of representations concerning the re-organisation of postal districts within the framework of the Australian Postal Commission. Will the Minister advise whether any decisions have been reached on this matter?
– After discussions with the Commission in May I made a statement, and have since made other statements, that the matters would be properly considered and that, because the proposals have important implications for the staff and for community groups, full consideration would be given to any aspect which they put before the Commission and myself. The Postal Commission has had continuing discussions with all staff organisations on the various elements of the proposal and is considering the fairly extensive viewpoints put forward by members of Parliament and some community groups. It is expected that an overall assessment will be completed shortly and then I will discuss with the Commission the tentative proposals, which in some cases might involve reorganisations. I will consult again with the community groups and with staff organisations and, where necessary, with members of Parliament before determining the matter.
– I was not aware that Dr Everingham had this prejudice against the fish in Port Phillip Bay that Senator Sir Magnus Cormack seems to be suggesting. I do not know what could explain his taking that selective attitude. I am not familiar, surprising though it may be, with the heavy metal pollution of fish in other parts of the world.
– You ought to be. You are a doyen.
– Yes, I know; I appreciate that. I shall ask the Minister for Health to let me have that information and provide it to Senator Sir Magnus Cormack and the Senate.
– Would you like me to put the question on notice?
– If you would like to put it on notice you are perfectly at liberty to do so, but in any event I shall obtain the information for you.
– I preface my question to the Minister for Repatriation and Compensation by saying that I have received recently an irate letter from a South Australian elector who received with his insurance policy renewal notice a blatantly anti-Government pamphlet. Is the Minister aware that a number of insurance companies are sending this unsolicited material to their policy holders? Has the Minister received complaints from people who have received such propaganda and, if so, have some of these people said that they will cancel the policies they have with these insurance companies and take out policies with State government insurance offices? Will the Minister comment on the particular allegations in this pamphlet that the Australian Government Insurance Corporation would contribute to the downfall of free enterprise and that the Australian Government has taken no positive steps to discuss proposals for natural disaster cover?
-Senator McLaren has provided me with a copy of a letter, which he correctly described as irate, from a Mr J. A. Bignall of Murray Bridge. Mr Bignall is objecting to a pamphlet which was sent to him with some business documents by the South Australian Insurance Co. Ltd. The pamphlet has a rather familiar look about it. It looks like those pamphlets that used to come out about 10 years ago which showed red arrows coming down from China and pointing at the Royal Perth Golf Club. This pamphlet in fact shows an arrow marked ‘Nationalisation’ pointing at something which looks more like Australia than it looks like anything else. It purports to explain that the Government wants one government insurance company, no choice, nationalised control. It asks various rhetorical questions such as: ‘Why will the Government not admit that nationalisation is their policy and is under way?’ It is a blatant piece of political propaganda, paid for with policy holders’ money. In his letter Mr Bignall says that he believes -
- Mr President, I rise on a point of order. The Minister is abusing question time, engaging in political propaganda and debating the question, contrary to standing order 100. Mr President, you have reprimanded him constantly. I submit that he should be reprimanded again and the rights of senators to ask questions should be protected.
– I remind all honourable senators that questions must be brief and to the point. The answers should follow the same pattern.
– I am sorry that Senator Greenwood does not want to hear about this pamphlet. It will be available for all those who wish to read it. As far as the allegations which are made within the pamphlet are concerned, it is not proposed that insurance should be nationalised. We propose that the Australian Government Insurance Corporation should compete with other insurance offices. The Australian Government Insurance Corporation does make provision for natural disaster insurance to be introduced. In fact, extensive discussions have taken place between the Government and the representatives of insurance companies with regard to the provision of natural disaster insurance. What is said in this pamphlet is completely untrue.
– I direct my question to the Minister for Social Security. If Medibank insurance cover applies to all Australians, why is Medibank in Queensland refusing to pay for medical services rendered by doctors to other doctors, their wives and families?
– I was not aware that Medibank in Queensland was refusing to pay for medical services by doctors to other doctors, their wives and families.
– Would it be like the knock for knock agreement that operates between insurers of motor vehicles?
-Senator Mulvihill has suggested that maybe this is handled under a knock for knock agreement. I do not know. That practice might indeed have some merit, Senator Willesee says: ‘Physician, heal thyself. I shall take this up with the Health Insurance Commission and if I find that this discrimination is being engaged in I shall take whatever steps I can to see that it ceases.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Repatriation and Compensation. 1 draw the Minister’s attention to a letter which has been sent to at least all members and senators on the Government side from the Federated TB Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Association of Australia which, amongst other matters, states that Repatriation should revert to a separate portfolio; secondly, it criticises the Government for not granting increases in the general rate war pension; thirdly, it criticises the appointment of a Minister to assist the Minister for Repatriation and Compensation on the ground that veterans ‘ organisations will now be forced to make submissions through the Minister assisting the Minister for Repatriation and Compensation. Does the Minister accept these criticisms as justified? Does he intend to do anything about them, if he thinks they are justified.
– I also received this letter. I think I must have got it by mistake, because it calls on me to take various actions against Senator Wheeldon who, as it happens, is myself.
– As it happens?
– As it happens, yes. The letter complains about a number of things, one of which is the appointment of Mr Stewart as Minister Assisting the Minister for Social Security and Minister for Repatriation and Compensation. I cannot understand the basis of this complaint. Mr Stewart is himself a veteran who has taken quite a lot of interest in veterans’ affairs and is a member of the Returned Services League. At no stage has it ever been suggested that all representations- or indeed any representationswould have to be made through Mr Stewart. In fact, it is only a few months ago that I had quite a long meeting with representatives of the Federated TB Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen’s Association of Australia when its national executive met in Canberra, at which time they raised no objections to any of these matters. The fact of the matter is that the Government has endeavoured to rationalise a number of activities such as by the amalgamation of the Department of Civil Aviation with the Department of Transport and the Department of Labor with the Department of Immigration. It has been felt by the Government that it is sensible that all of the matters relating to welfare ought to have some sort of coordination. So far as the complaints are concerned about increases in benefits made to repatriation beneficiaries, I think that any examination of the figures shows that they are completely incorrect. I do not want to labour the point now, but certainly this is the only veterans’ organisation of which I am aware which has complained in any way about the record of this Government in the improvement of repatriation entitlements and repatriation benefits to the veterans of this country.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Defence. What effect have the Budget proposals had on recruiting levels for the armed Services? Is it true that Army recruiting officers have recently been advised that there will be a reduction in the establishment of the Army, as previously announced? Is it true that there is now a waiting list for people wishing to join the armed Services? When was the last time that such a waiting list existed?
– The last time questions were asked about enrolments for the armed Services they were in the form of complaints that we could not attract people. The fact is that even before the trend towards unemployment developed the Services were recruiting satisfactorily. Officer resignations have dropped and generally the intake of new recruits is greater than previously. That is the general position, of course. The trend that we were all worried about most was that officers eligible for the defence force retirement benefits were resigning. That situation has been overtaken and improved. I think I should get a fuller explanation for tomorrow for the honourable senator as regards the remainder of his question.
-I ask the
Postmaster-General: What progress, if any, has been made to provide telephone subscribers with a meter that both records and controls telephone calls?
– As I have mentioned previously, a private telephone meter has been available for some years. Its cost was $8, but it has been found that it had fairly limited application and that there was a need for an improved method of control available to private subscribers. Consequently one such new meter has been developed. It will be available shortly. The new type of meter will enable subscribers to control the number of calls made, measure the number of meter registrations for individual calls or a series of calls, and record the accumulated total of meter registrations made against the services. The design of the meter is such that a follow-on call cannot be made after hanging up from the previous call until a push button is operated. Apart from its use in private homes the meter will be very suitable for installation in localities such as those having small shops where the telephone is often available for use by the public and where the subscriber wishes to recover the actual costs of calls.
– I preface my question which is directed to the Minister for Labor and Immigration by saying that the Minister has said on several occasions that unemployment in this country could reach 400 000 in the near future. I ask: As Tasmania is already badly affected by unemployment, is the Minister able to give some indication of the unemployment expected in Tasmania early in the new year? If the level expected is higher than the national average, does the Minister have any special plans to alleviate the situation in Tasmania?
– I do not have at my fingertips the State by State breakdown of unemployed or anticipated unemployed, but I will have my Department investigate the matter and let the honourable senator have a detailed reply.
– Is the Minister for Labor and Immigration aware that the Queensland branch of the General Electric Company of Australia Ltd is reported to have decided to take the provocative course of withdrawing all annual leave entitlements from employees involved in a recent industrial dispute? If that course is adopted employees’ leave entitlements will accrue only as from the date of resumption of work. Will the Minister make the appropriate inquiries in order to ascertain the possibility of causing employees to abandon such provocative industrial practices in the future?
– I was not aware of the incident to which the honourable senator refers but I will have it investigated immediately. If any remedial action is required I undertake that that action will be taken.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs aware of continuing representations from the Oenpelli Aboriginal Council regarding disturbances, which are worsening in severity, in Oenpelli? Is he aware of the contribution which alcohol is thought to make to these problems? Has the community asked for police to be stationed at Oenpelli and has this request not been granted to date? Has the Council appealed particularly for police to be at Oenpelli on and immediately after each pay day? What real plans has the Government to minimise the ravages of alcoholism on Aboriginal communities such as Oenpelli where work absences are up, wages received are down, school absence has increased, violence is increasing and community morale is being destroyed?
– I am unacquainted with the up to date picture at Oenpelli, other than what I have read in Press reports. I can possibly get a report from the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. I visited Oenpelli when I was the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, and I know that it is an area of great concern. Drinking is perhaps more prevalent at Oenpelli than at other Aboriginal settlements. This is blamed on the existence of the border store. Aboriginals from the settlement have to go only a few miles to the border store to get grog which they can either drink at the store or take back to the settlement. This problem is causing concern to the elders of the tribe. One solution to the problem is that the liquor licence should be taken away from the border store although that store does provide a service for passing travellers. When an application was made for the renewal of the liquor licence, as there had been no breach of the law in the conduct of the store the licensing court renewed the licence.
The other suggestion made when I visited Oenpelli was that the liquor licence for the border store should be bought by the Oenpelli social club and the liquor supply transferred to the club rooms on the settlement. It was proposed that the supply of liquor be rationed to so many cans at a time and that in this way drinking could be controlled. Negotiations were proceeding at that time with the occupier of the border store to see whether he would be interested in selling the liquor licence.
Several applications have been made for police to be stationed at Oenpelli. At present patrols are mostly carried out by light aircraftwhen trouble occurs a police contingent is sent in. Of course, my Department is cognisant of the need for police to be stationed at many of the reserves, but this can be done only in cases where proper residential quarters, proper police stations and lock-up facilities for offenders are provided. We are extending police control over settlements at the present time, following a system of priorities. Oenpelli is one settlement that is under consideration for the supply of police support at the present time.
– I preface my question, which I direct to the Minister for Police and Customs by reminding him of the comments made by his predecessor last year concerning international co-operation in illicit drug investigations. At that time the then Minister informed the Senate that the United Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs was seeking approval for recommendations from the Economic and Social Council which were expected to generate improvements in the South East Asia region. Can the Minister inform the Senate whether or not those recommendations have been approved, and, if so, have there been any further developments?
– The recommendations of the Economic and Social Council have been adopted by the various nations. I think the Council recommended the need for mutual assistance and co-operation between the countries in the South East Asian area. As a means of achieving closer co-operation a conference of operation heads of national narcotic law enforcement agencies was held in Bangkok in September of last year. Australia was represented at this conference. Another conference is to be held at Djakarta in November of this year. The Bangkok meeting agreed to a number of recommendations, particularly recommendations referring to improvements in communication, the greater exchange of information and mutual co-operation in the training and exchange of narcotic investigators. In addition, we have a regional narcotic liaison officer stationed permanently in the South East Asian region.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Transport. What are the current freight rates per tonne on all classes of cargo on the Australian National Line ships trading between Tasmania and mainland ports? What were the comparative rates in 1950? These figures would be for a conventional ship as it was before the days of roll-on roll-off ships.
– I have not the information available. If Senator Bessell puts the question on notice I will get an answer for him.
– I ask the Minister for Labor and Immigration whether the unilateral decision by the doctors’ union, which calls itself the Australian Medical Association, to increase charges by 14 percent from 1 January, coming as it does on top of its decision to increase charges by 12 per cent on 1 July, in defiance of a tribunal which it nominated, poses a threat to wage indexation and inflation control. Are such unilateral decisions frequently described as collective bargaining backed by the threat of strike action? Would it be appropriate to describe the AMA’s actions in those terms? Is the Minister aware of any communistic influences in the Australian Medical Association? Is he aware of any criticism of the doctors’ union by relevant spokesmen for the Opposition?
– I do know a Dr Carmichael. I do not know whether he is related to the other more well known Carmichael with whom I have had some trouble recently. I am genuinely taken unawares by this question. I must say that the threat to wage indexation is probably an indirect one, because one of the great problems in wage fixation in this country is that if a large increase is given to one section of unionists it tends to flow on to other sections of industry. This has a cumulative effect which is disastrous to the fight against inflation. The doctors seem to be a rather privileged group. When they award themselves a large increase there is no immediate flow on. They seem to reserve these benefits for themselves alone. However, it is undoubted that the task of persuading people on lower incomes to restrain their demands is made more difficult when they see the spectacle of a small privileged group such as the doctors constantly awarding themselves inordinate increases.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Social Security. Is it a fact that his Department recently conducted a survey of people receiving unemployment benefits which revealed that over 30 per cent of these people were not entitled to receive this social welfare payment? Can the Minister say which area or areas were surveyed? Was the percentage indicative of the national pattern? What is the Minister doing to prevent what seems to me to be a continuation of a blatant abuse of taxpayers’ funds?
-The answer to the question is yes, and I think I made a public statement to that effect. It would not be correct to say that this figure represents a national average figure because the areas which were selected were selected specifically because it was felt that geographically they would be areas in which there could well be a concentration of people who were, for want of a better term, ripping off the social security.
– Which areas were they?
– I do not remember all of them, but they were the sort of areas in which one could spend a more enjoyable time not doing any work than some other places. The surveys were not taken in the industrial suburbs of Melbourne or Sydney. However, I think in fairness it has to be stated that to a large extent those people who were found not to be eligible for unemployment benefits were not by any means all people who were defrauding or deliberately misleading the Department of Social Security. Some of them were people who had obtained work or had changed their address, or something like that, and the ordinary administrative procedures had not caught up with these changes.
But certainly, as I think I have said quite frequently, I believe that the policy of the Department of Social Security towards the payment of unemployment benefits should be a sympathetic policy- that is to say, I believe it is better that a person who is not entitled to unemployment benefits should be receiving them than that somebody who is entitled to unemployment benefits should not be receiving them. Within the limitations of staff that we have available in view of the Government guidelines on restricting the expansion of the Public Service, we are making these periodic checks and we are, in conjunction with the Department of Labor and Immigration, seeing that the work test is strictly applied.
I do not think it is of any benefit to the working people of this country, and I do not think it is of any benefit to the legitimately unemployed people of this country, that there should be those who deliberately take advantage of the Australian people in order to receive unemployment benefits when they are making absolutely no effort whatsoever to obtain any work. I can assure Senator Jessop that, as I have already said, we shall continue to see that the work test is enforced while at the same time taking account of the fact that a number of people are legitimately entitled to unemployment benefits and ought to be able to receive them without going through any humiliating interrogations or examinations.
– My question, which is directed to the Minister Assisting the Minister of Defence, concerns Australian industry participation in defence equipment purchases. I refer the Minister to a Press report in the Adelaide Advertiser concerning the Government’s recent decision to purchase the Rapier missile system for the Australian Army. As this purchase is of United Kingdom origin, I ask the Minister: What arrangements are being made to involve Australian industry in the project, and what is the extent of Australian manufacture?
-As Senator Drury has mentioned, Mr Morrison already has announced that the Government intends to purchase the United Kingdom manufactured Rapier system to replace the out of date Bofors anti-aircraft system. Mr Morrison has said also that about onethird of the work involved in producing this equipment should be done in Australia, and mostly in South Australia. The British Aircraft Corporation, which does the work in the United Kingdom, will be doing the work in South Australia. Under that contract the Corporation will be involved at the Salisbury plant in manufacturing parts of ground equipment and also participating in the development of the repair facility.
In addition to the work at Salisbury, we intend to promote the manufacture of some optical parts in other facilities in South Australia, although some cost penalty will be involved in this work. A study is being made on the feasibility of undertaking the work, because of the opportunity provided for the introduction of technology and the development of skills in that sort of manufacture.
-I ask the Minister representing the Minister for the Media whether he has seen reports in this morning’s Australian Financial Review alleging that bookings made at the Hilton Hotel in Sydney by the Department of the Media are to be cancelled. Are these reports correct? Is it a fact that the Department of the Media stands to lose some $37,000 deposit as a result of the late cancellation of the conference Women and the Media planned for International Women’s Year for later this year? Is it also a fact that as yet the Hilton Hotel has not been officially informed of the cancellation of these bookings by the Department of the Media?
– I do not know the answer to the honourable senator’s question. I did not see the article in the Australian Financial Review, but I will find out the position from the Department of the Media and let the honourable senator have an answer.
– I put to the Minister for Labor and Immigration that a pattern seems to be emerging from questions emanating from the Opposition about Chilean refugees which imply that undue favouritism is shown to what might be called the ultra-left. In the light of our Terrigal declaration of human brotherhood I ask the Minister: What is the real position in relation to the Chilean refugee intake?
– I think I have detected some such innuendo in Opposition questions as that mentioned by the honourable senator. Of course, there is no basis for it. The fact is that since the fall of the Allende Government in September 1973 and until August of this year 3237 people have come to Australia from Chile. In contrast, during the time that the Allende Government was in power in Chile, from September 1970 to September 1973, the Opposition, then in Government, admitted 4343 people from Chile. That is about 34 per cent above the numbers we have admitted since we have been in office. The suggestion is- as I detect it in questions from the Opposition- that the present Australian Government has a relaxed policy towards Chile and that our predecessors did not. Of course, the figures do not support such an allegation. Many of the people who left Chile during the period when the Opposition was in Government did so to better their economic prospects or because they disliked the Allende Government. Today many who leave Chile do so for similar reasons. Of course there is an important difference. Those whose views are contrary to the present regime are either forced to leave or to endure persecution.
– The Minister for Foreign Affairs in reply to a question I asked on 19 August as to who was exercising real authority in South Vietnam replied that South Vietnam was largely, with some qualifications, administered by military management committees and that no date had been set for the formal assumption of control throughout the country by the People’s Revolutionary Government. On 27 August I asked a question of the Leader of the Government in the Senate- the Minister for Foreign
Affairs being absent- and I referred to a reported statement by the Minister for Foreign Affairs that the PRG and the Foreign Minister of North Vietnam had stated that the re-unification of Vietnam had now been accomplished and that the official statement was only a matter of procedure. How does the Minister reconcile his reply of 19 August and the reply to my question on 27 August when the 2 governments- that is the PRG and the Government of North Vietnamcontinue to function separately and when on 19 August the Minister acknowledged that the PRG was not exercising authority in South Vietnam? I further ask: Is membership of the World Health Organisation and of the World Meteorological Organisation by the 2 Vietnams an indication of their separate entities as a government? Is the Palestine Liberation Organisation, which is also recognised by United Nations agencies, also a legitimate government?
-I think I might take that question on notice. There is quite a circumnavigation of the whole situation. At the time I gave Senator Sim the answer, that was the information we had. I shall check up on just how much integration has gone on and on what the situation is in Saigon.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Social Security. I preface it by referring to petitions which have recently been presented to the Senate requesting that pensions be maintained at 25 per cent of average weekly earnings. Will the Minister advise what percentage of average weekly earnings pensions are currently and what they will be when pensions are increased in November? Does the Minister have any figures relating to similar percentages for the period immediately prior to the Government’s coming to office in December 1 972?
-When the Budget was being prepared the Government decided that it would try to hold pensions at the real income level at which they were prior to the introduction of the Budget. However, even despite the fact that this was not part of a deliberate attempt to maintain the age pension at 25 per cent of average weekly earnings in accordance with the policy of the Australian Labor Party and this Government, the position is considerably better than one might gather from reading some of the petitions which have been presented to the Senate, including some which I have presented myself. In fact, when the pensions aire increased in November they will have been increased by 94 per cent since this Government came to office.
In the period from the December quarter of 1972 to the June quarter of 1975 the average weekly earnings have increased by only 54 per cent, compared with the 94 per cent increase in pensions. However, the current pension of $36 a week is 23.4 per cent of the average weekly earnings figure for the June quarter, which is $153.80. The current figures, which I believe result very largely from Government policy, show a significant decline in the rate of growth in average weekly earnings. Therefore when the pension increases are paid in November the standard pension of $38.75 a week will in fact be 25.2 per cent of average weekly earnings. In fact we will be paying more than 25 per cent of average weekly earnings for the age pension, which exceeds the demands or requests that are being made in the petitions. If one were to look at the percentage of what the pensions were -
– That relates to the June quarter.
-Those are the only figures on which one can base it. There is no other way in which one can base it. If one were to look at the percentage that the pensions were of the average weekly earnings over previous years and under a previous government, one would find that in 1969 the pension stood at 20.3 per cent of average weekly earnings, that in 1 970 it stood at 19.3 per cent of average weekly earnings, that in 1 97 1 it stood at 1 9.2 per cent of average weekly earnings and that in 1 972 it stood at 20.4 per cent of average weekly earnings compared with the figure that will come into effect in November of 25.2 per cent of average weekly earnings.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Social Security and Minister for Repatriation and Compensation. I ask: Is the Government considering the imposition of a tax on petrol of 5c a gallon in order to finance its new national compensation scheme? What proportion of that scheme will be financed by such a tax?
– In the light of the report of the Senate Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs the Government is at present considering the re-introduction of a Bill to provide for a national no-fault compensation scheme. It is at the same time considering means whereby that scheme may be financed. It may be remembered that among the recommendations that were made by Mr Justice Woodhouse and Mr Justice Meares for the financing of the scheme there was the recommendation or the suggestion that the imposition of a levy on the price of petrol to replace the present compulsory third party insurance premiums should be considered. That is one of the matters that the Government and the Parliamentary Labor Party are considering. The considerations have not by any means yet been completed. When they have been and a Bill is prepared, if it is decided that there should be such a Bill, an announcement will be made. But at this stage it would be quite impossible for me to speculate as to what the Government or the Parliamentary Labor Party may decide on this very complex matter.
– Is the Minister for Police and Customs aware of a radio talk-back program which went to air in Canberra last night and which discussed the establishment of the Australia Police Force? Did any of the radio personalities involved in that program contact or attempt to contact the Minister or his office prior to or during the course of the program? If the answer to this question is no, will the Minister advise whether he is prepared to speak to radio announcers from radio station 2CA should they desire to obtain factual information relating to the Australia Police rather than have them left in their present state which could not be described as knowledgeable?
-When I arrived at my motel last evening and turned on the radio, I heard that the local radio station had some scheme for another night of discussion- it had already spent 4 hours on it that evening- on the Australia Police. I did not hear the program but from a report that I heard today, there were many false statements made in the program. It was obviously a program inspired with the purpose of propaganda against the proposal to establish an Australian police service. If the radio station is interested in putting a fair and true case to its listeners and if it has any interest in truth and logic I would be quite prepared to go there if I could be spared even a shorter period of time. I think that when the Australia Police Bill comes before the Parliament the benefit and the economies associated with the amalgamated police force will be fully explained.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Tourism and Recreation. Does the Minister agree with the facts and assertions contained in yesterday’s report of International Air Travel Association which was published in Sweden indicating that Australia’s international air fares are far from the highest in the world and are in fact comparable with north Atlantic fares and only half of those applying in Europe? If so, does this provide some ray of hope for our beleagured tourist and travel industry? I further add that if the Minister, as may well be the case, is not in a position to answer that question, will he obtain an answer from his colleague, Mr Stewart, the Minister for Tourism and Recreation.
– I think the easiest way to answer the question is to answer the last part first and say yes, I will try to obtain the information.
-Has the Minister for Police and Customs seen reports in today’s Press that popular singer, John Denver, upon his arrival in Sydney talked freely with the Press about his use of marihuana? Can he advise the Senate whether Mr Denver carried marihuana into Australia upon his arrival here?
-My Department has no knowledge that this young singer brought marihuana into Australia. I do not know what search was made and I have no knowledge that he has marihuana in his possession in Australia. I think that we must realise that John Denver is an entertainer playing to capacity audiences composed of a particular class of people of a particular age group. There is some mistaken idea that this is a section of people interested in the use of drugs. I think that his statement could well be part of a publicity campaign to show that he is part of this section and smokes pot. I do not know whether there is even any knowledge that his statement was truthful. His description of what happens to him while smoking pot would not be borne out by many reports on the effects of pot on people. However, my Department has no knowledge that he is in possession of marihuana or has brought it into Australia.
– What effect would it have on a senator?
– It could make a lot of them no worse than they are now. I can assure the Senate that no preferential treatment will be given to any visitor to Australia, no matter what his entertainment qualities may be, if he is in breach of Australian law.
– I draw the attention of honourable senators to the presence in the gallery of a delegation from the Parliament of Brazil led by Deputy Mario Mondino. The delegation is visiting Australia at the invitation of the Australian Parliament and has already had an opportunity of seeing something of New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia. I am sure that all honourable senators will join me in assuring our guests of our sincere welcome and our trust that their visit will be both interesting and rewarding.
Honourable senators- Hear, hear!
-Is the Minister for Agriculture aware that today over one million gallons of whole milk will be wasted in Victoria due to a strike in that State? Is he aware that the secretary of the union causing the strike is a Mr Gallagher of the Victorian Cold Storage Union? Is that Mr Gallagher the same gentleman that Senator Wriedt appointed to the Australian Dairy Corporation? Will the Minister express an interest in this substantial loss to Victorian dairymen? Will he bring to the Senate a report on Mr Gallagher’s action and his suitability to be a responsible person on the Australian Dairy Corporation?
– I always appreciate the fairness with which Senator Webster approaches matters of this nature involving people whom he has already prejudged. I assume that it is the same Mr Gallagher. I am not aware of the industrial dispute. I will find out about it. I might bring a report back; I will see.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs. I refer to statements made on the weekend by the Premier of Queensland regarding use of Australian Government funds in the Torres Strait Islands. Has the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs advised his representative in the Senate of the accuracy of the reports and, if so, will the Minister convey that information to the Senate?
– I have seen the reports of the statement made by the Premier of Queensland. The reports were first published in the Australian on Monday morning and have since appeared in other publications. The Australian is in the unfortunate position on Monday mornings of lacking news and it seems to be reluctant to pay its reporters overtime on the weekend, with the result that anyone in public life gets telephone calls on Sunday relating to issues on which the newspaper is trying to get headlines for Monday morning’s Press. In a desperate attempt to get articles for Monday morning’s Press they will even publish as authentic irresponsible statements made by the Premier of Queensland, who is notorious for making irresponsible statements. The Minister for Aboriginal Affairs has issued a Press release showing the falsity of the statements that were made. I listened today to question time in the other place when the Minister was questioned on this matter and he denied most of the allegations.
In relation to the destruction of machinery which was alleged, when I visited the islands as Minister for Aboriginal Affairs I authorised payment for the machinery, which was to be used under the supervision of consultants and engineers. That was the first time that an Australian Government had taken an interest in the Torres Strait Islanders and done something for those unfortunate people. During each election period the Premier of Queensland has visited the area and the children there have had the benefit of receiving lollies from him, but the lollies did not sustain the population for the whole year. This Government has set up councils for the first time and its effort was rewarded at a recent conference on Thursday Island when appreciation was expressed to the Australian Government. Some difficulties exist in the Torres Strait Islands and these difficulties have been increased by the lack of co-operation with the Queensland Government. When that Government was requested to provide transport for this machinery it replied: ‘You get your transport where you got your money’. There is resentment today of the fact that the Australian Government is achieving something in the backward areas of the Torres Strait Islands.
– I direct my question to the Minister representing the Minister for Education. I refer to findings made by a University of Adelaide working party recommending immediate steps to improve the competence in English of both students and lecturers. I ask: Is the Department aware of the report? If not, will it arrange to obtain a copy of the report and give it urgent study? As the Government is spending large sums on education at the tertiary level and as the Adelaide report would seem to reflect seriously on education in Australia, will the Government take the necessary steps to assist in any corrections? Will the Department study the many and varied steps now being taken to assist migrants in their communication of English to see whether any of them are applicable to the situation which is so alarming at the Adelaide University?
-I shall refer Senator Davidson’s suggestion to the Department and obtain some up to date information for him.
– Pursuant to section 34 of the Services Trust Fund Act 1947-1950 I present the report by the trustees of the Services Canteens Trust Fund for the calendar year 1974, together with financial statements and the report of the Auditor-General on those statements.
– I present for the information of honourable senators the report of the Industries Assistance Commission on aluminium and articles thereof.
Senator Sir MAGNUS CORMACK (Victoria) Mr President, you will recall that yesterday Senator Button presented a report from the Committee of Privileges. I therefore ask for leave to table in the Senate a copy of the submission made by me to the Committee of Privileges during its consideration of the matters referred to it on 17 July and upon which the Committee reported to the Senate on 7 October. I ask for leave to table my submission.
-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
-I table my submission made to the Committee of Privileges.
Debate resumed from 2 October on motion by Senator Willesee:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
– I suggest to Senator Withers that we have a cognate second reading debate on the Electoral Re-distribution Bills and that we vote separately on each of the Bills at the end of the second reading debate.
– Is it the wish of the Senate to follow that course? There being no objection, that course will be followed.
– I thank the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Senator Willesee) for his suggestion. I agree that it is the most sensible way in which to handle these 5 Bills. This is the third time that the proposals contained in these Bills have been before the Senate. Honourable senators will recall that they first came before the Senate as a result of a proposal made by the Distribution Commissioners. The Senate rejected those redistribution proposals. They then came before us again at least 3 months ago in the form of a Bill which we defeated at the second reading stage. They again come before us this day.
I indicate that the Opposition will vote against these Bills. We will do so for the same reasons which we advanced when the redistribution proposals first came into the Senate. I indicated on that occasion a number of reasons why we were opposed to the redistribution proposals, and I reiterate them. There was never any reason at all why there should have been a redistribution in Tasmania because there all electorates were either approximately 6 per cent above or approximately 6 per cent below the quota. The normal reason- a distortion of boundaries- was not present to justify a redistribution. In fact, in Tasmania there was a shifting around. As I recall it, all the proposals did there was to transfer some of the majority from the seat of Franklin to the seat of Denison to make Denison safer for the sitting member.
Of course, if the Government says: ‘All right, we are doing it in other States and we should also do it in Tasmania’, it has now been explained properly and satisfactorily why a redistribution did not take place at the same time in Western Australia. I know that the Government has said that a redistribution took place in Western Australia approximately 2 years ago. That redistribution really took place because the number of seats in the House of Representatives for the State of Western Australia rose from nine to ten. At the time of the redistribution two of the electorates, namely Swan and Kalgoorlie, exceeded the 10 per cent variation which was Government policy. In fairness to the Government, at that stage the Electoral Act permitted a variation of 20 per cent from the quota as struck. As I recall it the seat of Swan was 15 per cent above quota and the seat of Kalgoorlie was 15 per cent below quota. It was the general expectation at that time, so it was said, that the seats would come into balance. We all know that the Act was varied at the Joint Sitting to reduce the variation from 20 per cent to 10 per cent. The variation is now 10 percent.
It is interesting to note that some 30 minutes ago my office rang the Chief Electoral Officer in Western Australia and obtained the following figures: The quota for Western Australia at the moment is 64 330 and the enrolment for the electorate of Kalgoorlie at the moment is 54 472. So Kalgoorlie is still 15.34 per cent below quota. This is the position even after 2 years and it will remain so. I have said repeatedly, and I say again, that the only reason the Government will not have a redistribution in Western Australia is because some 5000 voters would have to be transferred from the present electorates of Canning or Moore into the electorate of Kalgoorlie which would then become a relatively safe Liberal seat. It will become one anyhow at the next election. But this is why there has been no redistribution in Western Australia.
Despite the claims of the Government about morality and electoral justice and reform the fact that at the end of 2 years there is still a seat in Western Australia which is in excess of 10 per cent below the variation which the Government believes to be proper and just I think points up the phoneyness of the whole operation of the proposed electoral redistribution which we are now considering. I said on the first occasion that these matters came before the Senate that the Government could not validly claim that the boundaries as at presently distributed on a nation-wide basis act unfairly towards the Labor Party. It ought to be recalled that the Labor Party came to office in 1972 on 49.6 per cent of the first preference vote and that it retained power in May 1974 after the double dissolution of Parliament with 49.3 per cent of the first preference vote. The fact that a party with approximately 50 per cent of the first preference vote is able to achieve office with a working majority at an election held on the present boundaries shows that there is no basis for claiming that the electoral system is either unfair, unbalanced or biased in any party’s favour. If one looks at the electoral figures since 1949 in respect of the nation-wide vote, apart from the oddity of 1954, one concludes that the party which obtained around 50 per cent of the vote comes to government. The oddity was 1954 when the Labor Party ought to have achieved office but did not because the election of that year was fought on the boundaries set by the Labor Government in 1948.
There are other reasons, and I suppose better reasons, why these proposals ought to be opposed. The amendment to the Electoral Act which gave force to the reduction in the variation between electorates from 20 per cent to 10 per cent was passed at the Joint Sitting of this Parliament in July of last year. Shortly thereafter that Act was challenged in the High Court by some of the States. One would have thought that the Government would have had the decency to await the outcome of that challenge before asking for a redistribution based on an Act which then had a variation of 10 per cent, not 20 per cent. As I understand the position- I am open to correction- that Act basically remains a valid Act until the High Court declares it otherwise.
I pose this question to honourable senators: Assume that the High Court rules that that Act was not validly passed. It has already ruled that way in relation to one of the Joint Sitting Bills, the Petroleum and Minerals Authority Bill. Would the Government then bring in a special Bill to undo all those things which were done under legislation which the High Court had declared not to be properly passed? I think that is a fair question to put to Government senators. I think it is highly improper that such an operation should take place. One would have thought that when the legislation was challenged the Government would have awaited the outcome of the High Court case. Of course it would not. It rushed in and spent some $30m under the Petroleum and Minerals Authority Act, an Act which the High Court later declared to have been not passed validly at the Joint Sitting. It is a great pity that there is no penalty for this sort of thing. If directors of a company did such a thing members opposite would be yelling their heads off for the prosecution of those directors and saying that those directors ought to be gaoled because they were corporate cheats.
– That is not a good analogy.
– Yes, it is, because one must stay within the law. The Government was told at the time that the PMA was invalid. It reeked from the time it was presented as a double dissolution Bill. It absolutely reeked, yet the Government went bull-headedly ahead and operated under that legislation. Again it did not have the decency to await the outcome of the challenge. One could relate instance after instance.
The other reason this Bill ought to be rejected is that at the moment the Government is really abusing the Constitution and the provisions of section 57 of the Constitution. I know that the High Court has ruled that a government can have a storehouse of Bills under section 57 of the Constitution. I do not quarrel with its decision. The Government, during the past several weeks, as a matter of electoral panic has mounted a campaign in which it has attempted to deride and criticise the Opposition for not staying within what the Government is pleased to call the constitutional conventions and practices. It even harnessed up professors of law who wrote articles in the newspapers. One professor who wrote an article did not disclose that he was once on the payroll of the Government as a special adviser to Senator Murphy. Those professors talk about constitutional practice and constitutional convention. The Government cannot have it 2 ways. It either stays totally with the conventions or stays totally with the law. If it wants to stay totally with the law it cannot attempt to criticise the Senate for exercising its undoubted legal and constitutional right to force an election for the other place. As usual, the Government is using a double standard. It wants the Senate to behave by what it is pleased to call the conventions and practices, but it will not.
As one reads the constitutional debates of the 1890s, section 57 was inserted for quite a simple reason. It was inserted because a government, if it wanted particular legislation which was rejected and presented again, could either go to an election or forget about the legislation. I think that matter was certainly in the minds of those who were at the Convention. It was certainly in the minds of members of Parliament since then. But what a government did not do was just insist upon its legalistic constitutional rights and build up a storehouse. If the Government wants to build up a storehouse, I take no exception to that because it is entitled to do so under the Constitution. The High Court has so ruled. If the Government wants to insist upon its legal rights, it is quite entitled to do so.
If one looks at these instant Bills one sees that the Electoral Act provides that if a redistribution coming from the Commissioners is disallowed or rejected by one House of the Parliament, the Governor-General may send it back to the Commissioners for re-assessment and another look. I think it is fair to say that that has been the practice in the past. But there is no law compelling the Government to do such a thing, and the Government is quite within its legal rights and its constitutional rights not to proceed under the Electoral Act and resubmit the matters to the Electoral
Commissioners. It is quite within the Government’s rights to attempt to do it by legislation. I do not quarrel with that. But I become somewhat sick and tired of being preached at and moralised at as to how we must abide by the conventions when at each and every turn since the Government came to power it has insisted upon its legal rights. I do not object to a government insisting upon its legal rights.
– You are throwing away the convention.
-Let us start to talk about who threw away conventions. I once thought that it was a convention in the Labor Party that members of that Party would not touch anybody in the Australian Democratic Labor Party with a 40-foot barge pole, but in order to get a mere cheap electoral gimmick off the ground they went and played kiss and make up. Who flouted the convention at that stage? Who started all the dirty tricks in this Parliament? That was the beginning of the dirty tricks game in this Parliament. There was nothing to prevent the Prime Minister from approaching a sitting senator and offering him a diplomatic post abroad. There was nothing illegal or unconstitutional about it.
– Decency would never have entered into it.
-Decency has nothing to do with it because, after all, the argument in which we are involved at the moment is convention versus legalisms.
– What did you have to say about Mr Snedden -
-Senator Mulvihill will have his turn in a minute. He can get up and go knock for knock. I suppose that we will hear one of Senator Mulvihill’s fiery speeches, and good luck to him. I do not know whether the Prime Minister breached a practice in what he did over the Senator Gair affair. It was certainly unconventional, but I do not know whether it was nonconventional. But that was part of the dirty tricks. It was all arranged to try to obtain 6 vacancies for a particular State at a half-Senate election. Of course, as the Bulletin points out this week, it is not amazing how every time Mr Whitlam tries something he is aced by the Premier of Queensland.
– He does not like it, either.
– The Prime Minister does not like being aced by the Premier of Queensland. I do not complain about the Prime Minister attempting to gain political advantage by legal means if he wishes to do so, but he cannot complain when somebody else uses the Constitution against him. This is basically the burden of my complaint about this legislation. No doubt before this debate is concluded we will be lectured about the morality of one vote one value or the morality of electoral reform. No doubt we will suffer a lecture or two in the debate on this legislation. There used to be some maxim that those who want equity must do equity, or that they have to have clean hands. I have forgotten all those maxims; I never did understand that subject.
– He who wants equity must come with clean hands.
-That is right; he who wants equity must come with clean hands. That applies to the Government. In the present situation Government supporters do not have clean hands. There they are, racing about lecturing us. Some of their friends are lecturing us through the media. Some of their friends in the Parliament are writing letters and again lecturing us on morality. Yet what do they do? One would have thought that one of the basic sorts of things that Government supporters would never have done was to move under the Electoral Act to bring about a redistribution when the question was under challenge before the High Court. That is a matter of morality, of decency and of what one ought not to do, is it not? I think the Government if in Opposition would be outraged if some matter, which it pretends to hold very dear, were passed by Parliament, challenged and the then government acted on it before the challenge was settled. It would say: ‘You are playing unfair’. Honourable senators would even start to take to the streets, to do all sorts of things and to say that Parliament was irrelevant. I ask honourable senators to remember that it is those sorts of things which all of a sudden start the downturn and the rape of parliamentary democracy in this country.
At the moment the Government is mounting a campaign in an attempt to show that somehow or other the Senate has brought democracy in Australia into disrepute because of its treatment of the Government’s so-called electoral reform. This Parliament and the parliamentary institutions were started to be wrecked long before 1972. They were wrecked by those who were not prepared to fight in the Parliament and through the ballot boxes, those who wanted to take their quarrels out into the streets and, in effect, start a quasi revolution in this country. Thank goodness for the common sense of the Australian people. They will not fall for that. Any group of people, whether on the Right or the Left, which tries to subvert parliamentary democracy by going around the proper way of the ballot box ought to be condemned very roundly by all Australians.
It may be thought that I have departed somewhat from the Bills under discussion. I admit that I may have, but it is quite important that we ought clearly to face up to what these Bills are all about. They are about a redistribution in Tasmania when it is totally unnecessary. If the Government believes it is entitled to act under an Act of Parliament which is still under challenge in the High Court, why does it not have a redistribution in Western Australia? It does not for the simple reason that the electorate of Kalgoorlie would certainly be put at risk and, most likely, the seat of Tangney. They are good enough reasons why the whole of these proposals ought to be abolished. I have not tried to lecture my colleagues in this place. I believe that we either opt for legalism or we opt for morality. We cannot have both. If I have lectured honourable senators I apologise. I trust that we will not receive lectures from anybody else on the subject of electoral morality.
– The scenario attached to this legislation seems to be something like the song about the merry-go-round going round and round. Most of us seem to have exhausted our arguments but in the light of what Senator Withers has said we have to reiterate them. In view of Senator Withers’ concern about the Constitution and the debasing of the parliamentary system, I think one can recall a parallel between the late President Roosevelt and our own illustrious Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam). Each of them acted as a great innovator. When one is an innovator it is obvious that one will be subjected to a lot of malicious criticism. President Roosevelt, at the height of his creative federalism, stated: ‘The greatest threat to our institutions are those who refuse to face up to a change ‘. I translate that into this debate by pointing out that, broadly, we are seeking electoral parity which has no relevance to the misguided plans of the Opposition.
This is the first time that the Opposition has conceded that the delay in electoral redistribution has gone against the run of play for voting. I refer to Senator Withers’ statement, which I accept, that a redistribution prior to the 1954 election would have seen the advent of an Australian Labor Party government. Honourable senators opposite would say to me that it happened only once. But it happened to our detriment and therefore they claimed it justifies frequent redistribution. I shall deal largely with the New South Wales context. In effect, we are seeking electorates with an enrolment of around 60 000. I have a table which was submitted by the Minister for Administrative Services (Mr Daly) in the other place when he introduced this legislation. He was then the Minister for Services and Property. Applying this table to New South Wales we find that the over-enrolled electorates- - for want of a better term- were Robertson with 85 000 electors, Mitchell with 86 000 electors and Chifley with 83 000 electors.
Like Senator Baume I visit those electorates. I suppose I am on good terms with the members of the House of Representatives, my colleague Mr Armitage, and Mr Cadman of the Opposition. I think it will be admitted that in those developing areas there is a tremendous call on the members. The point I am making is that when one compares those electorates with the numerically under-enrolled electorates such as Hume with 50 000, Sydney with 53 000 and Darling with 47 000, one fails to see the fear of the unknown which seems to imbue the Opposition’s thinking. The Opposition thinks that if we get an electoral system for New South Wales with each electorate having around the 60 000 enrolment, that is a gigantic gerrymander. I think we will agree in our calmer moments that the people who make up these distribution committees have proved themselves over a period of time. That is all we are striving for.
It is true that honourable senators from the National Country Party of Australia may adopt an attitude like King Canute who tried to hold back the sea. But this would not matter because we are introducing a certain set of proposals. The Country Party cannot stop the exodus of people from the rural areas. It happened under the previous coalition government. I know about the electorate of Lawson. A lot of the backwoodsmen of the Country Party said: ‘They shall not pass’. They were the modern Petains about that electorate remaining. Even the eloquence of Mr Peter Nixon could not stop the change. It was the Liberal Party which caused the sinking of the Lawson electorate but that did not in any way affect parliamentary democracy. I say that any redistribution, whether it be this one or another one, will see the reduction by one of the number of seats in New South Wales. So all we are seeking, when we use the words ‘electoral parity’, are electorates somewhere in the vicinity of 60 000 electors. No matter what type of redistribution is to come in the near future or in the distant future, the fact is that the mobility of electors is the great leveller. If the Jones’s or the Smiths go from the Evans electorate to the Mitchell electorate and if their counterparts come in, nobody knows what their political designation is. In point of fact, if we are honest with ourselves we know that an increasing number of people could be denned as floating voters. So, in the light of all those factors, this fear of a manipulation just is not a goer.
I take the matter a little bit further. I think that over a 3-year span one million people- perhaps it is now 1.5 million, commensurate with the population- change their address. I know that when we divide that figure over 127 electorates it is not such a lot but it does have an impact on the marginal seats. The purpose of my intervention in this debate is to argue about what is visualised. In each of the States 3 competent people were appointed distribution commissioners. They certainly know their electorates. I know that some Opposition speakers will, as with Pandora’s box, suddenly open the Canadian system. They will instance an electorate where there is a considerable disparity in relation to another electorate. I give honourable senators this thought to chew on. The fact of the matter is that Australia, until the middle 1 950s, was always fairly prominent in regard to the introduction of electoral innovation. But what do we find of recent times? People are clamouring for a revamping of our electoral system. Optional preference, drawing for positions on ballot papers and all these matters seem to be gripping the imagination of younger voters. As a matter of fact, the Premier of New South Wales has belatedly got on to our bandwagon in relation to these things for which we have clamoured. The theme song which I am emphasising is that all that this means is a reasonable degree of parity. After all, we do not suggest that the electorates have a rigid figure of 60 000 electors. We have argued about a 10 per cent tolerance as against a 20 per cent tolerance. Cannot honourable senators grasp the fact that I am looking at these electorates with an enrolment of 60 000 or thereabouts and suggesting that the allowance of 10 per cent will meet all those subdivisional problems which we get in a country area like a State forestry area? Obviously, we are not going to give the swamp wallabies a vote.
The fact still remains that this is not a pious dream. It is a simple way of achieving what I would call electoral equilibrium. The plain fact of the matter is that if you ask anybody in the street whether he agrees with the principle of one vote one value you will find that the impression has been conjured up in the minds of the people that this principle means a sort of crushing of the rural vote by those with urban thoughts. Do those people ever realise that the political views or the composition of the urban voters are divided fairly evenly? Whether we like it or not, that is the position today, despite the complex issues that are besetting us. I know that the Opposition parties have been caught up in internal differences on definitions in their redesigning of their policy. We have had them ourselves. Each party has them. What I am trying to get through to the Senate is that checks and balances exist within parties and within the community.
The current situation in New South Wales, where there is an enrolment of well over 2 million voters, with some electorates having 80 000 voters and others 47 000 voters or a few more, is crying out for reform. Honourable senators know that the outer suburbs of Sydney and Melbourne are imposing tremendous demands upon members of Parliament. The plain fact of the matter is that although the Government has been fairly liberal in the provision of better amenities to members of Parliament the people are today demanding more of them. One of the ways in which to overcome any unevenness of demand is to get equality in the numbers of electors for whom a member of Parliament has to provide a service.
Let us take the matter a little further. Senator Withers referred to the views of certain authorities on this subject. I can assure Senator Withers that if he reads very closely the views of Malcolm Mackerras on this subject he will find that he is a man who has been what I would call almost the Diogenes of the electoral reform area. He has gone on record as advocating the making of adjustments between electorates, particularly in my own State. Retracing my steps in relation to Senator Withers’ comments on court decisions, and speaking as a humble layman, I think that Senator Withers knows in his own heart that some of the decisions that were given in the 1930s on interpretation and that were applied into the 1950s do not hold water today. I would imagine that the people who are going into high positions in the judiciary world today and who are in their forties have a different attitude from some of their learned friends in their seventies and eighties, and they do exist. I do not think that Senator Withers can gain political mileage by speaking in a sort of holy, deferential, genuflectual manner about the decisions of the High Court and the Supreme Courts. The plain fact of the matter is if an elected government does stray away from the guidelines it can go back and introduce additional legislation. The plain fact of the matter is that, irrespective of what we have attempted to do, it has been only because of the Joint Sitting of both Houses of the Parliament and the enactment of certain legislation that a number of matters have become a reality, including Medibank.
Having said that, I wind up simply by saying that there is nothing sinister about this legislation. We simply want to feel that there is parity between electorates. I say to succeeding speakers in this debate from the Liberal and Country Parties that they should study the table prepared by Mr Daly before they get up and say that there is democracy in New South Wales. Three of the electorates in New South Wales contain over 80 000 electors and there are three others on the limit of 50 000 electors. If one applies a figure of about 60 000 as being an equitable quota and subtracts the figure of 60 000 from the three electorates having 80 000 enrolments, we would have electoral parity. That means, in effect, that the broad desires of the people of New South Wales as to their political allegiance is being denied to them in the case of New South Wales. There could be another electorate in New South Wales. I have no hesitation in supporting this legislation to the hilt. I feel that it is only an attempt to meet what President Roosevelt said about facing up to changes, which is something that our own Prime Minister, who is a great innovator, has advocated.
Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 2.15p.m.
– I rise to indicate to the Senate that the National Country Party will support the Liberal Party of Australia in rejecting these electoral redistribution Bills. I will not go into the details of the matter. After all, this is the third time that these Bills have been before the Senate in one form or another. I think that we have covered most of the areas in the debate. But I want to refer briefly to the redistribution in Queensland and in particular to my objection to 2 main areas of the legislation. First of all, I object to the amalgamation of the 2 big electorates of Kennedy and Maranoa into the one enormous electorate of Flynn. I appreciate that they are probably not the 2 biggest electorates in area in Australia. We have also the electorates of Kalgoorlie and Darling. But there is a difference in this situation because in western Queensland fairly large communities are spead throughout the area.
Everyone who has visited that State knows that the spheres of influence of the different areas run from the coast westward. Therefore, for example, the city of Mount Isa and all the areas along that northern railway line have their influence in the city of Townsville. The people in this area conduct all their business trading in Townsville. All the communications run that way. Those people have nothing or very little in common with people in the central areas or southern inland areas of the State. If there is to be a redistribution of boundaries in Queensland I feel that community of interest and the interest of various areas should be of paramount importance if we are to obtain the proper representation in a Federal Parliament.
The more we look at this situation which this enormous electorate of Flynn would face, the more impossible we can see it would become for the member who represents it, whoever is unfortunate enough to be its representative. Distance for a start will make it almost impossible for him even if he does have unlimited opportunities to use charter aircraft. The time spent in the air alone would take up a considerable amount of the time that he should be spending in the electorate. But that is not the only problem. The different spheres of influence would also be a problem. The northern area has nothing in common with the southern area. All the industrieseven the primary industries- are different. It would be almost impossible for such a member to reconcile the interests of one area with those of another and come up with a logical solution for his whole electorate. We must protest on behalf of the people in the remote areas of that State at such a redistribution. We hope that nothing of this nature will occur again.
I would also like to object to the departure from what has been traditional in this country in that in remote areas there have been fewer voters than in city electorates because of the vast areas to be covered. Also, if we really want to decentralise our population and develop our resources we should give reasonable representation to those people in the far-flung areas so that they can at least see that they have some sort of representation in the parliaments of our country. But what we see in this redistribution is that future population trends will be given prominence over distance and so forth. We find that country electorates covering vast areas are to be loaded with a greater number of voters than the electorates in the metropolitan areas. If we are to do anything towards halting the drift from the country to the cities, if we are to do anything towards developing this nation on a balanced scale, we must ensure that country people do not lose their representation. After all, if we have a concentrated situation in which a number of members represents a city, they all act on behalf of that city. Anything that is done that may benefit one electorate usually will benefit the lot. They all stand to gain out of anything that is done there. But in the vast country electorates it will be found that if only one section of an electorate benefits from Government action, large sections of the electorate may not gain but may even be disadvantaged as a result of such action. We have to see that these vast areas are properly represented.
Of course, I know that the argument of the Australian Labor Party is that it believes in the so-called democratic principle of one vote one value. If that principle of one vote one value is to be applied, apparently only that is taken into consideration and we forget about the distance, communications, community of interest and so forth, all for the one objective of achieving one vote one value. One can appreciate that if this is the Labor Party’s policy, and if that is what its members believe in, that is probably what they should implement. But, of course, it is only something that they preach; it is not what they practise. As every member of the Australian Labor Party will tell you, it is such a democratic party that not only are its decisions made by Cabinet but also they have to be authorised and agreed to by the Caucus. As the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) pointed out only recently to the Federal Executive of the ALP, everything that has been done in this Parliament has been Labor Party policy, policy that has been determined by the Federal Conference of the Party. But where is the one vote one value principle in the Federal Conference of the Labor Party? Because New South Wales has 10 times the population of Tasmania, does anyone suggest that there should be 10 representatives from New South Wales on the policy-making body as against one from Tasmania? Of course, the members of the ALP do not practise that principle because they know very well that if ever the Federal Executive of the ALP was made up in accordance with the principle of one vote one value and on a population basis there would be no Federal organisation as we know it today. It would be a New South Wales and Victoria show only.
– You do not know what -
– The honourable senator knows darned well that no one from Tasmania would be game to get up and say that he believed there should be 10 representatives from New South Wales for every one from Tasmania on the Federal policy-making body. Of course, the reason that the ALP does this is because of the smaller States. It feels that they are entitled to representation. I believe, on the same basis, that those people who live in the remote areas, who have difficulties with communications and standards of living that are not as high as those enjoyed by many of our people in the cities should have the same sort of representation as the Tasmanian ALP delegates have at the Federal Conference of the Labor Party.
I object to this gradual whittling away of the representation of the rural areas. If we honestly believe that we have to decentralise the population of this nation and develop our resources not only for our own benefit but also in case there are eager eyes outside looking at our underdeveloped lands, we have to be positive and see that the representation of people in these areas is given the fullest recognition. That is all I have to say on the matter. I hope that the whole of the 5 redistribution Bills will be defeated on this, the third time, they have come before the Senate.
-I find this a rather sick and sad debate. For the third time we rise to talk about achieving some sort of electoral justice in Australia. We are treated by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Withers) to a rather blase, off-the-cuff, throw-away laugh about democracy and morals. I suppose that is indicative of the moral political climate which has deteriorated so rapidly in Australia over the last few months to the point where two State Premiers are thumbing their noses at the Constitution and disfranchising voters through the appointments they have made to the Senate. It seems to me rather sad that people of our ages come here and legislate to give the vote to 18- year-olds and then set them that sort of example, with glib talk about democracy and morals and about people’s involvement in the government of this country. These Bills endeavour to put value back into people’s votes. It seems rather banal now to talk about democracy and what has happened to it, but when people are appointed to the Senate at the whim of a State Premier rather than by means of the votes of the people in that State being followed it makes democracy look rather sick.
I know it is like talking to a brick wall, and that what I say here unfortunately is not going to change one vote on the other side. It is not going to niggle at one conscience and make people think what the Senate is supposed to be about. But let us consider once again why in Victoria, for instance, a redistribution is needed. The seat of Diamond Valley has 86 000 votes and the seat of Wimmera has 49 000 votes, a difference of 43 per cent, and Wimmera is not all that far from civilisation. In Victoria there are seats like Burke, which have 83 000 votes, and seats like Mallee, which have 49 500 votes, a difference of 41 per cent. There are seats like Holt with 80 000 votes and Wannon with 53 000 votes, a difference of 34 per cent; La Trobe with 86 000 votes and Indi with 54 000 votes, a difference of 33 per cent; Bruce with 77 000 votes and Melbourne Ports with 55 000 votes, a difference of 29 per cent. None of those places are so far from civilisation that they need those additional votes. Since 1 968 the numbers in Bruce have increased by 27 000, in Diamond Valley by 35 000, in Burke by 35 000, in Holt by 32 000 and in La Trobe by 31 000. Those are not insignificant numbers. They are all voters, and as such they are all entitled to proper representation, as are the people in Wimmera, where the number of voters has increased by 2900, in Mallee where it has increased by 440, in Wannon where it has increased by 5400 and in Indi where it has increased by 7900.
Could I ask again why we need a redistribution. We are not back in the days of the horse and buggy. If we are talking about proper representation for electors, if we are talking about how members of Parliament can represent their electorate properly, then we are talking about something else. We are talking about communications between parliamentarians and their electors, and in these days when we have motor cars, aeroplanes, telephones, newspapers and postage, when we do not rely on horses and carrier pigeons, it seems absolutely ludicrous to say that country members should represent smaller numbers of people than city members. A member of Parliament with a seat with 56 000 voters in the middle of a city, where people have problems and need to talk to somebody about those problems, is as beleaguered in that city electorate, which may stretch for miles, as a member of Parliament in the seat of Wimmera, who does not have a great deal of distance to cover. In fact, he has to go from one town to the next and when he gets there he has less people to talk to than has the city member. We are talking about two different things. We are talking on the one hand about a democratic principle in which one member represents a certain number of people and on the other hand we are talking about the ability of a member to represent his people properly. With modern aids, that is a ludicrous comparison to make.
The Country Party has a point to make in relation to Victoria. Under the redistribution Wimmera, which is a very small seat and in the scale of things represents few people, is to disappear and the Liberals are to get a new seat of Doncaster-Templestowe; or at least the Liberals presume that they are going to get that seat. But here is the rub. The good solid Country Party voters from Wimmera will go to Mallee, which is a good solid Country Party seat- not represented ably, but the Country Party voters in Mallee still have to learn that lesson. The rest of the voters from Wimmera go to Ballarat, Bendigo and Wannon, seats which are all held at the moment by the Liberal Party. Perhaps that is why the Country Party is so upset about the redistribution, not because it is worried that the voters in those areas are not going to be properly represented but because they are going to be represented by the Liberal Party, and the Country Party is not very happy about that.
– Tweedledee and Tweedledum.
– But the cabbage patch you have is very close to your heart and you do not want to give it away to the Liberal Party, even if you are the best mates in the world. The Government is accused continually with this nonsense of attempting to reduce the opportunity of country people to enjoy at least some equality of political representation with city people. In those circumstances we might look closely at the sort of representation those areas have. Perhaps the people of Bendigo, Ballarat and Wannon will think again about electing even a Liberal Party member. They might decide that a Labor Party member who really understands the problems of the ordinary people in those areas, of whom there is a great number, might come closer to bringing those places back into the 20th century. All that nonsense about inequality might have had some validity in the old days when the world was wide, but these days we can put a man on the moon or cross the world in less than a day. A message can go from point A to point B in almost no time, but still we have this nonsense about inequality of representation for country people.
I believe that the voters have a lot more common sense and know a lot more about the ways of the world than my friends in the Opposition give them credit for. I do not really believe that people in the country feel that they are being deprived of anything. I think they feel as one with the city people in that they want the sort of representation that everybody else has and they want good representation for everybody. They have a great feeling for fairness, and although people sneer at the principle of one vote one value, I believe that the ordinary people of this country are closer to understanding the principle of a fair go for everybody than are their representatives. The Country Party is worried about losing one of its seats in Victoria. If its first thought was for the people it represents then it would be above worrying about whether it was going to lost a seat and the Liberals were going to gain a seat. It would be more concerned with the democratic principle which is at the heart of the Bills, that is, that we have a Constitution which provides that all people should be represented equally. That idea has been canvassed around this country for a long time, and the Government insists that a vast number of people in Australia do not believe that their votes should be of less value, should be worth half or one-third or one-fifth of votes in other electorates. The Government believes that the good sense of the people in the country will back it up. Those people do not really need a BjelkePetersen to sneer at the Constitution, to sneer at electors, to put into the Senate people whom he has never seen, to find some miserable way of manipulating the Constitution in order to take it out of the hands of the ordinary people and gain some miserable advantage for himself.
The day will come when the ordinary people of this country will be really fed up with the Opposition’s attitude and will say ‘Enough is enough. You have been moralising at us for years. You have been telling us that the Constitution must work this way and we must behave ourselves that way’. The 18-year olds to whom we gave the vote will turn around and say: ‘You gave us the vote after a great deal of push and shove. You finally decided that as well as an 1 8-year old being old enough to go out and be killed and old enough to kill the sons of other women we can also have a say in government. Finally, you gave us a say in the government. Now, for goodness sake, have the moral guts to stand up and live by the Constitution that you have been shoving down our necks for years. Have the guts to stand up and say that the Constitution says that all people- not some people but all people- will be represented on an equal basis. ‘ Honourable senators opposite should not drag in the red herrings of the distances they have to travel. Do not drag in the red herrings that we live far enough away -
– Are not they part of the equalities?
– Everybody is equal in this country. It is not a case of some people being more equal than others. These Bills endeavour to make the votes of everybody equal.
– Do not distances make for equalities?
– Distances cause troubles in communication. Distances do not make some people more equal than others. I should like to quote Mr Malcolm Mackerras–
– You have never lived a long way from anywhere.
– I live a long way from everywhere, senator.
– In Victoria?
-We all live a long way from everywhere. As Senator Davidson said in the debate on the Railways Agreement (South Australia) Bill the other day, before the Labor Government came into power he could make arrangements to travel by train with some comfort, but since the Labor Government came into office in South Australia he has to travel with everybody else in discomfort. I am sick of the argument about some people being more comfortable and some people less comfortable. I am sick of that very facile argument about how some people need special consideration- which has been raised on an electoral Bill of all thingsbecause they live further away from some places than other people do.
– You have never lived a long way from anywhere.
– I obviously live a long way from South Australia. May I, in conclusion, Mr Deputy President- despite your friend who has such trouble because he lives such a long way from everywhere- quote Malcolm Mackerras whom everybody has quoted as being an authority on electoral matters and who, in days gone by, has been quoted by the Opposition as being very close to its heart. Malcolm Mackerras, in referring to redistribution, said:
In overall political terms the 1975 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 and not on the Commissioners.
May I say that the Senate, in rejecting these Bills again, will not bring itself any credit.
– I rise to oppose the 5 Bills dealing with electoral redistribution that are before the Senate. I want to confine my remarks to a number of general statements and a general argument. I intend to conclude by making a more specific reference to my own State of New South Wales. It is quite clear- obviously there can be no other way- that we will be reiterating many of the points which have been made on other occasions in a debate such as this. If indeed we do reiterate some of these points it emphasises rather than diminishes the importance of the legislation that is before us. Relative to the continuity and development of a democracy must surely be, basically, the electoral system, the electoral laws and, indeed, the distribution of electorates under which that democracy operates. If we spend some time in discussing this sort of matter we are discussing something that is basic to our governmental and parliamentary system. A redistribution must be, of necessity, related to the need to rub out electoral inequalities and, indeed, to the need from time to time to establish that the right number of electorates are in existence in each of the States of this Commonwealth.
I believe that neither of those bases can be found to be in existence at this time. Therefore, they are not in urgent need of treatment. I believe that the redistribution that is before us is unnecessary on a number of grounds. The whole matter is still before the High Court. As the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Withers) said in his opening address in this debate, the evidence of the most recent elections in this country, percentage-wise and seat-wise, has suggested on 2 occasions in the last 3 years that a vote of slightly less than 50 per cent has produced a government in power with slightly more than 50 per cent of the seats. I believe that if that is the situation- indeed it is- then it is virtually impossible to get a system which is closer to electoral fairness and real justice than is exhibited by the results of those elections. So far as the various electorates are concerned, how silly and unnecessary it is that we should be looking seriously at a redistribution proposition in this particular year. It is only a matter of months before the 1 976 census is held. Surely it would be far more sensible to introduce such legislation at a time when the census had revealed that a redistribution was necessary than to rush into a redistribution at this time which can, at best, serve perhaps only one election. It is surely one of the essential bases of our democratic parliamentary system that we should have a situation in which electorates remain relatively unchanged for quite specific periods. I say that in all seriousness. I say it because it is of great value to the Australian elector himself that he become identified with a specific electorate- with its social and economic problems, with its topographical circumstancesand understands its problems and the problems of the people there. It is equally important that there should be a real measure of time between redistributions in order that those people who represent the electors in the various electorates have an opportunity to identify themselves with those areas and their priorities.
A circumstance which would admit of a redistribution in one year followed by another redistribution the next year is most unstable and most undesirable. That is the situation which would confront us if we were to pass the redistribution legislation which is before us. Indeed, the redistribution proposal that is with us today is based on a variance of 10 per cent as a margin of tolerance between electorates which has, to this point, been 20 per cent. It is interesting to remember that even the present Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) in the days before he was Prime Minister approved the idea that 20 per cent was indeed a reasonable margin in view of the various disabilities of varying electorates across the land. The fact that the percentage of tolerance has been reduced from 20 per cent to 10 per cent is significant in itself, but even more significant is the way in which the tolerance has been applied to this particular redistribution. It has been applied in a manner which has produced the greatest number of electors in those electorates which have because of size the greatest physical disabilities to attain an equality of representation. Surely when we are talking of equality- we always seem to be doing that- we must be talking of equality of the value and standard of representation. I do not believe that it is possible to solve this problem by a mere statistic. Nor is it possible ever to retain within the electorates in this country, or in any country, a circumstance in which the various electorates have the same number of electors. Indeed, if that were to be the object redistributions would have to take place almost on a monthly basis.
– Who has ever suggested that?
-I suggested that that would be the only way in which the sort of circumstance which would provide identical numbers of electors in electorates would in any way be possible. As often happens when the Labor Party discusses the matter of electoral redistribution, Senator Melzer took some exception to the views of the National Country Party. Of course, that in itself does not concern us. The fact that honourable senators opposite find it somewhat irritating that the National Country Party proposes the views and attitudes that it does does not concern us at all. Indeed, it is a compliment to us.
We have a very great concern indeed about electoral justice. We are concerned to see that equality of representation is related to the value and the capacity of that representation. It has been suggested by Mr Daly on numbers of occasions, with his usual somewhat distorted sense of humour, that the National Country
Party is concerned with arranging for votes for sheep and goats. I think scrub wallabies were also introduced into the debate this morning by Senator Mulvihill. Of course, that may be the view of honourable senators opposite, it may be the view of Mr Daly and it may be attractive to his particular type of sense of humour, but the facts are that this redistribution which Mr Daly promotes with such a measure of urgency month after month is a redistribution which would establish in the Australian scene a necessity for a Liberal-National Country Party coalition to achieve 55 per cent of the votes in order to attain government and would enable the Labor Party to achieve government with some 45 per cent of the vote. So it seems totally irresponsible to assume that Mr Daly and his party are not in some real measure directed by a political incentive in constantly bringing this sort of legislation before the Parliament.
As I said a moment ago, this legislation proposes to reduce the tolerance to 10 per cent. But it proposes to do more than that. It creates a circumstance in which that tolerance can be used in such a manner that rural Australia, country Australia, will suffer the most. The country electorates have, virtually without exception, the greatest numbers of electors. Indeed, if the Government promotes the view that the reason for that is that those electorates have a slower growth rate it is surely condemning any claim it makes about being concerned with decentralisation, with the vast cross-section of the Australian people. That is the only way in which I can read the situation. I believe that the Government’s support for this redistribution can be read only as emphasising its total disregard for those vast areas that lie outside the metropolitan areas around the Australian seaboard.
I wish now to turn briefly to one or two circumstances in my own State of New South Wales. I shall refer to two or three of the electorates concerned. In the first place, the redistribution proposals which are before us abolish the seat of Riverina in New South Wales, a seat which in 1974 was lost by the Labor Party’s Mr Grassby to the National Country Party’s Mr Sullivan. It is a seat, ironically enough, which incorporates virtually all the yardsticks except the sheer extent of the electorate itself. It is an electorate which fits so well all those other traditional yardsticks of an electorate. Community of interest, capacity for travel and communication, identity itself across the whole canvas of the electorate are perhaps as well represented, if not better represented in the electorate of Riverina in New South Wales, than in most if not all other electorates in Australia.
Yet it is an electorate which under this redistribution it is proposed to abolish. The electorate of Gwydir in New South Wales is to cover no less than 100 000 square miles, which is practically one-third of the area of the State.
– What about Kalgoorlie? It takes in three-quarters of the State of Western Australia.
-That is right, and it is well under quota; it is 15 per cent under quota. The electorate of Gwydir has no less than 40-odd local government bodies and will cover 100 000 square miles. It is impossible to assert that equality of representation, the value and character of representation, can be the same in that circumstance as it can in a city electorate covering an area of 3 or 4 square miles. It is quite a ridiculous situation, and I am quite sure that most members of the Government would, in their quite reasonable circumstances, admit that that is so.
I now turn to the electorate in New South Wales just north of the Australian Capital Territory, the electorate of Hume. It is proposed that the electorate of Hume should be elongated. The proposal is to extend its area to some 16 000 square miles, which includes a vast variety of terrain and country. The most important point of all is that it has 65 625 electors or 3000 electors above the average for the State of New South Wales. It is a rural electorate which of its very nature is difficult to represent, and yet it is an electorate which has within its boundaries the greatest number of electors of any of the 45 federal electorates in the State of New South Wales.
I shall now refer to one or two other matters of interest and I believe, in fairness, of some concern. In New South Wales there are 12 federal country electorates, and of those 12 electorates only two under the redistribution proposals will have less than the average number of electors and those 2 electorates will be only marginally below the average. I refer to the electorate of Farrer in the south-west of New South Wales, which will have 500 electors under the average, and the electorate of New England in the northeast of New South Wales, which will have only 400 electors under the average. Twelve country electorates in New South Wales exceed the State average number of electors by roughly 700. Nineteen of the 33 urban and semi-urban electorates in New South Wales are below the State average. These 33 electorates have an average number of electors which is 1000 below the average of the country electorates.
I am emphasising these points because I believe that they are significant; they are absolutely indicative of the fact that the redistribution which is before us is not really concerned with justice to the total Australian scene and certainly not with justice to the total scene as we see it in the State of New South Wales. I believe that the redistribution that we are looking at has made a mockery of the principles of means of communication, identity of interest and so forth that should be of great significance in determining the electorates of a country.
It is interesting to recall that if the number of country electorates in New South Wales had been increased by one instead of being diminished by one the electorates would have been within the 10 per cent tolerance. I mentioned that this is a matter of interest. I believe it is of pertinent interest to point out that if on the one hand there was one more rural electorate rather than one less in New South Wales the margin of tolerance would still be only 6.4 per cent, well within the 10 per cent limit. If, on the other hand, in order to retain a total of 45 seats one urban or semi-urban seat was lost the margin of tolerance would be 2.6 per cent. On both occasions the variation would be well within the tolerance of 10 per cent which is laid down in the laws under which these redistributions were made. The concern of my Party and the Opposition is for balance and decentralisation, and I know that on occasions the Government talks of the same things. We are concerned that we can see no reference at all to balance and decentralisation in the redistribution proposals that are before us today. This is the major concern not only of my Party but also of the hundreds of thousands of people who live right across the canvas of inland Australia.
Section 19 of the Commonwealth Electoral Act states among other things that the Distribution Commissioners should consider community of interests in the electorate, communications and travel within a division, physical features and the trend of population changes. I do not believe that these principles have been realistically approached in the redistribution Bills that are before us. If changes in population trends are such that the actions which are proposed in the redistributions are considered necessary it is, as I said before, a sad reflection on the capacity of the Government to develop a total and balanced scene.
We see in this redistribution the weight of political representation being tilted still further towards the urban areas. We do not believe that this is in the proper interests of the total development of New South Wales and of Australia. It seems to me to be totally absurd that in a country as vast as Australia we should be aiding and abetting a circumstance which continues to make the disparity between the representation of metropolitan and rural Australia even greater. It is absurd that such a vast country with such an amazing potential should find itself continually being encouraged to remain the most urbanised country on earth.
I conclude my remarks by drawing the attention of the Senate again to the basic circumstances that surround the redistribution proposals that are before us. In the first place the redistributions are totally unnecessary as they would be a prelude, by a matter of months, to the census which will require yet another redistribution. They are totally unnecessary in that the evidence of the elections that have been held in the last 3 years indicates that there is a remarkable justice in the results that come from the electoral set-up that exists in Australia today. It is for these reasons that I find great strength in opposing this series of Bills concerned with the redistribution of Australian electorates.
– I rise to oppose the 5 electoral Bills which relate to the States of South Australia, Tasmania, Queensland, Victoria and New South Wales. My main reason for opposing them is that as a New South Welshman I feel greatly concerned at the possibility of the electorate of Riverina being cast aside. I do not approach this matter from the point of view of an advantage being gained by one party or another. I approach it entirely with a voice of independence. I do not like to think that any party would place any credence on an advantage which an electoral Bill may give them. I believe that the legislation is not in the best interests of New South Wales and I presume the same thing applies in connection with the other States.
I would have had no hesitation in supporting the Bills had the meat of them been in accordance with the original formula. But the formula which has been set is quite illogical. The original legislation which was passed by this Parliament stated:
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 trends of population changes within the State; and
the physical features of the Division; and
existing boundaries of Divisions and Subdivisions.
We find now that an entirely different situation applies. The amending legislation which was presented to the Parliament in 1974 omitted some of the very important components of what I just stated, namely the 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. These are crucial points. However, they are to be deleted by the legislation which we have before us. The productivity of the area should also be a component of the formula.
I would not feel in all conscience satisfied to accept the position as it is at the present time. It has been stated that not to pass these Bills would be to contravene the Commonwealth Electoral Act. Nevertheless, the Senate is given the right not to pass the Bills if it sees fit. It would be a contravention of the Constitution if any action were taken to change the status quo in relation to the number of senators. The Labor Party talks about one vote one value and about parity between electors. Each of the 6 States has 10 representatives in the Senate. Yet we are quibbling about the country getting its fair share of the voting strength in electorates. As I see it, there is nothing to be said in favour of this change. It would have a cruelling effect on decentralisation. It would place the electors in remote areas and in country areas generally at a disadvantage. It would be another move in the interests of centralisation from an electoral point of view, and that is not right.
My home State, New South Wales, has created by State law 9 regions in the State. To show the importance of country areas to the development of this State, I remind the Senate that seven of those 9 regions are in country areas. The remaining two are in metropolitan areas. When we analyse the situation in relation to the Bills, we see that it is necessary from the point of view of development and of giving all people in the State representation which they desire that that state of” affairs applies in connection with electoral boundaries. When all is said and done, I suppose that country people, who are living in developing areas, are more entitled to the ear of their elected representatives than city residents are entitled to the ear of their elected representatives because the city is established. The country is still being developed. It would be a retrograde step if we were to make any of the changes suggested in these electoral Bills.
I have an open mind on this matter. I speak as one who believes entirely in the development of this country. In connection with electoral matters and developmental matters we should see that the status quo remains. Parliament generally has created a wonderful state of affairs in connection with the development of Australia. The present Government is to be commended for the part that it is playing in connection with the development of Australia. In that development it is necessary that we take full cognisance of the necessity to give the people in the outback the opportunity to approach their elected representatives because those electors have more to seek than their brothers and sisters in the city have. In this age of talk about regionalism, growth centres and the general development of the community, it is necessary that at every hand people in the country are not placed at a disadvantage compared to those in the city. Electorally, the changes recommended in the Bills- one man one vote and the full parity that have been suggested by the Government- would not be in the best interests of the electoral conditions in this country. For those reasons I will have no hesitation in recording my vote in opposition to the legislation.
-The Bills before the Senate are opposed by my Party. Some of the speeches by former speakers, particularly on the Government side, require comment. Senator Melzer said very clearly that these Bills are talking about communication between members and constituents. I thought her remarks were appropriate, because we have had put forward by the Australian Labor Party for some years this general proposition, which is an attractive comment, whatever it may mean, of one vote one value. One needs only to look at the general comments made by the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) and others during past years to decide that that is not the philosophy of the Labor Party. Its philosophy is to divide the electorates in this country in such a way that the Labor Party will be returned constantly to office. The harm that has been created in the rural areas of Australia by Labor’s thrusts, both economically and through these measures, is quite evident. One should look generally at Labor policies and ask: Are there certain areas in proposals that Labor has put forward during its term in office that the public can grasp and say: ‘Here is success about which Labor can speak’? I wonder whether there is any area in which Labor can actually claim success, other than the success of forcing on the Australian people the ideology of socialism. That is occurring in nearly every area today.
Let me deal now with certain areas of the economy. One of the great philosophies on which Labor came into power was that Labor would see that there was no unemployment. What is the position today? Even that theory cannot be believed. Labor has ruined the economy, to the disadvantage of its supporters. I point this out as only one instance among many of Labor not believing in what it says but believing in what it will gain by pressing an ideology on the community.
– What has this got to do with the Bills?
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Wood)- I ask Senator Webster to return to the Bills.
– I know it is very difficult for some people to understand what this has to do with the Bills. There is some very thick thinking-
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENTSenator Webster, you will confine your remarks to the Bills.
– It is necessary to have an introduction to a matter such as this. I commenced by saying that Senator Melzer said that these Bills are related to communication between the member and the constituent. I was attempting to say to the Senate that these redistributions, in truth, do not reflect Labor’s attitude. I was making one or two points in a lead up to this point: During recent years the Prime Minister had run the story that Labor would attempt to bring in electorates that were approximately equal in population. When that story was run- I think Mr Daly had some comments on it- it blew out the door altogether the theory of one vote one value. The Labor Party did not want to hear of one vote one value. That great criterion must go because the Labor Party believes in and will attempt to bring about eventually in this country electorates which are approximately equal in population. It will get some big hotel in the middle of Melbourne with 2000 people in it on the day that the census is taken. That will have a bearing on the small electorate of about two or three square miles in Melbourne. Labor will say that the electors in that area are entitled to equal representations with some other electorateperhaps Gwydir which covers 36 000 square miles, I believe the figure is, or some of the other electorates such as Kennedy in Queensland which covers 280 000 square miles.
I refer again to that part of Senator Melzer ‘s speech in which she said that what we are talking about in these Bills is the communication and the opportunity for communication between member and constituent. What Labor is putting forward is so much rot. Of course, some honourable senators opposite have not had an opportunity to go into rural areas. They were born in the cities, they have lived in the cities and they have seen very little of country areas and the difficulties that face country people.
– When did you go to Cape York last?
-Senator Keeffe interjects. I know that he believes in this supposed principle of one vote one value, but undoubtedly he is a man who would throw that principle out of the door in favour of the principle related to the number of people in an electorate at any one time. It would be interesting to hear what Senator Keeffe really believes. His belief would change from day to day depending on what was good for the health of the Labor Party. Great difficulty is being experienced in rural areas. My dear father who died about a month ago was a member of the parliament of the small State of Victoria. Back in the 1 940s I remember him coming and telling me that he had met and walked home with a city member of parliament. He told me that the member who represented the city electorate had said: ‘By joves, I do not know whether you have got any of these school committees, these parents’ committees, but they give me a headache’. I think that this member represented the electorate of Balaclava. In that electorate there were half a dozen fairly large schools which had pretty active groups connected with them. I remember that my father said he answered: ‘Yes, I do. I have over fifty-six of them in my electorate ‘. That is one of the basic difficulties that is experienced when one attempts to equate the numbers of voters in electorates and to bring in this principle of one vote one value- whatever it might mean. Communication from a member of parliament to his constituent and the ability of a constituent to be able to get to his member of parliament are factors which govern this principle of equality of representation which is required in this great country of Australia.
Since the beginning of this century there has been written into the electoral laws the provision that there shall be within the States a 20 per cent disparity above or below the quota. Those matters which held in earlier days and which have been brought up to date as directions to the Distribution Commissions to consider in carrying out electoral redistribution provide that the Commissioners shall take into consideration those things which are important in allowing a constituent to be able to get equality of representation. Surely when the Minister replies he will be able to answer the question whether there is a greater difficulty for the constituent living in the electorate of Kennedy or in the electorate of Kalgoorlie in being able to see his member of parliament regularly, or whether there is greater difficulty for the member of parliament who represents those electorates being able to meet with his own constituents, to formulate ideas and to promote those ideas politically. There is not the same opportunity to do that in a large rural electorate as there is in a pocket-handkerchief metropolitan electorate.
For many years this matter of community of interests within a division has included the economic, social and regional interests of an electorate, and the means of communication and of travel within an electorate. Perhaps one could spend a moment on that. In most city electorates if there is a problem among city councillors or among constituents relating to any subject, a member of parliament is able within half an hour to get to anyone within his electorate and discuss the matter. He can jump on a tram or a train, pay a fare of 20c or 30c and go and discuss the matter fully with his people. But what happens in large rural electorates? It amazes me that honourable senators who in this place are supposed to represent the whole of a State advance the proposition that is contained in these Bills, which is that we should break down that 20 per cent disparity. Of course, that is so much humbug, as I hope to show. I will show that the Labor Party does not believe in the proposition contained in these Bills. It is bringing only humbug into this Parliament by attempting to reduce the disparity to 10 percent.
Since 1918 the Commonwealth Electoral Act has contained the provision that the Distribution Commissioners must take into account the trend in population changes, the denseness or sparcity of population in a division, the area of a division, the physical features of a division and the existing boundaries. I have said that Labor does not believe in what it preaches. If the officers who are advising the Minister can scribble some notes for the Minister to use in answering this question I will be very pleased. Labor has been in power for some Vh years. Although Labor has not been successful in putting through the Senate all the legislation that it wished, it has been successful in many areas in socialising this country.
What has happened when Labor, during its term of government, has decided to give a free vote and a fully elected council in a particular area? What has happened when the nomination of the Distribution Commissioners has been in the hands of this Government which claims that any disparity above what should be a quota is something to be abhorred? What has happened not only when Labor has been able to nominate the Distribution Commissioners but also when it has had within its power, as the Federal Government has, complete control over an area such as the Northern Territory? While I was a member of the Joint Committee on the Northern Territory the Committee looked into the question of the eventual break-up of that Territory for the purpose of introducing self-determination into the Territory. Of course, the Government subverted anything that the Committee was going to say and it advanced the proposition for a redistribution of the Territory before the Committee reported on the matter that it was considering. I make the point . that although it was within the power of the Labor Party to appoint the Distribution Commissioners, to lay down the criteria as to how the Commissioners would break up the area, and to review all the decisions to see whether what the Commissioners were doing was fair and correct in the Northern Territory, what do we find? Do we find any one Labor man honest in this matter of electoral reform? We do not. When the Northern Territory was broken up into various electorates in 1974- and note that that was at a time when Labor had complete control federally and complete control over the Northern Territory- it was not broken up using a 10 per cent disparity above or below the quota, no fear. Labor did not want to be honest in that matter. It broke up the Northern Territory in such a way that in one electorate there was a 26.5 per cent disparity above the quota and in another electorate there was a 24.2 per cent disparity below the quota. We need only add up those figures to find that while Labor had complete control over the Northern Territory, there was a disparity in electorates in the Northern Territory of 50.7 per cent.
It is a terrible thing to come into a chamber such as this Senate and hear men pronouncing the theory of one vote one value and demanding that this proposition should be applied throughout Australia when those same men, who have complete control over the Northern Territory, introduce a disparity of about 50 per cent in electorates in the Northern Territory. One despairs for honesty in political matters when one reaches that situation.
– Why don’t you be honest with the facts?
– I know that Senator Keeffe who has just interjected will be anxious for me to table a paper which has been prepared by the Commonwealth Parliamentary Library. As at 30 September 1975 in that one short year in the electorate of Gillen the percentage above the quota is 35.6 per cent and in the electorate of Barkly the percentage below the quota is 22.8 per cent.
– Would you speak a little more quietly, please, senator?
– I do not want to disturb Senator James McClelland but sometimes it takes a lot of getting through to honourable senators on the government side. I think the honourable senator who interrupted is one man who would stand up in this Parliament and say: ‘We believe in one vote, one value’. The situation is that a year ago the Australian Labor Party broke up the Northern Territory into electorates. There is now a 58.4 per cent disparity from the lowest to the highest. What is Labor doing? Is it coming into this place and saying that that is a terrible thing, that we cannot have electorates like that? No, it is not. The Labor Party was responsible for doing that within the last 12 months from this date. I seek leave to table a document which reflects those figures.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Wood)- Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted.
– We have an ongoing situation.
- Senator Webster is overcome by Senator Keeffe ‘s generosity in letting him table the document.
-No. Senator Keeffe would allow me to do that. I spent a lot of time with Senator Keeffe on a committee looking into the environmental conditions of Aborigines. I suppose we covered as much ground over the northern part of Queensland, Western Australia and the Northern Territory as most members would. I know that Senator Keeffe, as the present chairman of the Committee, is continuing to do excessive miles in the interests of that group. He knows that even the Aborigines in Australia do not receive adequate representation if their circumstances are applied to a one vote, one value situation and compared with people such as myself or Senator Keeffe who live in metropolitan Australia. I do not know whether Senator Keeffe would be upstanding and say that of course they do and that there ought to be one vote for an Aborigine in the middle of Arnhem Land and one vote for a person in the middle of Bourke Street, Melbourne. Of course that is not the situation. There must be a disparity for the individual who is anxious to have a discussion and who may have difficulties with communication, distance and sparseness of area. There needs to be a greater disparity than an average of 10 per cent up or down. That is the reason why my party and I very vehemently oppose the legislation which is put forward. I think that figure is comfortable for Labor members who basically represent metropolitan electors. They may be fighting for something in which they really believe. I do not know what it is they believe in when they say one vote, one value. I have always likened that situation to their proposition of attempting to have an electoral system of first past the post. It is very attractive to say first past the post. I suppose any good racing man would say that the principle which ought to apply is that whoever gets first past the post should win.
We know that that is a subversive type of proposition which is put forward by the Government. We know that a person gaining only 26 per cent or 27 per cent of the votes can win an electorate. We know that there will be no equality if Labor, as it has attempted to do, gets that type of proposition through the Parliament. The Labor Party, having put this type of Bill forward in this place and in the other place and having had it rejected during Labor’s term in office, is not satisfied. That is not sufficient for the Prime Minister. He put a referendum to the people. I thought it would be attractive to the people because Labor had given it such great publicity. But the people saw through it and they rejected it. I ask honourable senators: What does this Government do now? It brings the legislation forward again. It tries to force it through the Senate. We are dealing with 5 Bills which will add to the 1 7 Bills which are now in a storehouse. I suppose that Labor is hoping at some stage, should it ever gain the electoral mandate of the people, to be able to bring them forward at a joint sitting.
– It depends on the High Court.
– I do not think the Labor Party takes too much notice of the High Court.
– Come on.
-‘ Come on’, Senator Keeffe says.
– The honourable senator listened to one member of the High Court not so long ago. He was a very illustrious senator.
– I know. That is a matter which I would love to discuss with Senator Mulvihill and with other honourable senators at some time. The fact is that Labor, in its Petroleum and Minerals Authority Bill, completely disregarded the facts at the time and tried to take advantage of the Constitution. Was it not $30m of public money which was spent unlawfully while the High Court was sitting and hearing that case? We know that the basis of the Bills which are before us is under challenge in the High Court at the present time. But that does not affect the Labor Party one little bit. These proposals for electoral redistribution of the Labor Party are purely a theory whereby it will promote its socialist program. I am opposed to that. I am opposed to this type of Bill which while attempting to reduce the variation in the quota does not tie in with Labor’s stated philosophy of one vote, one value. It comes somewhere towards it in saying that there can be only a 20 per cent disparity between the high and the low. I reiterate that when Labor is faced with the reality it cannot take into account the number of voters in any area. In an enormous area such as the Northern Territory with the problems of physical features and the great sparseness of population that we find in that territory, Labor came down with a proposition and said: ‘Look, we think there should be over a 50 per cent disparity’. That was the figure which Labor brought in. I think this is just so much humbug. I hope that the people of Australia will recognise that Labor’s proposals are not for the good of Australia. Thank heavens there is a Senate. We hope that this matter will be rejected immediately.
– It was not my intention to come into this debate but in view of the many misstatements of fact which have been made by two honourable senators of the National Country Party of Australia, I feel that some of the truth should be made known. I shall take one of the last sentences in Senator Webster’s speech. He said: ‘Thank God we have a Senate’. The way in which the Liberal Party and the Country Party have behaved over the last 3 years has done more than any other opponents of the Labor Party and the Senate to bring about its abolition. Those parties have misused this chamber in the great game of power politics so often that it has become monotonous. Honourable senators opposite have prostituted the powers of the Senate so many times that people outside the chamber are rapidly coming around to the stage that they hope the Senate will disappear forever and that everybody on that side of the Senate will go with it. It seems to me that the main motive in the Opposition’s argument first of all is to block these Bills in the same way that it has blocked some 20 or 30 other Bills over the last year or so. It is a reprehensible practice that a group which prides itself on being called the Opposition is indulging in an attempt to hold up the legislation of this country. Honourable senators opposite receive directions from a certain small, powerful group to act in this matter. This is what they are doing.
Members of the Liberal Movement in South Australia appear to have many more principles than do members of the Liberal Party who sit on the opposite side of the Senate. In the last day or two members of the Liberal Movement agreed to allow certain legislation to pass through the Upper House in South Australia. As the relevant Government Minister said in a statement broadcast this morning, it was an historic occasion for South Australia. For many years Premier Playford held office in South Australia because he was able to gerrymander the boundaries. He was able to remain in office on a minority of votes for so many years that it did not matter.
The humbug that has come from the Opposition on this matter just will not stand up to public scrutiny because the Opposition here wants to do precisely the same thing. The members of the Opposition know that the boundaries are distorted at the present time. They know that every federal division in Australia, with one or two exceptions, needs to have its boundaries altered in order to get somewhere near the one vote one value principle. The complaint made by Senator Webster and a previous speaker on his side of the chamber about the proposed 10 per cent disparity as compared with the 20 per cent disparity that is currently the case just will not hold water either because in years gone by there were members of the Liberal Party of a much fairer mind than the current breed who were prepared to have a 10 per cent disparity.
The allegation that has been made by members of the Opposition that the Opposition will need 55 per cent of the vote to win office is a straight-out, blatant lie. It just does not stand up to any sort of scrutiny. The reflection “that has been cast upon the Distribution Commissioners is the shabby sort of thing that one expects from the Opposition only when it is under the privilege of Parliament. Members of the Opposition would not be game to say that son of thing outside this Parliament. So far as I can ascertain, the Distribution Commissioners have bent over backwards in every State to carry out the task that they were given of seeing that there was a fair redistribution. I know that there are some discrepancies in relation to my own State of Queensland to which the Labor Party felt it ought to object. Everybody has had the right to appeal. The proposed boundaries have been available for many months now and the legislation has come before this chamber on at least 3 different occasions only to meet the same old reply from the other side of the House: ‘We oppose; we oppose; we oppose’. The Opposition opposes everything associated with electoral reform.
I can remember some bitter words coming from the other side of the chamber on other aspects of electoral reform. First of all there was a block vote objection to the declaration by parliamentarians of their assets. I think the Joint Committee on the Pecuniary Interests of Members of Parliament has come out with some very wise recommendations. I hope that when that matter comes back before us for implementation the members of the Country Party or the National Party or the League of Rights or whatever they call themselves will take cognisance of it and will not object to it in this chamber. There has been great objection to the disclosing of the source of donations to political parties. I can understand why many members of the Liberal Party and the National Country Party object to the disclosure of the source of the donations to them.
– What about the 75 grand from Murdock?
– That matter happened to be made public, did it not? So what is Senator Webster worrying about? He and his colleagues have been getting money from the multinationals, including the major oil companies, in very large sums. It is money that has been passed under the counter and that they will not disclose to the public because they know that they have been bought by it. Their leader, Mr Anthony, is no longer worried about the interests of the farmers. He is no longer worried about whether a farmer gets an adequate price for his beef, wool, wheat or eggs. He is now taking up the cudgels on behalf of the oil producers and the oil developers because he knows that that is where he is getting his money from. The name ‘Country Party’ was, of course, changed to ‘National Party’ because the new name separated that organisation a bit from the people whose cause it originally espoused back in the days when the Country Party was an honest party. It has not been an honest party during my time in Parliament and it was not an honest party for a long time before that.
A very specious argument was brought up about the boundaries in the Northern Territory. Senator Webster would know as well as I do if he had read my minority report as a member of the Joint Committee on the Northern Territory- I doubt whether he did- that I put up a special case for the Aborigines in the Northern Territory over a temporary period of time. To distort the figures in the way in which Senator Webster distorted them was to produce a totally false argument. I am not even going to reply to the argument because it would not stand up to examination no matter how many times Senator Webster repeated it.
Another thing to which honourable senators opposite object strongly is the introduction of optional preferential voting. Members of the Liberal Party and the Country Party, the League of Rights or whatever the organisation calls itself are very worried about optional preferential voting. There is nothing to stop them from going around among the electors and telling them the way in which they want their supporters to vote. As honourable senators opposite claim that their supporters are so well disciplined- in a similar matter to other dictatorial groups- I should think that they would be able to convince them that they ought to stick to the preferential system of voting. The Australian Labor Party supporters in the main would be quite happy about casting one vote for the candidate for whom they wanted to vote and with not being compelled to have to vote for every lunatic fringe candidate who enters into the election campaign.
As Senator Webster has been so careful to tell us about the great, free electoral system that he wants to see continued, and as he has been so critical of the suggestions being made by the Government, let us look at the actions of his close personal friend in Queensland, the right honourable Johannes Bjelke-Petersen, who is better known in many circles as Holy Joh. That gentleman has been able to cling to power in that State because he has proved himself to be a past master at distorting all electoral boundaries in that State. In the election before the last one something like- in round figures- 9000 votes were needed to elect a member of Parliament from the Liberal Party, something like 6000 votes were needed to elect a member of Parliament from the Country Party, and something like 14 000 votes were needed to elect a member of Parliament from the Labor Party. For 3 years this great upholder of the freedom of the country, this great upholder of the freedom of the electoral laws was able to cling to power as the leader of the majority party because he was able to secure at the previous poll the total of 19 per cent of the votes. That made his Party the majority party in the State House. If that is not a distortion and the adoption of a dictatorial attitude in order to cling to power 1 would like to know what is.
Despite that we have had the humbug and crocodile tears from Senator Webster. Honourable senators opposite have clung to this debate because the proceedings happen to be broadcast. They have claimed today that the Press will not report them fairly and they have claimed that they cannot get properly reported on television. Because the proceedings of the Senate happen to be broadcast today they are using every spare minute they can in a debate that they have gone over and over again. Senator Webster has claimed that the Labor Party would need only 45 per cent of the vote under the proposed boundaries and that the Liberal Party and the splinter group attached to it would need 55 per cent of the vote.
– That is nonsense.
– Of course it is nonsense, as my colleague Senator Poyser has pointed out. It is utter and total nonsense. But if it were a fact- it is not a fact- how can he justify the right of the Country Party to be able to hold power in a State Government for 3 years with 19 per cent of the vote. In December 1974 there was a political shift in Queensland. I do not deny that there was certain unpopularity as far as the Labor Party’s policies were concerned, but that is one of the things that one comes to expect in politics anyway. There are electoral movements. But it is again significant to note that even though the Opposition Party in the State House, which is the Labor Party, has 1 1 members- there are a couple of rag-tags amongst the Independents who are associated with and, of course, support the Liberal Party all the time- as a result of an electoral shift the Premier of great honour whom I mentioned a few moments ago and who was able to get only around 28 per cent or 29 per cent of the votes was still the leader of the majority party. How was he able to maintain that position? He was able to maintain it because the boundaries are still a rort. Although he was supported by only a minority of the people he was able to cling to power because of the distortion of political boundaries. Yet we have had the effrontery of the people in this chamber who represent that same Party telling us that the fair distribution suggested by the Government has a distortion in its boudaries that is designed to keep the Labor Party in office.
The Labor Party will remain in office in this country on its policies, as it always has done in every State and at the federal level. We have never had to distort the boundaries. But our dishonest political opponents thieve votes, thieve power and thieve office by manipulating the electors. I wonder what is wrong with the Liberal Party in Queensland. One would have thought that it, having been the victim of this sort of practice over a period of several years, this time would have had a little more political and intestinal fortitude and stood up to the National Country Party. Heaven knows what sort of blackmail it has been subjected to in that State. Its members meekly went down on their knees and said: ‘We accept the decision of the people which is based on 29 per cent of the vote. Joh, you can keep on as Premier. Nobody on this side of politics will challenge you because you are able, with your handful of votes, to dominate us in this Parliament.’ That is the way it has continued in Queensland. I can see nobody breaking down in the circumstances and that is the way it will continue. 1 ask honourable senators to look at the sort of legislation that has been produced by this socalled State Government which sits for a bare 20, 30, 40 or 50 days a year. For the rest of the time it is in permanent recess because it fears the scrutiny of the public if it tries to bring forward some of its fascist legislation. It is fascist in basis, it is fascist in planning and it is fascist in implementation in many areas. We saw the shocking event that occurred recently. Political corruption of this type brings in its wake many great tragedies for democracy in this country. One of the greatest tragedies that we have seen as a result of this boundary distortion in Queensland is the placing in the Senate of a man who did not belong to the Labor Party to fill the position occupied by the late and revered Bert Milliner. This power hungry man, this Premier who remains in power on a small percentage handful of the votes, is in the situation in which he is able to thumb his nose at authority, thumb his nose at convention, thumb his nose at the Constitution and thumb his nose at the law. He gets away with it because the Liberal Party section of the Government of Queensland does not have enough guts to stand up to anything that he says or does.
The Australian Labor Party has advanced an unassailable argument for a number of electoral reforms in this country not only in relation to boundaries but also in relation to many other areas. The reforms have been well thought out by Government members together with their advisers. They have been well discussed at Party meetings. They have been well debated in both Houses of the Parliament. But we find that honourable senators opposite want to maintain and to introduce where it does not exist already a form of political corruption in the hope that somewhere along the line that great Leader of theirs, Mr Malcolm Fraser, will snatch office. He is known as the big malaise. He is the man whom they hope to see occupy the position of the present Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam). Having achieved that power, if this country is unfortunate enough to see it, they will carry out the very thing that they say now they will not do. They will distort the electoral boundaries and the electoral laws in such a way that they will be kept in office.
They received a fright on 2 December 1972 when they thought they were invincible. They thought that they would be able to stay in power until they retired on their pensions in due course. But finally the Australian people decided that this was not good enough. They decided that they were not receiving the sort of legislation and the son of treatment they expected as Australians. This country merely became an appendage of powerful groups and powerful countries. But since 2 December 1972 Australia has grown up as a nation. At the moment we are held in very high respect around the world. For the first time in 20 years Australia is a respected country. It is true that we have certain internal problems with inflation and unemployment. But it would not have mattered which party was in power; it would have had to contend with the same problems. There is only one difference now and that is that the Labor Party is handling those problems a damned sight better than anybody on the other side of politics would have been able to. If the Opposition persists in refusing the passage of these Bills, if it persists in holding up the progress of this country and if its members persist in being professional knockers it deserves to stay in opposition for ever. Eventually, of course, we will have a majority in the Senate. Then we will be able to show the Opposition what enlightened legislation looks like.
– The Senate is debating a series of Bills related to electoral redistribution. The Opposition has indicated that it is opposing the Bills. I want to support the measure of opposition which has been given by our Leader, Senator Withers. The Minister for Foreign Affairs (Senator Willesee) in his second reading speech talked about implementing some new electoral divisions having the names and the boundaries approved by the House of Representatives. The
Minister pointed out that identical legislation had been introduced earlier and that there was a report by the Distribution Commissioners laid before the Houses of Parliament together with what they called some suggestions, comments and objections which were lodged with the Distribution Commissioners. In short, the measures have been described as an endeavour to give some equality of representation.
There has been a wide range of arguments related to this matter. Of course, the big discussion is in relation to what one really means by equality of representation for every elector as outlined in the Minister’s speech. That will always be an argument amongst people who are concerned about representation in the Parliament or in public spheres. But the fact remains that an electorate which is of confined size is quite a different electorate from one that is of an extensive area. A person who lives in isolation from the rest of his fellows is a different sort of person, has different requirements and needs different representation from those people who live in a closely packed area with their fellow citizens. People who live some distance from the centre of activity, who live a long way from the seat of government and who live a long way from the source of financial, educational, cultural and general commercial activities require some sort of concession and some sort of weighting in their favour compared with the people who live close to the source of these activities.
I have not been impressed by the arguments that have been put forward about a parliament going into some form of permanent recess. I understand that it has been suggested that the Parliament in Queensland goes into some sort of permanent recess and the non-Labor, nonsocialist Liberal and National Country Party side of politics has been blamed for this. I take a moment to remind the Senate that it was the Labor Party Premier of South Australia who only a few days ago suggested that the Parliament in that State should go into recess for some eight or nine months because there was no need for it to be called together. It was only the action of Dr Tonkin, the Leader of the Opposition who acted on behalf of the Liberal and National Country Parties, the people who felt that their representatives should be at work in the Parliament and the consequent mounting public pressure in South Australia that caused the Premier of that State to make some revised statement that the Parliament would be called together again. So Government senators should not try to fool the Senate by saying that it is the non-Labor Party side of politics that has suggested that Parliament go into some sort of permanent recess when one of Labor’s own leaders within Australia has already actively proclaimed that there would be a long and extended recess of Parliament.
When I set out to oppose the Bills that are before the Senate this afternoon, I cannot get away from the fact that this is yet another illustration of what I will call the Government’s deception on the matter. Indeed, it has been described as a form of double standard. The legislation has not been brought into the Senate with any real expectation that it will go through. The Labor Party and the Government know perfectly well the political realities of this situation. They know perfectly well the political realities of the House of Representatives and the Senate. They know perfectly well that the redistribution measures which are before the Senate today will not go through because the Opposition’s attitude to the Bills has been proclaimed and pronounced over and over again. The Government is perfectly well aware that there is an intense and deep grained opposition to what is an unfair redistribution, and it knows perfectly well also that the Bills will not be allowed to go through but will be opposed. Therefore, the Government has brought in the Bills just to pile up what it calls its collection of Bills that may or may not lead to a double dissolution.
The Opposition opposes these Bills because it believes that they are unfair to the voting community of Australia and a denial of the rights of the voting people of the Australian community. It opposes the Bills because they are an attempt by the Government to fix the electorates so that the Government will remain in office for ever, no matter what may be the desires and designs and plans and wishes of the people. I suggest that the Bills have no concept of and do not take into account the peculiar situation that exists in Australia. They take no account of the distances that exist, to which I have already referred. They take no account of the disparities between areas over which the Australian community is distributed. Everybody knows that the greatest concentration of population is down the eastern seaboard, but that does not mean that the population concentrated on the eastern seaboard of Australia should have total and absolute political control of the rest of Australia.
These Bills give a very clear indication that the Government is more concerned with holding on to office than with using that office for the benefit of the Australian people. I draw to the attention of the Senate the fact that in recent weeks we have been treated to the spectacle of Ministers and their staffs talking about ways and means by which the Government can refuse to go to the people if it is denied the confidence of the Parliament. We have heard put forward serious suggestions that the Prime Minister might even go to the Governor-General and suggest that the Constitution is just a document for the convenience of the nation and might very well be overlooked. If one considers those things in a political context, they could be described as the actions of a government that is fast running out of time. They could be described as the desperate act of a desperate government. They could be described as the acts of a government that knows perfectly well it has lost the confidence of the voters and is not willing to put itself to the judgment of the people.
I suggest that the redistributions outlined in the Bills that are before the Senate today are matters which fall within that particular category. They would allow the Government to withstand what is very obviously a popular swing against it. The Bills are essentially political Bills and they have been put before the Senate in the light of various public opinion polls, various public opinion affirmations and various clear indications as to what the Australian public thinks today about the Government of Australia. The Bills before the Senate seem to maintain the Government’s true determination to deny the democratic expression of the people of Australia, taking into account community of interest and the opportunity for people to move into the area they desire; to deny them the opportunity to have representation that is adequate, fair, and consistent with total community development, so that the population of Australia, wherever it may be placed, might have equality of representation. The Government knows that the arguments put forward by the Opposition are designed to proclaim and pronounce that the Opposition believes in equality of representation, and because of that the Government knows that these Bills will be opposed by the Opposition in the Senate. The Government knows that the Bills will not survive the Senate, and yet it is trying, not for the first time, not for the second time, but for the third time to place these matters before the Parliament. Indeed, I go so far as to say that the Government is trying to force these redistributions through the Parliament.
The proper and, I believe, the appropriate and perhaps the normal way to deal with a redistribution proposal is to put it before a freely elected House, such as the Senate is, and to take a vote upon it. That sort of thing has happened. It happened earlier this year, in June, and the Government knows perfectly well that the measures put before the Senate in June of this year were rejected. The Electoral Act provides that if that situation occurs then the Commissioners may be asked to take account of that vote, to take account of the views that were expressed, to take account of the reflection of opinion that has been put forward in the Senate. As a result of the Commissioners taking account of those opinions and views, there may be a submission of new proposals. I suggest that that is not only the appropriate course but it is also the normal course. Above all, I suggest that it is the proper course and one that would reflect the wishes of this Parliament. But the Government has not followed the normal course, the proper course. It has not accepted what I would describe as parliamentary procedure in this regard. Instead, it has turned the proposals into legislative matters which it has brought forward again and again and, as everybody well knows- it has been said before in this debate- this legislation is part of a stockpile of double dissolution material.
The Government is trying to put forward to the Australian people the idea that the Senate is rejecting its measures for the purpose of creating a double dissolution situation when in effect, as far as this measure is concerned, the Senate is rejecting it because the Opposition really and truly believes that the measures are unfair to the Australian people. They deny a number of the Australian people their true and proper electoral rights. Either the Government is trying to bluff the Senate or it is hoping that it will acquiesce in a double dissolution situation. If the Senate does that, the Government might try to muster sufficient votes to get the measures through at a joint sitting. I suggest to the Senate that the Government is talking about the law of the land and in the same breath is proving itself to have a total disregard for that law and for established law processes.
In matters relating to this Bill the Government seems unable to make up its mind. It has told us about the observance of the law and at the same time it has brought forward these measures knowing perfectly well that there is no possibility of getting the measures through. In doing that, I suggest that the Government is in contempt not only of the law but also of the Parliament. More than at any other time in our history Parliament is under threat and the Government is responsible for putting it under threat. The Government is reducing the power, authority and influence of Parliament in the country, and it must take the responsibility for reducing the office of Parliament, the influence of Parliament and the institution of Parliament.
The fact is that these redistributions should never have been submitted to the Parliament at any stage. The legislation on which they are based, which reduces the quota applying to each electorate- that has been referred to earlier in the debate- is a matter that I regard as being of a particularly dubious nature. As everyone knows, the legislation is now the subject of challenge in the High Court, and that challenge was mounted shortly after the legislation was passed by a joint sitting of the Parliament in circumstances which members of the Senate will recall very well. The legislation was challenged before the redistribution was carried out, and I suggest that the proper course for the Government to have followed would have been to let the redistribution await the High Court’s decision on that case. Clearly, the Government has not done so. It should have waited until the court could have determined the propriety of the actions. After all if the court decides that the basis of the redistribution is illegal, the question arises of whether or not the Government will withdraw these Bills. Will it order the boundaries to be withdrawn again? Everybody knows that the Government will not do these things because these boundaries provide it with a particular advantage. The device of introducing these Bills in the way that they have been introduced is an example of what I would regard as the Government’s total disregard of the Constitution and the Government’s total disregard of the Parliament.
The Bills have been introduced in the hope that the Senate will give way to the Government and back down. They have been introduced, as I said earlier, for the perfectly obvious reason that there will be a stockpile of double dissolution Bills. I deplore the fact that the Government is totally disregarding section 57 of the Constitution, thereby taking away from the people their right, their opportunity and their real privilege as far as their voting rights within the Australian community are concerned. Therefore I hope, and know, that the Senate will disregard these Bills. I deplore the fact that the Government has endeavoured to impose them upon the Senate again.
-Never in my time in this Parliament have I heard a speech worse than that which has just been delivered by Senator Davidson. He came into this chamber with a page of notes. He repeated himself, ad nauseam, every 5 minutes for 25 minutes. It may not have been that long, but it seemed that long. We were forced to listen to balderdash, nonsense, deceit and lies in relation to the actions of this Government because he was told to come in and stage a filibuster in relation to this legislation. In effect, he accused every person in Australia involved in the redistribution of being a crook. This is virtually what he said. The top public servants of this country were given a job to carry out a redistribution on the basis of equal voting powers for all eligible people within Australia. I want to remind him that we have done it constitutionally, otherwise these Bills could not be before this House.
Senator Webster, who spoke earlier in the debate, proved the old axiom that liars can figure and figures can lie. He presented the greatest distortion that any man could present to this Parliament about what has happened in the Northern Territory. He deliberately misled this Senate in relation to the distribution of seats in the Legislative Assembly for the Northern Territory. We are the Party and the Government that decided that the Northern Territory should have its own legislative assembly and be able to make decisions in its own right in certain areas of government. We did it on the most democratic basis that we could. It is in line entirely with the Constitution of the United States of America. We believe that the population should be represented in the Parliament on an equal level. I refer to population- not necessarily voters- in this case. In fact, we went to the people with a referendum which sought the people’s views on whether the electorates of the Federal Parliament should be divided on the basis of population. In other words, each area of population would have the same number of persons represented in this Parliament by one member in the case of the House of Representatives and 10 members from each State in the case of the Senate, as provided for in the Constitution.
What Senator Webster did not tell the Senate was that the Legislative Assembly for the Northern Territory is elected on the basis of population. It is true that there are some great differences between the number of voters in each area. There is a reason for this. In the main, Darwin has a white population, of which the vast majority would be enrolled to vote. In the hinterland and the outer areas of the Northern Territory the population is mainly Aboriginal. Aboriginals are entitled to enrol but, as yet, we have not- we should not at this stage of progressforced those people to enrol. The Australian Government, by virtue of the known population of the area, decided to divide the seats in the Assembly into representation by population. Senator Webster knows that. He also knows that when this matter was before this Parliament distribution was based on population and not on voters.
– He was on the Committee.
– Indeed, as indicated by Senator McLaren, Senator Webster was on the Committee that looked into this matter. Yet, he got up in this House this afternoon and deliberately deceived the people of Australia by stating untruths. He did not relate the facts. As I said earlier, figures can lie and liars can figure. This is an indication of the kind of distortion that has come before this House this afternoon. Senator Webster knows- as all of us who have taken an interest in the Northern Territory know- that the estimates seem to indicate that only 40 per cent of the Aboriginal population have, as yet, enrolled and become voters in the Commonwealth elections and voters in the elections for the Legislative Assembly for the Northern Territory.
Of course, we are not enforcing the rule that applies to every person who lives in the cities. The people in the cities have been voting since Federation in Commonwealth elections, with compulsory enrolment. We have not done that in relation to the Aboriginals in the Northern Territory. If we did that, the first person to criticise us would be Senator Webster, who is now using an argument in this House against the Government because of our humanity and our approach to the rights of Aboriginals who are not as yet enrolled and who do not have representation in the Legislative Assembly on a fair and reasonable basis. So much for the humbug that Senator Webster has presented in this place. He tried to tell the people of Australia that this humbug was fact. The whole argument he put forward was completely spurious.
I remind him of the situation which applies in Queensland. We have heard examples, this afternoon of a man who gets no more than 20 per cent of the vote in an entire State- one out of five votes- and yet becomes the Premier of that State because he draws the map in such a way as to ensure he becomes the Premier. We have a gutless Liberal Party in that State which will not stand up to that man and decide that his day has passed. The same situation applied in Victoria with the gerrymandering of electorates many years ago when the Country Party was the Government of that State under a Country Party Premier. That Party did not have enough members to fill the Ministry because the Liberal Party at that time, was too gutless to join with the two major parties and throw the Country Party Government out. Thank Heavens that finally the
Liberal Party in Victoria had the guts to join with the Labor Party and throw the Country Party out of power. The Country Party has never been in government there since, because guts were shown in relation to the rights of the people of Victoria. Until that time the Victorian Parliament had been dominated by 14 members in a House of more than 60 people. The House was governed by 14 members who had less than 9 per cent of the total State vote. This is the kind of gerrymander that the National Country Party imposes whenever it gets its claws into government. The Liberal Party in Queensland is gutless for allowing this kind of thing to go on there, and kowtowing to that Petersen person simply because it has the Deputy Premiership. The Deputy Premier of Queensland is frightened to write his own name to anything. He is frightened to move into an area of democracy for his people. He is cowed by a man who gets one vote out of five under the worst gerrymander that exists. 1 should like to refer to the situation which applies at present in Victoria. 1 ask honourable senators to examine the last State election results. The gerrymander in Victoria is almost as bad as that in Queensland. In Victoria we have got a Liberal Party Government under the control of one fellow by the name of Hamer, who makes it happen, who leads a Party which received 44.4 per cent of the vote. In the last State election it had more than 40 members returned to the House. The Labor Party in Victoria, which had a marginally smaller percentage, returned 18 members to the same House. More than 40 members were returned for the Liberal Party as compared with 1 8 returned for the Labor Party. The Victorian Government says that that is democracy. Almost two out of every three people who vote for the Labor Party are disenfranchised under the Victorian system of democracy. Under its system electoral boundaries should be drawn in such a manner that it would be able to attain government itself or as an appendage- the tail wagging the dog- in the federal sphere or in the State sphere by virtue of its balance of power. In 1 955 we saw a photograph of Sir Henry Bolte sitting on a tractor. He had 2 Cabinet lists, one in each pocket. It is the first time I have ever seen a farmer with his coat and tie on driving a tractor. He allegedly had 2 Cabinet lists, one in each pocket, waiting to see whether he would have to form a coalition government or whether he could govern in his own right. If he had lost one seat, of course, the situation would be that the tail would be wagging the dog in Victoria forever.
All we are seeking in this legislation is to ask the people by referendum that we be allowed to govern this country on the basis of equal population in the electorates. We are saying that an area populated by relatively young people who have many young children should be represented by one person. We are not trying to create the situation which exists in the Upper House in Victoria today of a little tinpot electorate of 45 000 people being represented by 2 Country Party members when almost 200 000 people in the metropolitan area are represented by only 2 people in that same House. What kind of equality is that? The difference in representation is something like seven or eight to one. That is the value which the Country Party is trying to put forward that votes should have. Then we hear this nonsense that we have rigged the redistribution to keep ourselves in power. What utter nonsense.
Senator Melzer referred this afternoon to what has been said by Mr Mackerras who is one of the top men in this country in relation to electoral matters. He has had a lifetime of association with politics and with the drawing of electoral boundaries and he knows what constitutes fair play in relation to elections. He is on record as saying that this is the best and fairest redistribution he has ever seen in the history of this country. I have not heard one honourable senator opposite refute that contention in any way. Senator Davidson, as I said, made in 5-minute relays the same points over a 25-minute period. He said in effect that that is completely untrue, that we have rigged the redistribution. He was saying, in effect, that every electoral officer in this country who has been appointed for years as a public servant succumbed to pressure from the Government to rig the boundaries. Let him go outside this chamber and say that the electoral officer for the seat of Corio succumbed to pressure from this Government to gerrymander the electoral boundaries of that seat so that we would stay in power. Let him go outside and say that the electoral officer for Wannon, a directly opposite type of seat which is held by the Liberal Party, gerrymandered the electoral boundaries of that seat so that the Labor Party would win office. It is utter balderdash. It is untrue, and it is not worthy of any honest honourable senator to come into this chamber and tell so many untruths.
I am sick and tired of hearing honourable senators say in this place that because we want to see fair play and because we want to ensure equal representation we are rigging the boundaries. The type of boundaries they want are those which applied in South Australia for years under Playford and those which apply now in Queensland where some little tinpot place with a population of 2,000 people will be represented by one member while in another area 25 000 or 30 000 people will still be electing one person. The time when a person can become the Premier of a State of this Commonwealth by polling only one vote out of every five should be gone forever.
The Constitution of this country and, indeed, of the States should make absolutely sure that we have in this country the type of fair play that exists in the United States of America where the electoral system operates on the basis of population. That principle has been upheld for many years by the Supreme Court of the United States, and that is the type of representation to which people are entitled. Senator Webster said in effect that Aborigines who have not put themselves on the electoral roll are not entitled to representation at all. As I said earlier, if we went to those people or said in this chamber that it should be compulsory for them to enrol, Senator Webster would be charging us with something different. What nonsense. What a filibuster over nothing. Let us have some honesty.
Let us have fair representation for all seats in the House of Representatives and then the best party will win. In that situation we will not have the tail wagging the dog. We will not have the situation of a person like Mr Anthony deciding by force of numbers whether the Australian dollar should be revalued at a time when the country urgently requires that kind of action. We will not have the situation of the Country Party saying to the Prime Minister of the country, as it did on many occasions, that he cannot do a certain thing or it will withdraw its support. Mr Anthony is the man who wants an election for his own gain so that he will once again become the Deputy Prime Minister of Australia. He is not fit to lick McEwen ‘s boots as far as the statesmanship and decency of a member of this Parliament are concerned.
I hope that this legislation will be passed. I know that it will not because the Opposition is ganging up. It does not believe in democracy. It does not believe in fair play. Opposition senators are absolutely certain in their own minds that if they get into power they can put into effect a gerrymander which will keep Labor out of office for all time.
– Following the contribution made by Senator Poyser who preceded me in the debate, the Senate should be reminded that we are debating 5 Bills which seek to confirm new electoral boundaries in all States except Western
Australia. The Opposition is opposing the passage of those Bills, and it is doing so for a number of reasons. One reason which has been stated is, of course, that there is a challenge to the enabling legislation now before the High Court of Australia and it is customary when such a challenge lies before the High Court for legislation to be stood aside until the court brings down its decision.
Since we are talking on high principle, perhaps I could register that principle first. Since we are talking on high principle, perhaps I should state the 2 peculiar things which the redistribution does. It brings about a redistribution in Tasmania. Coincidentally, of course, the 5 electoral boundaries in Tasmania now favour Labor. Indeed, in Western Australia where there ought to be a redistribution there is no such proposal because it would bring about a situation in which the electorate of Kalgoorlie at least would become a non-Labor seat. So the electoral boundaries are being manipulated. When I was listening to the debate this afternoon I was reminded of Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice. Honourable senators will remember the lines of Antonio:
I want to address myself to the line: ‘O, what a goodly outside falsehood hath’. These Bills rest upon the fundamentals of why a parliament exists. A parliament exists to express the sovereignty of the people. It exists to express majority rule. In fact, it exists to express the fact that a majority of votes will win a majority of seats. I think it is important to remind the people of Australia who have listened to this nonsense from the Labor Party this afternoon that throughout the whole of the 23-year term of government of the Liberal and National Country parties the majority rule prevailed, and prevailed fairly, under all electoral distributions which those coalition parties in government brought down.
– As in Queensland.
– On one occasion, and on one ocasion only-
– As in 1 96 1 .
-Look, I referred to boundaries which affect the Federal Parliament. If supporters of the Government want to talk about States that rigged boundaries, let me refer to New South Wales where a corrupt government abolished postal voting because postal voting went two to one against the Labor Party. It abolished the State Electoral Commission- those people whom Senator Poyser ennobled today as impeccable people because the electoral commissioners, the public servants, were not giving the results that Labor wanted. The New South Wales Labor Government of the day appointed its own commissioner and bypassed the Parliament so that the boundaries that it wanted could be forced upon the people against their will. As a result it took nearly 58 per cent of the vote to get 50 per cent of the seats. Supporters of the Government have the gall to get up and talk gerrymanders. They have the gall to cite seats around Australia when in fact in the mother State of the Commonwealth the Labor Government of the day for over 20 years rigged the greatest gerrymander in Australia’s history.
Supporters of the Government are silent now. If they would like to interject I will give case after case after case because I lived under such a gerrymander.
– What about Queensland?
– The honourable senator asks: ‘What about Queensland?’ It is no excuse at all to cite the evil of another as defence of your own sins. Let me recite this simple situation: In 2 decades of Liberal and Country Party government the boundaries were so honest that you got a majority of the seats with a majority of the votes. The Minister for Agriculture (Senator Wriedt) laughs, but this happens to be absolutely true.
– You have forgotten about 1 953, haven ‘t you? Do your homework.
– The Minister, who is the Leader of the House, belongs to a party which likes to call for one vote one value. I would like to ask the Minister- and it will be interesting to note his deep silence in response to my questionwhether it is not a fact that the Labor Party has advocated the first past the post system of voting over the years?
– It does not now.
– Did it not? I will come to the next part of my question which is as follows: Is not the first past the post system a classic way in which a minority can gain a majority? This is the party that talks one vote one value. I note that the Minister has been beautifully silent. I invite members of the Labor Party to remind themselves that their policy now is the optional preferential system. I ask honourable senators opposite whether that is correct. I note that the Minister nods- imperceptibly, but he nods. Is it not a fact that the optional preferential voting system is a device to wreck the system of one vote one value and that in fact under such a system minority votes need not have one value? Is it not a fact that under such a system majority party votes shall always have one value and shall always be counted, but minority votes will be counted or not, depending upon the whim of the particular elector who marks or does not mark the ballot paper. So in fact the ballot paper of one elector has not the value of the ballot paper of another elector. I note that Senator Button nods. So we have, incredibly, a party which gets on its high horse and talks about one vote one value and stands for optional preferential voting.
The independents who sit in this House would not be here today if there were optional preferential voting because such a system would destroy the ability of voters to transfer preferences. I come to another classic; I again note the silence. Did I not hear Labor speakers, including Senator Poyser, say that we ought to adopt- and this is Labor policy- the device of being represented by population, not by voters. Is that not right, Mr Minister? Is that not Labor’s policy- representation by population and not by voters- or did Senator Poyser, the Labor Party Whip, not state Labor policy? Let me state here and now that if that is so the Labor Party would destroy any chance of one vote one value. Coincidentally, in Mr Daly’s electorate, there would be 30 000 or so non-voters. These people would come from the migrant non-voting population. Coincidentally, in many of the seats held by Labor there would be tens of thousands of people who would come within this category. Therefore, say 20 000 voters could elect Mr Daly in his seat, while 80 000 voters would be needed to elect Mr Cadman for the seat of Mitchell. One vote in Mr Daly’s electorate would have the value of 4 votes in Mr Cadman ‘s electorate. Does any Labor senator deny that? Does any Labor senator deny that Mr Daly, the man who is supposed to be introducing this reform, has enjoyed one vote two values over many years? This situation would be aggravated by the redistributions that are before this place.
Is it not strange that members of the Labor Party who stand on their feet and criticise country electorates for their vastness and the relative smallness of the vote there, are absolutely silent about inner city electorates around Australia, where the population decline is so rapid all the time that after a few years the Labor sitting members do not have one vote one value but have one vote two values- and have this all the time.
What will happen if the quota is reduced from 20 per cent to 10 per cent? The result will be that an enormous advantage will be given to the sitting member in those seats which have a rapid decline in voters. What nonsense it is for honourable senators opposite to talk about country electorates when they have designed a formula that will do the very thing that they say it will not. Yet honourable senators opposite have got up, talked about gerrymanders and said that we have to fix them and restore the principle of one vote one value. But I say that under our regime there was never any question but that a party which got a majority of the votes would get a majority of the seats. So we are not talking about what happened in New South Wales under a Labor government or in South Australia or anywhere else. We are talking about the systems that apply in the Federal context. I say to Senator Walsh, who is trying to interject, that we are not talking about a fiddle in other States, such as what happened in my own State when a Labor government abolished the State Electoral Commission so that it could corrupt the electoral system. We are talking about what applies here now and what is suggested ought to apply here. We are looking not only at the boundaries that have been proposed; we are looking at the whole system of optional preferential voting which Labor is aiming to introduce to consolidate itself inside this Parliament in spite of the electors.
Honourable senators should not forget that Labor Party’s policy of optional preferential voting is only another form of first past the post voting. This system says to minority parties: ‘We are going to destroy you; we are going to emasculate the value of your vote; we are not going to have one vote one value- it will be one vote for the majority party but a fraction of a vote for the minority parties’. This is a party whose members get up with this humbug, citing Scripture for their purpose and talking about one vote one value.
Some honourable senators opposite talked about America. It is interesting that they should have referred to America and population. But what a corrupt presentation. When Senator Poyser talked about America surely he should have said something about the fundamental principle of a country which invented the term gerrymander’ from Governor Gerry who knew how to draw boundaries rather crookedly. He should have reminded us that the Supreme Court of America upheld that one vote one value could include at least a 15 per cent tolerance either way. This was a major and enduring judgment on what is meant by one vote one value. When Senator Poyser talked about depending upon population he conveniently forgot to remind the Senate and the people that the Constitution uses population in order to decide how many seats there shall be in each State. Perhaps Senator Poyser does not know that the number of seats in each State is worked out by a division of the population as such. I take it that the Labor Party is suggesting that in each State the seats should be worked out on population, not on number of voters. I repeat that I do not know of anything with greater potential for distortion of the vote than the suggestion that a State should be divided into a number of seats based on average population rather than on an average number of voters. Quite clearly some electorates would have 5 times as many voters as other electorates. In Mr Daly’s electorate of Grayndler one elector would have 5 values. In Mr Cadman ‘s electorate the reverse would be true. That is the proposition which this Government is putting forward. It applies not only to Mr Daly’s electorate but to other large city electorates.
We have had enough of this attack on country seats. The real corruption has been in the Labor Party’s seeking to entrench itself in the inner city seats on which they have temporarily at least a hold. Labor wants more and more seats- that is, more and more electorates. It can get them on smaller and smaller populations. That is its aim. It knows that if it uses this formula it will be enormously successful for the Labor Party. Yet members of the Labor Party say that they believe in one vote one value. I put the test again. The real test of one vote one value is this: In an election did a majority of voters elect a majority of members? It would be wrong if the reverse were true. It has happened. It happened in 1974 when the Labor Party was returned. It happened in 1972 when the Labor Party came to office. It happened 20 years before that. The only exception was in the 1954 election, the boundaries for which were drawn under the supervision of a Labor Minister, Mr Calwell. That is the only time in modern decades that boundaries have failed to reflect the wish of the majority. So in this Parliament, in the decades of Liberal-Country Party regimes, we have had an honesty of the system.
Let us examine the system. Those who support these changes should say whether they believe in optional preferential voting and whether they believe that Independents or minorities should not have a say. Let us pose this question against the background of an array of electoral Bills before the Parliament which are trying to wipe out Independents by raising the deposit for candidates at an election. That is particularly so in relation to Senate elections. Labor is trying to make it impossible for an ordinary working person to stand for Parliament. It is the Party that says it stands for the ordinary working man. It is trying to drive out the Independents and the minority parties because it is frightened. It is frightened that they may work against it. Look at all the electoral Bills. Look at the weft and the warp of the electoral Bills. They are part of an overall corruption. They are the greatest example of double talk that has come to this Parliament. A government bringing in electoral measures is saying: ‘We will right some very terrible wrongs’. There exists today, says the Government, a distortion of the democratic system. It says: ‘We will right it and bring in one vote one value’.
The simple fact is that there is today majority rule. There are today honest boundaries. No one in the Government has murmured against that proposition. There has not been a murmur against the integrity of Liberal-Country Party electoral laws over the years. I have demonstrated step by step that the Labor Party’s electoral laws would corrupt the system, destroy the democratic vote and entrench itself in power. It would destroy one vote one value. Let me demonstrate this fact. It is interesting and instructive to note that in Western Australia, I think, a previous State Labor government believed that a 15 per cent or 20 per cent tolerance in variation should prevail in State seats. I notice that one or two senators for the State are trying to interject. That tolerance is accepted in other States in which Labor is in office.
– It is 20 per cent in Western Australia.
-It is 20 per cent in Western Australia. I thank Senator Sim for that information.
– A Labor government introduced it.
– A Labor government in Western Australia believed in a 20 per cent tolerance. It must have been corrupt and wicked, according to the words of Federal members of the Labor Party.
– I will tell you about that afterwards.
– We will be instructed if Senator Walsh tells us about it afterwards. We look forward to his future treasures and pearls. Over the years a tolerance of 20 per cent has been absolutely necessary to decide the size of an electorate if there were not to be a corruption of the principle of majority rule. It was not because of country seats but because of inner city seats, which have favoured Labor. The number of electors in those inner city seats is usually put by the Distribution Commissioners very high above the quota. In a very short time the number of voters declines to well below the quota. Labor knows this fact. The whole revelation of this gerrymander in Labor’s electoral laws lies behind Labor’s knowledge that the number of voters in inner city seats declines very rapidly over a short period. As a result Labor will get one vote two values. It is trying to get that. That is the simple situation. In seats such as those held by Mr Cope and Mr Daly it is trying to get that. It is trying to get that wherever there is a decline in the number of electors.
Over the years the Distribution Commissioners have agreed that the right idea in seats with a declining population is to put the number of voters well above the quota or median figure when the seats are drawn. The numbers decline quickly to the median, in about 3 years. For the next 3 years the number of voters is probably 20 000 below the quota. That makes sense. They are only fractionally, for a point of time, at one vote one value. That is halfway through the cycle of a 6 or 7-year redistribution. The Distribution Commissioners normally put seats with a rapidly growing population about 1 5 per cent below the median so that they grow rapidly to it and then rapidly above it. Only at one point of time are they one vote one value. If one looks at and analyses the history and the trends of these seats one will see that over a period, as tested in the ballot box, taken as a whole they have given majority rule. It is quite impossible at any point of time to have at an election a situation in which each seat has one vote one value. As soon as the boundaries are drawn the voting population starts to change.
The Commissioners have not drawn the boundaries on the principle of one vote one value. That is the interesting point. They have made allowances for growth and for decline, within a tolerance of 10 per cent. The principle of one vote one value is not contained in any of the 5 plans before the Parliament at the moment. There is a distortion of that principle. One must look at a cycle of years to see how the system works. At no point of time, for all seats, is the principle carried out in its particularity. I repeat that the Government hopes to ensure that at an election the 127 seats will be so distributed that a majority of votes gives it a majority of seats. That is precisely what has happened. 1 sum up, because it is important that this be said. A government has come before us claiming that there should be major electoral reforms. It has not disputed in any way that the existing boundaries have been absolutely honest over a period of 20 years. It cannot do so because the facts are against it. So it does not come before us saying that the boundaries are bad. What does it do? It does a dirty trick. It says that in Queensland the boundaries may be bad. When I remind Government senators that in New South Wales, under a Labor government, the boundaries were corrupt they go deadly silent. We are not talking about whether boundaries for State elections were bad- whether they were boundaries in New South Wales under a Labor government, whether they were boundaries in South Australia under a Labor government or whether they were boundaries in Western Australia under a Labor government. We are talking about how honest Government senators have been in this Parliament. The Government has to accept, because it has done nothing to knock this, that the Liberal coalition has been absolutely pure in registering majority rule.
The Government then brings forward an electoral package and, on its own say-so, will bring in optional preferential voting which destroys the principle of one vote one value, which wipes out the minorities, which fails to ensure the complete transfer of the preferential system. It will so penalise the Independents that it will make it impossible for those without wealth to stand for Parliament- and this as a government which talks about one vote one value. It is a government which says that it will draw its electoral boundaries on the basis of population, that is, on the number of non-voting migrants, on the number of babies, on the number of children and not on the number of electors. How can you have one vote one value when you work out an electoral system based on the principle of one head of population one value? How can you have it? How can you have majority rule if, under such a situation as I have demonstrated, those seats which have either a very young population or a very heavy non-voting migrant population, will be totally savoured? There has been no answer at all from Government senators to the question posed by these kinds of situations.
The Government proceeds in the face of a High Court hearing in which the very legislation on which these Bills are based in being challenged. The Government proceeds not touching the position in Western Australia because it does not want to disturb something which is unfairly favourable to the Labor Party. I have been working under the electoral laws and the electoral boundaries of this Parliament for about a quarter of a century.
– An honourable senatorI think it was Senator Button- called out shame’. I have been proud to work under boundaries and laws which have produced majority rule. I have been horrified to live in a State which until 1965 was under the control of a State Labor government which corruptly denied a vote to the people, which denied postal votes, and which drew boundaries in such a way that those honourable senators who know Goulburn, for example, will know that the State Labor Government drew on a map a shape like a cow’s teat down to Captain’s Flat to take in that area. Do honourable senators know that in my State one had to go out of one’s electorate into somebody else’s electorate and then back into a bit of one’s own electorate. In fact, often enough electorates were broken up into bits just so that a Labor bias could be drawn. I see that Senator Button is grinning, and grinning with pleasure about it. He is a Labor senator. He nods to indicate that he is grinning with pleasure and approval at the actions of a Labor government which corrupted the boundaries and the electoral system. He stands for boundaries which will help to give enormous value to the inner city seats held by the Labor Party, to the inner city seats chock-a-block with non-voters. Honourable senators opposite can conveniently forget this. They make their attack on country seats.
If one looks at the effect of the value of a vote in the country and compares it with the value of a vote in the city, one finds the simple fact is that in the last election one country vote was equal to 1 . 1 city votes. That is what this is all about. In Mr Daly’s seat, and in seats like that, one Labor vote came dangerously close to equalling 2 Liberal votes elsewhere. Of course, members of the Labor Party are arguing in order to deflect one’s attention to the position in the country where the enormities of size and the enormities of difficulties have made the Distribution Commissioners in the past give some minor tolerance of 5000 or so to a country seat. But they forget that the principle of one vote one value registered is not only in the ballot box but also in the ability of the country member of parliament to service his electorate, to be able to meet volunary organisations, to get around his electorate and to talk to people and to help them. A pocket-handkerchief sized seat like Sydney or Grayndler, which covers an area of 2 square miles or something like that, is easy to service. A huge seat, like Darling which comprises more than one-third of New South Wales, or Kalgoorlie which comprises almost the whole of Western Australia, is enormously difficult to service. Electors in those seats get a rough deal because they do not in terms of contact with their member -
– They are represented by members of the Labor Party.
– I can understand Senator Button interjecting, because the type of member that the Labor Party has in those seats would be well out of contact with the community. The simple fact is that in seats like Kalgoorlie, Darling, Riverina, Eden-Monaro- all the large seats- one vote one value ought to be measured also in the equality of service that a member of parliament can give and the equality of contact that he can make. How strangely silent honourable senators opposite are now when we start putting the real electoral values into this situation. How strangely silent they are when now their little cheap trick of trying to divert the attention of people towards some kind of gerrymander in Western Australia or somewhere else has fallen flat on the ground. How strangely silent they are when we look and see that they know that they cannot get away with a firstpastthepost system because that is a minority faking a majority. Honourable senators opposite cannot get away with an optional preferential voting system because that is cheating and because a 10 per cent quota will help the Labor Party enormously and be a great hindrance to those many electorates where there is not that concentration of non-voters, not that concentration and distribution. For these reasons I reject the measure.
- Mr President, there is one matter in respect of which I wholeheartedly agree with Senator Carrick, and that is the matter of optional preferential voting for lower house elections. I congratulate him on his stand against that proposal because it certainly is a deliberate attempt to break down the preferential system of voting. I only wish that the Liberal Party of Australia thought that in depth, because the latest and most notable action that the Liberal Party is taking on the matter of optional preferential voting is to support the system in parliament. In South Australia the Leader of the Opposition in the Upper House, the Legislative Council, has actively, openly and publicly said this week, and I think last week, that he will support the Bill providing for optional preferential voting which was brought into the Legislative Assembly of the South Australian Parliament by the Labor Party and which is due to be considered in the Upper House in South Australia next week. Therefore I noted with a great deal of interest that Senator Carrick said that optional preferential voting was a device designed to wreck the one vote one value system. I will have very much pleasure in transmitting the remarks which Senator Carrick made in this chamber to his colleagues in South Australia in what I fear will be a vain attempt to head off the person who leads the Liberal Party in the Upper House in South Australia and who very few people would doubt leads the Liberal Party in the entire Parliament in my State. I would very much appreciate it if Senator Carrick could in some way personally contact Mr de Garis to head oft” what in fact will be a disaster for non-Labor in South Australia, which has been initiated by the Liberal Party’s representative in the Upper House in that State.
I find little else in Senator Carrick ‘s address with which I agree. I often wonder how Senator Carrick and his colleagues, including Senator Davidson from South Australia who spoke at such length about the reasons why there should not be an equality of representation, would get on if they knocked on the doors of the houses in the city of Adelaide and said to the people: ‘I have come to tell you why you should have a lower value in your vote than country people should have’. I just wonder how Senator Carrick would go.
– I did not say that.
-Of course, the whole tenor of Senator Carrick ‘s address was a defence of a system which gives unequal rights of voting. Senator Carrick said that a country member of parliament needs some leeway in the weighting of votes so that he can service his district. Senator Carrick has been represented in this Parliament by Mr Anthony in another place.
– On the contrary.
-Senator Carrick was represented at the Joint Sitting by Country Party spokesmen, and in other debates in the House of Representatives he has been represented by Mr Anthony who has spoken on behalf of the Opposition. When did Senator Carrick get up and deny what Mr Anthony had said? How would Senator Carrick like to attend city areas and to knock on doors specifically to explain his party’s electoral policy by saying to those people at the door: ‘I do not think you should have as much say as country people in making laws which are before Federal Parliament concerning a loan Bill, a national health Bill, the Interstate Commission Bill, and the Ombudsman Bill.’ That is just naming 5 Bills. The honourable senator would say: ‘I do not think you, a city dweller in Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, Brisbane or Perth should have as much say as a person in Whyalla or some outback area in some other State ‘.
– Does the honourable senator think they should have more say?
-This would be the measure of the task. Senator Jessop has failed in South Australia to convey that argument with any force at all. This week in South Australia a Bill is in the process of being passed despite the representations of Senator Carrick ‘s colleagues over many years. The Bill which is passing in South Australia this week will establish democracy in South Australia for the first time since the inception of the Westminster style of government. In South Australia after this week, next week or perhaps a week or two longer- certainly within this month- in the Upper House an electoral Bill will be passed which will enable all future distributions to be established on the basis of only a 10 per cent weighting between electorates despite where people live. There will be an automatic redistribution after a certain number of years and it will not be subject to the scrutiny of Parliament. This takes the matter of electoral justice out of the hands of the personal or party ambitions of politicians. It is one of the models for electoral distribution in Australia.
I only wish the Federal Parliament could shed its personal and party ambitions and look favourably on these Bills which are before the Senate. They establish a form of justice which Senator Jessop does not like. I say that Senator Jessop, over a number of years, will be totally incapable of preventing the passage of these Bills. An example has been proven that no party will hold office or power of privilege forever. It never happens that way. Whether it takes 5, 10 or 15 years Senator Jessop will not be able to stop the implementation of what is a fair system for federal parliamentary elections. It is only a matter of time before that argument ceases in this chamber.
I often wonder what advantage it is to our side of politics to deny the early passage of what is obviously a just system. The Bills to which I refer encompass a wide variety of interests. I cannot for the life of me see how we can say to a city person: ‘You shall have a devalued vote in relation to whether there will be a certain type of national health scheme. You will have a smaller vote than a person who lives in a country area’. Both electors must seek the same thing and that is a proper and adequate health service for themselves and their families. Yet they will not have the same say in the national Parliament as to whether they obtain that service. Of course the argument goes much more deeply than simply a matter of whether individual electors can have a proper say on individual items which are discussed in the Parliament. We know that governments are made or broken in the Lower House of any British, Westminster style parliament. It is not simply the individual matters to which members of parliament address themselves which relate to the value of the vote of a person who puts a member in parliament.
In our sort of government in Australia today it is the party which has the majority of members in the Lower House whose philosophy guides a country for, hopefully, 3 years. It is the philosophy which will be decided. It is in this area that our side of politics has been so hopelessly defective. We have said that people who live in cities, in areas of large aggregation of population, should have a smaller say than those who live in country areas, as to which philosophy shall guide Australia. That is a serious and black mark against our side of politics. As much as I have personally warned our side, it will never take note of the harm it does itself and it will never understand that some members of the public do recognise the fault of a party which denies the general population an equal right in the choice of a philosophy to govern the people. Again, this is revealed by Senator Carrick, who I feel deals so heartlessly with the aspects of politics, when he says that the system returns a fair result because whether it is defective in Queensland or whether it is just in New South Wales, the majority chooses the majority of the members of the Lower House.
Of course the honourable senator forgets the individual value entirely in the assessment he makes. When he says that the general average in Australia is the proper result, whether an electorate in Sydney has twice the number of electors as a country electorate in Queensland, he absolutely denies the individual’s right to justice in whether he or she personally has an equal say in one part of Australia when compared with an electorate in another part of Australia. That is a totally heartless argument and it ignores the very basis of the liberal principle. The liberal principle of politics ought to be based on the value of every individual in Australia. I am ashamed of those Liberals who deny the very basis of their supposedly liberal precepts in this chamber. I do not intend to get any more heated because this argument comes up every few months. As I said in the beginning of my speech, Senator Carrick certainly is at total variance with the way his party is voting in South Australia. I again request him to contact the Leader of the Opposition, the Leader of the Liberal Party in the Upper House in South Australia, in what I hope will be some effective way to prevent a leading Liberal politician in Australia- despite Senator Carrick ‘s speech here today- who has in the last few days publicly said that he is in favour of optional preferential voting for the Lower House in South Australia, from voting against the Bill.
What hope have we in this divided Party of producing against that sort of background a proper approach to electoral reform? I again state my belief in relation to the Bills we have before us. Several weeks in the future South Australia will be a model which I hope this Parliament may look at. It is taking out of the hands of politicians this matter of a self-interested view of electoral reform and placing it entirely outside the personal ambitions of politicians. I would like to see these Bills drafted along those lines. I think it is as wrong for members of Parliament to fix their own salaries as it is for them to fix their own electorates. It is high time the Parliament rose above its own little ambitions and looked at this matter in the same way it looks at salaries. Any redistribution should be carried out at appointed times free of scrutiny by individual members of Parliament. Until that is done we will have this recurring, unsavoury debate in which members on one side take the low ethics of the other side to justify their own stand. I think Senator Carrick was referring to the defects in the Labor Party and using that as a reason for the defects in his own Party.
– I did not say that.
– I challenge the honourable senator to read his speech. There are plenty of other examples of this practice. It seems to me that the favourite part of debate here is devoted to looking at the faults of others in order to justify one’s own faults. It will not work in the electoral situation. I know warnings to our side of politics are always ignored. Results are noticed only about 5 years after they occur. It would be of little use for me to reiterate that warning but I say this: The Liberal Party does itself a great deal of harm by its continued refusal to pass this legislation. That harm will not be evident at the next election. It will be evident at the election thereafter. It is a denial by the Liberal Party of the opportunities that stretch out before it to refuse to accept the right that it has to take a larger share of the national Parliament and possibly to deny the Country Party some of its votes in this House and in the House of Representatives by making more certain that the Country Party’s representation in the Lower House is related in percentage terms to the percentage of votes that it gets in the community. In any case whatever view the Liberal Party takes of that it has not justified in this debate its refusal of these Bills. As I have said, time will effect their passage, even though members of Parliament may deny their passage now. I look forward to a measure being introduced in the future that will go much further and that will make redistributions automatic, well regulated and not dependent upon members of Parliament.
– Debates on Bills of this type will always bring up arguments and, of course, each side will always try to justify its stand. I think history shows that whenever a government has brought about a redistribution it has been to the advantage of that government. That is usually the case. We have heard quite a lot of talk today about electorates being lopsided and about those electorates that are lopsided being lopsided in favour of those who sit on this side of the chamber. When one comes to look at the record I think that one will find that the Australian Labor Party has easily won the day in the matter of lopsided electorates. I think members of the Labor Party are past masters at the job of making electorates lopsided. The reason why they have not featured so much in this respect in recent times is that they have not been in office in so many areas for quite a long time.
– We are not as old as you are to start with.
– Honourable senators opposite and their colleagues have not had much of a chance recently to practice the making of electorates lopsided, but we are not the past masters that members of the Labor Party are when they are in office. The situation in the State of Queensland has been mentioned. To hear some of the speeches that are made in regard to the position in my home State of Queensland one would think that some terrible things are being done there. If one looks at the history of what a Labor government did when it was in office in Queensland I think one will find that it shows that the present Liberal-Country Party Government in Queensland is just an amateur in the rigging of electorates in comparison with Labor governments.
I well remember the Labor Party bringing in a redistribution proposal in Queensland. What did it do? It more or less put a column of seats on the western border- I think it involved ten or twelve seats- that had no more than 4000 voters in each. In the coastal areas, where the people were voting for the same type of political party as is to be found in the Opposition in this chamber, the seats ran to about 12 000 voters in many cases. Of course, as usual, there was a hue and cry about those rigged electorates, but did the Labor government weaken and say: ‘That is right. We must change the situation’? Of course it did not. It went ahead and, as a result, was able to maintain itself in office for a considerable period of time. There is no question that this practice went on for many years when the Labor Party was in office. The Labor Party held those seats over a period of time because they were western seats and in those days Labor received a strong vote in the western area. A change of politics has taken place in Queensland and some of those seats today do not return Labor parliamentarians. So it can be seen that even though one may rig seats in a certain way the complexion and the politics of those seats can change over a period of time.
In the present circumstances Queensland has been featured as a terrible example of the rigging of seats. It may be remembered that whenever the proceedings of this chamber were being broadcast during last December honourable senators on the Government side of the chamber took the opportunity of bashing the Premier of Queensland, Mr Bjelke-Petersen, and talking about rigged seats and all the rest of it. There was to be an election at about that time. I remember speaking on one of those occasions. I remember referring to the fact that I came from the cyclone area of Queensland and saying that whenever a cyclone blows one does not look for a ricketty old building in which to obtain shelter but that one gets into the strongest type of building that one can and make sure that one is safe. I said that the people of Queensland would rally behind the Premier of Queensland, Mr Bjelke-Petersen, because he was the strong type of leader behind whom people preferred to shelter. What was the result of the election? Surely honourable senators will recall the result of the election on that occasion. As the results were coming through we heard seat after seat toppling in the Government’s favour. Seats that it was thought could never possibly be won by the Government of Queensland were won by it. Even the Leader of the Labor Party lost his seat and the Deputy Leader of the Labor Party lost his seat. The strongly held Labor seats of previous elections, such as the seat now held by Mr Burns, who is the present Leader of the Labor Party, scraped home but not by very much.
There has been a lot of talk about the rigging of seats. I remember reading an article in the Australian newspaper that if the seats had not been gerrymandered, as was said to be the case, the Labor Party may not have won one seat. Unfortunately for the Government some of the seats have Labor constituents packed into them, making them solid Labor-seats. As a result they were able to withstand the cyclone that took place in the electoral field in Queensland last December. The Labor Party was decimated, so that out of the 74 seats, or something like that, in the Queensland Parliament it now holds the small number of eleven and some of those were won by a whisker. So, despite all the talk about gerrymanders and everything else, it can be seen that very often seats are designed in such a way that even the Labor Party can be grateful for the fact that some of them are loaded in its favour. If that had not been the case we might have found that Queensland was a State that did not have an Opposition. That is how close it came. Despite all that was said in this chamber on that occasion by honourable senators opposite the people of Queensland showed that they were well and truly satisfied with their Government and very dissatisfied with the Labor Party. I think the history and the record of the Labor Party in office show that it is a Party that should say less about the rigging of electorates than any other Party in Australia.
There is no doubt that the purpose of the introduction of these electoral Bills is not to induce a puritanical state of mind or to gauge the true feelings of the people but in the hope that the Labor Party may be able to hold on to office. I think there is general agreement amongst the members of the Labor Government at the present time that if there were an election today they would be decimated, just as they were decimated in the election in Queensland last December. Irrespective of how the electorates are divided up that would be the situation that would prevail on this occasion. I think that the members of the Labor Party who retained their seats after such an election would be so scarce about this chamber that one would have to ask: Have you seen a Labor Party member of Parliament today?’ That is the feeling of the nation at the moment. I think that all the talk about the electoral boundaries being gerrymandered will not save the Labor Party on this occasion. I do not think that it would retain office even if it were to get these electoral redistribution Bills through the Parliament.
So far as the redistribution of electorates is concerned, I think we have to take into account more than just the number of people in an electorate. Senator Bunton brought forth some aspects of what was considered to be right in earlier days. It is not just a matter of numbers; it is also a matter of various other aspects, such as communications, the area, the industries, the productivity and so on. It is all very nice for the people who live in cities to say that we must have the principle of one vote one value. For a start, it is impossible to achieve that objective. If we were to divide up the electorates on that basis tonight, within a matter of a few weeks they would be thrown out of adjustment because of the changing populations. There is no way that the principle of one vote one value can be maintained continually. A government may aim to hold somewhere near that principle, but it cannot maintain it in exact proportions. Once the electorates move out of balance, the whole basis of the argument is destroyed.
It is very nice for the people in the bigger cities to say that they want to see the implementation of the principle of one vote, one value. But one has to consider the fact that we have industries in country areas which need a reasonable representation in Parliament. If they do not have reasonable representation in Parliament, it is quite easy for the Parliament of the day, being loaded with representatives from the big city areas, to give less recognition to these rural areas with a consequent undermining of the value of the industries in those areas. While Government supporters may not like to believe it, the rural areas of this country are still of tremendous importance to Australia. They are not only of great importance to Australia in regard to productivity. They are also of great importance to Australia in regard to food and food is of value on a world basis. We know that this is one of the very scarce commodities in many areas of the world today. Therefore, we have to give strong consideration to proper representation of those areas.
It could well be on the basis that Labor Party senators are speaking, that is, that we must have the principle of one vote one value, that the representation of those areas with such valuable industries could be diminished because their voice in this Parliament would be so small that they could well be neglected by the government of the day to a very great extent. Do not tell me that cannot happen because it can. Over a period of time during the life of this Government we have seen certain industries practically ruined or their programs of development have been delayed considerably. Let me take as an example the mining industry, the search for oil and so on. What is happening in the search for oil? This is a most important matter. If we do not find more oil, this country can be placed in a very serious situation in paying for oil from overseas sources. This is just one aspect of the argument. The areas in which oil drilling is carried on or in which oil wells are discovered are generally not great centres of population. Therefore, the people living in those areas do not have very strong representation in the Parliament. Thus, there is some need for electorates to be divided in such a way that industries in those sparsely populated areas can be represented in the Parliament. It is most essential that they should have a voice in the Parliament. I think that in bringing forward these points, Senator Bunton has done a very good job. He is asking honourable senators to realise that it is a case of members of Parliament representing more than people. They represent industries, communication, production and so on.
Let me deal with communication. How will there be easy communication in electorates of a terrific size in comparison with city electorates? It used to be said of Eddie Ward who represented West Sydney in the Parliament that he could walk around his electorate probably in an afternoon. That cannot be done in the rural areas because they are very extensive in size. There is no question that as a consequence members representing city areas, can service their electorates much more easily than can members of Parliament who service large country electorates. Under the Electoral Re-distribution (Queensland) Bill there is to be an electorate by the name of Flynn. It runs right around the whole area of Queensland and is to be represented by one elected member from Queensland. Can honourable senators imagine how an honourable senator representing such an area as will be contained in that electorate of Flynn could possibly–
– What about Kalgoorlie in Western Australia?
– That is as big as the whole State of Queensland.
– Can honourable senators imagine the elected member giving representation and service to the people of that vast electorate of Flynn?
– Fred Collard does it in Kalgoorlie.
– I will come to that. Can honourable senators imagine the difficulties of a member servicing the people of this vast electorate in comparison to those of an honourable member servicing a city electorate? There is no equality in that situation and nobody could possibly suggest that there is. Let me make some comments in regard to the electorate of Kalgoorlie compared to the proposed electorate of Flynn. I think it can be said fairly that the population of Queensland is very well distributed. I make this comparison with the electorate of Kalgoorlie: Whilst the electorate of Kalgoorlie constitutes a very big area, it would not have the spread and diversity of population that the proposed electorate of Flynn in Queensland would have.
– From the most northern part of Australia down to the south? What are you talking about?
– There is an amazing distribution of population in Queensland. Queensland has a very well distributed population. We have better decentralisation in Queensland than in possibly any other of the larger States. I think that this provides an indication of the fact that over a period of years governments of the day have worked with this in view. As a consequence, our railway system, road system and everything else have brought about this distribution of population. Thus, the proposed electorate of Flynn would have so many points for a parliamentarian to service in comparison with a city electorate that I believe that any comparison would be weighted to a disgraceful degree in favour of the city electorate. Any honourable senator who said it was a fair distribution is putting his head in the sand and does not realise the true situation.
Once again, the compliment goes to Senator Bunton for having brought forward this aspect: We are talking about equal electorates in the Senate. But if we are to be honest about it, why do we not have equal electorates in the Senate? In the Senate we as senators represent different numbers of people according to the States that we represent.
– Who does your Queensland Senator Field represent?
– I am not speaking about Senator Field. Whilst his appointment was not in accord with my idea of what should have happened, at the same time he was appointed and nobody can say anything against his appointment because it was made in accordance with the right of a State government.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Devitt)- Order! Senator, I think that you should return to deal with the subject matter of the Bills.
- Mr Acting Deputy President, the suggestion was thrown up -
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT- I know.
– What I am trying to say is that the right of a State to appoint a senator is given to that State in the Constitution. I do not think that anybody can legally say anything against the appointment. Let me return to my argument of senators representing populations. Those senators who represent the States of New South Wales and Victoria each represent more people than any of us do. So why is there not a row kicked up about those honourable senators representing more people than we do if Government senators really believe in this principle of one vote one value. Surely Senator Hall, who spoke a while ago, must hang his head in shame every time he passes me in the corridor because he is one of 10 senators who represent a State with only 1 216 000 people. In my State, which is a wonderfully distributed State- much better than his- our 10 senators represent 1 968 000 people. So as he passes Senator McAuliffe, Senator Sheil, myself or any other of our Queensland senators in this building he must feel ashamed to think that he has been elected to this chamber to represent so few people. He is the one who believes in equal representation. This is the point that was brought forward by Senator Bunton and I have taken it up. It should remain in our minds vividly in the Senate.
Let us remember this point also: This chamber was established in this way because of the fear of the densely populated States that they would be out-voted by the more densely populated States. There would not be an Australian parliament today if it were not for the Senate. The Constitution is really wrapped around the Senate because of that reason. An Australian Parliament was formed only because each State had equal representation in the Senate. That is the basis of it. There was no argument at that time about having more senators in the more densely populated States than in the less densely populated States. Have I ever heard Labor Party senators say that the more densely populated States should have more senators than the less densely populated States? Of course they do not, and if that is carried to the ultimate the same thing should persist in this chamber. If we are genuine, let us consider our own situation. The argument about one man, one vote, must strike home to those honourable senators who believe in that principle but who come from the less populated States. Having heard Senator Hall give a lecture on some honourable senators not having the correct attitude to this matter, when in future he passes me in the corridor I should like him to bow to me as a senator who represents in this chamber more people than he does.
In the matter of a redistribution like this we have to consider a wide variety of aspects. We have to realise that people play an important part in the electorates according to what they are doing and what they are producing and in the light of communication. In some electorates communication is a very difficult problem, and it is much more difficult for parliamentarians to serve some country electorates than to serve city electorates. Anybody who suggests that a country electorate can be served as easily as a city electorate is talking through his hat. Those who live in the city electorates have a much easier job than people living in the country electorates. The argument put forward by Government speakers who have taken part in the debate to justify the principle of one man, one vote, is just a lot of nonsense. That ideal can never be carried out to the full, and once something cannot be carried out 100 per cent it is not complete. In those circumstances it is not possible to get a perfect distribution for everybody, but we are all Australians and we should ensure that people in the less populated areas have strong enough representation in this Parliament to enable their views to be put forward so that their industries, their activities, their businesses and their mode of living can be considered.
In the area from which I come the great industry is the sugar industry, and I remember the opposition that came from the southern areas to the fixing of a decent price for sugar. If the interests of the sugar industry had not been looked after at that time by the various members of the Parliament, where would that industry be today? The industry today is of great value to this country, and has been over a period of years, both in war and in peace. Today it is one of the greatest industries in the country, bringing in valuable overseas exchange. It is only because they have sufficient representation that industries such as the sugar industry have their voices heard in the Parliament in a strong enough way to enable them to overcome in the long run southern opposition. I well remember the days when the southern parliamentarians wanted cheap sugar but the northerners had to pay high prices for the goods produced by the well protected secondary industries.
I believe that the claim for one man, one voting value, is nonsense. I believe that the only fair system for the people of Australia is to have electorates worked out in such a way that sufficient representation is given to people who work in the various industries which operate for the benefit of this country. Electorates should be designed on the basis of sufficient area to enable them to be served by their parliamentarians so that they have proper representation in the national Parliament. I said before that as senators surely we talk with our tongues in our cheeks when we say that parliamentarians must come to this chamber representing equal numbers of people. That principle does not operate in this chamber- let us be consistent- nor has it reflected against the progress of this country that this chamber has not operated on that basis. I think electoral distribution is a matter of common sense and fair play to the people of Australia generally. As far as that is concerned, if the principle of one man, one voting value, had been adopted when the setting up of the Commonwealth Government was first proposed, I make bold to say that this Australian Parliament would not exist today. There would have been no Senate and, because of that, there would have been no Australian Parliament. Let us be sensible; let us be fair. I believe that these proposals should be rejected.
– I notice that Senator Wood declined Senator Hall’s invitation to stand up and tell his radio listeners whether he was willing to doorknock in the city of Brisbane and tell his electors there that their vote should be less valuable than that of people who live in Port Augusta or the Riverina or Horsham or Stawell. So presumably Senator Wood does believe that his electors in the city of Brisbane should have less power in determining national policy, less say in such legislation as an ombudsman Bill, which Senator Hall cited as an example. Since he declined to accept Senator Hall’s invitation, I assume that Senator Wood believes that the electors of Brisbane should have less influence and less power in governing Australia than the electors of Horsham or Stawell. I think it is important for the electors of Brisbane who may be listening to this broadcast that that point be established. The Bills which are being debated do not have anything to do with preferential voting, optional preferential voting, postal voting, oil drilling or the constitution of the Senate, although most of the argument or substitutes for argument put forward by the members of the Opposition related to those subjects. The Bills which are being debated this afternoon are the redistribution Bills which give effect to the Electoral Acts passed at the Joint Sitting of the Parliament in July of last year. They are Bills to implement those Acts, which are now the law of the land. It is important to note also that it is those redistribution Bills to implement what is the law of the land which are being opposed by the members of the Opposition and which they have forecast their intention to defeat.
Senator Carrick invited me to make some comments on electoral distribution in Western Australia. That is not the subject of these Bills, but since other honourable senators have seen fit to try to hang an argument on that subject I assume the same indulgence will be extended to me. Firstly, I refer to the Electoral Redistribution Bill introduced by the Tonkin Labor Government. I am sorry that Senator Carrick is not here. If he is listening on the speaker, I would remind him that the actions of the Tonkin Government were constrained at all times by the existence of a blatantly gerrymandered Legislative Council in Western Australia. That House is the most gerrymandered House in any Parliament in Australia, where one-third of the electors elect two-thirds of the members of the Legislative Council and two-thirds of the electors elect only one-third of the members, a four to one weighting based on the precept that some people shall be more equal than others. What the Tonkin Government was able to do in respect of electoral reform was constrained at all times by the existence of that blatantly gerrymandered and reactionary Upper House, which I should hasten to add misused its power on some 28 or 29 occasions, I think it was, during the existence of the Tonkin Government.
I should also bring Senator Carrick up to date on the current electoral redistribution proposals in Western Australia which have been put forward by the Liberal-Country Party Government of Sir Charles Court. Sir Charles Court’s Government proposes that a 10 per cent tolerance shall be allowed in the Perth metropolitan area- a 10 per cent deviation from the mean- but in country areas a 15 per cent deviation from the mean shall be allowed. Since the normal rationale for the existence of any sort of deviation is for the convenience of drawing boundaries and also to allow electoral commissioners to make some provision for rapid population changes in certain areas it seems peculiar, to say the least, that the Court Liberal Government in Western Australia should propose a greater deviation or tolerance from the mean in the agricultural areas where population numbers are relatively stable and propose a smaller deviation from the mean for those rapidly growing outer suburbs of Perth where population changes are rapid, even in the short term. It seems a little peculiar until, of course, one realises that the provision of a greater tolerance in the country areas would enable Sir Charles to rig more effectively the boundaries in the country by adjusting the numbers of electors who will be enrolled in the Labor held seats, centred on the major country towns.
Also in Western Australia we have 4 northwest seats which are called statutory seats. They are not affected by this redistribution. They operate under a special Act. It is peculiar to note here that Sir Charles proposes to allow the existing boundaries to remain so that the electorate of Pilbara with about 14 000 people on the roll in the north-west will retain those 14 000 people while the electorates of Kimberley and Murchison-Eyre, of comparable geographic size, I should perhaps add, will have only 2000 to 2500 people on the roll. The reason that anomaly appeals to Sir Charles Court is, I suggest, that the electors in the Pilbara electorate have a much greater propensity to vote for the Australian Labor Party than the electors of the other 2 seats.
I suppose this discourse on anomalies in the new electoral laws of Western Australia which have been proposed by Sir Charles Court serve once again to underline the point that Senator Hall was making when he congratulated Senator Carrick for opposing the introduction of optional preferential voting; but he pointed out the glaring inconsistency in the attitude of the Liberal Party on this question. Mr De Garis, the defacto leader of the Liberal Party in South Australia, has stated that the Liberal Party will support optional preferential voting in South Australia. What finally emerges is this conclusion: The Liberal Party, so far as electoral matters are concerned, operates on the assumption that what is expedient for the Liberal Party is right and what helps the Liberal Party to win will be done.
Senator Carrick ‘s comments on preferential and optional preferential voting are, as I noted earlier, of course, all entirely irrelevant to this Bill. The fact that Senator Carrick saw fit to spend the greater part of his time discussing these matters is a measure of his desperation. It illustrates that he had no valid points to make so he resorted to all sorts of irrelevancies as, indeed, did nearly every other member of the Opposition who has participated in this debate. These electoral redistribution proposals have been described, I think by every member of the Opposition, as being some sort of electoral fiddle. Honourable senators opposite allege that the proposals are deliberately designed and concocted to keep Labor in power forever or to give Labor, at the very least, a grossly unfair advantage in any ensuing election.
It is interesting that none of the major capital city newspapers seem to have endorsed the Opposition’s assessment of these Bills. The major capital city newspapers, which by no stretch of the imagination could be described as being traditionally pro-Labor, have all endorsed these proposals as being fair and just. It is perhaps even more interesting that Malcolm Mackerras who is, I think, regarded on both sides of politics as being the leading political statistical analyst in the country and to the best of my knowledge he was and still is an active member of the Liberal Party- has described these redistribution proposals as the fairest set of proposals that have ever been presented to any Australian Parliament. So we get down to the old principle, the well established Liberal and National Country Party principle, of what is expedient will be done and what is electorally convenient to the Liberal and Country Parties will be done. All this cant and humbug about justice and fair representation should be seen for what it is.
Senator Scott repeated the conventional rationale for disproportionate numbers of electors. He said that it was far more difficult for people to serve their electors in a dispersed country seat and therefore they should have fewer electors to serve in order that they may provide effective representation for those electors whom they nominally represent. I do not think Senator Scott would quarrel with my interpretation of the basis of his remarks. It is curious that this question of equality of representation and effective servicing of electors, or of people who live in the electorate, at least, seems to have been totally disregarded- in fact explicitly rejected- by Senator Carrick. Senator Carrick spent 5 minutes discussing the proposition whether electorate size should be determined by the number of electors or by the number of people who live in an electorate. Senator Carrick said that it should be determined by the number of electors and that those migrant groups- the ethnic minorities which tend to be heavily concentrated in Sydney and Melbourne- should not be counted for purposes of determining electoral boundaries because they are not naturalised citizens and do not have a vote.
The interesting point here is that Senator Carrick is either rejecting out of hand the rationale of
Senator Scott’s argument, namely, that the effectiveness of representation should be the primary factor determining the size demographically of an electorate, or he is saying that the ethnic minorities, which tend to be concentrated in the inner city seats, and consist of people who are not yet naturalised Australians, are not entitled to any parliamentary representation by the members who represent those districts.
– Have you been to north Queensland?
– He is saying one or the other. It is worth while to pursue a little further this question of difficulties of representing particular areas. In answer to Senator Sheil ‘s interjection, yes, I have been to north Queensland. Members of the Country Party of course, are always saying how difficult it is to represent country seats. I wonder if Country Party members who sit in this and other Parliaments have ever thought about the difficulties of representing an inner city electorate, especially one which has a very significant ethnic minority. Perhaps they should talk- probably there are some Liberal Party members in the same position- to Labor Party or Liberal Party members who represent these areas. I was speaking to the honourable member for Melbourne (Mr Innes) 2 days ago. He informed me that he was looking for a research assistant who was fluent in Greek and Italian because his electoral duties involve so many dealings with ethnic minorities and involve representations on behalf of people who belong to ethnic minorities that it was necessary for him to have an interpreter.
– Do you not think that you meet this sort of people in the country electorates?
– Not to nearly the same degree.
– You do in north Queensland, senator.
– Yes, that is so in north Queensland. The farthest seat in north Queensland is not represented by the National Country Party anyway. It is represented by a Labor member who supports this Bill.
– That is strange.
– It is a fact. Senator Sheil can reject it if he wishes. I suppose people within fairly wide parameters can believe what they choose to believe. The Opposition- Senator Scott in particular, I think- has stated that these proposals are unacceptable because they allow some electorates to have more people than others. This argument has been raised. There may be some justification for quibbling about whether a particular electorate should have 55 000 or 60 000 electors.
Sitting suspended from 5.45 to 8 p.m.
– When the sitting was suspended for dinner I was dealing with the arguments which Senator Carrick had been putting and the way in which those arguments contradicted the other arguments put forward by Opposition senators, by Country Party senators, and by Senator Scott in particular. Senator Scott alleged- this is a questionable proposition- that it is difficult for country members who represent sparsely populated regions to provide an adequate service to their electors. Therefore, argues Senator Scott of the Country Party, they should have fewer electors to service.
In clear rejection of that view Senator Carrick then proceeded to argue that it was quite wrong to count the number of people in an electorate as distinct from the number of electors. That, of course, is an argument which is irrelevant for the purposes of these Bills; nevertheless it was pursued by Senator Carrick at great length, presumably because he had nothing to say about these Bills which was worth saying. He pursued an argument which had nothing to do with these Bills. He said it was quite improper to count the number of people who lived in the electorate, notwithstanding the fact that many of those people who are not electors because they are not naturalised Australians have just as many problems as do Australians. In fact, they would have more problems than would most Australians and most country people because they belong to ethnic minorities. They have housing problems. They have an enormous language difficulty, to start with. Senator Carrick has just proposed that these ethnic minorities should be ignored by this Parliament. I think that these ethnic minorities, whether or not they happen to be Australian citizens, should realise the contempt with which they are regarded by Senator Carrick and presumably by his party. Let it be clearly established that the Liberal Party has stated in this Parliament, through its spokesman Senator Carrick, that these ethnic minorities have no rights and deserve no consideration from members of Parliament who represent the areas in which they reside.
– Do you think that he regards them as industrial cannon fodder?
– Yes, he probably does regard them as industrial cannon fodder. In the view of the Liberal Party these ethnic minorities are made up of some sort of sub-human species which are not to be granted the full rights of citizens or indeed any rights at all but are to be used, as my colleague Senator Mulvihill says, as industrial cannon fodder. The Opposition has quibbled about the fact that the number of electors on the mainland under these redistribution proposals varies between- I forget the precise figure-something like 55 000 and 64 000. The Opposition says that having 8000 or 9000 more electors in one particular electorate than in another is too much. Therefore in logic characteristic of it the Opposition says: ‘We will reject entirely these redistribution proposals and we will retain the existing system ‘. The Opposition is saying, in effect: ‘We think it is far more just to retain the existing system’. Under that system the electorate of Diamond Valley in Victoria and the electorate of McPherson in Queensland, for example, have more than 90 000 electors on the electoral roll while 5 seats held by the National Country Party have fewer than 50 000 electors. The Opposition quibbles about a variation from the quota which, at the most, is around 18 per cent. The Opposition says that that is unacceptable, that it would prefer a 100 per cent variation with some electortates twice the size of others. What nonsense. What casuistry. What hypocrisy.
Senator Scott put forward another hypothesis which is contradicted by the facts. It is one which is frequently put forward by the National Country Party. Propositions that are contradicted by the facts seem to have a fatal fascination for members of the Country Party. Senator Scott postulated a relationship between the degree of electoral malapportionment and the degree of decentralisation. He postulated the existence of some sort of demographic/electoral nexus. He appears to believe that if the votes of country people have more value than the votes of the city people then in some way, which he failed to explain, that would decentralise the population geographically. I cannot imagine why it would or why there should be any logical connection between those 2 things.
However, the proposition can be tested by reference to the facts. It can be tested against the empirical evidence. We have only one Federal Government, although some people have recently come to the view that as well as the legitimate Federal Government there is a pretender or would be federal government in the Senate, or a second government in the Senate. The Federal Government is elected under a common Electoral Act, so there is no room for comparison. There is, however, room for comparison among the States. The degree to which voting power is malapportioned in the State parliaments does vary quite considerably. 1 am not sure whether this has been so ever since Federation, but ever since I can remember- that goes back at least 30 years; some of my Tasmanian colleagues may be able to be more precise and help me with this - the Parliament of Tasmania has been elected on a system which follows-
– I thank Senator Wriedt. Since 1912 the Tasmanian Parliament has been elected on a system which follows the federal boundaries, and the federal boundaries have never deviated more than 20 per cent; or at the time of the redistribution, the federal electoral boundaries did not deviate more than 20 per cent from the mean. So Tasmania has and has always had the least gerrymandered of all the State parliaments. On the other hand, the State of South Australia had, under Senator Davidson’s old mentor, Sir Thomas Playford, the most notoriously gerrymandered parliament in Australia for a generation. The Lower House, the House of Assembly in South Australia, had an electoral distribution which was malapportioned to the same degree as is the Legislative Council of Western Australia now. In other words, the votes of those people who lived in the city of Adelaide were worth only 25 per cent of the votes of the people who lived in the rural areas. So we have the 2 extremes of the most gerrymandered State parliament in the country- that is, South Australia’sand the least gerrymandered parliament in the country, which is Tasmania ‘s.
Let us look at the demographic effects of this electoral malapportionment or lack of it. In fact, we find that in the State of South Australia the primary city, the capital city of Adelaide, has a higher proportion of the total population resident within its boundaries than occurs in any other State in Australia. In Tasmania the primary city, the capital city of Hobart, has a smaller proportion of the Tasmanian population resident in Hobart than occurs in any other State in Australia. We find that absolutely in conflict with what the National Country Party postulates, absolutely in conflict with its theory, which is repudiated from both ends. From the empirical evidence the lesser the gerrymander the more dispersed is the population and the greater the gerrymander the more urban concentrated is the population. So I hope that we will not hear any more of that particular spurious argument from the National Country Party, although in the past the fact that its arguments were contradicted by the evidence did not deter it.
Just in case I should be misunderstood I will explain that I am not suggesting that there is any nexus between the degree of electoral gerrymandering, or the lack of electoral gerrymandering, and the geographical dispersal of the population. Those two situations are totally unrelated. In fact the State of Queensland occupies an intermediate position where it has a gerrymandered electoral system and also a dispersed population, although, I emphasise, not as dispersed as the State of Tasmania.
Senator Webster and Senator Davidson seemed to be intent upon putting a case not against these redistribution Bills but against the Act to which they are pursuant. There is no doubt whatsoever that the arguments put forward by these 2 particularly unworthy senators were cases against the Commonwealth Electoral Act, a repudiation of the law of the land.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Webster)- Order! You have referred to senators in this place as unworthy senators. I ask you to withdraw that remark.
– I withdraw the word unworthy’, Mr Deputy President. The argument put by those 2 senators was clearly a repudiation of the law of the land. It was an argument against the Commonwealth Electoral Act itself and not an argument against the electoral Bills. Then they had the audacity to stand up here with sanctimonious humbug and talk about fairness, decency, honour and so on.
I will touch on just one of the arguments raised by Senator Webster in a statement which was not correct. Senator Webster stated that these propositions were rejected by the referendums of May 1 974. The propositions posed by question 3 at those referendums was not of course this proposition. It was a proposition that electorates in the parliaments throughout Australia, both State and Federal, should be of equal size demographically and that people and not electors should be counted. That is a proposition very far removed and quite distinctly different from the one that is before the Senate today. It is true that people did vote against the proposition. But people cast their votes in a number of confusing circumstances. The people’s evaluation of this proposal, I must add, was not assisted by the official ‘No’ case circulated by the Electoral Office and authorised I understand by members of the Opposition who opposed the determination of electoral boundaries on the basis of population instead of electors and then said: ‘Equal numbers of electors which is what we have now’. That was a premeditated total and deliberate lie circulated by the Electoral Office because it was obliged to do so at the instigation of the Opposition.
In summary, we have had the argument about the quality of representation. This is an argument that cuts both ways, both in the rural scene and in the urban areas. I think it is an incontestable proposition that the quality of representation which many rural electors have is pretty bad, especially those who are represented by members of the National Country Party. Most of the Opposition’s arguments, or most of the things which were said, were totally irrelevant to the Bills before us. They concerned other electoral matters or matters which had nothing to do with elections or electoral laws at all. I can only assume that the reason they adopted this course was that they had no valid arguments to put against the Bills we are now considering. Members of the Opposition dealt with the past sins of Labor Governments and the past sins of other governments in an attempt to justify their continuing sins today. Of course, when we strip away all this humbug and all this deception the real reason the Opposition is opposing these Bills is because they are fair. Malcolm Mackerras forecast at the time the redistribution proposals were released that the proposals would be opposed because they are fair. They are opposed because the Liberal Party once again has caved in to the blackmail of the National Country Party. Let there be no more cant and humbug and I hope even no more discussion about this matter. The Opposition has made up its mind. The National Country Party has once again dictated to the Liberal Party its attitude on electoral reform to the everlasting shame and disgrace of the Liberal Party.
-We are discussing legislation which proposes to redistribute electorates in 5 States. Tasmania is one of the States under consideration. A motion for the approval of the proposed redistributions in that State was passed by the House of Representatives on 21 May this year and was negated the following day by the Senate. A Bill identical to the one we are now discussing with regard to Tasmania was introduced and passed by the House of Representatives on 29 May and was refused a second reading by this chamber on 10 June. The Bill has now been brought in for a second time. Mr Daly in his second reading speech when introducing the Bill in the other House said:
The Government believes that the effecting of these redistributions has become a matter of urgent necessity in order to provide equality of representation for every elector.
He went on to say:
The Government is not prepared to wait until 1977 or 1 978 to effect a redistribution.
I believe that we are seeing yet another attempt by the Government to ensure that it remains in office for as long as it possibly can. This Government seems to have had a preoccupation since it came to power with trying to remain in office. One of the comments that I hear as I go around Tasmania is that people are sick and -
– What an extraordinary thing for a Government to want to do.
– It is an extraordinary aim for this Government to have. No matter what it does I doubt whether it will be able to stay in power. This is particularly the case in Tasmania as I will demonstrate to Senator James McClelland in a moment. As I go around Tasmania I find that people are becoming sick and tired of the amount of time that this Government is spending on things such as the legislation we are now considering instead of trying to run the country. Although the Government has been in office for nearly 3 years it still has this preoccupation with trying to make sure that it stays in power. The Labor Party was returned to office in 1974 with a very narrow majority in the House of Representatives. Had about 1000 votes in 3 electorates gone another way we would have had a different government.
– You went pretty close yourself.
– I was not even close at all. What Senator Devitt has just said shows that he has not really studied the figures in regard to the Tasmanian situation. With due respect, he does not know what he is talking about. But this is not the point. The point is that the Government had a narrow win. It then looked at the situation and said: ‘We have to do something about it’. It has set about trying to do something, but it does not have a mandate to do what it is now trying to do. People do not want this Government or any government to put itself in a position where it cannot be removed from office. The Government has no right to attempt to alter the basis on which redistributions are made at the moment when it has won office by such a slender majority. 1 believe that the people of this country become suspicious and cynical of any government that tries to do this. I do not think that the Government would be able to convince the public that it is not bringing in these Bills for just this reason. The public is entitled to believe that the Government is bringing in the Bills so that it can remain in office for as long as possible. The Bills are being introduced for selfish reasons rather than for the good of the country. Members of the Government have become used to having their big cars and the power of ministerial positions. They have become used to hiring people right, left and centre.
– What a lot of rubbish. Who wrote that for you?
– If the honourable senator looks at my notes he will see that they are in my writing. Perhaps if he stopped reading his newspaper he would be able to listen to what I am saying and realise that it is not rubbish.
– You are getting a bit wobbly.
-In that case I will have a glass of water; that may settle me down. No matter what honourable senators opposite may say I believe that this is a blatant attempt by the Government to alter the way in which any future election in this country would go. If a referendum were held on this matter, there is no doubt that the people of Australia would reject it. One must look at the Bills in the context that they are only one part of a number of attempts that the Government has made to alter the system to suit its own selfish ends. In Tasmania there is very little need for a redistribution.
– Very little or no reason?
-Very little reason.
– You do not say that there is no reason.
-A little later I will give reasons for that statement. Mr Daly, in his speech in the other House, referring to the Opposition parties, said:
We invite them to support the basic democratic principles of one vote, one value. That .is the basis of this legislationnothing more, nothing less. ‘
I do not believe that is the situation because in Tasmania the electorates are within 6 per cent of the mean. They are quite easily within the 10 per cent that the Government is striving to obtain. Yet the Government sees this urgent need for a redistribution. That has been said by Mr Daly. In my opinion, it is a dishonest attempt by the Government to ensure that it will stay in power, although the people of this country do not want it.
If one looked at the position in Tasmania one might be able to see why the Government would like a redistribution. I believe that at the next election the Government will lose the Tasmanian seats, in this order: Wilmot, Braddon, Denison and Franklin. We must bear in mind that it has already lost Bass. There may be some alteration to the order in that the Franklin vote could be quite surprising, and the Liberal Party could get more than it will in Denison. Following the 1974 election the number of votes needed by the Opposition to capture Wilmot was only 3 per cent. Only 3 per cent of the people had to change their vote for there to be a change of member. That is only 1240 people. In Denison the figure was less than 3 per cent. We have seen what happened in Bass. I will go into that in a moment. In Braddon less than 5 per cent is needed. In Franklin a 12.9 per cent swing would be required for the seat to change from Labor to Liberal. We saw what happened in the Bass by-election. I place a lot of the blame for Labor’s loss on the unemployment in that area. A lot of it was a result of the 25 per cent cut in tariffs and of the plight of the farming industry around that area. At the by-election in Bass Labor got about 37 per cent of the vote. That was before part one of the loans scandal. It was before the postal rises, before the Harradine affair, before the increased freight rates by the Australian National Line and before the rises in air fares. It is obvious that if an election were held tomorrow in Bass the Labor Party would get fewer votes than it did then.
If that trend continues the Labor Party will lose all the seats that it now holds in Tasmania. In Braddon there is quite a lot of farming. Apparently Associated Pulp and Paper Mills Ltd has hundreds of people out of work. Mount Lyell is in a marginal situation. Peko-Wallsend Ltd on King Island is in a similar situation. A lot of Labor’s worries have been brought about by the unemployment situation and the unemployment situation arises from the kind of industries in Tasmania. Inflation is knocking the Labor Party’s chances around a heck of a lot. Wilmot would be second to Bass to go to the Liberal Party. I believe that Mr Duthie has certainly had it. I think the Labor Party will need to field a very good candidate to have any chance of holding that seat in an election.
– What has this to do with the Bills?
– I am saying that is the reason the Government might like to have the redistribution in Tasmania.
– Stop referring to other people in a derogatory way.
– I am not being derogatory. I am giving my opinion. In Wilmot the farming industry is in quite a mess. I believe that even the paper industry in New Norfolk will not maintain its present situation for much longer. In
Denison and Franklin there is an obvious attempt, in my opinion, to create a situation that will give the Labor Party at least one seat in Tasmania. In Denison the Electrolytic Zinc Company of Australasia is not going too well. Cadbury Schweppes Pty Ltd, which is nearby, will gradually move to Melbourne.
– I suppose that is our fault, too. I suppose that less chocolate is being eaten in Tasmania because of our policies.
– It is not necessarily anybody’s fault. It is due to the freight increases by ANL because 96 per cent of the ingredients for the chocolate that is shipped out of Tasmania must be imported first.
– Your speech had better improve or Senator Marriott will get ahead of you on the ticket. If the pre-selection chiefs are listening you are gone.
– I do not think it really matters whether I am No. 3 on the Liberal Party ticket. If I were No. 2 on the Labor Party ticket for Tasmania at the next half Senate election I would be very worried. The figures show that there is a chance that the Labor Party will get only one Senate seat.
– Do you want to bet on that?
– We are not allowed to bet on elections.
– Do not be too virtuous; have a bet.
-We will talk a little later about whether we will put something on that. The figures at which I have looked show that the second person on the Labor Party ticket in Tasmania will be in a marginal situation.
– Not after your speech tonight.
– Let us wait and see. When I was speaking recently Senator McLaren was not in the chamber. The atmosphere was not as good as it is when he comes in and has a flap in the chamber.
– At least he was elected on a Party ticket and has not ratted on it. You were elected as an Independent and then got protection from the Liberal Party.
-This is another of those lovely silences that we sometimes get while Labor Party senators are interjecting. I return to the position in Denison and Franklin. I think honourable senators opposite were trying to distract me. The figures which I quoted earlier show that if there is a swing of about 13 per cent in
Franklin it will be lost to the Labor Party. It appears to me that the direction has come to the Commissioners in Tasmania that the position should be evened out a bit. The result of the redistribution, no matter how it has been brought about, would be that some of the Labor vote in Franklin would be going to Denison.
– I raise a point of order. A gross insult under privilege has been directed by Senator Townley against the Distribution Commissioners in Tasmania. He said, in effect, that they were amenable to direction in relation to this matter. I ask that the remark be withdrawn. They cannot speak for themselves. Cowardly insinuations of that sort ought not be made against people who cannot speak for themselves under the cloak of parliamentary privilege.
– I cannot uphold the point of order because any senator has the right to express his opinions in the Senate. Although an honourable senator may not agree with Senator Townley, Senator Townley has the right to make that statement.
-Mr President, I withdraw any innuendo or reflection about the Commissioners that may be taken by anybody. I do not say that. But the effect of the redistributionthat is how I concluded the sentence, had Senator Everett been listening- is to transfer effectively some Labor votes from Franklin to Denison, making the position such that instead of a 3 per cent swing being needed by the Liberal Party to win Denison under the present situation, a 5 per cent swing would be needed by” the Liberal Party to win Denison under the redistribution.
– You are blaming the persons who redistributed the State.
– If Senator Poyser is worried about this, let us look at what Mr Sherry said to the Distribution Commissioners. He said:
I present herewith a submission to the Redistribution Commissioners for the electorate of Franklin, State of Tasmania. Essentially I submit that upon the evidence available there is no justification for any alteration to the present boundaries of the electorate of Franklin at this stage.
He then gave some figures that I do not think it is necessary to repeat. In conclusion he said:
I therefore submit that the division of Franklin be not subject to redistribution.
That was stated by the Labor member for Franklin. I think that Mr Sherry wisely would not want a redistribution because he could see some of his Labor votes going to the Denison electorate. Such a redistribution would change the situation in Denison materially, because instead of a 3 per cent swing, a swing of 5 per cent would be needed by the Liberal Party to win that seat. A little while ago such a swing could have been important. Because of the way in which the electorate is going in Tasmania, I believe that at the next election the swing in Tasmania will be such that it does not really matter how many Labor votes are transferred from Franklin to Denison. The point is that Denison was one of the most marginal seats after the last election, and that is why I think the redistribution went the way it did.
I do not like this redistribution for another reason, and it was mentioned by the previous speaker. It is that State elections in Tasmania are fought upon the Federal boundaries. I do not think the Tasmanian people would be very pleased if I did anything that might help ensure Mr Neilsen remaining in power any longer than is necessary. I think that the proposed redistribution, particularly this evening out of the situation in Denison and Franklin, is an attempt by the Government to equalise the number of votes that would be needed to win these 2 seats. I am convinced that this is the reason why the Government is trying to push through this redistribution. It is my opinion, too, that this Government has done more damage to this country by attempting to change our whole way of life than any previous government has done. Now that the Government is in a mess electorally I think it will do anything and it will spend all its time, if necessary, in attempting to stay in power. Anyway, I am always suspicious of the work that is done by Mr Daly who was, until recently, the Minister for Services and Property.
– Order! Senator Townley, please resume your seat. Standing order 418 states:
No Senator shall use offensive words against either House of Parliament or any Member of such House, or of any House of a State Parliament, or against and Statute, unless for the purpose of moving for its repeal, and all imputations of improper motives and all personal reflections on Members shall be considered highly disorderly.
I consider that that reference to Mr Daly, who is a member of another place, was disorderly, and I ask you to withdraw it.
-With due respect, Mr President, can you point out the words that I used?
– You said that you were highly suspicious of Mr Daly.
– He does not remember what he said.
– I remember the words. I cannot remember using the word ‘highly’ because it is a word that I very rarely use, Mr President. But if you refer to the word ‘suspicious’ I withdraw it and say that I have doubts about some of the things that Mr Daly brings in. As I have said, I believe that Bills like the ones that we are discussing are being brought in purely to keep Labor in power. The point is that we do not need a redistribution in Tasmania at present. We are well within the 10 per cent tolerance which is the aim of the Government. Following the usual practice a redistribution should not be done in Tasmania for another couple of years. For the reasons that I have mentioned, of course I will be voting against the Bill which concerns Tasmania. When we realise that Tasmania does not need a redistribution and that Western Australia needs a redistribution but that one is not being done in Western Australia, we have to be a little bit suspicious of the whole situation. I believe that if a redistribution was done in Western Australia -
– It has just been done. What are you talking about?
-It has not just been done. Why is a Bill dealing with Western Australia not among the Bills that we are considering now?
– Because it has just been done.
-The honourable senator is not listening. A redistribution in Western Australia took place quite a long time ago. I said that a Bill concerned with a redistribution in Western Australia is not included among the Bills that we are considering and that a redistribution is more necessary in Western Australia than in Tasmania. If the Government carried out a redistribution in Western Australia, quite obviously it would lose aother seat.
– You voted for it just over 12 months ago.
– It is more than 12 months ago that we dealt with that Bill. If Senator Poyser listened instead of yacking all the time he would know that a Bill concerned with a redistribution in Western Australia is not included among the Bills that we are considering.
– It has already been done.
– If it has been done, there is a greater need to do it again in Western Australia than there is to do it in Tasmania, and that is the point that I am making. I believe that at the moment the people of this country are saying: ‘Thank God we have a Senate to look after this country and keep things like this from being done’. The Australian people are not stupid, in spite of the fact that some Government supporters think that the people are. I have a great deal of faith in the common sense of the Australian electorate. The Australian people do not want a government that tries to enshrine itself in office. They want a government that they can kick out of office if it does not behave in a way that is fitting to the running of this country. The present Government was elected at the same time as this Senate was elected, yet the Government is always going around saying that the Senate is acting unconstitutionally. It is saying that the Senate is operating outside its mandate and its constitution, and I believe that that is rubbish. The Government, by actions such as that which it is trying to take under these redistribution Bills, is not remaining honest. I will be voting against these Bills.
– I find Senator Townley ‘s act a very hard act to follow, but I will do my best. In fact, while I was listening to him I found it very difficult to follow, too, but, as I say, I will try. I find it extraordinary that a senator who came into this place as an independent and who subsequently discovered that he was no longer independent should put forward the sorts of views which he has tried to express tonight.
– You know that I have been a member of the Liberal Party continuously since 1956.
-People listening to this debate will be intrigued to know that the interjection that I have just received came from Senator Townley, Liberal, Tasmania. He informs the Senate that he has always been a member of the Liberal Party. There are a few people listening to this debate who will fail to recall that Senator Townley masqueraded in this Senate for many months as an independent senator. If that is the sort of thing which the Liberal Party in Tasmania tolerates, then I suggest that many of the comments which the honourable senator has made tonight should be disregarded. Senator Townley is very upset about what I have said but I am simply pointing out that this Liberal senator from Tasmania who was for some months in this Senate an independent now claims that throughout that period he was a member of the Liberal Party. People might be confused about what the Senate is in fact debating after listening to Senator Townley and to Senator Wood who spoke before him. The subject matter of the debate is the proposal by the Government to redistribute the electorates in all States consistent with the decision of the Joint Sitting of Parliament in June last year. We have had contributions from Senator Wood, Senator Withers and Senator Townley. I must say that they all reminded me of an editorial which appeared in the Melbourne Age of 22 May 1 975. The editorial referred to the Liberal Party in its opposition to the proposals to redistribute electorates in Australia. The editorial concluded with these words:
We shall not even be spared the mendacious cant with which this cynical expediency will be defended.
I must say that listening to those speeches I was reminded of that editorial. Of course I took the trouble to look it up. If we examine the subject before the Senate and the contributions which have been made we see that they have been largely devoted on the Liberal side of the chamberand I regret to say in some minor ways on our side of the chamber- to references to the past sins of various political parties in Australia. The record of events in various State parliaments has been put before the Senate as if it was relevant to a decision on principle which the Senate ought to make on the legislation which is before it. It has been pointed out at great length by Senator Wood and others that there was what he described as a Labor gerrymander in Queensland for some years and, of course, it has been replaced by a National Country Party gerrymander for many years. It has been suggested by others that there was a Liberal Party gerrymander in South Australia and of course it is properly suggested that there is a Liberal Party gerrymander in Victoria. What is the relevance of all these comments to the Bills before the Senate?
– We think history is repeating itself.
-Senator Chaney, the trendy young Liberal senator from Western Australia, says he is afraid that history is repeating itself. He is not genuinely afraid that history is repeating itself. He is toeing the line of his masters and acting out of electoral expediency. That is all he is doing. He knows that perfectly well because not one independent commentator in this country has taken the view that this is an unfair electoral redistribution. Senator Chaney knows that perfectly well. The point I was trying to make, Senator Chaney, for the benefit of people like yourself is that it is not really relevant to recite what happened for many years in various States such as New South Wales, Queensland and South Australia in trying to decide what the great Senate to which we all belong should do in 1975; what it should decide about the future of parliamentary democracy in Australia; and what it should decide about fairness in electoral matters in Australia. If one thing has been sacrosanct to the Opposition in all the legislation it has rejected in the Senate and if one thing has been clear it is that the Opposition parties are not prepared to support any proposal for any change in any electoral law. That goes to the heart of their very existence as political parties.
The question of electoral laws concerns the Opposition most. We have had opposition to the redistribution. We have had opposition to any proposals to alter the machinery of electoral laws. We have had opposition to the proposal which was put before the people of Australia in a referendum relating to elections. We have had opposition on all these matters simply because they go to the very heart of the Opposition’s philosophy as a political party, to its survival and to the question of power. It is disappointing to find that the Senate might be persuaded by considerations of this kind and by arguments suggesting that the Labor Party had a gerrymander in New South Wales in the 1950s, that the Labor Party had a gerrymander in Queensland in the 1 950s, that the Liberal Party had a gerrymander in South Australia and so on. But all these issues are not relevant. Of course, Senator Hall in an earlier speech pointed that out. He uttered a warning that we can take these expedient steps today but the rewards are reaped in three, four or five years’ time.
It is very disappointing to see the attitude which the Opposition parties have adopted. I shall refer briefly to the history of this matter. The Labor Party came to power in 1972 with a clear policy that it would redistribute electorates to reduce the inequalities between them. Legislation was introduced and tested because the Opposition precipitated an election which was held in May 1974. One thing was very clear to the people of Australia in May 1974. It was that if the Labor Party were re-elected to power it would proceed with its proposals for the redistribution of electorates. There was no doubt about that. We went to the people on that basis in May 1974. There can be all this waffle about what the concept of a mandate means but our position on redistribution was very clear to the people of Australia in May 1974. Following that election legislation was introduced into the Parliament. The Joint Sitting carried that legislation but the Senate was not prepared to accept the decision of the Joint Sitting. It rejected this legislation following the Joint Sitting. It rejected the report of the Distribution Commissioners appointed to deal with the redistribution. The Senate rejected those matters in April and May of this year. The legislation was passed by the House of Representatives in May of this year and again it was rejected by the Opposition in the Senate. It was clearly rejected because the matter of electoral boundaries is of vital importance to the Opposition. It is a most principled consideration which motivates the Opposition in this chamber.
There has been a lot of talk about the nature of the redistribution. It has been suggested that the Labor Party favours the redistribution because in some way it is favourable to it. There is not one tittle of objective evidence to suggest that that statement is true. What is really happening is that the Liberal Party, the dog, wagged by the Country Party tail, has conceded again to the machinations of its country cousins and has decided that this redistribution should be opposed because, of course, it does not favour the Country Party. So that has happened. We get all sorts of honourable senators from the Opposition speaking in this debate and referring to the subject of the legislation as if it were some matter of high principle, as if it were something which vitally affected the Opposition as a matter of genuine concern to its electoral future and so on.
In case there is any doubt about the situation of electorates in Australia and about equality between electorates, let me deal with that matter straight away. Senator Withers, the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate, made a number of references to the existing electoral situation which were designed to show that under the existing electoral redistribution the elections which had taken place were fair. That was the point of Senator Withers’ argument. He said that the results of past elections have generally led to the party which recorded 50 per cent of the vote winning government.
– Except in 1954.
-No, Senator Mulvihill, not just except in 1954. What Senator Withers said is not true. It is true that in 1954 the Labor Party gained 50.1 per cent of the votes but did not gain government. In 1961 the Labor Party gained 46.7 per cent of the votes and won 62 seats in the House of Representatives. The Liberal and Country Parties gained 40.9 per cent of the votes and also won 62 seats in the House of Representatives. They retained government because the Labor Party representative of the Northern Territory did not have a vote. They retained government by that very narrow margin and with 6 per cent less of the vote than the
Labor Party. The result in 1 969 was also interesting. The Labor Party won 59 seats with 46.95 per cent of the vote. The Liberal and Country Parties won 66 seats with 43.3 per cent of the vote. That is not, of course, a dramatic situation, but it is a situation that would suggest to any objective observer that the present distribution of electorates in Australia should be looked at, and of course it should be looked at, having regard to the effect of the population changes that have taken place over a number of years. Let me illustrate the point in another way by making reference to particular seats. In my own State of Victoria the electorate of Diamond Valley has 87 500 electors on the roll.
– I thought you were going to say ‘Diamond Jim ‘.
– There is not yet an electorate named after Diamond Jim, but I have no doubt that it will happen soon.
– I think that you have to be dead.
– It is often said of the Senate that it is proof of the existence of life after death and that many people in this chamber are, if not clinically, at least in all material respects, dead. But I am dealing with the electorate of Diamond Valley and hope that the shine of the diamond part of the name of that electorate does not again attract the attention of my colleague. It has 87 500 electors on the roll. The seat of Wimmera has 49 000 electors on the roll. In New South Wales the electorate of Mitchell has nearly 84 000 electors on the roll and the electorate of Darling has 46 000. In South Australia the electorate of Bonython has 83 000 electors on the roll and the electorate of Wakefield has 49 000. That is, of course, a quite dramatic illustration of the discrepancy that exists between those various seats and the need for a redistribution.
Honourable senators opposite have come into this chamber today with the absolutely facile and superficial argument that it is really more difficult to service, as they have called it- an extraordinary expression, I must say- a large country electorate and that therefore there is a need for smaller country electorates in order that that process, whatever it may mean, can take place. That is, with respect, adopting a very stupid solution to a very difficult problem. There are all sorts of ways in which to secure a greater degree of equality of representation for people than the way that has been adopted in this country over a number of years, of having a vast discrepancy in favour of country electorates in terms of the numbers of electors on the roll. The proposal of the Government, of course, simply is to reduce the margin of that discrepancy from 20 per cent to 10 per cent.
There are all sorts of ways in which the situation of members of Parliament in country electorates can be catered for. It may be that they should have better facilities available to them; it may be that they should have more staff; it may be that they should have extra transport facilities provided to them. All those things are possible, but they never come up as suggestions from the Opposition. Members of the Opposition sit here day after day and regurgitate stuff about the desirability that country electorates be small and city electorates be large and that the vote of an elector in the cities of Australia should be less valuable than the vote of a country elector.
– Surely their role is that of legislators, is it not?
-The role of the Opposition?
– The role of any member of Parliament is that of a legislator.
-Certainly. Senator Hall has said that the role of a member of Parliament- I take it by that that he means a member of the Opposition in the Senate- is that of a legislator.
– Which is not dependent upon how quickly one gets around the district.
-I do not want to enter into the mechanics of the problems, but the simple fact remains that, looking at the situation Australia-wide, it is, of course, desirable that an Australian citizen in a city, particularly one in an inner suburb of one of the large cities, should be able to say that his vote is of approximately the same value as the vote of a citizen in a country electorate. That is the simple point involved and the reason for that is quite simple, that is, that the things which matter to him are just as important as the things which matter to people who live in the country. Whether he has Medibank, whether he has high or low taxation, whether he has good transport available to him or whether he has all sorts of community services of one kind or another available to him are just as important to him and just as important to this nation as they are to a citizen who lives in the country. There is no doubt about that. That is the principle from which this legislation stems.
Senator Wood put one of the most extraordinary arguments I have ever heard when he said that it is important that the views of country people should be put forward with strength in the Parliament. My God, he must have been listening to the Country Party in the Senate, because if ever there was a valid criticism of the actions of his colleagues in the Senate it is that comment which Senator Wood made. He called for the day when the views of the country people should be put forward with strength. They have not been put forward with strength by the representatives of the Country Party so long as I have been here.
Let me just summarise in this way: As a Government, we have been from the beginning of our term of office pledged to electoral redistribution in Australia. We have been pledged to an electoral redistribution that will reduce the inequalities between country and city electorates. When we introduced such legislation it was rejected. When we put it to the people at an election in May 1974 it was accepted by the people of Australia and it was accepted by the Joint Sitting of the Parliament. Afterwards, when we appointed commissioners to handle the redistribution, the matter was again rejected by the Opposition in the Senate. It was rejected, as I have said before, for the very simple reason that any change put forward by the Government, whether it be a principle change or a nonprinciple change, in relation to any electoral matter is anathema to the Opposition. That rejection, of course, is now a matter of history and, I gather from the speeches which have been made, will be again a matter of history tonight.
As I said earlier, the comments made by people in the community who have a greater degree of independence in these matters than I have would suggest that what the Government has proposed is not all that unreasonable. I might refer the Senate to just a couple of those comments. The Melbourne Age newspaper had certain things to say in its editorial of 22 May 1975 about the Liberal Party of Australia. The editorial is headed, ‘Liberals opt for electoral folly’. The point that is made in the editorial is simply this: The Liberal Party has nothing to lose by this redistribution. In fact, it might even have something to gain. It has nothing to lose except the possibility of friction with its National Country Party colleagues. The point that is also made is that if the parliamentary system is to survive in Australia- I suppose that people in this community increasingly are having doubts about that- it must be not only fair but must be seen to be fair. The point of the article is simply to point out to the Liberal Party that this is a stupid act. It is a stupid act which is short-sighted, blind and totally unnecessary. The editorial concludes by stating:
The Opposition has the numbers in the Senate to block the redistribution proposals. This may give it a slight advantage in the next election, but at the price of perpetuating an unfairly weighted electoral system and of protecting its often mischievous coalition partner against being cut down to a size more proportionate to its popular support. We shall not even be spared the mendacious cant with which this cynical expediency will be defended.
Of course, that is what has happened in the Senate during the last 24 hours. In another article in the Melbourne Age newspaper of 13 February this year under the title, ‘Democracy gets a shake-up- Federal redistribution a step towards ending gerrymanders ‘, the author said this:
The new Federal redistribution could herald the end of one of the most enduring and unsavoury traditions of Australian Government-
I might add that honourable senators have talked about unsavoury traditions as if that is relevant to what happens in the future- the use of electoral gerrymanders by the ruling party to ensure its re-election.
If the proposals now being released by the commissioners State-by-State manage to pass through the Senate, they could make Australia into something it has never been before -
A horrifying thought to the Opposition, I know-
That is the simple proposition. It is something that this country has never been before- a country in which all people have equal power to decide who will govern. This is the legislation which Opposition senators will reject tonight. It is a law which would make this country something it has never been before, a country in which all people would have equal power to decide who will govern. That is what it is all about. The other independent authority on this matter- I think he is by common consent regarded as independent- is Mr Malcolm Mackerras.
– Do not ruin your argument.
– I am accused of ruining my argument by referring to Mr Malcolm Mackerras, the owner of the pendulum of some electoral fame. I take it that Senator Hall’s interjection means that he does not always rely on Mr Mackerras’ election eve prognostications. I sense by the vehemence in Senator Hall’s interjection that Mr Mackerras perhaps said something unkind about the independent senator from South Australia on some occasion. However, what he said about the new boundaries was simply this: The present boundaries are, in fact, biased against Labor. I would think that Senator Hall would not disagree with that comment. He went on to say this:
The redistribution will probably be rejected by the Senate. If this happens, it will be rejecting a fair set of boundaries and preserving a set which gives a marginal advantage to the Liberal-CP coalition.
As a Labor Party senator, I state that 1 frankly do not mind if the electoral boundaries give the Opposition parties a marginal advantage. I do not mind at all. What we object to and what I believe any fair-minded person in Australia objects to is the sort of situation in which the expression ‘marginal advantage’ which might be regarded as legitimate is translated into a situation in which there are nearly 90 000 voters in one electorate in Melbourne and 40 000 voters in a country electorate in the same State. That is a situation to which all fair-minded people must take objection. That is the situation which precipitated the introduction of this legislation, a situation which is changing day by day as a result of population movements in this country.
What the Opposition in the Senate is in fact saying to the people of Australia in opposing this legislation is simply this: ‘We accept that situation. We accept that if a person lives in the city that person’s vote is worth half the value of the vote of a man who lives in an electorate like Wimmera. We say to every Australian who lives in a city that his or her vote on questions such as health and welfare, taxation and so on is worth half the value of a vote of a person who lives in the country. ‘ That is what the Opposition in the Senate is saying by rejecting this legislation. It is saying, in contradistinction to the point which was made in the article in the Melbourne Age newspaper to which I referred, that it believes in a country in which all people have an unequal power to decide who will govern. It is saying that people have an unequal power. That is what rejection of this legislation means.
As far as I am concerned, I am not speaking as a Labor Party senator on this issue. I am speaking as a person who is concerned about the survival of a democratic system in this country. If senators believe in that, irrespective of what party they belong to, they should support this legislation. In fact, they have no alternative. Not one speech has been made in the Senate on this issue by an Opposition speaker which points to any situation which is inequitable, unfair, or disastrous in any way to the Liberal Party or the National Country Party in particular electorates. Of course, it adversily affects the National Country Party overall in certain circumstances. But on the question of equality of voting there is nothing which adversely affects the Liberal Party in this legislation. Its members know that to be true.
I think that it has become almost a ritual for the Senate to debate this question of electoral law, redistributions and so on. Quite frankly, it is a ritual with which I personally have become bored. But once again one beats the air in this extraordinary chamber about questions which are of concern particularly to young people in this country and to people who are seeking a solution, seeking, if you like, an ideal in which to believe in terms of parliamentary democracy. This debate, which, as I said, is being conducted in a mood of perhaps cynicism and is boring to people like myself because we have been through it so often before, is nonetheless very important to the future of Australia and to the future of people who are concerned that parliamentary democracy should survive, produce and flourish in this country. I commend the Bills to the Senate for the third time.
– I rise to oppose this battery of electoral redistribution Bills. I have been in the Senate for only 18 months, but ever since that time the Government has shown an unwarranted preoccupation with electoral matters. It has presented us with an unprecedented number of electoral Bills. I understood that the debate today was to be only a short one, but the speakers’ list seems to have grown and contracted. My name was on it, off it, up and down it. Now I rise to speak in the debate just as it seems to be generating some heat. The Government introduces these electoral Bills with the catch cry of one vote one value. The Government is using that as a slogan. I submit that the slogan ‘One vote, one value’ has little meaning, apart from the fact that it is a catchcry. I should like to examine that slogan in a little more detail. Let us take the word ‘vote’. The Government contends that many people in Australia are not represented in this Parliament. It cites as examples of that certain Aborigines who do not turn up to vote, certain migrants who are not registered yet, prisoners in gaol, children, people who are not on the electoral roll, and I presume people who vote informally. But I submit that those people are represented in Parliament because when a member is elected he is elected to represent all the people in his electorate. For instance, would the Government contend that because a National Country Party candidate defeated a Labor Party candidate the National Country Party member would not represent all the people who voted Labor? That is completely wrong. He represents all the people in the electorate. Let us consider the value side of the vote. Apart from the elector’s ability to change his vote, the main value in a person’s vote is his ability to contact his member of Parliament.
– Rubbish. I thought you were a legislator, not a public person.
– That is what representation means. Senator Steele Hall said that I am a legislator, not a public person. I submit to Senator Steele Hall that he is a representative but he has not done any representing of his Liberal Movement in this Parliament. All he has done is attack members of the Government and the Opposition, and I think his performance as an electoral reformer stands as an example of what not to do when reforming electoral laws. I submit that the ability to communicate with your representative in Parliament is the main value of your vote, and I submit that it is a lot easier to contact your member of Parliament in a city than it is in the country. In addition to that, there are a lot more members of Parliament in a city than there are in the country areas, and if an elector in a city cannot contact his own member he can quite easily contact another member, whether he is of the same Party or not or even a member of a different House of Parliament. Certainly a city elector can make his representations to a member of Parliament a lot more easily than a country elector.
On the matter of the value of the vote, let us assume for a moment that Labor gets this legislation passed and that all our votes are equal. In that case there would be a lot more electorates in the metropolitan areas and Sydney and Melbourne would dominate the country. In that situation, what would be the value of the vote of the person in the country? With Sydney and Melbourne running the country, his vote would not be equal; it would be valueless.
– How many more electorates would there be?
– I should like to pass on to the stupidity of wanting equal numbers of people in electorates, and there have been some practical examples given recently of just what that system has done. My loudest interjector, the honourable senator from Victoria, told us that the electoral system in the Northern Territory was his ideal because it had equal numbers of people in the electorates, whether they could vote or not. In the election conducted recently in the Northern Territory Labor did not win one seat.
– Do not complain about that.
– No, I submit that that is a bad thing. If there are equal numbers in each electorate- not equal voters but equal numbersthen if there is a swing against a party that party could be eliminated altogether from the Parliament.
– If people do not want you, that is right.
– Certainly they did not want Labor in the Northern Territory.
– We certainly did not gerrymander in the Northern Territory.
– On the subject of gerrymander, let us consider the electorates in Queensland. Suppose Labor had its Bill passed and there were equal electorates in Queensland and there was a swing there such as happened at the last State election. Labor should not have gained one seat, but in fact they got 1 1 seats. They now have a cricket team in Parliament, and I submit that on that argument there was a gerrymander in Queensland in favour of Labor.
– What stupid nonsense.
– It is obvious that Labor has been protected in Queensland from its own type of legislation. I turn now to the subject of optional preferences. This proposal is just as unrealistic as the other proposals. In reality, it is merely the introduction of first past the post voting, and we could end up with a Parliament that is completely unrepresentative of the people. For example, in Australia we have compulsory voting. If there was an electorate with, say, 100 people and 3 candidates for election, and the first candidate got 35 votes, the second candidate 33 votes and the third candidate 32 votes, on first past the post or optional preferences voting the first candidate would be elected with 35 votes. But 65 people out of that 100 did not want him. I think that is a damning argument against either optional preference or first past the post voting. It is unfair and unrealistic and it makes a mockery out of one vote, one value.
I pass on to the idiocy of the 10 per cent tolerance that was proposed in the electoral laws and has gone into the making of these electoral boundaries. The idiocy of that proposal is highlighted by the agglomeration of the electorates of Kennedy and Maranoa in Queensland to make the huge electorate of Flynn, which under the proposals before the Senate would represent almost half the State of Queensland, with a constellation of industries serviced by a variety of admirable people, people in many different population centres- the new phrase for cities and towns- and with a great variety of differences in their community of interests. What a preposterous proposal it is that one member should service an electorate of that nature, but it does underline the hate that this Government has for people who live in the country.
It has been unmentioned yet in this debate, but I should like to refer to the recommendation for 6 o’clock closing that was made in the electoral Bills that were passed previously. It sounds attractive. All of us have worked on booths on election day and we know what a hard, long day it is and what it is like to go into the polling booth at 8 o’clock at night and scrutinise and then struggle home late. But if we had 6 o’clock closing all the Jewish people in Australia and all the Seventh Day Adventists would be disfranchised because their religions preclude them from voting before sundown.
- Mr President, I rise on a point of order. We have debated on several occasions the point that is now being raised by Senator Sheil. It has nothing to do with the Bills before the Senate, and nothing whatever to do with redistribution. I suggest that if Senator Sheil has no arguments relating to the Bills before the Senate he should sit down and shut up.
– On the point of order, Mr President, I should like to say that my point does have a lot to do with one vote, one value. If you disfranchise these people -
– They can have a postal vote. What is wrong with that?
– The boundaries are made with a 10 per cent tolerance.
– Order! I ask the honourable senator to connect his remarks to the Bill. He has been inclined to get away from the main points of the Bill and I should like him to connect up his remarks.
– Thank you, Mr President. I will connect up my remarks with the Bill. The boundaries that are proposed by this socialist Government are ones that have been constructed on a tolerance of 10 per cent difference between the numbers of people in electorates. What I was saying was that the people who are precluded from voting on election day by the fact that the booths close at 6 o’clock at night would alter the figures in that 10 per cent estimate.
– No, they could have a postal vote.
– You have to have a reason for a postal vote and that is not one of them. I know it is very difficult arguing on religious matters with socialists because religion carries no weight with them, as in socialist States religion is forbidden.
- Mr President, the remark of Senator Sheil is repulsive to me. I ask for a withdrawal of the words which implied that senators on this side of the House have no regard for religion. That is the implication of what he said.
- Senator Sheil, Senator McAuliffe has asked you to withdraw that imputation.
– I did not refer to honourable senators on the other side of the chamber. I referred to socialist states and socialists.
– You did no such thing.
– I should hate to offend honourable senators opposite on any religious subject, but I point out that in socialist states not only is all religion forbidden by law but also it is ridiculed. However, I shall return to the reason I think these Bills are being reintroduced into the Parliament. The Government knows that these Bills -
- Mr President, I asked for a withdrawal of the words used by Senator Sheil. I have not heard the honourable senator withdraw them. I ask that he give an unqualified withdrawal of the implication in his remark about some senators on this side. I take it as a personal reflection.
– It is the practice that if any honourable senator feels offended and asks for a withdrawal of the remarks, a withdrawal is made.
-If I have offended the honourable senator I withdraw the remark wholeheartedly. I also apologise to him.
– Thank you.
– In returning to the Bills, I should like to discuss briefly the reasons for their reintroduction. The Government knows that these Bills will be rejected by the Opposition. The Government must have a reason for bringing them in again. I am sure that it is the intention of the Government, in bringing forward these Bills again, to place itself in a position in which it can call for a double dissolution. All honourable senators are aware that a census is due next year. It would be the normal practice for a redistribution to follow that census. As the Bills have been brought in this way and a vote forced upon us, then so be it.
– To those people who have been listening to the debate this afternoon, the delay in the passage of these Bills must seem strange. I do not know why such a delay has occurred. As Senator Withers pointed out, it is the third time that we have had these Bills before us. Senator Sheil has been dealing with Bills that were before us some time ago and he did not deal with what is contained in the Bills before us tonight. These Bills are designed to implement the electoral divisions in the States of South Australia, Tasmania, Queensland, Victoria and New South Wales, having the names and boundaries approved by the House of Representatives when initially dealt with by that House in the form of motions in May this year.
Under the provisions of the Commonwealth Electoral Act the reports by the respective Distribution Commissioners were laid before both Houses of Parliament during April/May 1975. However, as indicated in my second reading speeches, the motions for the approval of redistributions proposed in those reports, although passed by the House of Representatives, were negated by this chamber. These redistributions were carried out on the basis of the provisions of the Commonwealth Electoral Act, as amended by the Commonwealth Electoral Bill (No. 2) 1973. Honourable senators will be aware that that Bill was passed by the Joint Sitting of the Parliament on 6 August 1974. The Bill amended sections 19 and 25 of the Commonwealth Electoral Act and the amendments had the effect of reducing the permissible variation from the quota, specified in section 19, from one-fifth and one-tenth, varying the factors to which the Distribution Commissioners are required to give due consideration, and varying section 25 to provide that a redistribution may be directed whenever in one quarter of the divisions of a State the number of electors differs from the quota by onetenth in lieu of one-fifth.
The essential purpose of that legislation and the proposed legislation before this chamber, is to provide for practical equality of representation, thus ensuring that the will of the majority is reflected in the outcome of the elections for the House of Representatives. As the Minister for Services and Property (Mr Daly) in the other place pointed out on 1 October, even before the boundaries were announced or had been decided, the Leader of the National Country Party of Australia (Mr Anthony) said:
The Opposition will oppose them to a man . . .
So it is no wonder that Senator Webster, who is a member of the National Country Party of
Australia, this afternoon opposed these Bills irrespective of what is contained in them. In other words, the Leader of the National Country Party was not even prepared to look at the boundaries in a constructive way. I have heard of criticism as to why the proposals were not referred back to the Commissioners. What would be the point of the Minister referring them back when the Leader of the National Country Party, Mr Anthony, has indicated that under no circumstances would they be accepted. I should also like to refer to an article which appeared in the Age on Thursday, 22 May, under the heading: ‘Liberals opt for electoral folly’. I think it is very apt to consider these words in view of the filibustering that has taken place this afternoon. The article states:
In determining their attitude to the proposed redistribution of Federal electoral boundaries, members of the Parliamentary liberal Party had the option of adopting 2 approaches. They could have asked themselves: Is this redistribution fair and equitable and in accordance with democratic principle? To which the honest answer would have been- Yes! Or they could have pondered: Does this redistribution serve our long-term political interests? In which case the wise answer would also have been Yes! The Liberals made a decision which was neither honest nor wise: They decided to oppose the redistribution. In doing so, they opted for a marginal short-term political advantage and for mockery of electoral justice. The main beneficiary of this aberration will be neither the Liberal Party nor the people of Australia, but the National Country Party.
Senator Withers commented about a redistribution not being effected in Western Australia in conjunction with the redistributions in the other States. There is nothing sinister about the fact that there is no concurrent redistribution in Western Australia. The simple answer is that there was a redistribution in that State which was given effect to in April 1974. The current redistribution of the other States was initiated in September 1974- a matter of only months after the Western Australian redistribution. I can imagine that the criticism of Senator Withers and his Party, if only a few months later we had another distribution would have been very much greater.
Senator Withers also mentioned that the results of past elections have generally led to the party which recorded 50 per cent of the vote winning government. The exception he mentioned was in 1954. For the benefit of honourable senators I mention that on that occasion the Aus.tralian Labor Party gained 50. 1 per cent of the votes, yet did not gain government. The honourable senator did not mention what happened in 1961 or, for that matter, in 1969. In 1961 the Australian Labor Party gained 46.76 per cent of the votes and won 62 seats in the House of Representatives. The Liberal-Country parties also won 62 seats at that election, yet their total vote was only 40.91 per cent. The difference there was, of course, that we held the seat for the Northern Territory which did not have a voting right in the Parliament at that time. We introduced the voting right later on. The results of 1 969 were interesting for those who wished to argue that the previous ground rules for conducting redistributions were fair and equitable. In that year the Australian Labor Party won 59 seats with 46.95 per cent of the votes. However, the Liberal-Country parties were able to secure 66 seats with 44.3 per cent of the votes. Is it any wonder that they opposed the amendments to the redistribution provisions of the Commonwealth Electoral Act which the Government brought down and which were passed at the Joint Sitting following the double dissolution elections in 1974.
I should also like to comment briefly on the references made to a challenge to the redistribution provisions in the High Court of Australia. Surely it must be taken that the legislation which was enacted following the Joint Sitting of the Parliament which amended the redistribution provisions of the Commonwealth Electoral Act ceases to be law only when, and if, it is disallowed by the High Court. Regardless of what honourable senators on either side of this chamber might think will be the outcome of the challenge, the fact is that the Government is proceeding in accordance with the law as it presently stands, and it is not a valid argument to use the challenge as a means of rejecting the legislation now before the chamber.
Another argument advanced by Senator Withers was that there is no requirement for a redistribution in Tasmania. I would like to ask: What is wrong with having a concurrent redistribution in that State so that any adjustments to take cognisance of shifts in population can be made? It is difficult to see how such an argument could be used against the passing of these Bills, particularly those concerned with States other than Tasmania.
In summing up, I think it can be fairly said that although there has been a great deal of debate no valid or logical argument which would justify the rejection of any of these 5 electoral redistribution Bills has been advanced. It is evident that the Opposition has sought to justify its attitude by all sorts of irrelevant arguments instead of coming to the crux of the matter. The truth is that it opposes any redistribution based on the existing provisions of the Commonwealth Electoral Act. The fact that the redistribution proposals are eminently fair cannot be denied or has not been denied by any reasoned argument.
Instead, we have heard drawn out repetition, most of which has little or no bearing on the real issues involved in these Bills.
The fact is that the National Country Party, which is the tail wagging the dog in the coalition, has said, as Mr Anthony said before he even examined what the redistribution proposals were: ‘We are going to vote against them to a man’. As Senator Withers pointed out earlier today, this is the third occasion on which these proposals have been examined by this chamber. No fair and reasoned argument has been advanced for their rejection. The proposals have not been analysed. The fact is that because the Opposition coalition has won elections in the past by means of gerrymanders, as I have pointed out, the present situation suits it politically and in no way does it intend to treat the present proposals fairly. As the article in the Age says, the Opposition is being very foolish. It is being electorally unfair. It is not treating this legislation as electoral Bills should be treated. The fortunes of politics will vary from one side to the other. The Opposition is doing a great disservice to the Australian people. It is doing a great disservice in relation to what ought to be a fair electoral distribution in Australia.
Senator Withers and I are becoming fairly practised in talking about these Bills. It is the third occasion at least on which I can remember their being before the chamber. I have said many times when speaking to these Bills that we often condemn corruption, as we should do. We take people to court and prosecute them when we find that they are engaged in corrupt practices, but it is corruption in high places when we find a gerrymandered electoral system in any country in the world. That is corruption by governments, and it is a corruption being practised on this occasion by the Opposition. It is nothing more, nothing less. We cannot allow to continue corruption in relation to the distribution of electorates which has been practised in the past, both under State and Federal laws. We said during the 1 972 election campaign, and we repeated it during the subsequent election campaign, that we would try to bring electoral fairness into the Australian system. That is what we are trying to do tonight by means of these Bills. Although it has stonewalled the debate this afternoon, the Opposition has not made an analysis of the redistribution proposals. The Liberal Party is going along with what Mr Anthony has said. To its final detriment, the Liberal Party is not prepared to face up honestly to these proposals. It does not want to see a fair and equitable distribution of electoral seats in Australia. Therefore it is prepared to go on with the corruption that it has practised and which State governments have practised in Australia throughout the years.
I repeat that Opposition members made up their minds before these Bills were ever presented that in spite of what the electorate of Australia said, in spite of the fact that under the law of this country we decided at a Joint Sitting of the Parliament what should be done, whatever might happen they were not going to allow a redistribution to take place. I say that they stand condemned in that regard. They are not prepared to analyse the Bills before them. They want to continue with the corrupt practices which have been carried on in Australia for too long. I have nothing more to say except to suggest that the question be put to the vote, knowing full well that the vote will be a biased one. The Opposition has made no analysis of the Bills and it wants to continue with its old corrupt ways.
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The Senate divided. (The President- Senator the Hon. Justin O ‘Byrne.)
Question so resolved in the negative.
Consideration resumed from 2 October on motion by Senator Willesee:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The Senate divided. (The President- Senator the Hon. Justin O ‘Byrne)
Question so resolved in the negative.
Consideration resumed from 2 October on motion by Senator Willesee:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The Senate divided. (The President- Senator the Hon. Justin O ‘Byrne)
Question so resolved in the negative.
Consideration resumed from 2 October on motion by Senator Willesee:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
The Senate divided. (The President- Senator The Hon. Justin O’Bryne)
Question so resolved in the negative.
Debate resumed from 2 October on motion by Senator Willesee:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
Whenever the President states, on putting a Question, that in his opinion the Ayes or the Noes (as the case may be) have it, his opinion may be challenged by Senators calling Divide’.
As it is transparently obvious- 26 ayes to 29 noes- I ask - (Government senators interjecting)
– The point of order taken by Senator Greenwood may apply in different circumstances. These 5 electoral Bills were debated cognately. They must be voted on separately. I must go through the procedure as if debate had taken place on each Bill separately. It is necessary to put the question in relation to the second reading, state my opinion, then proceed to a division if one is called. The only way of escaping this procedure is by special vote of the Senate.
– I think you misunderstood my point of order. In the circumstances, when it is quite clear what the result must be, why do you always say that the ayes have it? It is quite clear that the ayes have only 26 votes, and the noes have 29 votes.
– I wish to speak to the point of order. I object to people who get the call criticising the ruling of the Chair on the pretext of taking a point of order, when no point of order is involved. A point of order should be raised to determine whether our Standing Orders have been breached. There has been no suggestion of a breach of the Standing Orders. For justification of an attack on the President standing order 164 was quoted. It states:
Whenever the President states, on putting a Question, that in his opinion the Ayes or the Noes (as the case may be) have it, his opinion may be challenged by Senators calling Divide’.
– No one has called for a division.
– No, but my objection is that a point of order was raised to tell the impartial President of the Senate what he should do. There is another matter involved. I think Senator Sir Magnus Cormack would appreciate it. A group is governing the Senate because of the traditions of the Senate. It has always been the tradition of the Senate for the President to declare, when there is a clear Party vote, in favour of the Government.
– That has been the tradition. As a result standing order 164 was inserted. It states that the declaration can be challenged, the count taken and the vote recorded. It would be impossible for the President to decide on the voices whether the ayes or the noes have the majority when the difference in the vote is only thee. Perhaps one side had a louder voice than the other. Therefore this practice of giving a decision in favour of the Government has been adopted. There is the right to challenge that decision. That has been done. The President declares for either one side or the other. He declares for the ayes or the noes. The declaration is not a breach of the Standing
Orders. No one should disregard the Standing Orders or take a point of order to raise in the Senate a matter for propaganda purposes.
– I wish to speak to the point of order. After 4 divisions it is patently obvious that the Opposition is genuinely against these Bills. Surely, Mr President, after we have voted consistently against them, you should be convinced that the noes have it. To say that ayes have it on this occasion is ludicrous.
- Mr President, I speak briefly to the point of order. I am not amazed that Senator Greenwood decided to take a diversionary tactic at this hour of the night. I suggest that your previous ruling was totally in conformity with the Standing Orders of the Senate. One thing that worries me very much is that it is pretty obvious from what Senator Greenwood said that he is afraid to have his name recorded as having voted against these measures. The raising of a point of order is one way of avoiding it. Another way would have been for him to absent himself from the chamber. We have seen him act in this chamber as a Minister. ‘Act’ is the right word. Actors’ Equity would probably have given him full membership. We have seen him act as a private member in the days prior to his elevation to the Ministry. Unfortunately we now see him acting again, in full conformity with Actors’ Equity rules, as the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. On this occasion shame has suddenly come upon his soul, if he has one, and he has decided that he does not want his name recorded for history to see how he voted. I suggest that the ruling of the President ought to be upheld because it was given in strict conformity with the Standing Orders, and that is the way this debate ought to proceed.
– I gave my ruling previously. I reiterate it. Separate records must be kept of each vote. When I put the question that the Bill be read a second time it sounded to me as though the ayes were in the majority, and I gave a decision in favour of the ayes. It is my prerogative to give that decision, and I stand by it. Further, for the purpose of getting the vote on record by bringing about a division, in the final analysis I do not think that it makes any difference who calls for a division. Having followed the long-standing practice adopted by my predecessors in this chair of calling that way, I intend to continue with that practice. I now put the question that the Bill be read a second time. Those in favour say aye, to the contrary no. I think the ayes have it.
Opposition senators- Divide.
– A division is required. Ring the bells for one minute.
The Senate divided. (The President- Senator the Hon. Justin O’Byrne)
Question so resolved in the negative.
Debate resumed from 1 October on motion by Senator Wriedt:
That the Bill be now read a second time.
-Mr President, last Wednesday I had just commenced to make my remarks on this Bill when it was necessary, for other purposes, to adjourn the debate. I remind the Senate that this is the fourth occasion on which we have commenced to debate this Bill. On two of the previous occasions the debate was adjourned for the purpose of enabling additional evidence and information which had been requested by the Opposition to be produced. The debate was adjourned to enable some enlightenment to be thrown upon the issues involved in the Bill in respect of which the Opposition felt more information should be known. I agree with that proposition because, as I mentioned in the few brief moments for which I spoke last Wednesday, despite the fact that we were doing nothing different horn what had been done for many years past under both this Government and the previous Government, I think that there was a certain appropriateness about a genuine and sincere endeavour being made to throw more light on the procedure that was adopted.
I will remind the Senate of what is involved in this Bill. As many honourable senators would be forgiven for losing some of the details of this measure, because of the length of time for which it has been before the Senate for consideration, perhaps I should indicate that the Bill itself is titled ‘A Bill for an Act to Authorise the Raising and Expending of Moneys for Defence Purposes’. It is quite specific in its title and in its intention. I think it should be borne in mind during the debate on this Bill that that is in fact what the purpose of the Bill is. It is in fact a technical Bill- I believe that we all have acknowledged the fact that it is a technical Bill- which is designed to enable the legitimate parliamentary financing of a defence program. Whilst it is normal to finance defence expenditure and the procurement of defence equipment from the Consolidated Revenue Fund, surely it is acknowledged by all of us that at the end of this year the Consolidated Revenue Fund will be substantially overdrawn. This has been acknowledged and there has been no attempt at all to hide that fact.
– You cannot overdraw the Consolidated Revenue Fund.
-I will accept another term which has the same meaning, but, in fact that is what it is all about. The Consolidated Revenue Fund will not be sufficient in itself to cover the cost of the services which it is required to cover and to meet the expenses involved in the procurement of equipment generally for the purposes of the defence Services. Those who have been involved in this area of activity will understand that it is customary, where an expenditure is to be incurred on some facility or some activity that is non-productive of revenue, to finance that activity from Consolidated Revenue- in other words, from revenue- and not from the Loan Fund which is generally set aside for purposes of financing permanent works and undertakings of that kind and for services which have some sort of productive capacity themselves. That is the normal procedure. As I understand it, that is the practice that has been followed since Federation. But, because of the fact, as I said before, that the Consolidated Revenue Fund of itself would not have in it a sufficient amount to finance the purchases of defence equipment and for the services of the defence forces, it is necessary to ensure under this Bill that funds are available to carry out those purposes.
– What is the quantum of the Fund? That is the point that we want to know.
– As a matter of fact, I will come to that in a moment. I will answer Senator Sir Magnus Cormack briefly if he will allow me to develop my argument.
– Indeed. I will be interested to hear you.
-I am most grateful to the honourable senator. I do not think that anybody knows the cost to the Fund. I say this: There is not involved in this Bill any expenditure beyond that which is embraced within the Budget. It is covered in the Budget. There is no proposal for the raising of additional loan funds for this purpose. This is a machinery provision to ensure that funds will be available for the procurement of the sort of equipment and for the servicing of the needs of the defence forces throughout the year. That is the purpose of the Bill. There are no additional funds.
– Would it be of the order of $1,1 50m?
– It is about $ 1,080m. However, senator, let me come to that, if you do not mind. Perhaps Senator Sir Magnus Cormack will pick me up later on if I err, as I frequently do, and as he frequently points out to me that I do. He is kind enough to correct me when that happens. I do not think I will go far wrong. As I have said, the debate on this measure has been set aside on 2 occasions to enable the procurement of information which was sought in answer to questions put to the Minister for Agriculture (Senator Wriedt) by Senator Cotton in the first instance, and I am not too sure that information was not also required by Senator Cotton on a subsequent occasion. When I look at the notes which I have before me I find that something like 18 pages of questions, answers and annexures have been supplied to the Senate as a result of questions which have been raised by the Opposition. The Government has quite genuinely- I do not suppose it was required to do this at the outset- set aside debate on the Bill to enable these details to be obtained. We accepted that the questions were raised in good faith, out of a genuine and sincere desire on the part of the Opposition to seek further information on this subject and on the sort of procedure which was followed. As I said before, the procedure has been followed for many years. So we set the debate aside. Quite genuinely we went about seeking the information and the details required by the questions which were asked were provided.
I was quite amazed last Wednesday night during the speech by Senator Carrick to hear him pose a great many more questions on this subject. While at the outset I was prepared to accept the questions as a genuine desire to see whether some other system ought to be implemented to meet this contingency, I am beginning to have very serious doubts now about the genuineness of the interest of the Opposition in this matter. Mr Deputy President, I have read to you the title of the Bill. Because of the length of time which has elapsed since we commenced debating this matter I think it would not do any harm to remind the Senate what the Bill is all about. I am doing no more now than has been done for many years in the past. As is set out in the second reading speech, the Bill is a simple technical measure and is no different from measures which have been introduced in the past. The second reading speech states:
This Bill is a machinery measure which is required to secure authority to borrow amounts for the financing of defence expenditure which will need to be charged to the Loan Fund during the financial year 1975-76.
The Bill is quite specific in detailing its purpose. Further on in the second reading speech- this is the crux of the matter I think- there appears this statement: . . successive governments have obtained authority to charge to the Loan Fund some expenditure which would normally be met from the Consolidated Revenue Fund . . . The Bill does not authorise additional defence expenditures.
That is a point which I think ought to be made strongly and which ought to be clearly understood. The speech continues:
It will simply allow us to reallocate from the Consolidated Revenue Fund -
Which ought to bear the charge which is for this defence purpose- to the Loan Fund part of the expenditures of the Department of Defence already authorised in the Supply Act (No. 1 ) 1975-76 and which are subsequently authorised in the 1 975-76 Appropriation Acts. When this Bill is enacted I shall move an amendment to Appropriation Bill (No. 1 ) 1 975-76, to permit defence expenditure specified in that Bill to be charged to the Loan Fund.
– How much is it?
– Please, I made a plea to the honourable senator earlier.
– I am interested.
– So am I, deeply. As a matter of fact, that is why I am speaking. The Minister in his speech continued:
It is not possible at this stage of the financial year to be at al! precise as to the amount of defence expenditure which will have to be charged to the Loan Fund. That amount, which can be expected to be sizeable -
It is expected to be sizeable because of the program which this Government has adopted and with which I will deal in a moment or two- will be a residual affected by all other transactions of the Consolidated Revenue Fund, lt is for this reason that the Bill does not specify a fixed amount of borrowing.
Now we are getting to the question which Senator Sir Magnus Cormack raised. But I thought he would have read the second reading speech. It would have clarified the point. The Minister continued:
Instead, like similar Bills introduced in recent years both by this Government and by previous governments, the Bill seeks authority to borrow, to finance defence expenditures authorised by the Parliament, amounts not in excess of what is considered necessary to avoid a deficit in the Consolidated Revenue Fund.
There we have it.
– That is about as clear as a duck pond.
– It would be to the honourable senator. Surely he does not expect me to stand up here and educate him. I have other things to do. The questions which were put to the Minister by Senator Cotton on the first occasion were referred to the various authorities for clarification. I think it would do no harm at this stage to indicate that one of the very first questions which was raised by Senator Cotton was: ‘Is there a proper constitutional base for this proposal? “The answer came back:
The Solicitor-General and the Attorney-General’s Department have stated that the answer to this question is yes. They have provided the following comments by way of explanation. Clause 3 of the Bill would provide specific Parliamentary authority for the proposed borrowing. Section 5 1 (iv) of the Constitution provides that the Parliament shall have power to make laws with respect to ‘borrowing money on the public credit of the Commonwealth ‘. The basic constitutional requirement of Parliamentary authority for the expenditure of the moneys borrowed would be satisfied by clause 4 of the Bill. Under that clause, the moneys borrowed would be applied only for the expenses of borrowing and for services specified under the heading of the ‘Department of Defence’ in the Supply Act (No. 1) 1975-76 or in a subsequent Act. Section 5 1 ( vi) of the Constitution provides that the Parliament shall have power to make laws with respect to the defence of the Commonwealth.
I do not think anybody has called that into question. Further on the question of authority to spend money from the Loan Fund was raised. The answer which was provided states:
Under section 55 a separate account is to be kept in the Treasury of all moneys raised by way of loan and which are paid into the Commonwealth Public Account. For purposes of that Act, the account is called ‘ the Loan Fund ‘.
Here is the crux of the matter again. The reply continues:
Section 57 ( 1) provides that it shall not be lawful for the Treasurer to expend any moneys standing to the credit of the Loan Fund’ except under the authority of an Act or under the authority of section 57 itself.
Further on Senator Cotton posed the question: Is this proposal in breach of the Loan Council Agreement and its arrangements?’ I ask honourable senators to bear in mind that Senator Cotton is raising these questions notwithstanding the fact that we are following a procedure which has been followed in past years. I think it is important that the whole question of the right of the Parliament or the action of the Parliament in funding expenditure in this way has been clarified and has been found to be correct. The answer is:
No. Clause 3 (8) of the Financial Agreement states inter alia ‘Loans for Defence purposes approved by the Parliament of the Commonwealth shall not be included in the Commonwealth’s loan program or be otherwise subject to this Agreement’.
That question was clarified for me in the statement which was made that, in fact, defence expenditure would normally be expected to be charged to the Consolidated Revenue Fund. But, as I have said, because of the fact that it is anticipated that the Consolidated Revenue Fund will be over-expended, some other means must be found to finance the defence program. If, in fact, the Parliament failed to pass this measure into law I can only anticipate that there would be a serious deficiency in the sufficiency of the funds available to carry out the defence program of the Government. In other words, from the available resources of the Consolidated Revenue Fund there would have to be financed many other purposes, services and activities of government and there would be a clamour from the various sections requiring money for the financing of their services for the limited amount of funds available for those services. That is the position as I understand it, because, as I said earlier in my speech, it is common practice for defence expenditure I can quite understand this- to be financed from revenue rather than by committing for the repayment of loans the additional cost loading as a result of the meeting of the interest as well as the sinking fund on moneys borrowed for a particular purpose.
That deals with the purposes of the Bill and also deals in brief with some of the questions that have been raised by Senator Cotton. Again I come back to what I said earlier. I have some serious apprehensions now, because of the apparent delaying tactics of the Opposition, about whether the Opposition has been genuinely seeking information on this quite complex though interesting subject. It now seems to be the case that there has been stonewalling and an attempt to string out the debate, as happened without any doubt at all with respect to the debate on the electoral redistribution Bills that we have just disposed of. I now see the actions of the Opposition in respect to this Bill as being an attempt to frustrate the Government in its purposes and an attempt to play for time for some purpose which is all the time becoming clearer to honourable senators on this side of the chamber. In other words, I think that it falls into the category of a subterfuge. The Opposition is entitled to no credit for following that line.
I may be misjudging the situation, but it is becoming more and more apparent to me as time goes on that there is an attempt on the part of the Opposition to frustrate this Government at every opportunity, to prevent its legislative program from going through and to do everything it possibly can to hold up the work of the Parliament, and I seriously suggest that that is not the role and the purpose of this House of the Parliament. Of course, this whole thing calls into very serious question the credibility of an Opposition which would take this course of action, having for years and years in the past followed exactly the same procedure itself.
It is interesting that, from listening to the tone of almost every second debate that has taken place in this chamber and from listening to the offerings of the members of the Opposition, one could gain the very firm impression that the Opposition proposed to vote against the measure concerned; yet the Opposition has stopped just short of that in this debate, as it has in a number of other debates in the past. As I have said, one could expect from the tone of the debates that the Opposition was going to vote against the measures concerned. I do not think that it will vote against this measure. I do not think that it will be prepared to vote against this measure, which in fact deals with the sensitive area of enabling the Government to get on with its defence program.
Quite recently- on 28 August 1975- the Minister for Defence (Mr Morrison) made a statement in which he detailed the defence program. The document from which I am about to quote is a ministerial statement by the PostmasterGeneral, Senator the Honourable R. Bishop, who is the Minister Assisting the Minister for Defence, on Australia’s defence. It is dated 28 August and was read to the Senate on that date. The Postmaster-General commenced by saying:
The defence of Australia rightly occupies a high priority in the thinking and planning of the Australian Government. It is a priority reflected in the Defence outlay in this year’s Budget.
The Postmaster-General then went on to say:
The amount of this year’s defence outlay- some SI, 800m- represents a proper and just acknowledgement of the importance of maintaining a meaningful defence capability . . .
I do not want to prolong this debate unduly, but, because I think it is important to put this whole thing into its proper perspective, in its total context, I want quite briefly to relate the Bill which is before the Senate to the purposes for which the Bill was presented to the Senate and which BDI I urge the Senate to pass into law. The PostmasterGeneral went on to say in his statement which I have just identified:
Secondly, we have initiated a new program of major equipment acquisitions. The first series of decisions was announced last year by the then Defence Minister, Mr Barnard, namely negotiations for the purchase of 2 patrol frigates for the Royal Australian Navy, now known as guided missile frigates, and the purchase of 8 Orion longrange maritime patrol aircraft for the Royal Australian Air Force and S3 Leopard tanks for the Army. It was made clear that these were only the initial steps to ensure that our Services have the modern conventional equipment they need, and that further decisions would be made each year as part of the Five Year Rolling Program of the Defence Department.
I do not think that anybody would question the fact that it is a legitimate and proper function of the Government to be upgrading the equipment available to the 3 branches of the defence Services. But it is well known that the cost of equipment for the defence Services anywhere in the world is fantastically high. It is the responsibility and the bounden duty of a government to ensure that once the program for re-equipment of the defence Services has been adopted the next thing to do is to ensure by all means that there is an availability of finance to carry out those purposes.
– And none of those inflated Fill bills, either.
– No. We will not go into the purchase of the FI 1 1 aircraft. That is something in the past. We probably will not make that sort of mistake again. In relation to the re-equipment of the arms of the defence Services- particularly in regard to the forces in those armed Services- I wish to quote from that part of his statement at which the Postmaster-General said:
At the 30 June the permanent volunteer force totalled 69 1 54. This was an increase of U00 or 2.5 per cent over the previous year. The Army reached the highest volunteer strength ever maintained in peacetime -
I emphasise the words ‘ever maintained in peacetime’- at 3 1 514.
I think it is worth noting that this is the situation in the defence forces at the present time, despite the attempts of the Opposition from time to time to accuse the Government of disinterest in the defence forces. Here we have it on record that after 3 years in office we have the highest volunteer strength ever maintained in peacetime at the figure of 31 514. On the subject of enlistments the Postmaster-General said:
There were 9388 enlistments in all categories. Applications for entry into officer training colleges remained high. From 1971 to 1975 the number of applications -
I emphasise the word ‘ applications ‘- to enter the Royal Military College Duntroon has increased by 30 per cent. Re-engagement rates for other ranks during the last financial year were 70 per cent for Navy, 74 per cent for Army and 82 per cent for the Air Force. These compared with re-engagement rates of 44 per cent, 69 per cent and 66 per cent respectively, for the year 1 97 1 -72.
I think it worth repeating those percentages. The re-engagement rate for the Navy during the last financial year was 70 per cent as against 44 per cent in 1971-72; for the Army it was 74 per cent as against 69 per cent in 1971-72; and for the Air Force it was 82 per cent as against 66 per cent for 1971-72.
– They could not get a job.
– Really, senator, I do not think that you should be reflecting on the quality of people offering themselves for the armed Services by saying that they could not get jobs and that is why they were joining the Services. I think that is unworthy and I think that upon reflection you would not want to persist with that line. The Minister continued:
Nothing could more conclusively prove the validity of the Government’s policy of a justly rewarded all-volunteer Defence Force.
That is a clear statement of the policy of the Government in regard to re-equipping and the promotion of higher levels of manpower resources in the 3 branches of the armed Services. In regard to the question of manpower, a further defence Press release became available to the Parliament on Monday, 29 September 1975. It is headed, ‘Defence Force Employment Statistics- August 1975 ‘. It states:
Figures released today by the Minister for Defence, Mr Bill Morrison, show that officer resignations from the Australian Defence Force in the four months to the end of August were 25 per cent lower than in the same period last year.
The fall in the resignation rate was most pronounced in the RAN. The figures for the three services are: Navy 46 per cent; Army 29 per cent; and Air Force 8 per cent. The total number of resignations in the period was 1 74.
During August 36 male officers resigned compared with 67 in the previous month. Of these 36 resignations 28 were eligible for pensions and are in fact early retirements.
Of course, that was something that became available to the members of the defence forces upon the election of this Government and the implementation of the recommendations of the Joint Committee on the Defence Forces Retirement Benefits Legislation. I think that everybody will recall the pettifogging attitude of the previous Government to that report. The Prime Minister at that time, the present right honourable member for Lowe, Mr McMahon, made some concessions to allow for the implementation of some of the recommendations of that Committee and to withhold others. We gave a categorical assurance to the defence Services that upon attaining office we would implement the recommendations of the Committee on the defence forces retirement benefits fund- the Jess Report as it was known. We did that. Of course, the availability of retirement allowances tended to accelerate the rate of retirement from the armed Services. I am pleased to note the present trend, as I am sure other honourable senators who have any concern for the welfare of the defence Services will be. Mr Morrison said- I quote again from the statement:
Service manpower remained very close to target during August. Both the Army and Navy were slightly above their targets, and the Air Force was slightly below. The total manpower strength for the three Services rose by 30 to 69,257 during the month.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Webster)- Order! The honourable senator’s time has expired.
– I was very interested to hear Senator Devitt ‘s remarks, particularly his early remarks when he made reference to the fact that Senator Cotton, on behalf of the Opposition, asked many questions in relation to this Loan Bill and wanted those questions answered before the Opposition would continue with the Bill. However, as I recall Senator Devitt ‘s speech, he said that he supported Senator Cotton’s actions in doing this because he felt it was a very responsible move.
Unfortunately, later in his speech, he accused the Opposition of playing politics and I think, to use his words again, of filibustering on this issue. I wish to remind Senator Devitt and other honourable senators on the Government side that we in Opposition accept our positions and our role with a great deal of responsibility. I am confident that the electorate also recognises us as adopting a responsible role in the Senate. I am also very confident that the electorate does not see the Government in the same light because on many occasions the Government has been accused of irresponsibility.
Senator Devitt made reference to this Loan Bill tonight. It is a Bill we are debating tonight and have been debating for some 3 weeks. But I think it should be made clear also that during this time the Senate has also been dealing with the Estimates which take up 2 days of each week and which will continue to be examined on Friday of this week when normally the Senate would not be sitting. But it will continue that examination because further inquiries are needed into the various estimates for the departments which are now before the Senate Estimates Committees. Senator Devitt also went on to say that this type of arrangement that comes before the Senate at the present time is not unusual. We do not question that in the least. But we are entitled- Senator Devitt said in his speech that he agreed with us that this is necessary- to ask certain questions because last year the amount involved was about $956m, as I recall it. But this year I have seen estimates- I stand to be corrected by the Minister for Agriculture (Senator Wriedt) if my statement is not correct- that the loan will be in the vicinity of $ 1, 1 52m.
So there is quite a difference between what has been practised over quite a number of years- not every year- since 1962. There is also a difference in the amount involved this year compared to other years. I believe that we have every right to look at this legislation very closely. We know that this Bill enables the Government to raise funds without obtaining Loan Council approval and also that moneys raised for defence purposes can be used only for defence purposes. But as I understand it, the Government will also be amending the Appropriation Bill so that some proportion of the defence bill- this $1,7 lim- could be funded by loans raised by the Government on the money market and no doubt used to finance the Budget. By using this process the Government would be adopting a way of partially funding its deficit to which reference has been made tonight by the previous speaker on the Government side. Of course, a deficit has become an accepted part of this Government’s administration. I shall deal a little later with the deficit that we saw last year from this Government and the mismanagement that took place in relation to it. But if this deficit were to be filled without going through this process that the Government is using, the money would have to be raised by overseas loans or treasury bills, both of which would be terribly inflationary. This is something that the Government has done in previous years.
In speaking of deficits, I am very conscious of the fact that last year the Government in introducing the Budget stated that it anticipated a deficit of some $570m. But by the end of the year we found that that had expanded to a colossal figure of some $2,560m. As a result of using the printing press and other methods to obtain money in order to overcome this huge deficit which in many ways was caused by complete mismanagement on the part of the Government with its excessive spending and its policies which it was hell bent on introducing irrespective of its economic responsibilities, we saw many unfortunate things happen in this country. We heard the claim from the Government that inflation last year was not really the fault of the Government. Towards the end of the year the Government admitted that it had made some mistakes. But it laid the blame for the great proportion of the inflation in this country on external events. It made reference to the fact that the energy crisis which had affected so much of the world was also adversely affecting the economy of Australia. I think we should take a few minutes to have a look at this situation. Firstly, Australia is 70 per cent self sufficient in crude oil. The Australian crude oil is probably the lowest priced crude oil available anywhere in the world. We also have natural resources in the minerals area, resources not only to meet our domestic requirements but also to export overseas. We were also selfsufficient in our foodstuffs. So when one looks at the overall position and considers our natural resources, one finds that without a doubt Australia was one of the most favourably situated countries in the world.
Yet if we look at the figures relating to inflation we find that between December 1973 and December 1974 inflation in the United Kingdom was running at some 18.4 per cent, in Italy at some 25.8 per cent, which is highly inflationary, in the United States at 12.1 per cent, and in Japan at the frightening figure of some 23.4 per cent. Those figures relate to the period between December 1973 and December 1974, the time of the energy crisis when there was a great escalation in the price of crude oil, a temporary shortage of crude oil and a high cost for shipping and freighting that crude oil. In that period many countries were affected adversely, particularly the United States and Japan. Then if we look at the figures relating to the period between June 1974 and June 1975, and unfortunately I do not have any later figures than these, but they are still worth quoting, the rate of inflation in the United Kingdom increased and it is now running at some 26 per cent. It is interesting to note that whereas the United States had an inflation rate, of some 12. 1 per cent up to June 1 975, that figure has come down to some 8.6 per cent. In Japan, which was very adversely affected by the energy crisis, the inflation rate came down from 23.4 per cent to some 13.4 per cent. Yet in Australia, which is so well endowed with natural resources and which has advantages over other countries, our rate of inflation went from 16.3 per cent to 16.9 per cent, with every indication that that figure will go still higher.
Again, if we look at the unfortunate situation in the labour market we find that in December 1972 the percentage of the work force in Australia who were unemployed stood at 1.8 per cent; in March 1975 it was 4.5 per cent and by August 1975 it had reached 5.6 per cent. There is a further increase over that figure because the number of unemployed has now gone from 299 000 to some 300 000, with every indication that the figures will go still higher. This is the tragic situation we face today because of the economic mismanagement of the government, because of the great deficit that resulted from its economic mismanagement and from the way in which it went about funding the deficit and not accepting its responsibilities. We have been told by the Government that this year we will have a deficit of some $2, 567m, but there is no guarantee that that will be the figure at the end of the financial year. In fact, there is every indication that the deficit will be far beyond that. We have seen figures already which indicate that the deficit will be a minimum of $3,200m, as I understand certain figures that were quoted this morning in the House of Representatives. I should like to quote what the Treasurer (Mr Hayden) said in his Budget Speech in dealing with the strategy of the Budget itself. He stated:
This year’s budgetary considerations began, as usual, with an examination or the prospective Budget aggregates. Expenditures were projected to grow much more rapidly than revenues and the prospective deficit was nearly double that of 1974-75. Clearly, such a deficit could not be countenanced under the circumstances.
In the context of an economy beginning to pick up, a deficit of the order initially projected would have been a prescription for accelerating inflation. Its acceptance would have been tantamount to abandoning concern with inflation, discarding our wages policies, condemning the corporate sector to an attack upon its profitability and threatening the future jobs of thousands of Australians- all at a time when the first signs of improvement in most of those respects are beginning to appear.
That was most encouraging not so long ago at the time of the Budget. Yet already we have seen that the deficit quoted at that time by the Treasurer cannot be held and will be far in excess of that figure. In fact, there is every indication that it could be well in excess of $4,000m. I mentioned earlier that the indications are that in the first quarter of this financial year the deficit is running at a rate of something like $800m a quarter, which puts the deficit well in excess of $3,000m. When we take into account the inquiries that are being made by the various Estimates Committees, the whole situation becomes rather alarming. I will not deal with Estimates Committee C, of which I am a member, but with Estimates Committee G. In dealing with division 455, this question was asked:
Does this estimate take into account the Budget’s foreshadowed increase of 23 per cent in salaries for the year as an average increase; alternatively, at what point of time and at what level of salaries were the estimates made?
The answer given by the Minister at the table was:
The estimates are made in accordance with Treasury regulations and in accordance with the salaries payable at the time of making the estimates. Of course, any increase in salaries- that 23 per cent- will have to be met by a supplementary Budget.
I refer to questions that have been directed by many senators on Estimates Committees to the various departments in relation to postal charges. We know that there has been an increase of some 80 per cent in postal and telecommunication charges. Every time such a question has been put we have had the answer that these increased charges have not been taken into consideration, and so there will be an added cost. The same thing occurs in relation to travelling and subsistance and in relation to overtime. The same answers have been given to questions relating to wage increases and increases in the number of public servants. And so the situation goes on. We will finish up with a much higher deficit than the Government stated would be the case when the Budget was presented to the Parliament and to the country. I pose the question: How is the Government going to finance this deficit and what will be the effects if the Government does not accept its responsibilities, if it goes on in the way in which it has gone on in the past, even though it said last year that it would accept its responsibilities and cut down? We will have a situation where there will be very adverse effects in the socio-economic structure of the country.
One has to look only at unemployment to see what has happened in that field. There have been indications of increases in unemployment. Statements have been made that there will be further increases in unemployment. I will not quote names, but politicians, leaders in the industrial field and prominent members of the trade unions have said that we could see this year a figure for unemployment in excess of 400 000, which would be an absolute tragedy for the country. We have seen what has happened to the housing industry. This concerns me greatly because the people who are really affected by this are the younger people of our community. I should like to examine what has happened up to June 1975. I make reference to this because of the fact that last year we started with a small deficit. This loan relates directly to the anticipated deficit of this year and the funding of that deficit. With the expansion of the deficit, unless the Government accepts its responsibility we will find more and more hardship within our community. In relation to housing, in December 1972-1 relate these figures on a per thousand basis- there were approximately 41 000-odd homes approved; approximately 37 000-odd commencements; and nearly 34 000 completions. Yet in June 1975, with an increase in population and a greater demand and need for housing, we find that approvals have dropped to 30 000; commencements have been reduced from 37 000 in 1972 to 28 000 in June 1975; and completions- tragically- have reduced from nearly 34 000 in June-December 1972 to about 29 500 in June 1 975. It is a tragedy to see this sort of thing happening in a country where everything was going so well for so long. We do not like to see this result. One fears what the result might be in this coming year because of the indicators up to the end of June.
As I said, it is frightening for younger people in our community who are desirous of owning their own home. The current rate of inflation is high and there is every indication that inflation will continue for quite some time. No doubt, if we believe all we are told, we will see a great increase in the rate of inflation in this country. Inflation has an adverse affect on many areas in our community. It affects many of the poorer people in our community. It also affects superanuitants. It also affects the States within the Commonwealth of Australia because they are forced to impose higher taxes themselves.
Whilst the Federal Government is able to get fatter on inflation the States generally get poorer. The States impose higher taxation, as I said. This, in itself, is further inflation. Taxes of this sort, particularly indirect taxes, are terribly inflationary. We find that the community is being squeezed twice. The Federal Government is taxing the community, and the State governments, by necessity, are forced to increase their State taxes and, thereby, further squeeze the community. Even though the States- and my own Premier in South Australia- have endeavoured to obtain more revenue from the Federal Government they have not always found the Australian Government to have a sympathetic ear. In fact, both Labor and Liberal senators have been highly critical of this Federal Government because of the inflation that it has created and because of its lack of understanding of the inability of the various States to carry on without imposing further restrictive taxes upon their State communities.
It was interesting to see that the Treasurer, Mr Hayden, said in the Budget Speech a few weeks ago- he has supported it since- that there has been an improvement generally in the community. He said that the community, particularly the business sector, has more and more confidence. Quite frankly, I have been unable to find this. There is a feeling of great uncertainty in the community. I know in a lot of the younger people in our community at the present time there is a feeling of fear. If one talks to those involved in industry and commerce one finds that there is a feeling of uncertainty, a feeling of fear for the future because they are not quite sure where the Government is going at the present time, what the deficit may be this year because of mismanagement. They do not know what will be the result of this year’s deficit. If the printing press comes out again to try to fill this gap, we will have a very inflationary situation on our hands. Industry is not prepared to invest as it should be investing at present. Until such time as industry shows an upturn and is prepared to invest we will not see a recovery in the employment situation. On the contrary, we will find an increase in unemployment, which is a tragic situation which should never have been as bad as it is at present.
We look to the young ones who will be joining the work force this year. When we look at the unemployment situation we find that there has been a great cover up in many areas because we cannot overlook the fact that quite a volume of unemployed people were not included in the unemployment percentage figures which have been cited by the Government because they were included in the Regional Employment Development scheme, the National Employment and Training scheme and the State employment schemes. So many schemes absorbed a great amount of the work force and kept such figures away from the total statistics. The figures which have been cited in the past by the Government in relation to unemployment have not been the real figures.
When young people join the work force this year it will be a frightening experience for them. We will find an increase in unemployment in this area. A lot of young people who went back to tertiary education or secondary education for another year to overcome the problem of joining the work force last year, when no doubt they would have been unemployed, will be forced this year into the work force because of necessity and will face the horrible situation of finishing their education and going out into life at a time when they cannot be employed. I think the Government should take cognisance of that and should realise the tragedies which it has brought to so many people in this country, old and young, particularly the younger people wishing to join the work force.
I mentioned earlier the young people who want to own their own homes. I appreciate that it has been a policy of this Government not to have private ownership of homes but rather to have public ownership of homes and so to make the people of this country subservient. In the 3 years in which this Government has been in power we have seen it do many things. We have seen it do a lot of most unfortunate things. We have seen an excess of Government philosophy rather than the Government accepting its economic responsibilities in the direction in which this country should have gone. We have seen a complete slowdown in the general economy. We have seen a complete slowdown in general productivity. We have seen an upturn in inflation. We have seen a tragic upturn in unemployment.
I am certain that the young people and the old people in the community will always remember this Labor Government for what is has done. Many of the people in this country, including so many of the younger people, will never forgive the Government for what it has done. I am certain that industry and the people of this country are waiting for an opportunity to invest their labours, their finances and their general resources in this country. When we have a change of government they will have the confidence that back in power will be a government which led this country for 23 years and which had a record of achievement in development that took place in Australia, which tragically in the last 3 years has slowed down to an absolute dead stop.
– I enter this debate on the Loan Bill in response to the scurrilous outburst by Senator Carrick last Wednesday evening. There appears to be no limit to the depths to which Senator Carrick will sink in his attempt to provide what his leader calls the reprehensible circumstances for inducing a constitutional crisis in this country. Last week Senator Carrick telephoned the Melbourne Age and told the editor of that newspaper that the Budget documents were shonky and that they had been concocted by public servants who loved the Labor Government so much that they were prepared to falsify the Budget documents to assist the Government to retain power. That is an example of the depths to which that Opposition spokesman is prepared to sink in his attempt to provide the so-called reprehensible circumstances which his leader wants to induce a constitutional crisis.
– Order! In conformity with the sessional order relating to the adjournment of the Senate, I formally put the question:
That the Senate do now adjourn.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 11 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated:
River Murray Salinity
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice:
– On 3 June 1975, in answering this question (Hansard, page 2 163), I undertook to provide the detailed information sought as soon as possible. The information is as follows:
Computer network systems as defined are currently operated by the following Australian Government departments and authorities which are solely financed from the Budget-
Department of Health;
Department of Police and Customs;
Department of Social Security;
Department of Transport;
Australian Taxation Office;
Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization.
Department of Police and Customs- the computer network embraces a number of systems and the information stored in these systems falls broadly into three categories-
Department of Social Security- the information stored relates to claims for payment lodged with the Department or the Health Insurance Commission.
Department of Transport- the computer network is a message switching system. Messages contain information relating to the nature of air traffic (e.g. weather observations and forecasts, notices to airmen, air traffic control and occasional administrative information). The information is stored for four hours to enable messages to be retrieved.
Australian Taxation Office- the information stored in the computer system falls into two main categories. Under the pay-as-you-earn system, information stored relates to the accounting for tax instalment deductions remitted by employers and subsequent allowance of credit to employees.
The other main system contains details of lodgement, assessment and account information in relation to individual taxpayers. The information is used to assist in the assessment of a taxpayer’s liability and control of payment of tax assessed.
Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization- in general, data stored in the computer system relates to the scientific research of the various users.
Management information stored for CSIRO administrative purposes does include personal information such as age, sex, qualifications, and by inference marital status. It may also include details of payments to various bodies when the employee requests that such payments are made by direct deduction from earnings. This information is used in the preparation of payments to staff, and for the preparation of management statistics.
Department of Police and Customs- by the Department.
Department of Social Security- by the Department.
Department of Transport- by the Department.
Australian Taxation Office- by the Australian Taxation Office.
Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization-by the CSIRO. (Note: The Department of Police and Customs, the Department of Social Security, the Department of Transport and the Australian Taxation Office lease transmission lines from the Telecommunications Commission for the respective computer network systems.)
Department of Police and Customs- no information about citizens’ personal lives is held in the Department’s commercial system referred to in (2) (a) or the administrative system referred to in (2) (b).
The information referred to in (2) (c) of the answer is generally not of a nature that lends itself to consultation with individuals to confirm its accuracy. The name of any person, however, is not placed into the system unless his status has been confirmed either through known facts or careful investigation.
Department of Social Security- the information stored in the systems is predominantly obtained from claim forms lodged by claimants and will be changed on request. Regular receipt of correct payment reflects the accuracy of the information related to benefit entitlements.
Department of Transport- no information relating to citizens’ personal lives is held in the system.
Australian Taxation Office- with some exceptions, information concerning taxpayers’ personal lives stored in the computer system is derived from the taxpayers’ returns. Disclosure of information is prohibited by virtue of the secrecy provisions of the Income Tax Assessment Act.
Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization- there is no information of a personal nature held in the computer system in respect of the scientific research data. Data concerning payments to CSIRO employees is, however, reproduced on the employees’ pay advice slip each fortnight.
Department of Police and Customs- any organisation or individual may approach the Department and request details of any information held about them. The fact that the Department now has this information contained in a computer system has not in any way altered the avenues available to citizens to contest the accuracy of information.
Department of Social Security- claimants can approach the Department or the Health Insurance Commission to query amounts paid.
Department of Transport- since no information concerning the personal lives of citizens is kept the question is not applicable to the computer network used by that Department.
Australian Taxation Office- there would normally be no occasion for a taxpayer to want to contest the accuracy of the information stored, firstly because it is usually derived from information supplied in the return of income, and secondly because any adjustments to either income returned or deductions claimed would have been notified to him in a notice of assessment.
Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization- CSIRO employees may query details of personal data, however recorded, at any time.
Department of Police and Customs- there is no reason whatever that prevents organisations examining data, relating to their own transactions with the Department, that is stored in the Customs commercial system.
Provided adequate proof of identity is given, an inquirer would normally be allowed to see a copy of the Department ‘s information.
Department of Social Security- any information supplied by clients of the Department or the Health Insurance Commission may, upon request, be examined by the client concerned.
Department of Transport- since no information concerning the personal lives of citizens is kept the question is not applicable to the computer network used by that Department.
Australian Taxation Office- the Taxation Office does not provide taxpayers with details of this information but, should it become necessary for the purposes of the Income Tax Assessment Act to discuss some specific aspect of the information with a taxpayer, the appropriate details can be obtained from the computer records.
Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization- CSIRO employees may request details of their personal records, however recorded, at any time.
asked the Minister for Repatriation and Compensation, upon notice:
What are the titles of the reports, papers or documents produced by or for the Government since December 1972 in the areas of the Minister’s responsibility which have not been publicly released.
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
I refer the honourable senator to the Prime Minister’s answer to question No. 88S which appeared in Hansard 2 October 1975, page 930.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Overseas Trade the following question, upon notice:
What are the titles of the reports, papers or documents produced by or for the Government since December 1972 in the areas of the Minister’s responsibility which have not been publicly released.
– The Minister for Overseas Trade has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
I refer the honourable senator to the answer which the Prime Minister provided to a similar question, No. 885 which appeared in Hansard of 2 October on page 930.
United Nations Conference on Women
-On 27 August 1975 (Hansard page 279) Senator Melzer asked me, as Minister representing the Prime Minister, a question without notice concerning a report from the Australian delegation to the United Nations Conference on Women in Mexico. The Prime Minister has now supplied the following information for answer to the honourable senator’s question:
Reports of Australian delegations to intergovernmental meetings are not normally made public. The Australian National Advisory Committee for International Women’s Year will, however, shortly issue a special edition of its Newsletter on the Conference.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 8 October 1975, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1975/19751008_senate_29_s66/>.