29th Parliament · 1st Session
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Justin O’Byrne) took the chair at 1 1 a.m., and read prayers.
– I present the following petition from 6 1 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:
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.
Petition received and read.
– I present the following petition from 105 citizens of Australia:
To the Honourable the President and Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled, the petition of the undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the decisions of the Australian Government-
to depart from its 1972 election promise that basic pensions would be related to average weekly earnings and never be allowed to fall below 25 per cent thereof, and
to increase postage costs and the costs of installation and annual rental of telephones, will seriously add to the economic burdens now borne by those citizens who are wholly or mainly dependent on their pensions.
Your petitioners are impelled by these facts to call upon the Australian Government as a matter of urgency to review the abovementioned decisions (a) and (b), and to determine-
that pensions be related to average earnings as promised by the Prime Minister in his 1972 Policy Speech, and
that no charge be made for installation or rental on the telephones of those pensioners entitled to a PMS card.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray.
Petition received and read.
– The following petition has been lodged for presentation:
To the Honourable the President and the Members of the Senate in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of undersigned citizens of Australia respectfully showeth:
That the unprecedented blocking of the Australian Government’s 1975-76 Budget will:
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that the Senate will pass the Budget Bills without further delay.
And your petitioners as in duty bound will ever pray. by Senator Steele Hall.
– I give notice that on the next day of sitting I shall move:
-Yesterday Senator Sheil asked me a question concerning a television interview with Mr Hawke conducted in Senate Room U5 on Wednesday 15 October 1975 by Channel 0-10. Senator Sheil asked the following question:
Does the Parliament provide a room on the Senate side of the House for television interviews? Does the use of this room carry a strict provision that it is to be used to interview only politicians? Is it a fact that on Wednesday, 1 5 October, the room was used by the 0-Ten television network to interview the President of the Australian Labor Party, Mr Bob Hawke? Does that constitute a blatant breach of the provision under which the room is made available? If so, will you give serious consideration to the withdrawal of these privileges from the0-Ten network?
I advise the honourable senator that I have received a communication from Mr Laurie Power, the head of the Canberra Bureau of United Telecasters Sydney Ltd which reads as follows:
Dear Mr President,
As head of the 0-10 television network bureau in Canberra I have become aware of a question this day in the Senate concerning the use of the 0- 1 0 television studio in Parliament House to interview Mr Bob Hawke, President of the ACTU on Wednesday, October 15th.
I can not deny that the interview with Mr Hawke was recorded in the studio late that evening intended for a special news presentation to be telecast at 10.30 p.m. in Sydney.
I was only appointed Head of this bureau 9 days before the Hawke incident coming straight from the Press Gallery at the N.S.W. Parliament with no previous experience in Canberra.
When Mr Hawke agreed to the interview and came to the studio I was ignorant of the rule and its strict application affecting the use of the studio. I became aware of it immediately after the interview was completed when advised by our cameramen. I then advised our Editors in Sydney that the interview contravened regulations and must not be used. This instruction was accepted and it was struck from the programme.
I humbly apologise for the abuse of the privilege and request that I personally be held responsible and take the consequences.
In difficult times and under difficult circumstances I acted without proper counsel.
Laurie Power Head of Bureau
I would like to point out finally that certain television channels sought permission to interview persons other than parliamentarians within Parliament House on Budget night. These requests were refused both by Mr Speaker and by myself. This refusal was in line with past practice.
– I direct a question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. I refer to the statement attributed to the Prime Minister yesterday wherein he said that if there were a half Senate election and the Government failed to win a majority, this would not mean that he would agree to an election for the House of Representatives. Does not this statement reveal the truth of the Opposition’s claim that Mr Whitlam and this Government will hang on to office irrespective of any decision of this Parliament and irrespective of any decision of the people? Is not the Prime Minister’s statement a complete revelation of his undemocratic defiance of any vote of the people? Is it not important for the future of democracy in this country that a clear vote of the people should be secured to see -
Government senators interjecting-
– Order! The honourable senator will ask his question.
– I ask, despite the notorious efforts of the Government to prevent free speech even in this place: Is it not important for the future of democracy in this country that a clear vote of the people be secured to see whether the deadlock between the 2 Houses of the Parliament which the people’s vote created in 1 974 is either to be continued or to be ended? Is not an election the responsible, democratic way of resolving such a deadlock between the Houses?
-I do not think Senator Greenwood is as concerned about the constitutionality of the situation and the procedures of democracy as he is about getting into power. That is the real motive behind the question and, of course, behind the Opposition’s actions. It is an irony for Senator Greenwood to talk about democracy being determined by the vote of the people. Democracy has been determined by the vote of the Australian people twice in the last 3 years. As part of that democratic process this Government was elected in 1972 to serve for 3 years. We were challenged in 1 974 and, despite all the comments which were made by the Opposition early in 1974 that this Government had lost the confidence of the people, the Opposition was defeated at that election and the Government again was returned for another 3 year period. That is the fundamental position that we are now talking about. It is not a question of the further challenges that Senator Greenwood would like to see because the Australian people do not want the continuing instability that the Opposition is creating as a result of the moves that it is now making.
– I direct a question to the Special Minister of State. The Minister will be aware that the deliberations of the Tasmanian transport inquiry are of great concern to all Tasmanians. I am referring, of course to the Nimmo inquiry. Can the Minister inform the Senate how that inquiry is progressing?
– I think it was last week that I had discussions with Mr Commissioner Nimmo about the progress of the Tasmanian transport inquiry and also with the Secretary of that royal commission. Mr Commissioner Nimmo reported to me that he was confident that he would be able to finalise the commission’s investigation in accordance with the program that I outlined to the Senate on about 28 August in response to a question put to me by Senator Rae. I then said, of course, that the Commissioner was aware of the need to finalise his report as expeditiously as possible and that he expected to be able to do that by the end of this year or early in 1 976. However, in discussions with me last week the Commissioner indicated to me that he wishes to hold discussions with the New Zealand port authorities and to examine ports on the east coast of New Zealand, particularly the port of Oamaru. He pointed out that these inquiries are of particular relevance to the commission’s investigations. The Commissioner intends to undertake that travel when funds become available. But, despite that proposed itinerary, he still believes that he will be able to tender his report to me by either the end of this year or early in 1 976.
-My question is directed to the Minister for Repatriation and Compensation. 1 refer to the report in today’s Australian Financial Review, which gives details of the Government’s revised national compensation scheme, and I ask: Can the Minister say whether it is a fair summary of the Government’s intentions? If so, can he indicate to the Senate whether the Government has had consultations with the State governments and with the insurance industries about the new proposals?
– I have not seen the report in the Australian Financial Review, but since the Senate Select Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs brought down its report on the previous National Compensation Bill discussions have been going on constantly within the Cabinet and within the Parliamentary Labor Party on the Bill. What we have been trying to do is to persist with a national compensation Bill and we hope to be able to meet the various points that were made by the Senate Committee, which made a great many useful suggestions. We have still not yet completely decided the full form of the Bill which will be introduced. As I think Senator Drake-Brockman knows, there has been a number of meetings of the various consultative committees, the Life Insurance Consultative Committee and the General Assurance Consultative Committee, about the impact of this and other schemes on the private insurance industry. I have had one meeting with the responsible State Ministers and have undertaken to have another meeting with them in the near future. At this stage the final form of the Bill has not been completely determined.
I find it difficult to comment on whether an article was correct but I can assure Senator Drake-Brockman that I will continue as I did previously, and confer with the Opposition on this matter. I think Senator Drake-Brockman would agree that I was very open with him and with Mr Chipp in all previous discussions on the National Compensation Bill. I hope we can reach a bipartisan approach, as was achieved in New Zealand, on this matter and that we will not have unnecessary confrontations. The Senate Committee, which was a bipartisan committee, was able to reach a fair measure of agreement and I hope that the same measure of agreement can be reached by the Parliament.
-I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Defence: Can he inform me of the current position in regard to the proposal to establish a base in north-west Australia? Does the Government intend to go ahead with this proposal?
– This question has been answered in part before. The position is that when Mr Barnard was Minister for Defence he explored the availability and efficiency of a joint services training base at Yampi Sound in Western Australia. Since that time Mr Morrison has pushed on with the examination of the proposal. Broadly it has been accepted as suitable for the sort of joint exercises that would be necessary. Recently a survey party has been in the area but the further promotion of the scheme relies on an environmental impact statement that has not yet been received. Examinations have been conducted not only by Australian Government departments, including the Department of Aboriginal Affairs, but also by the Western Australian Government. The procedure from now on will depend upon the environmental impact statement which is expected to be available soon. There have been negotiations with the Western Australian Government and with the lessees of the property in respect of the takeover. Generally speaking I think the Services have welcomed the move and the Government expects that the matter will be concluded soon.
– I direct my question to the Postmaster-General and I do so following his reply yesterday to my question about the legality or otherwise of the issuing of radio licences under the Wireless and Telegraphy Act. As the Minister has received an opinion from the AttorneyGeneral’s Department on this matter, why will he not present it to the Senate rather than, to quote his words, an evaluation or expression from the Postmaster-General’s Department or the Department of the Media? Is it not a fact that the Attorney-General’s opinion questions the legality of the issuing of such radio licences? If so, is the presentation being held back to enable the Minister for the Media to issue more AM and FM radio licences, particularly in Sydney, before such issue is put under legal question, as this can only be regarded by this place as another example of Government attempting by back door methods to do certain things?
-Perhaps I should first say unhesitatingly that the answer to the latter part of Senator Young’s question is no, it is not for the reasons he might presume. This is a matter which has to be considered by Dr Cass and me in the light of legal opinion. The honourable senator has been in this place long enough to know that when we are dealing with either spoken or written legal opinion it is possible to have a number of different interpretations. That is not new. We certainly have a lot of such experience ourselves. So it is not true to say that this matter has been held up because such opinion recommends against the issuing of these licences. Obviously such an opinion has to be examined by the 2 Ministers, but firstly by the heads of the Department. As I told Senator Young yesterday, there is certainly no intention on my part or on Dr Cass’s part to restrict the availability of this matter to the shadow minister. When the information is available I will ensure that Senator Young gets a copy of it.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Foreign Affairs been drawn to the adoption by the Third Committee of the United Nations of a resolution that Zionism is a form of racism and racial discrimination? Can the Minister assure the Senate that Australia did not support this resolution?
-The Third Committee of the United Nations General Assembly on 17 October adopted by a vote of 70 for, 29 against and 27 abstentions the draft resolution to have the General Assembly determine that Zionism is a form of racism and racial discrimination. Australia voted with the minority of 29 against. The Committee had earlier adopted 2 draft resolutions on the Decade for Action to Combat Racism and Racial Discrimination by votes of 126 for, 1 against and 2 abstentions, and 126 for, 1 against and 1 abstention. Australia on those occasions voted with the majority. The Australian representative on the Third Committee was instructed to oppose the draft resolution on Zionism, to make it clear in his explanation of vote that the Australian Government could not accept in any sense the determination contained in the draft resolution that Zionism is a form of racism and racial discrimination. The representative said that the Australian Government believed that the attempt by the co-sponsors of the draft resolution to equate Zionism with racial discrimination was a distortion of fact, was unhelpful in the context of the search for a settlement in the Middle East and weakened the essential purposes of the 2 resolutions on the Decade for Action to Combat Racism and Racial Discrimination.
– My question is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. I refer to the report that Mr Whitlam reprimanded the Deputy Prime Minister, Mr Crean, for his foolish suggestion that the Government would spend money without the authorisation of Parliament. Can the Leader of the Government confirm that the Government will not spend money without authorisation of Parliament? If he can confirm that position, is not an election inevitable if the Senate delays or defeats the Appropriation Bills?
– It would be very difficult for any assurance to be given that some hardship could not obtain in the case of a continuation of the present position which was brought on by the refusal of the Opposition to pass the Appropriation Bills. The Government has quite clearly stated that it will do all it possibly can to minimise any hardships that may arise, but certainly no action which was not done with the proper authority or which was illegal would be taken. That is without question. I am quite sure it was more a matter of the genuine concern and the frustration of the Deputy Prime Minister that caused him to express those sentiments. The Government realises that if the situation is to continue every effort must be made within the bounds of the law to ensure that those effects are minimised. I suggest to Senator Chaney that in view of this situation being caused by the action of himself and his colleagues they are the ones with whom responsibility lies for any hardships that may arise as a result of their action.
– I wish to ask a supplementary question. My question related not to the matters to which the answer was addressed but to the inevitability of an election if the Government runs out of money because of the failure of the Senate to pass the Appropriation Bills. Therefore I ask: Is not an election inevitable under those circumstances?
– I have nothing to add to the answer that I gave which I think fully answered the question that was originally put to me.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Police and Customs. I draw his attention to an article which appeared in this morning’s Canberra Times and to radio news reports relating to a protest meeting planned for next Wednesday by the Australian Capital Territory Police Association. Is the report correct? Will the Minister meet officials of the Police Association? Would the Minister describe his attitude towards the Association as conciliatory or otherwise?
– I have seen the article. As I stated yesterday, there is a proposal to introduce a Bill to set up the Australia Police. I also said that there has been some concern among both the Australian Capital Territory Police and the Northern Territory Police about the merging of the various forces into one police force. Mr Oldroyd of the Australian Capital Territory Police Association has been carrying on a campaign and I think he has visited Opposition members to try to bring about the defeat of the Bill. However, when he has met me his attitude has not indicated that there is great opposition to this Bill. Whilst the Press report does state that a demonstration is planned, I understand that in fact it is a general meeting of the Australian Capital Territory Police Association and not a demonstration.
The Federation of Australian Police Associations will be meeting next week in Canberra. On Friday of this week Mr Oldroyd, the Australian Capital Territory Secretary of the Federation, and Mr Tremethick, the Australian Secretary of the Association, will meet me in my office. On Monday I shall be opening the Association’s conference and on Monday evening I shall be attending a dinner that was to be funded by the Office of Government Ceremonial and Hospitality of the Prime Minister’s Department. Due to the cutting out of other than essential functions, that dinner could not be conducted or funded by the Government, contrary to the practice in previous years, and the A.C.T. Police Association has now agreed to fund this reception, which I shall attend. On Tuesday Mr Tremethick, Mr Oldroyd and their wives will accompany me to the parliamentary dining room for dinner. So despite the Press reports, the Government seems to be enjoying good relations with the officers of the Police Associations. At all times we are open to conciliation for the purpose of achieving harmony between the Government and the Association in order to get this Bill through the Parliament.
-I ask the Leader of the Government whether he recalls the statement made in the Senate on 12 May 1967 by the former Leader of the Government in the Senate, now Mr Justice Murphy. It states:
If we consider it in the public interest that a measure be rejected, who gave us the right to refrain from doing so under some pretended notion that the Senate cannot reject a tax or money Bill?
Does the Minister note the use of the word ‘ right’ as distinct from the word ‘power’? Does the Minister still support the view of his predecessor?
-Understandably, no, I do not remember the statement and I will not comment on it until such time as I have had an opportunity to study it.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Police and Customs. I refer to a report in today’s Melbourne Age which is headlined: ‘Police probe robberies on jade men’. Can the Minister confirm that officers of his Department are conducting an investigation into the possible illegal importation of jade by the person named in the article? What information can the Minister provide on the reported coincidental thefts that allegedly followed certain of these investigations?
– I was surprised to see the article. I believe that a Dr Cymons is the subject of some investigations by the Department of Police and Customs. Customs officers have visited a number of places in relation to this investigation and it has been reported subsequently that those places have been broken into. The doctor concludes his article by stating that he is making no accusations, but it seems to be an extraordinary coincidence that this has happened. I can assure the Senate that officers of my Department are not breaking into any places in Melbourne. They continuously conduct investigations and seize illicit importations into Australia of jewellery worth many thousands of dollars. In the particular case of Dr Cymons, an investigation has been made and the Department of Police and Customs has seized jade to the value of some $1 1,000. It is now the subject of investigations. If it is found that there has been a breach of the customs regulations there could well be a prosecution. Officers have visited other areas. It is known that the Victorian police have received reports of breaking and entering. Apparently only in one case has any property been reported as stolen. The officers of my Department will continue to work with the Victorian police in an endeavour to clear up these matters. I can assure the honourable senator that any breaking and entering which has taken place has not been as a result of action taken by officers of my Department.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Minerals and Energy. I refer to the statement of the Prime Minister as reported on page 1921 of Hansard of 9 October that he had written to the then Minister for Minerals and Energy on 13 June asking him- and I quote: to confirm that action had been taken to terminate any discussions that he might have been having with persons involved in loan raisings.
I refer to the Prime Minister’s further statement that the Minister had ‘written back giving me that assurance on 18 June’. Since copies of these letters are part of the existing records and since the Minister had repeatedly indicated his desire that all relevant information should be made known- these records are, of course, available to him- I ask: Since the correspondence relates significantly to the sacking of Mr Connor, will the Minister table these letters either later today or tomorrow? If the Minister is unable to release the correspondence without the express approval of the Prime Minister, will he immediately seek approval of the Prime Minister for the tabling of these documents?
-Last week I indicated that the Government had under consideration matters which may involve the tabling of additional material relative to this matter. I think I again made reference to that yesterday. I can only say again to Senator Carrick that this matter is actively being considered by the Government. A great deal of work is involved in assessing the other documents which, as yet, have not been tabled.
– These are specific.
-A11 right. I will accept the suggestion of Senator Carrick. I will inquire today as to what the position is and find out whether some statement can be made this week concerning those additional documents.
– I direct my question to the Foreign Minister. I refer to the past squandering of civil aid in Vietnam which filled the pockets of corrupt merchants. I ask the Minister to inform us whether Australia, at the present time, is funding money through United Nations agencies, or has it any relationship with the renewal of diplomatic links between Australia and Vietnam.
– I am not sure whether the honourable senator requires an answer about money we are giving to multilateral organisations in the Vietnam zone or in general, but I can get figures for him if he will indicate specifically what information he wants.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Minister for Health. With the increasing importations of foodstuffs from overseas, particularly Taiwan and China, what procedures are laid down by the Department of Health for inspection of food factories in those countries? What certification do those countries supply as to standards of health and cleanliness in their food factories?
– I am afraid that I do not have this information readily available. I think, generally speaking, we are very strict in these matters. I ask Senator Sheil to put the question on notice so that I can get a detailed reply from the Minister for Health.
– I direct my question to the Minister representing the Attorney-General. My question is prompted by the question asked earlier by Senator Greenwood. I ask: In view of the persistent claims by the Leader of the Opposition, Mr Fraser, and his colleagues in this place that the Government should consult the people by way of an election because there have been changes in the Whitlam Ministry, can the Minister say whether the Liberal and National Country Parties took the type of action they now advocate when, because of internal disputes within the Liberal Party, Mr Gorton was sacked and replaced by Mr McMahon on 1 0 March 1971?
Or did that Government serve out its full term and so make the electors wait until December 1972 before they could pass judgment?
-The honourable senator has pointed up a blatant example of the Opposition’s double standards. As a matter of fact, when the 1971 Budget was being debated- that was on 16 September- it was pointed out that in the 4 years preceding that date Australia had had 3 Prime Ministers, 4 Ministers for Defence, 5 Ministers for Foreign Affairs and 3 Treasurers. Even between March 1971 and September 1971- a period of 6 months- there had been 2 Prime Ministers and another one was coming up. Since March there had been 3 Ministers for Foreign Affairs, 3 Ministers for Defence, 3 Ministers for Health, 3 Ministers for Education and Science, 3 Attorneys-General, 2 Treasurers, 2 Ministers for Labour and National Service, 2 Ministers for Immigration, 2 Ministers for the Navy, 2 Ministers for Housing, 2 Ministers for Aboriginal Affairs and 2 Ministers for Supply. That made 3 1 changes or more than one a week.
– None was put off for misleading the House.
– I cannot recall any offers by the then Government to face the people, to seek approval for this persistent game of musical chairs.
– Those Ministers were not sacked for lying, either.
– In the light of the interjections about being put off for dishonesty, I feel impelled to add that one Prime Minister, Mr McMahon, lied to the House about the origins of the Vietnam war. He tabled correspondence which proved that he had lied because what was alleged to be an invitation to this country to send forces to Vietnam -
- Mr President, I raise a point of order. Mr McMahon is a member of the House of Representatives. You have ruled that under the Standing Orders it is improper to say of any member of the other place or of this chamber that he has lied. I submit that consistency requires that the Minister withdraw the statement about a member of the other House. Such a statement has been required to be withdrawn in relation to the present Prime Minister. It should not be tolerated with regard to an earlier Prime Minister.
– Senator James McClelland, a request has been made.
-Yes, I will withdraw the word ‘lie’. I will use the word which has become fashionable with the Opposition, namely, ‘misled’. Mr McMahon, a former Prime Minister, misled the House and the people by saying that Australia had joined in the Vietnam war by invitation. Ultimately he had to table letters which proved that our intervention in the Vietnam war was an offer from this side. In fact, we touted the South Vietnamese to be permitted to join in their civil war. Also, the sanctimonious Mr Lynch who has played such a prominent role in the whole loans affair twice misled the House of Representatives.
– I raise a point of order. Standing order 100 states that a Minister when answering a question is not to debate it. All the things which the Minister is saying are contentious -
– The honourable senator does that every time he asks a question.
- Mr President, I am trying to raise a point of order. These are contentious matters in relation to which the Minister is entitled to his view. But we on the Opposition side have a contrary view which we would love to debate with the Minister. We cannot do that during question time when the Minister has the right to answer. I submit that the Minister is using question time to debate propositions. If he wants to debate them he can come in during the adjournment debate or on one of the Appropriation Bills and debate them. My submission is that it is not fair and it is contrary to the Standing Orders.
- Senator McLaren asked a question which gave rise to this rather long answer by Senator James McClelland. I ask Senator James McClelland to answer the question.
– I suggest that if the Opposition does not like this sort of information being given it should refrain from making interjections that provoke it. I was saying that the sanctimonious Mr Lynch twice misled the Parliament and admitted to misleading the Parliament.
– I again rise on a point of order. Senator McLaren’s question to which you, Mr President, referred was directed to whether or not there had been any changes in the Ministry in a previous government. That was his question. The Minister has answered it. But he is now proceeding to use the answering of a question at question time to throw a little bit of abuse in the way of one of the Opposition members of the other House. My submission is that contrary to standing order 100, it is debating the answer.
- Mr President, on a point of order, Senator James McClelland had finished his answer, but surely he was provoked into extending it by the interjection of Senator Rae who was suggesting that no Minister in the previous Government had misled the Parliament. Surely Senator James McClelland is acting reasonably in continuing his answer in this way.
– I call Senator Maunsell.
-Does the Leader of the Government in the Senate support the belated acceptance by the Prime Minister that the Senate is acting within its rights under the Constitution in delaying Supply in order to force the House of Representatives to the people? If so, will the Leader of the Government in the Senate state what is undemocratic about the Government’s letting the people decide, and why is the Government so terrified to face its masters?
– I suggest that we are just going around in circles on this question. If Senator Maunsell had been paying attention to question time he would have heard that question answered a dozen times in the last 2 weeks.
– Has the Minister for Social Security and Minister for Repatriation and Compensation seen the reported statements by the Leader of the Opposition about his desire to cut government expenditure by 12 per cent in the 6 months period from January to June 1 976? Can he indicate how such a saving could be achieved within his portfolio?
– As I understand it, this question is being directed to me as both Minister for Social Security and Minister for Repatriation and Compensation. Naturally, like everybody else I was interested to read that the Leader of the Opposition was going to cut government expenditure by 12 per cent. So we applied our minds as to how a cut in expenditure of 12 per cent would affect my respective departments. As far as the Department of Repatriation and Compensation is concerned, a reduction of approximately $100m would be required in order to save 1 2 per cent, as Mr Fraser said he would do. It seems that there are 2 ways in which this could be done, the first of which would be by stopping all repatriation pension payments for 10 weeksthat is one way of saving 12 per cent. The second way would be by stopping all payments for Darwin compensation, which would save $26m; by stopping all medical treatment to veterans from private sources, that is local medical officers, pharmaceutical benefits and so on, which would save $55m; by closing of all repatriation hospitals, which would save $12m; by cutting back overtime and administrative expenses, which would save $2m; and by stopping all major works, which would save $3m. There would be a saving in toto of $ 101m. That is what we would need to do in the Department of Repatriation and Compensation to save the 12 per cent about which Mr Fraser is talking. If we turn to the Department of Social Security to save 12 per cent in the budget of that Department, it seems that there is a number of things that we could do.
– You forget some of the idiotic schemes you have running that you could cut out.
– I can assure Senator Webster that while I am in the Senate I find it impossible to forget some of the idiots. A number of payments which I will now enumerate would need to be cut for at least 6 months to make a saving of 12 per cent. We could cut unemployment and sickness benefits for 6 months which would mean a saving of $2 18.5m. Such a cut in invalid pensions would mean a saving of $ 197.9m, $3. 8m in maternity allowances, $3.9m in handicapped children’s allowances, $5. 9m in rehabilitation services, $7.5 m in sheltered employment allowances. Such a cut in deficit financing of nursing homes would save Mr Malcolm Fraser $ 15.6m. It would save $900,000 on the Meals on Wheels subsidy, $4m on payments to States for deserted wives, $lm on the orphans pension and $900,000 on the funeral benefit. That would give us a saving of $459.9m, which is somewhat less than the 12 per cent saving which Mr Fraser said he would be able to make. We could make none of those payments whatsoever to achieve a 12 per cent cut. That would not include a cut of 12 per cent in the administrative vote of the Department- some $l.7m- which of course would mean the Department would be unable to function.
– I rise on a point of order, Mr President. The Minister is supposed to be answering a question without notice. Can you tell me how the Minister could have all that information lined up without previous notice of the question?
– I do not know whether there is any standing order that requires the presiding officer to read the mind of the Minister. But I should like the Minister to make his answer as brief as possible.
-Yes, Mr President, I shall tell Senator Wood how I have that information. I have it because when the Leader of the Opposition, who puts himself forward as a future Prime Minister, says he can cut the Budget by 12 per cent we look at where he can cut 12 per cent off the Budget. If the Opposition were a serious Opposition it would have done the same study and obviously it has not. Those are the savings and those are the cuts which would have to be made over a period of 6 months. There would be no more unemployment or sickness benefits- no more of those payments which I have enumeratedfor at least 6 months in order to save the 12 per cent about which the Leader of the Opposition has so glibly and irresponsibly talked.
-I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Manufacturing Industry: Is it a fact that new motor vehicle registrations have declined seriously and are at their lowest level since December 1973? The Minister would know of my concern in this area. If this is the case, what does his Government propose to do to try to overcome the growing unemployment problem in this very important sector of Australian manufacturing?
– I have seen some report to that effect. But I have seen so much in the Press lately that has been wildly inaccurate that I should like to get the figures from the Minister for Manufacturing Industry before commenting on the question. 1 shall do so and let the honourable senator have a detailed reply.
– Is the Postmaster-General aware that the cessation of station reports transmitted by the Overseas’ Telecommunications Commission coast station, Melbourne VIM, is affecting the operating and planning activities of tuna boats? Will the Government consider the reintroduction of such broadcasts?
– I received representations on Monday I think is was, from the tuna boat operators and also from the Ulladulla Fishing Cooperative. I have been advised by the Overseas Telecommunications Commission that the station reports are local weather reports prepared by the Bureau of Meteorology and transmitted by OTC coast stations. As from the weekend commencing 18 October the Bureau ceased to issue these reports for broadcast by the OTC on the basis that not only was the Bureau looking at the economics but also the reports were not as useful as the general weather forecasts for the relevant areas which the Bureau of Meteorology still issues. In view of the request made to me I have been in touch with Mr Clyde Cameron, the Minister responsible, and he is presently considering the matter.
– What immediate steps is the Minister for Minerals and Energy taking, since assuming his new office, to revive the exploration for oil and gas in the offshore and on-shore areas of Australia which ran down pretty well to a standstill under his predecessor?
– There has been a reduction in the number of metres drilled in the last 12 months or so. This is not a matter simply of Government policy. It is now realised that the amount of resources, particularly in regard to onshore drilling, is not as great as would have been hoped, and consequently the prospects for the exploring companies are not as good as they would have expected them to be. But this is not a matter of governments at all. The fact is that the possibility of resources being there is not as apparent as may have been thought in years gone by. Consequently there has been a rundown because of the natural factors and not because of government policy. 1 can assure the honourable senator that under the new policy which has recently been enunciated the Government will give every incentive to exploration companies to improve and increase their drilling operations, both on-shore and particularly off-shore.
-Can the Postmaster-General comment on newspaper articles reporting that a woman was struck by lightning through the earpiece of her telephone?
– The Press gave some publicity to this matter yesterday and I asked the engineers of the Australian Telecommunications Commission to investigate it because the way in which the matter was reported in the Press amounted to a serious allegation. The engineers have conducted an investigation and they consider that the accident to the lady was not caused in the way reported. For example, there were no carbon deposits on the cable heads in the street, which is usually evident after lightning strikes. There was no evidence of insulation breakdowns in the wiring. No telephones in the vicinity were reported as being faulty following the storm, and there were no problems caused at the power transformers in the street nearby. Both telephone instruments were tested and found to be satisfactory. The engineers reported to me that the telephone operated by the lady was located near a stainless steel sink in the kitchen, and they believe that there may have been a power static electric charge which passed from the lady’s hair to earth via the sink, which could have appeared to be caused by lightning. Mrs Cooper is receiving attention and her hearing has recovered. While we are sorry that the incident occurred, it would appear at the present time that it was not caused in the way reported in the Press.
-I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Agriculture: Is it a fact that the Japanese meat purchasing authority has allowed increased quotas for importation of beef? Can the Minister indicate the tonnage of Australian beef involved? Has he any information in respect of prospects of further sales to Japan?
-I understand that the importing authority in Japan announced in the last few days a second quota on imports of beef into that country. From memory the total figure now is 50 000 tonnes. As Australia can expect to get its normal 80 per cent of the quota, we should this year get approximately 40 000 tonnes of beef into Japan as a result of the relaxation of the quota. The prospects beyond that are very difficult to assess because of the domestic policy of the Japanese Government to exercise considerable protection to local beef producers. As a result of that, of course, Australian beef producers are somewhat squeezed out of the market. But because of the improving position of the Japanese economy and the greater need for the cheaper beef to be imported in order to keep down the cost of living in Japan, it is likely that the increase in the quota will continue but to what extent is difficult to assess. That we would get back to the 1 30 000 tonne level of 2 years ago is probably a bit much to expect, but I think we can say that the quota figure will continue to move upwards and that we will not see a repetition of the complete shutdown that we experienced 1 8 months ago.
– I direct a question to the Minister representing the Minister for Agriculture. Is it a fact that because of the action of the Opposition in delaying Supply, it will not be possible to pay wages for Commonwealth meat inspectors beyond the end of November? What consequences would this have for the Australian meat industry?
– Perhaps in answering the previous question I should have been mindful of the very question that Senator Everett has now raised, that is, the real possibility that in the event of the supply of money for the meat inspection service in Australia running out the very important upturn in our meat exports that has taken place, especially to Japan, could well be interrupted because of the inability of the Government to pay the meat inspectors. This would be a grievous blow to the beef industry in Australia because of the very difficult times that it has experienced over the past couple of years. I could not imagine a worse time, when we are just on the upturn out of the trough of the beef industry crisis, for the meat inspection services to be disrupted. I would hope that the members of the National Country Party especially will bear this factor in mind over the next week or two.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Labor and Immigration in his capacity as Minister assisting the Prime Minister in matters relating to the Public Service. Has the Minister seen reports in the Press recently that the Government may not proceed with amendments to the Public Service Furlough Act? As this matter affects many casual and part time employees of the Australian Government Reporting Service and other Government departments, can the Minister indicate to the Senate whether the Government plans to go ahead with these amendments?
– I think that the Public Service Furlough Act has been debated in the House of Representatives and that the debate was adjourned as the Government did not consider it an appropriate time to improve the accrual conditions of the Act. The postponement of consideration of the Act as a whole has had the deleterious effect complained of by the honourable senator. I can assure him that it is my intention to recommend to the Cabinet in the very near future that the rest of the Act be proceeded with in order to cure the anomaly to which he has pointed.
-Has the Minister for Social Security seen a report in today’s CourierMail newspaper that the socialists in Canberra are attempting to intimidate pensioners by ceasing to pay their pensions? If so, can he verify that these allegations made by the Queensland Welfare Services Minister are false and malicious?
-I have seen today’s Courier-Mail newspaper and a report in it of the statement which has been made by the Queensland Minister for Welfare Services, Mr Herbert. In the article, Mr Herbert is reported as having accused -
– How do you spell ‘pervert’?
-Herbert it is actually. He accuses Mr Hayden of sending letters to pensioners in his electorate warning them that because of the activities of the Liberal Party they would not be getting their pensions. Apparently, Mr Herbert goes on to say:
Federal socialists have now reached the position where they will attempt to intimidate pensioners, the poorest sections of the community, and do anything to try to attain their ends.
I am not quite sure what he means by that. He also says:
We are going to drag them screaming to the polls anyway.
Mr President, there is no suggestion at this stage that pensions will not be provided for in the money which we now have available to us. The pensions are appropriated separately. The problem is that we do not have the money available for the administrative services- for the postage, for the printing of cheques and for the salaries of those people who are employed in the Department of Social Security and who have to administer the payment of these pensions. It is no use the Opposition trying to shift the blame on to Mr Hayden or on to anybody else in this Government. If it denies appropriations, if it takes steps which mean that the Department of Social Security will be unable to function and the pensioners do not receive the moneys which they are entitled to under the law of this country, the responsibility rests solely on the Opposition in the Senate. It is quite improper and misleading for Mr Herbert or anybody else to blame Mr Hayden, the socialists or anybody in this Government.
– ls the Minister representing the Minister for Agriculture aware of the very serious financial position currently facing the canned fruit industry in Australia? This subject has been raised on previous occasions by my colleague Senator Laucke. Will the Minister say what approaches have been made to the Government by the industry? What action has been taken by the Government as a result of the industry’s representations? Can the Minister indicate when an announcement is likely to be made in regard to the Government’s attitude to the industry’s proposals?
-If the present situation continues it will be almost impossible to say when any possible money could be made available. I gave a detailed answer to a very similar question asked of me a fortnight ago in which 1 indicated that the Government is aware of the very great problems confronting the canned fruit industry. I am sure that Senator Jessop would know as well as anyone that the problem in that industry has existed for many years and that, despite the many grants and loans which have been made by successive governments over the years, the industry is still in a chronic over-supply position. A detailed amount of thought has been given to a possible plan to rationalise the whole of the canned fruit industry. A proposal in that respect has been put before me in draft form and no doubt it will be taken over by Dr Patterson in his new role as Minister for Agriculture. I cannot indicate really much more than what I said a fortnight ago. The magnitude of the proposal that has been put requires very serious consideration by the Government and would involve a considerable amount of finance.
– My question is directed to the Special Minister of State. I am sure that the Minister is aware, as most Australians are aware, that the evidence of European contact with the Australian mainland indicates that it first occurred along the Western Australian coast. A number of Dutch East India Company vessels was wrecked there. I understand that the first recorded wreck occurred in 1629. 1 am sure that the Minister is also aware that many relics are now being recovered from these sites. As a study of the recovered relics can provide a valuable insight into the social and economic life at the time the vessels were wrecked, can the Minister inform the Senate whether any progress is being made in the building up of a national collection of these relics and whether there are any plans for the displaying of this collection, particularly in Western Australia?
Senator DOUGLAS McCLELLANDSenator Coleman has shown continuing interest in matters of this nature. As she knows, a committee known as the Australian-Netherlands Committee on Old Dutch Shipwrecks has been established by the Australian Government and the Netherlands Government to advise on the disposition of the relics that have been recovered. The Committee has the responsibility of determining collections that are obtained of material removed from the Dutch East India Company wrecks for both the Netherlands and Australia. The bulk of the collections at present remains at the Western Australian museum. At the last meeting of the Committee representative collections from material recovered from the wreck of the Batavia were determined by the Western Australian Museum. The Australian collection is now quite varied and diverse ranging from earthenware jars to metal objects. Replicas such as navigation instruments are also being prepared for inclusion in the collection.
– What is the Commonwealth Government paying towards that?
-This is a matter that has been brought about as a result of this Government’s interest in the history of this country. Committees of this nature have been established only since this Government has been in existence. As much as we would like to see the material recovered from these relics displayed on the eastern coast of Australia, as the honourable senator would be aware and for reasons that are obvious to all in this chamber, this cannot be done at the present time.
– I direct my question to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Yesterday Senator Rae and I asked questions of the Leader of the Government concerning statements by the Prime Minister that the Senate had never rejected a money Bill. The Leader of the Government then wanted to refresh his memory. I now ask whether he has refreshed his memory by referring to Hansard of 18 June 1970, pages 2681 and 2682, which clearly show that the then Labor Opposition with the support of the Democratic Labor Party defeated a money Bill. I therefore ask: Is the Prime Minister simply not telling the truth?
-I have looked at Hansard following the questions that were asked of me yesterday. T do not make a practice of answering questions on matters about which one could not be expected to have a clear and concise recollection. It is true that the Opposition, including myself, at that time voted in the way that has been suggested but, we voted under very different circumstances from the ones which obtain now. I remind the honourable senators that I also have had an opportunity to read the article by Sir Robert Menzies, published yesterday, in which he makes the important point that these are matters of circumstances. It is true that it is a matter of political judgment by a government or an opposition at the time. This is the very point that Sir
Robert Menzies makes and one which everybody in this place would accept. We should not delude ourselves that everybody is a clean skin in these matters. It is a matter of political judgment. Everyone knows it and accepts it.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Police and Customs and I refer to a report which appeared in the Financial Review on 17 October concerning the effect of the current political climate upon the Australia Police Bill. Can the Minister advise the Senate of the planned course of progress of this piece of Government legislation?
– As business is going on as usual in Government circles, I do not think that the financial stringencies that the Government faces at present will interfere with the plans for the Australia Police Bill. The Bill is now prepared and is being considered by a Caucus subcommittee. It has been finally drafted and is to go before Cabinet. Following that it will be introduced into the Parliament when we can make copies available to anyone interested in studying the legislation. The matter will be adjourned within the Parliament until there has been time for anyone interested to study the Bill and suggest alterations that might be thought advisable by different interested groups. We hope that the Bill will be proceeded with this session.
– (New South Wales- Special Minister of State)- For the information of honourable senators I present the annual report of the Australian Council on Awards in Advanced Education for 1 974.
– (New South Wales- Minister for Labor and Immigration) For the information of honourable senators I present the findings of a national shopping basket survey conducted on 16 and 17 October 1975.
For the information of honourable senators I present a progress report on the Children ‘s Commission dated September 1975.
– For the information of honourable senators I present the annual report of the Department of Urban and Regional Development for the year ended 30 June 1975.
– In accordance with the provisions of the Public Works Committee Act 1969-1974,I present the report relating to the following proposed works:
Multi-storey ward block at Repatriation General Hospital, Greenslopes, Queensland.
Motion (by Senator Douglas McClelland) agreed to:
That consideration of business of the Senate be postponed until the next day of sitting.
Restoration to the Notice Paper
Debate resumed from 21 October on motion by Senator Wriedt:
That, notwithstanding anything contained in the Standing Orders, the Order of the Day for the Second Reading of the Appropriation Bill (No. 1) 1975-76 and the Order of the Day for the Second Reading of the Appropriation Bill (No. 2) 1975-76 be restored to the Notice Paper and that they be Orders of the Day for a later hour this day.
– Honourable senators will recall that last night Mr President read a message from the House of Representatives which was as follows:
The House of Representatives acquaints the Senate of the following Resolution which this day was agreed to by the House of Representatives:
That the House of Representatives having considered Message No. 276 of the Senate asserts that the action of the Senate in delaying the passage of the Appropriation Bill (No. 1 ) 1975-76 and the Appropriation Bill (No. 2) 1975-76 for the reasons given in the Senate resolution is not contemplated within the terms of the Constitution and is contrary to established constitutional convention, and therefore requests the Senate to re-consider and pass the Bills without delay.
Honourable senators will recall that following upon the message being read Senator Wreidt, as Leader of the Government in the Senate, by leave, moved:
That, notwithstanding anything contained in the Standing Orders, the Order of the Day for the Second Reading of the Appropriation Bill (No. 1) 1975-76 and the Order of the Day for the Second Reading of the Appropriation Bill (No.
1975-76 be restored to the Notice Paper and that they be Orders of the Day for a later hour this day.
Honourable senators will further recall that I moved:
That the debate be now adjourned.
As a result of what happened further that evening the matter has now come on for debate this morning. In spite of a lot of the nonsense that was spoken here last night, the Opposition is not afraid to debate this motion. We wished to have time to take into consideration the message of the House of Representatives. So there can be no doubt where we stand in this matter, I move:
This attempt to restore these Bills to the notice paper is another artificial device by the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) to avoid the real issues, the real issues being his mismanagement of the economy, his incompetence as an administrator and the destruction he has brought to Australia in the short space of 3 years. These are the issues the Prime Minister wishes to avoid. He wants to avoid them because he is ashamed of his past actions. He wants to continue to avoid both the issues and his masters, the Australian electorate. But this device will not succeed. The Senate has declared its attitude to this legislation. It will not retreat. There is no point in restoring these Bills to the notice paper until the Prime Minister agrees to a general election.
There can be no doubt about the Senate’s powers in this matter. If the Prime Minister believes that there is a doubt, it can be resolved simply, quickly and properly by having an election. Instead, the Prime Minister would prefer to force more and more suffering on Australia than his Government has already imposed, and he maintains this farce while enjoying the suffering that he and he alone, through his stubbornness and deceit, is prepared to inflict upon the Australian people. In his last desperate bid to keep power in his own hands, the Prime Minister will do everything he can to maintain an artificial atmosphere of crisis and, as usual, he is determined to deceive. Yet it is only his stubborn refusal to give people their democratic right to vote that is preventing these Bills being passed without delay. The Prime Minister is currently trying to establish an atmosphere of great constitutional crisis because of the deadlock between the 2 Houses. In the most emotional manner he talks of threats to democracy and the importance of stable government, and I agree with him on that because at this moment democracy is threatened in Australia. It is threatened by the actions of the Prime Minister, because he and he alone has attempted to thwart the wishes of the people, and he and he alone is attempting to distort and defy the constitution. He and he alone is attempting to destroy democracy, because the Opposition in the Senate has done nothing more than seek an expression of the people’s will. It has adopted the proper democratic constitutional form which will allow this to be achieved.
It must be remembered that democracy is not the provision of an absolute licence to a Prime Minister. Democracy depends upon the Parliament. It depends upon the primacy and sovereignty of the Parliament, the whole of the Parliament. It is the Parliament, not the Prime Minister, that represents the people. It is the Parliament and not the Prime Minister which is the custodian of democracy. As yet, Australia has no one-man guided democracy. The Prime Minister would do well to remember that, but he chooses not to. Instead, he chooses to resort to mistruths, to deception, to distortion in his program, the great program of destroying this Parliament. The Senate will not retreat before this onslaught on the powers of the Parliament because the Senate is fighting for democracy and for the Constitution. The Senate is fighting for the right- the right which the Constitution provides- of Parliament to call governments to account. If Parliament is denied that right, democracy is denied and Parliament becomes irrelevant. If a Prime Minister can defy the elected Parliament there is not need for elections. If this Prime Minister is allowed to continue his falsehoods, his deceptions and his ravaging of the rights of the people and the Parliament, democracy is indeed ended.
This is a question of major significance. The choice is whether the Parliament is sovereign or whether the Prime Minister is all powerful. It is imperative that the people choose. It is the intention of the Opposition to continue to delay the Appropriation Bills as we did last week. We will hold them in the Senate once again until the Prime Minister accepts the reality of the situationthe reality that the Parliament is deadlocked. It is deadlocked because of the incompetence of the Government and the Government’s inability to cope with the problems it has created. When previous governments were deadlocked the situation was resolved properly and constitutionally by a double dissolution. Despite all Mr Whitlam ‘s bluff and humbug, the plain constitutional fact is that the Prime Minister no longer controls the Parliament. It is the Parliament- not the Prime Ministerwhich represents the people. It is the duty of the Parliament to act responsibly in the interests of the voters.
Parliament has an obligation to control governments. An incompetent government, one incapable of telling the truth, one blinded by power to its responsibilities comprised of a ministry whose members have not the confidence of the Prime Minister himself- and who have no confidence in him- is still responsible to the
Parliament. This last shred of democracy has survived, despite the Prime Minister’s avowed determination to destroy Parliament and the country in the process. The Prime Minister is now again deceiving the public- this time about the meaning of the Constitution. Words like ‘democracy’ roll from his lips but not from his mind. If I might help him, I think the Prime Minister ought to be given a lesson on the Constitution. Perhaps on his next overseas trip he might care to take a copy of it to read to fill in time between sightseeing tours. He would find that section 1 of the Constitution states:
The legislative power of the Commonwealth shall be vested in a federal parliament, which shall consist of the Queen, a Senate, and a House of Representatives . . . .
That section alone makes it plain that it is the Parliament not the Prime Minister- not this would-be statesman who becomes infuriated when domestic, economic and political problems prevent him strutting and posturing on the international stage- that is supreme. The House of Representatives, where Mr Whitlam uses the caucus discipline- the mindless imposition of the minority will on the Parliament- is but a section of the Parliament. The Senate is an equal section. Both Houses must agree. Without agreement there is deadlock and without agreement the Prime Minister is impotent. It is the Parliament, not the Government, that passes Bills and makes laws.
The present Prime Minister cannot get the Appropriation Bills through the Senate. Another Prime Minister may be able to do so. The plain, simple fact of the current situation is that the Prime Minister no longer controls the Parliament. The deadlock that has now occurred is the result of one thing only- the total incompetence of the Government and the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister has made the situation worse by forcing the most objectionable legislation into this chamber. The Opposition carried out its obligations by rejecting the most offensive and the most harmful of the Government Bills. But this final deadlock has been created by the Prime Minister’s own total incompetence, his deceit and dishonesty and his refusal to apply to himself the standards and sanctions he applies to others.
The Prime Minister is responsible for any current crisis. He is responsible because of his Government’s incompetence, weakness and dishonesty. This man who talks of a mandate has destroyed any mandate he may have been given by the people. He has renounced any claim to the trust of the people because he has betrayed the people. His record is his condemnation. He promised full employment but created the worst unemployment in 40 years. He promised an end to inflation but the cost of living rises day by day. He promised to make home ownership easier but instead he has made it almost impossible. Let it not be forgotten that he deals with back-door pawnbrokers in an attempt to commit future generations to massive debt, without the people’s knowledge, without his colleagues’ knowledge and against the wishes of the Parliament.
The plain fact is that the Prime Minister has lost the confidence of the Parliament. He has lost control of the Parliament. It is of no use his using Caucus to impose a vote of confidence in the Lower House. He does not have the confidence of the Senate. He does not have the confidence of the Parliament or the people. That is why he is refusing to go to the polls. He is refusing to give the people what they want. It is the Prime Minister who is defying democracy. There have been inferences that the Prime Minister wants the Senate to reject these Bills outright. He has given no clear undertaking of what will happen then. The only indication is that if the Budget is rejected he will seek a half-Senate election. But 1 understand that he has now retreated from that position. This is not good enough. It will not solve the problem. It will not resolve the deadlock. It will not give the Prime Minister control of the Parliament. Therefore we will not accept this device because it will not resolve the deadlock.
We believe that the proper constitutional machinery- a double dissolution- is the only way of resolving the deadlock. If it assists the Prime Minister to make up his- mind, to face the inevitable, I assure him of this: The Opposition has no intention of passing these Bills until the Prime Minister agrees to an election which will resolve the current deadlock. If he wants to take that as rejection, he may. We will not change our minds. We are firm in our resolve. This country has suffered too much from the Whitlam Government to be allowed to suffer that Government any longer. We believe the people are entitled to express their will. Every day the Prime Minister delays he is denying that democratic right.
But we will not reject the Budget as such. We will not throw it out of the Senate. We will not do so because, if that occurred, there would be no Appropriation Bills. There would be no machinery for continuing the proper services of government. The Prime Minister has already made it clear that he will do everything in his power to disrupt the economy. He has made it clear that he will not willingly submit to the people’s judgment. He knows the people want a change of government. There is no guarantee, indication or certainty that if this Budget were rejected the Prime Minister would take any steps to resume payments for the Public Service or any of the other payments provided for in this legislation. It would undoubtedly suit Mr Whitlam not to pay people. He believes he can win by making people suffer. It is he who is trying to blackmail the country into supporting him by the threat that he will not pay them. He is trying to create a lockout. This Government has proved so unscrupulous, so dishonest and so devoid of decency that the Opposition cannot be sure that this vindictive Prime Minister will not do whatever he can to hurt people more. We say that he cannot be trusted.
It is for that reason, and that reason alone, that the Opposition will hold these Bills in the Senate until the Prime Minister agrees to an election. Once he does so, the Bills will be given an immediate passage. The flow of money will resume. The payments, necessary to ensure an election can be held, will be able to be made. If the Prime Minister wishes to regard this action as rejection, then he may. But he will not create a vacuum in which there are no Appropriation Bills, a vacuum in which the Prime Minister can refuse to provide money in the mistaken hope that this will help him to win votes. These Bills must stay in the control of Parliament. They must stay in the control of the Parliament in a position where they can be given immediate passage, immediately the Prime Minister accepts that he can no longer govern this nation. The Senate is in this matter acting totally responsibly. It is doing what the Constitution says it may do. We believe that this deadlock must be resolved in the proper legal constitutional manner- the holding of a general election. It will not be resolved by the Prime Minister engaging in bluff. It will not be resolved by a so-called half Senate election. When the Parliament was deadlocked in 1914, in 1951 and in 1974 the then Prime Ministers sought a double dissolution. It will not be resolved by outright rejection of the Appropriation Bills.
Mr Whitlam should make up his mind now. If he genuinely wants the deadlock resolved, if he wants this so-called crisis that he has created brought to an end, if he wants to stop people suffering, he will decide on an election for both Houses. The people can then decide. They can pass judgment on all 127 members of the House of Representatives and all 60 senators in this place- and of that we are not afraid. I invite honourable senators to look at what the Prime Minister himself said should be done in a deadlock such as this Parliament faces today and what he did in similar circumstances. On 4 April 1974 Mr Whitlam said in the House of Representatives:
It is not just time for the election of a government of Australia, but for a parliament of Australia- an election of the whole Parliament of Australia.
Mr Whitlam added:
If the Senate rejects any money Bill … I shall certainly wait upon the Governor-General not merely to dissolve the House of Representatives but to dissolve the Senate as well.
If Mr Whitlam wants to regard today’s action as rejection, I invite him to do so. He can rest assured that the Bills will not pass until he agrees to an election for the whole Parliament of Australia in which the people can choose their government. If Mr Whitlam lives by his own words he will do as he did in 1 974 and wait upon the Governor-General and ask him to dissolve both Houses. In 1974 Mr Whitlam said to the Governor-General that a situation had been reached ‘where the normal operations of government cannot continue. ‘ He went on to say:
It is time the situation was resolved and this can best be assured by the whole of the Senate and the House of Representatives being dissolved and new elections called.
For once I agree with the Prime Minister. We are now in a state of total deadlock. As the Prime Minister himself has made clear, there is only one way for the deadlock to be resolved. If the Prime Minister is genuinely concerned for the people of Australia he will let the people decide. I commend my amendment to the Senate.
- Mr President, the amendment moved by Senator Withers and the speech of Senator Withers are intended to deceive the Australian electors, but the Opposition has not been successful in deceiving the Australian people up to date. We know quite well that since it came to power the Labor Government has been challenged by that group of Opposition senators who have set out by every means in their power to frustrate the work of the Parliament. Up to now those frustrations have been hard on the Labor Government but they have not been successful. Today we have the situation in which Senator Withers has moved an amendment to the Government’s motion. I shall start by referring to the critical or key part of the amendment. It states:
That the Senate has the right and duty to exercise its legislative power and to concur or not to concur, as the Senate sees fit, bearing in mind the seriousness and the responsibility of its actions, in all proposed laws passed by the House of Representatives.
Where is the responsibility and the seriousness in the action of the Opposition in deferring the Appropriation Bills and also in making this new move to reject a message from the House of Representatives, which is the popularly elected House, which is the House that has the support of the Australian electorate and which is the House that, in association with the Senate, should guide the destiny of the nation? How can the Opposition say that there is any sense of responsibility in what it is doing now?
The country is entering a crisis, a disaster situation. Honourable senators opposite well known without my going over it again that after 30 November the whole of the organisation, administration, work and construction of the defence facilities of the Commonwealth will come to a halt. They will not come to a halt because of any action by the Government. They will come to a halt because of the action of a group of senators in this place who are not properly representative of the States and who have a distorted view of the Australian Constitution and of the position of the Senate as set out in the Constitution. Their views have been distorted by their counterparts in the States whose votes they carry across the chamber. I can do no better than to reiterate what Senator Steele Hall said when he spoke on this question last week. He said: . . every time that Senator Young walks across the floor he takes a dead man’s vote with him in his pocket . . . The Bill was defeated in that fashion only by the vote of a dead man which the Opposition has, contrary to the convention of this country.
If honourable senators opposite were responsible, if they were a party of moralists, if they agreed with the Constitution and if they wanted to preserve parliamentary democracy they would have regard for that situation to which I have referred and denounce it. But what they are doing is adopting an expedient attitude which is based upon the march to power by Mr Fraser. As I talk, there are people in the Opposition who have been divided in the past over the struggle for leadership of the Opposition. That great challenger who deposed John Gorton and Mr Snedden comes to power as Leader of the Opposition and sets up a great campaign by marvellous and expensive measures, backed by lots of people who have many millions of dollars, to take charge of the country. What is this talk about the seriousness and responsibility of the Opposition’s actions?
The Government intends to stand fast. It is the Government. It has been endorsed by the Australian people. Its actions recently have won the applause and support of the Australian people.
As far as our Government is concerned, there will be no shift by the Prime Minister from the stand that it is the Government. It has the power to govern, and the Senate ought to reconsider the matter. Today it ought to support the motion of the Government to restore the Bills to the notice paper. It ought to debate the Appropriation Bills and reassess its position. We know- everybody knows because it is the talk of the town- that the members of the Opposition are divided about the matter. And well they might be because among their ranks is a large number of responsible people.
– Decent people.
– Yes, there are decent people in the Opposition who do not like what has been going on. Who can support the procedures which have created in the Parliament an unusual situation which is not democratic? How can members of the Opposition justify using nondemocratic means and distorting State representation, while looking to the Constitution to hold up a government? They are not merely holding up a government, because it is not just an ordinary challenge for power. It is a situation which could bring this country to disaster. Everybody knows that as from about the end of October there will be a real shutdown of all the essential services of the country. It will not be caused by the Government; it will be caused by the action of the Opposition. No form of words can betray the deception. I believe that the people understand that.
I think that one of the reasons for the great support that the Government has received in recent days has been a basic understanding by the Australian people that the parliamentary system must survive. It is amazing to me that the great advocates of parliamentary democracy over the years, the people who challenged all the new revolutionary movements in other parts of the world and talked about the Red thrust from South East Asia, from Saigon, about the danger to parliamentary democracy and about the great powers of the trade unions, should now seek to use a power which is badly based. It is not based on the power of the Senate, properly represented from the States; it has been distorted in the way that we have indicated. Of course, honourable senators opposite do not like to hear any reference from our side to a member of Parliament by saying: ‘Well, you are using a dead man ‘s vote to get what you want’.
Everybody knows that the Opposition is privately disgusted with what has been done by the Queensland Government and the New South
Wales Government and with the actions of the Queensland Governor in interceding in public debate on these matters. But again in this Parliament today, knowing what could happen in Australia, the Opposition attempts to push the Government out of power. The Government will not be pushed put of power. If the Opposition continues in this way, from the end of November a quarter of the Australian work force will completely come to a halt. Even next week when we sit in this Parliament many measures will indicate to the Senate that, however well the Government might try to eke out the funds which it has to run government, everybody will be affected by the situation. But we believe that that is the way the Government should go about it.
What are the Opposition ‘s general arguments about what the Government has done? The Government’s record was tested before the Australian electorate last year. The people supported this Government. Yet the Opposition tries again, as some people said it ought to try, to get Labor out of power. Why? Because Labor sets out to control the economy in the way that benefits most of the people. It takes certain actions, where it can, to ensure that Australian interests are preserved. On occasions the Prime Minister, in observing that principle, had to take action against certain of his Ministers when he considered that those Ministers had misled the Parliament. Can the Opposition blame the Prime Minister for doing that? If he had not done so would the Opposition not have complained that he was not carrying out his role as he should?
How can the Opposition talk about changes in the administration of the Government and in the Ministry in the face of the history of its own record, which Senator James McClelland presented this morning? It was not only a history of changes but of campaigns by Mr Malcolm Fraser to depose the leaders of his Party. I am looking at people now who were divided about the issue of leadership. When we were discussing the matter of leaders certain people were out to get rid of the leaders. There were 31 changes mentioned by Senator James McClelland- almost one change a week. So the latter part of the amendment does not convey anything at all.
The Opposition has tried by many means to place in the minds of the people of Australia that somehow the Government has been shady in its operations. Yet, with all its efforts, the Opposition has never been able to find an atom of evidence to show that the Government has done anything wrong. This is despite the campaign by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, Mr Lynch, who went into every sleazy corner of the world several times. No doubt he was backed by large amounts of finance from vested interests. The Opposition convened a special inquiry by the Senate. What did it find? Nothing. Yet daily it continues with these sorts of tactics. What does it hope to find?
As every honourable senator well knows, for the first time in my experience, in the recent Senate Estimates Committees the Opposition made devious investigations by asking all sorts of silly questions. Previously, when we had inquiries we certainly got the information required. However, in the recent Estimates Committee inquiries, the Opposition asked questions such as: Who was supplied with a telephone? Who could ring up by subscriber trunk dialling? Which heads of departments or officers of departments had an official motor car? When did they use it? These questions were asked as if all these measures were introduced by our Government. What was the Opposition doing? It was digging in the dirt and trying to find something which might indicate to the Australian people that the Government had failed to maintain a proper control over the administration of the country. Well, it found nothing at all. After all the endeavours of the Liberal Party and the National Country Party they found nothing to substantiate what they are doing.
There is no doubt in my mind that there are many people among the Opposition with a guilt feeling. Of course, some of them want to chase the power of government. What would they do if they got into government? We do not know yet what sort of measures they would introduce. It has been reported that Mr Fraser said that it would take 3 years to correct the economy. But the Australian economy is one of the things which reflects the circumstances of the world economy. The Opposition knows that the economy is now on the upturn and it is trying to deceive the Australian people into believing that it is time for the Liberal Party and National Country Party to take over. That summarises the position.
The propositions contained in the amendment mean nothing to me but deception- the use of words to try to convey to the people that the Opposition is not seeking power but that it wants parliamentary democracy. There is no question that the rather militant speeches in this place by some of my colleagues about the threat to parliamentary democracy point to a very real situation. All honourable senators know that when we cross the chamber tempers are frayed. It is so this week and it will continue for weeks. Sooner or later there will be trouble in this place. But people in the public arena- the masses of workers and people in the community who are aggrieved about the situation- will not worry about the Parliament. It is our job to worry about parliamentary democracy and to see that the institutions of the Parliament are respected and preserved. I do not think that the Opposition has done anything to preserve the idea of parliamentary democracy. I want to see the Parliament survive and I want to see both sides of the Parliament work as they should.
I say that the power used by the Opposition is badly based- it is distorted. The Opposition knows it is; it has no answer to that. If that is the case, if it is presently a partly corrupt power, it should not be used in the way the Opposition is using it. The Opposition knows that it frustrated the Government over the years in respect of almost countless Bills. It knows that it forced the Government to go to the electorate last year, when the Liberal Party and National Country Party were defeated. We now have a circumstance in which it is well known that the people of Australia are reacting against the Oppositionthey are coming out in support of the Government. They are doing this not because they like everything which the Government has done economically but because they believe that the Government is right and because they are acting in accordance with that innate basic philosophy of Australians that they want the Government to have a fair go. The Government is not getting a fair go. I say that the propositions contained in the amendment are false.
There is talk about incompetence of Ministers and the Prime Minister not maintaining proper control over the activities of his Ministers. He has maintained control; that is what the Opposition is complaining about. He has removed some Ministers and has changed some Ministers. He has taken action when a Minister has come into the Parliament and given wrong information. That is his job as Prime Minister. Some Ministers might not have liked it, and of course the Opposition laughed at the time the action was taken, but that is the proper function of government.
What is this all about? It is a situation where the Opposition is prepared to go to the brink; it is prepared to bring the whole economy of Australia into disarray. It is prepared, in fact, to stop the profitable activities of its backers. The great industries and the commercial people are going to get very concerned directly and are going to apply the brakes on what they started. What is the situation in relation to the Opposition’s backers? This morning in the other place
Mr Daly gave some figures which showed that last week Liberal Party advertisements were circulated throughout Australia about this matter. They were all tabloid stuff- headlines to attract the notice of people. They were not decent examinations of the political, economic or constitutional issues- at least they have not been up to now. Examples of the headlines in most of the papers are: ‘Go now, go decently’, ‘There must be a double dissolution’, ‘The time has come’, No more petty tricks, let the people decide’ and A doomed government’. This advertising cost $180,000 last week. Who is supplying the money?
– The multinationals, of course.
– Of course they are, senator. The great vested interests. Every time Labor gets into power it sets out on a course of great welfare programs, as honourable senators well know. Senator Webster is interjecting, but he, the operator of a timber mill, will be squealing directly. So far so good for him, but if the whole economy comes to a stop and there is a crisis- a defence situation, or a problem in Senator Cavanagh ‘s portfolio in regard to supplying police to airports- who is going to squeal then? Senator Webster will squeal- of course he will. The Opposition, of course, is setting out on this disaster program. In my opinion, the situation which is now disclosed is a most disastrous one for any opposition.
- Senator Devitt reminds me that Mr Fraser originally made what seemed to be a very reasonable statement in relation to what would be reprehensible, but we now know that as time went on he changed his mind. It would now appear that from the start he was setting course on what is now a contest for power. In March he said that governments should be allowed to serve their full term unless there was evidence of some extraordinary and reprehensible circumstances. There are no such circumstances, as everybody knows. Question time in this Parliament each day has disclosed that no such circumstances have been revealed. The critics expound and expand in the area of the power of the Prime Minister to control his Ministers, or not to control them. That, of course, has led to a situation about which the Parliament might be concerned, but it would be more concerned if, having any defects in mind, the Prime Minister took no action. He has taken action.
– You said he did not know anything about Mr Connor disobeying his instructions.
- Senator, you started off early in the year with this sort of nit-picking. All it is is a nit-picking exercise. No evidence was found, and yet the Opposition is trying to convey to the Australian people, who are now backing off from the Opposition, that the Government is at fault. You are asking the same nit-picking questions every day. The Opposition came into the Senate with the intention of doing- I will not repeat the phrase; it is well known outside- with the intention of changing the face of the Government by holding an inquiry in the Senate. What happened? The inquiry was abortive. Since that time what has the Opposition done? Day after day the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Wriedt) has been attacked and day after day the Opposition goes away defeated. The Opposition then returns the following day with the same notion and says: ‘Yes, we should go to an election’. The Government is not going to an election. The Opposition has failed to be a responsible Opposition. It has not discharged its duties in the way it should, that is, by properly examining and criticising the record of the Government. It has been able to establish nothing.
– Would you prefer Senator Hall’s suggestion to adjourn the Senate until 1 January?
– I have quoted what Senator Hall said. What did Senator Jessop do about crossing the floor? He is the famous senator from South Australia who was going to be courageous and not vote for the deferral of the Appropriation Bills. He got headlines in the newspapers. Senator Jessop got his name in the Advertiser again. Yes, he said, he would refuse to vote to block Supply! What happened? This week he appeared on television. I must say that at the end of his contribution on the radio program AM he rather weakened a bit. I think and I hope that in the weeks to come Senator Jessop will not only weaken but will back up completely to the position that he took in the Party room. I hope that other Opposition senators- everybody knows that Senator Missen is one of them- and other people will do the same. Honourable senators opposite talk about the struggles in the Labor Party. They have talked about the changes in the Labor Ministry. But let us look at the people who have been knocked over in the Liberal Party. John Gorton, an outstanding Australian-
– He will be coming back here shortly.
-No doubt he will be returned to this place. Although there was division amongst honourable senators opposite they got rid of Gorton and then they got rid of Billy Snedden. Now, in the aftermath of their failure to take over government, it may be that they will get rid of their present leader. No matter what the Opposition thinks, there is no doubt that in the public arena it must be clear to every rational observer that the Prime Minister is still the Prime Minister of Australia. He still has control of the Government. Not only has he control of the Government, but in my opinion he and his Government also have the support of the Australian people. I agree most strongly with his statement that no democratic government should take an action, in the situation promoted by this Opposition, to give away power. If we did that it could well mean the end of parliamentary democracy. So the Opposition has got to face the situation. Very soon now there will be a shutdown of the whole of the administration of the country. Construction work will come to a halt. The budgets in relation to many necessary construction works will be cut. The defence forces will be sitting on their tails and not able to move around the country or sail naval vessels. The people who have caused that situation are honourable senators opposite and not the Government. The Opposition should be held responsible for it. I had hoped that this morning the Opposition might have considered the request from the House of Representatives and again debated the issues in relation to this matter, instead of which it has taken the guilty way out and said: ‘No, we will not restore the Appropriation Bills to the notice paper’. The Opposition should be aware that it has got to face the consequences.
– The Commonwealth Constitution specifically and deliberately provides the means whereby a dishonest, corrupt and disastrously inefficient government may be removed from office and made to account for itself to the people at the ballot box. The founding fathers recognised that there could well come a time when such a circumstance might occur, and the Senate’s power and responsibility were written deliberately into the Constitution. The power exists, and because this Government is the worst government since Federation, because it is dishonest, because it is disastrously inefficient, because it has brought this country to the edge of economic chaos, the Senate Opposition, in company with the Opposition in the House of Representatives, is using the means and the responsibility provided for it in the Constitution to do one thing and one thing alone, that is, to ask the people of Australia to judge whether this is a good or a bad government- who shall deny it the right to do this in a democracy? It is a denial of democracy for a government to try to insulate itself against the ballot box. If the Government has nothing to fear, if it has done as well as the Postmaster-General (Senator Bishop) said, then why should it run from the people? It talks of the lack of democracy. The test of democracy is the ballot box.
Not only does this power exist, but the most eager people to use it over the past 2 decades have been the members of the Australian Labor Party. The most eager person to advocate it, both in its use and its philosophy, is the present Prime Minister, Mr Whitlam, who saw it as a necessary and a correct use of power by an opposition. The most eager person to use it- indeed, he used it 169 times in this chamber over 20 years- was the former Leader of the Government in the Senate, former Senator Murphy, who was elevated to the High Court of Australia on the judgment of the Labor Party. The fact that the power exists is beyond dispute. The fact that it ought to be used was demonstrated by Mr Whitlam who said yesterday that he thought that perhaps he was wrong in the past. Indeed, the present Leader of the Government in the Senate, Senator Wriedt, in response to a question asked of him, agreed and affirmed that he and his colleagues had used that power in the past. Instead of denying the power, he said it is a question of judgment whether or not the circumstances merited its use. The circumstance about which he was talking was a State receipts tax. Now we are talking about corruption, dishonesty and disastrous inefficiency. A judgment must fall on the side of the Opposition, and of course the public opinion polls overwhelmingly support our point of view.
I want to raise some 5 claims that are being peddled around the community and being misunderstood by the community I want to examine those claims, because we recognise that this is a great constitutional issue and the people of Australia deserve a full understanding of those 5 points. The first assertion- it is a wrong one, because each of the 5 claims is wrong- is that a government elected to office constitutionally should be permitted to remain in office for the whole of its term. That is asserted, but it is utterly wrong. It is wrong not only in terms of the Australian Constitution, but also in terms of the
Westminster system and the congressional system throughout the world, and I propose to demonstrate that contention. All that the Commonwealth Constitution does is to provide a maximum time for the Government to remain in office.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.1 5 p.m.
– It is not at all uncommon for a government in this country or in any other country not to run its full term- in this case a 3 year term- whether that is by choice or by compulsion. The Commonwealth Constitution makes provision for this either to allow choice or to compel. This should be understood. To argue that a short term of government will create instability or chaos is not only to deny the Constitution but also to deny both Australian history and British history. Australian history since Federation contains ample examples of governments which did not run their full term and no instability or chaos of the kind now murmured by the Government occurred.
It is strange that a government which would be quite willing, as was the Dunstan Government, to run short term, to pick the most popular time, short term, to go to the people to dodge the bad unpopularity of the Whitlam Governmentwhen the cock crowed 3 times it was disowned by Mr Dunstan- a government which said that it was good and that it could do so, now denies that the Constitution might compel it to run short term. What a strange thing. If it is constitutionally wrong, to prevent a government from running its 3 years, how is it that if 2 people cross the floor in the House of Representatives- there are at this moment at least 2 people with consciences who know in their hearts that the Government has misled the people- the Constitution provides that the Government will fall? If 2 people in the Government ranks in the House of Representatives died tomorrow, the Government would fall. What a strange situation that this can happen and there is no instability. But if section 57 of the Constitution is to be used, apparently instability will occur. I repeat that it is built into the Constitution that a government shall survive for a maximum of 3 years but that a government, by compulsion or otherwise, may be brought to the people in a shorter term. That red herring ought to be put aside straight away.
The second allegation that needs to be analysed runs something like this: The money power in a democracy ought not to lie in an upper House; that if it does, the evolution of the Westminster system suggests that it ought not to and the only reason it still lies in our Constitution is that we have not got around to amending the power. I want first of all to allay some myths on this claim. We are not as a Commonwealth Parliament modelled wholly or even substantially on the Westminster system. Our system represents a compromise between that system and the congressional system. The essential nature of the Senate, which is modelled largely on the American Senate in the American Congress, is fundamentally different from the Westminster system. Those who as lawyers look to constitutional matters should go back to the Constitutional debates and they will understand that the constitutional fathers deliberately pondered upon upper houses overseas and their limited powers and constructed an upper House here with powers specifically given to it, including this power which is now being used. It is useless to talk of the Westminster system because the upper House in the Westminster system, the House of Lords, is basically an hereditary systema House of the Crown, of the Kings, that can be stacked by nominees.
Of course, the principle of Parliament is this: The power of the purse, the power to tax the people and to control the taxes of the people should lie within the Parliament and should lie within the power of the elected people of the Parliament- not that it should lie in the Commons or the lower House, but that it should lie within the hands of those who are democratically elected, whether in the lower House or whether in the upper House. Quite clearly in England it could not lie in the House of Lords which is a House of the Crown and of heredity. Let us look to the principle. This is no outmoded thing. The whole principle of Federation and of this Parliament is based on the fact that the States would not agree to Federation unless there were a Senate interlocking in equal numbers each of the States and giving to that Senate virtually coequal power with the House of Representatives. Of course, it is quite clear that, with the exception of the lack of power to amend a money Bill, section 53 of the Constitution specifically provides in part:
Except as provided in this section, the Senate shall have equal power with the House of Representatives in respect to all proposed laws.
I emphasise the words ‘all proposed laws’. I repeat that if that power is given then there is a co-equal responsibility in looking at that power. I remind the Senate- I need not do so- that the Senate is as democratically elected in a general franchise of all the people of Australia as is the House of Representatives. The Senate gets a mandate as does the House of Representatives.
For those who are seeking to distort, I remind the people of Australia that they, through the ballot box- not by nomination- specifically gave to the Opposition a majority of senators over the Australian Labor Party. I remind them that there are specifically elected wholly and democratically by the people of Australia some 30 Liberal and National Country Party senators on the Opposition benches, not nominated in any way -
– There are 30 such senators fully elected by the people of Australia. I repeat that for the benefit of Senator Grimes. On this side of the House there are 30 Liberal and Country Party senators. There are 27 Labor Party senators and 3 Independent senators. They are the figures today and by the mandate of the people the Senate Opposition can, all of its members fully and democratically elected representatives, negative any legislation that is brought forward by this Government.
- Mr President, I rise to order. It is obvious that Senator Carrick is misleading the Senate by -
– What is the honourable senator’s point of order?
– The honourable senator is making a dishonest assertion in relation to the last election. There were 29 Liberal Party senators and there were 29 Labor Party senators.
– Order! This is a personal explanation.
– And also there were 2 Independents. Let us get the record straight.
– Order! No point of order arises.
– The attempt is to delay. The simple fact is that an Independent Liberal and a first class person, Senator Michael Townley, who was elected by the people of Tasmania has elected to join the people on this bench. I repeat that, including Senator Townley, there are in the Opposition 30 fully democratically elected senators. That cannot be gainsaid. If the Government wants to snarl about the position, it has a simple recourse and I commend it to it. If the Government wants to rid itself of the 2 nominated senators- I commend the process to it- it should have a general election. As soon as it has a general election, that process will take place and it will be democratic. Do not let the Government talk to us about the 2 nominees here. It has it within its power by way of a general election to remove these people and to replace them with fully elected senators. The simple fact is that the people of Australia must understand what we are doing is with the full mandate of the people of Australia.
I now pass to the next point that is alleged; that is, that the deferral or rejection of Appropriation Bills or Supply will create chaos. The simple situation is this: The Commonwealth Constitution gives the power to the Parliament to bring about a cessation of Supply specifically for the purpose of bringing a government to the people. When Supply cannot be maintained it is the duty of the Crown, whether in this country or elsewhere, to bring about a situation in which the government is accountable to the people. If the talk of Supply running out by mid-November is true, that is due to bad management in any case because the Government was given Supply to the end of November and beyond because the amount of Supply given in May of this year was at an even higher rate of spending than the projected 46 per cent increase of the year before. So do not let us talk to the people of Australia about running out of money. If the Government runs out of money it is because of its bad management. If the Government allows any one person in Australia not to be paid, not to get any money- the Government has now retreated, as it had to do, in relation to pensions and repatriation- it is the Government’s responsibility and nobody else’s responsibility because the Constitution compels it under these circumstances to go to the people.
The next point is that it is alleged that it would set a bad precedent for the future and that if this were to happen in the future and a government were to be brought to the people we would have unstable government forever. I want to say that governments have had short terms many times in Australia and no one has claimed that. But how is it that this would be the case? Under what circumstances would an Opposition bring a government to the people? Only if the government were so unpopular and so sustained in its unpopularity that the Opposition believed that by taking it to its judges- the people- the people would throw it out. There is the natural sanction that if a government is good, if a government is stable and if a government has not sustained unpopularity there will be no such instability.
I ask the Government: Is it suggesting that a government which is chronically unpopular- this one has been experiencing a period of sustained unpopularity for over a year now- should be protected from the proper judgment of the people? That is nonsense. That, of course, is the kind of thing that is being peddled. It is now being said, of course, that this is really just a tactic of the Opposition to seize power. That is, of course, the whole of the argument of the Government. How does an Opposition seize power? Is it like Hitler did, like Mussolini did or by the sovereignty of the people through the ballot box being transferred to it in accordance with proper democratic processes? What nonsense it is; what extravagance of language. When the Whitlam Government was elected it was, in its own euphemism, transferred to power because it had a glorious and devine right to govern, but if the Opposition were to be given a mandate to govern it would be, in the Government’s words, seizing power. Let me make it quite clear that neither the Government nor the Opposition can do anything without the people saying so.
If one looks at the kind of nonsense that is being talked one will see that it is not true. Not only is the power there in the Commonwealth Constitution but also there is the concomitant responsibility for an Opposition to use that power if the Opposition fe§ls that the government is so bad that the continuation of that Government in office would be disastrous for the people of Australia. Honourable senators opposite talk about the Opposition wanting, as an expedient tactic, to seize power. Is there anyone who doubts that over the course of the next year or 1 8 months, whenever we take the Australian Labor Party to the polls, it will be defeated in the most ignominious way since Federation? This is no expedient attempt on our part. Does anyone doubt that when we are elected to government we will inherit the worst mess of major problems that has ever been inherited and that the task before us will be a formidable one? This is no question of a seizure of power; this is an understanding of one important thing in the Constitution, that is, that if there is a power in the Constitution that gives a responsibility to an alternative government and that if an alternative government sat here and did nothing in the face of that power it would have abdicated its responsibility.
Does anyone here consider that he or she can with a clear conscience go to the people of Australia in January, February or March, having done nothing, and say to them: ‘Ha, ha, we told you that there would be 400 000 or 500 000 people unemployed. After all Senator James McClelland, in a belated confession long after the introduction of the Budget, told -us that that would be so. We told you that. Look at the December quarter figures on inflation and look at the collapse of companies. We, told you that that would be so. Look at your inability to build houses ‘? Ought not the people of Australia to say one simple thing to us, and that is: ‘You knew all this in November and December; you knew it was going to happen; you knew that there was going to be disaster; you knew ways of stopping or mitigating this and you did nothing in the knowledge that the Constitution has written into it the responsibility as well as the power to do something’. So do not let us have any more of the nonsense that is being talked about this being a reckless bid for power. Let me repeat again that Mr Whitlam, the former Senator Murphy and every Labor Party member of the Senate has tried to use that power here many times and has not resiled from it in any way. So we come to the situation in which our responsibility is this: If we are satisfied that this is the most dishonest government, the most corrupt government and the government of the worst economic disaster in history, it is our bounden responsibility to bring it to the electors.
In the short time that is now available to me I want to put what is the real test of this Government. The simple fact is that this Government has been a government of abysmal misconduct and behaviour, a government which has had to sack one of its Deputy Prime Ministers and an Acting Prime Minister in Dr Cairns and an Acting Prime Minister in Mr Connor for misleading the public, a government which has produced a prospective figure of 400 000 or 500 000 people unemployed by Christmas and its supporters grin- be it noted that they grin- and a government which admits that its Budget is now running in major deficit. The Government says that it has not been guilty of misconduct. I want to put that to a test. The test is not mine; the test is the Prime Minister’s. The Prime Minister, in sacking Mr Connor the other day, said:
The principle is that the Parliament must be able to accept assurances given to it by a Minister and if those answers prove to be misleading the Minister concerned must be held responsible.
So if someone can be proven to have misled the Parliament and the people he ought to be executed. One thing that is absolutely clear is that the Prime Minister of Australia has consistently over the months misled the people of Australia and has been guilty of the most reprehensible behaviour. It is the Prime Minister who was the initiator of the infamous overseas loans affair. It is the Prime Minister who was the Chairman of the Executive Council meeting and who plotted and planned at the Executive Council meeting the illegal and reprehensible act that was designed to bypass the Loan Council and the Treasury by pretending, corruptly, that it was a loan for temporary purposes when it was a loan for 20 years. He is the one who has said that when one puts on the test of misleading and it can be proven, the person concerned ought to go.
Clearly a Prime Minister of Australia who encouraged, initiated and signed an Executive Council minute which said that a loan was for temporary purposes when it was for 20 years and a Prime Minister who, with his senior colleagues, said that not a penny was promised to Khemlani and not a penny will be paid and who, while he was saying that, knew that in fact the way that they had got around that had been to provide not pennies but tens of millions indirectly by saying, If we pay him commission or brokerage fees directly we will have to have an Appropriation Bill and Parliament will not pass it, so what we will do is arrange with the lenders to increase the interest rate of the loan provided by Khemlani and then, of course, we can pretend and mislead the Parliament that not a penny was to be paid to Khemlani’, is a Prime Minister who should go. It has been said that not a penny was to be paid to Khemlani. Not much! He was to be paid tens of millions of dollars- $20m to be exact- on the short loan.
Let us now put another simple test. I put this test quite clearly to honourable senators opposite. Mr Connor was sacked on the evidence of Mr Khemlani. Let us get that clear. It was upon the published telex evidence of Mr Khemlani that Mr Connor was sacked. So the Prime Minister accepted Mr Khemlani, as he had done before, as a witness of truth. Well, if he is a witness of truth, when he said that the Prime Minister had been continuously in contact with Mr Connor and knew about the matter right throughout the loans raising compaign, presumably he was telling the truth and the Prime Minister was misleading the Parliament.
I put to the Senate and the people of Australia a simple test, since we are talking about credibility. Nobody now denies that Mr Connor and Mr Khemlani were actively engaged in arranging and negotiating a massive loan of $8,000m with the aim of bringing it to fruition quickly. Nobody denies that and that is why Mr Connor was sacked. It is not plain to everybody in the world that the condition precedent to Mr Connor setting out on this campaign must have been the assured knowledge that as soon as he said: ‘I have got this loan’, the Prime Minister and the Treasurer would say: ‘Good. We will go ahead with it’. There would have been no question of trying to persuade or cajole the Prime Minister into something because these things happen like that. Honourable members opposite say that Mr
Connor is an honourable man and that his intentions were good. The presumption, therefore, is that Mr Connor proceeded on one basis of absolute assurance and that was that the Prime Minister and the Treasurer would agree to the $8,000m loan as soon as the loan was negotiated. Why else would he do it? Do honourable senators think that after the July affair he would have proceeded if this were not so?
The simple situation is that the Prime Minister on prima facie evidence overwhelmingly stands convicted not only of misleading the Parliament but elso of being the person who at every stage plotted this overseas loan. He was the man who sat prior to the Executive Council minute and tried to work out the zays in which a promissory note could be designed zith Mr Khemlani in Canberra waiting for it. The Prime Minister says conveniently: ‘I never met the man’. He knew of course that he was waiting here for the loan to be agreed to and it was only because of the breakdown of the Executive Council minute that Mr Khemlani did not take home the booty as was planned. The Prime Minister said that not a penny would go to Mr Khemlani and he was plotting to put the loan in higher interest rates so that over 20 years of compound interest the Australian people would pay. Then he has the gall to sack the others. Does anybody, applying my test of Mr Connor and Mr Khemlani, reach any other conclusion than that the Prime Minister knew all along? If he knew all along he is more guilty than Cairns, he is more guilty than Connor and has misled the Parliament atrociously. This goes to the matter of dishonesty and misconduct which is now accepted.
This Budget was brought in and it was said by the Government that we would have a deficit of $2, 800m and an average unemployment figure of 250 000 people. Within weeks of its introduction the Minister for Labor and Immigration confessed that the unemployment figure would rise to 400 000 or 500 000 people. But there was not a word about it in the Budget Speech. There was total deception on this matter. There was not a word in the Budget Speech that the $2.8 billion deficit would almost double in the future because the Government had underestimated at every level and had overestimated the revenue from taxation. The Government members convict themselves out of their own mouths because in the Budget Speech the whole thesis was that if we allowed the expenditure of last year to run we would have double last year’s deficit of $2,500m and if that occurred there would be total disaster to Australia, terrible unemployment, hyperinflation. There would be absolute disaster. Now step by step it is being wrung out of the Government that precisely that situation will occur. Members of the Government are admitting that the deficit will be somewhere about $3.5 billion or $4 billion which is not far from the figure they said would be reached, that is, double last year’s deficit. The Government has deceived the people about the Budget as it has deceived the people about the loans affair and because it has done so we are asking for one thing, the democratic thing- that the Government should be accountable to the people of Australia through the ballot boxes.
– I rise to support the Government and the view propounded by Senator Bishop. We. have heard the previous speaker, Senator Carrick, adopt many postures but I feel that today his attitude was something like that of a felon in the dock, protesting too much and crying out to the people for clemency. Senator Carrick is well aware of a Gallup poll published as late as today showing a dramatic rise in support for the Government. But that is a passing reference. I feel I should make some reference to the integrity of governments. The fact is that in most of the situations that Senator Carrick talked about, the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) gave leadership. My mind goes back to 1963. I certainly was not in the Senate then, but what happened then is relevant to this talk of a cover-up job. There was an election in 1963 and the then Government sent its Minister for Defence, Mr Townley, to the United States of America to sign an agreement for Fill aircraft which had no escape clause- nothing like that obtained by the British Government. The result was that it cost the Australian taxpayers millions of dollars, and honourable senators opposite talk about inefficiency and mismanagement. It was only after that Defence Minister died years later that we gol any indication of just what the agreement was. The Opposition talks about ministerial conduct but it was no surprise to any of us, although I had not been here long at the time, when the man the Opposition hounded out of its Party, Senator Gorton, revealed the full story about the VIP flight manifests which showed that Peter Howson and others had deliberately lied. So honourable senators opposite should not put themselves up as paragons of virtue.
Senator Carrick referred to the founding fathers. Let us get away from all this humbug. He was then talking about a period at the turn of the century when the squattocracy and semimanufacturers were dominating Australia. I would like to believe that the people who are supporting this Government are the descendants, the follow-throughs, of the English Chartists and the Welsh, Scottish and Irish nationalists. I would like to believe also that the people who helped put this Government into office are those from Europe who thought parliamentary democracy would work here. As a matter of fact, a Greek friend of mine last week said that our country was supposed to be the home of democracy but we have seen the parliamentary system prostituted. After listening to Senator Carrick all I can say is that he is indulging in the actions of a whore in respect of parliamentary debates.
I want to take it a bit further, lt would do Senator Carrick good to watch the Australian Broadcasting Commission’s serial Ben Hall on Sundays when we saw how the then system was weighted against the little people. All of us hope and I know my ancestors and those of Senator Bishop hoped, that through a parliamentary system we will be able to make massive changes in society. I say without hesitation that we have. What are the alternatives? If the Opposition has its day of infamy and is successful in its current bid we will have a situation similar to that in Germany in the 1920s when the Social Democrats were hamstrung. I have used this analogy before. The fact then was that when Chancellor Bruening tried to deal with big financial interests he was denied certain expenditure. Of course, that saw the advent of Hitler. I put it to Opposition senators that this Government has been elected and is committed to bringing in innovation. If they deny us the opportunity to govern for the elected period of time to see these innovations work they should not expect Labor senators to go to the trade union movement or to any group and say that by evolution they can achieve their objectives because they cannot.
Let us take it a little further. Senator Carrick has the habit of chanting about elections, but he is dealing with a seasoned audience in this Senate. We know that elections get costlier and it is significant that his Party consistently refuses to curb or limit the amount of money that can be poured into any campaign. It is true that with the advent of a new government people often go with the winners. I do not suggest that we have reached the situation which was reached in Santiago, but I do know that when people from Malcolm Fraser down dine with the big manufacturers it goes against the grain of those people that the Governnent is bringing in innovations that will certainly result in a redistribution of income. But that is what the game is about. If the people elect a government for 3 years it is entitled to see out that period.
An argument has been advanced about whether the Senate has a mandate or the House of Representatives has a mandate. Let us be quite clear about the diabolical tactics in which the Opposition has indulged. Before the double dissolution last year the Government was in the middle of introducing a series of social reforms, not the least of which was Medibank. The Opposition gained time by seeking the double dissolution, to the extent that any of the running-in bugs that developed to a minor degree would have been remedied by now. The double dissolution gave the Opposition a certain tactical victory. We were returned to government. There was a Joint Sitting. Administratively, our program was slowed down. If the Opposition wants to play it that way, all right. Death is a great leveller. If the Opposition wants to win by walking over somebody’s coffin to get a decision, that is the Opposition’s business. That is what it did. There is no use the Opposition running away from that fact. Bob Askin, the Premier of New South Wales, was a hard man, but when Senator James Ormonde died the Premier replaced him with Jim McClelland who had always been a critic of Liberal Party policy. There was nothing new about Senator Murphy resigning to take up an appointment with the High Court. Many Attorneys-General had gravitated to the High Court. Most of them were from the Liberal Party or, as it was previously called, the United Australia Party.
The crowning indignity came after the demise of Senator Milliner. I think it is accepted that Senator Cleaver Bunton at least makes a contribution to a debate when he speaks. He is an expert on local government. What I like about him is that he is here each night until we adjourn. The other gentleman has hardly been in here. He has lowered the dignity of the Senate. I think his appointment was an insult to the people of Queensland. The IQ of a senator should be sufficient for him to understand whether a red light or a green light is flashing. If the Opposition likes to have those idiots to make up their numbers, that is a pretty poor attitude to democracy. One of the reasons we are determined to hang on- we make no apology for it- is that as a government we introduced the Medibank system. Whatever its imperfections, what was the alternative? The previous Government set up the very costly Nimmo Committee. There was also a Senate committee inquiry into various aspects of health insurance. The previous Government did not act on recommendations from either of those committees. When we brought in the Medibank system all the Opposition could do was indulge in carping criticism. I think the utterances by Mr Chipp, the Opposition spokesman on these matters, indicated at least a 90 per cent vindication of our legislation.
I go a little beyond that and refer to the aid for unsupported mothers and the maternity leave in the Public Service. They are pace-setters, whatever the Opposition may say about the cost factor. I have heard Liberal members refer to the former Premier of New South Wales, Mr Lang, and his role as a social security pacesetter but they ignored conservative objections to his innovations. In their eyes, the time for any social reform is never right. Look at the inglorious performance of the present Opposition parties in the late 1930s and their inability to introduce a national insurance scheme. All our problems would have been well and truly solved and we would not be debating these things now if they had showed a bit of statesmanship at that time. It is significant that a former Prime Minister, who has had the temerity in his dotage to take sides on a political issue, had his opportunity for greatness, but he failed dismally.
I deal further with these innovations. The Opposition talks about manpower policy. It knows that in any society under our form of government we do not use manpower directives. I throw this question at Senator Carrick and other senators who talk about the unemployment market: What would they do with manpower directives? Would they bring them in during peace time? They would not. They must allow for the ebb and flow of people from job to job. Numerous firms indulge in rationalisation from time to time. I saw it happen under the previous Government. I took a delegation to its white hope, Mr Tony Street, in respect of a rationalisation at John Lysaght (Australia) Ltd at Newcastle. I can assure the Senate that he did not wave any magic wand. If the ironworkers, the boilermakers and other craft union members had sat down in that establishment and said that they would not leave, the Opposition would have called it anarchy. The Opposition would have said: ‘You must accept the umpire’s decision’. What are honourable senators opposite doing? They are talking about the duration of a parliament. Their leader, Mr Malcolm Fraser, has suggested that we could have more stable government if a government had a 4-year term. We are not suggesting anything like a 4-year term. If we introduced legislation which followed the British system of having a government for 5 years, I can just imagine Senator Carrick and his colleagues saying that we were giving ourselves an additional mandate to which we have no right. I would accept that argument.
What is all this hoo-ha about? We are saying, rightly, that members of the House of Representatives are not suffering public demonstrations in their electorates, as the New South Wales Premier, Tom Lewis, is in Wollondilly. Mr Mallam, the member for the neighbouring electorate, has been asked to do the job. I know that Senator Carrick will say that it may be a political gimmick. If it is a political gimmick and if the Opposition is doing this on a national basis, from the Prime Minister down we will tough it out. I can assure the Senate that if the situation does not go the way we want it to go, at every opportunity I will use my influence to tell people: ‘If Parliament does not work you will have to adopt other measures’. I do not want to do that. I have always said that half a loaf is better than no bread. The point I am making is that the Opposition is anxious to get into power to stifle the various social security initiatives which we have taken. It is significant that the Opposition is not prepared to give us any specific budget alternative. When the House of Representatives has finished its term of office, if the people are prepared to say that we did not do enough, all right. I tell the Senate this: We are determined that the time the Opposition cost us by forcing a double dissolution will count. We will proceed with all our various pieces of legislation.
There has been talk about the former Minister for Minerals and Energy. It is said that imitation is the most sincere form of flattery. Take the famous, or infamous, Queensland State Government. After Mr Connor adopted a tough stand because he felt we were underselling our mineral products, the Queensland Government renegotiated most of its mineral agreements. There is another classic example. The Opposition’s spokesman on mineral resources said that the minimum requirement in mining companies was 50 per cent Australian control. Honourable senators opposite and I know that it was only the tough attitude that we took with mining companies that brought about that re-thinking. As a conservationist I may use stronger words in this chamber on different occasions, but mining companies are like everybody else. When they see a changing attitude of the people at large they must adopt a different tack. The attitude of the Opposition on minerals now is a lot different from what it was in the years between 1 969 and 1972 when people such as Senator Keeffe and others argued that it was time for a complete change.
I deal now with the question of civil liberties. I can recall speaking in the Senate on numerous occasions about people who were denied citizenship. Senator Murphy was much maligned in this chamber, but he did not waste any time amending the Crimes Act. He removed some very iniquitous sections. Senator Baume has referred to the Liberal Party’s prospect of having a new senator after the next Senate election, whenever it is held. I would ask that new senator to state in his maiden speech whether he wondered why his party did not introduce this reform. The position is the same with pension portability and so many of the things that we introduced. We make no apology for them. I refer now to the question of unemployment. The previous Government lived on our performances, particularly in relation to the Snowy Mountains project. It was one of the greatest absorbants of the work force in this continent. The nearest the previous Government could get to it was the Ord River project. I say to the people of Australia: ‘When you talk about national vision, look at the dividends from the Snowy Mountains scheme’. That was the brain child of a Labor Prime Minister, Ben Chifley, who was supported by a statesmanlike Premier of New South Wales, Sir William McKell. When one compares the dividends from the Ord River scheme with the dividends from the Snowy Mountains hydro-electric scheme, there is only one answer. The far sightedness of an Australian Labor Government greatly exceeded that of the people who embarked upon the Ord River project as an election gimmick.
I want to take this a little further. Under successive Liberal and Country Party Ministers, the Department of Labour did very little research into the effects of automation upon the Australian workforce. It is rather significant that it was a Labor Minister, Clyde Cameron, who introduced incentives for additional apprentices. I think that those honourable senators who were members of Estimates Committee F would be well aware that already there has been an increase in the number of apprentices, particularly in the metal and building trades. When this issue is faced, I say to the people of Australia that the Government makes no apology for the various innovations it has introduced. I think it will be significant historically that very few of them will be changed. There is a parallel between the national health scheme of the Attlee Labour Government in Britain and some of the innovations of this Government. I know that a small number of people in the Liberal Party probably agree with these schemes, but of course they have always been steamrollered by the hard liners. I simply say that whether it has been in dealings with the trade union movement, the conservation groups or any other people, it has been my lot as a Labor senator to have to defend the Government’s actions. We all have to do that and say: ‘We were able to do this. We were not able to do that.’
But what is the Opposition suggesting now? It is suggesting that the Government has to surrender power in the middle of a particular program and simply shut up shop. Members of the Opposition know in their hearts when they talk about the ballot box and democracy that we do not have a democratic system. At the next Senate election, if there are two hundred or three hundred candidates the Opposition will see that a mockery is made of the ballot? I have made certain suggestions to Senator Withers by way of interjection on several occasions, but nothing has been forthcoming. The Opposition and the big powerful monopolies behind it think that they can take a short cut to office in the same way as occurred in Greece, in Germany after World War I or in Chile. Situations that occurred in those countries have not occurred here because, to be quite frank about it, the main theme of people outside this Parliament is this: Let the bastards have 3 years. Those people do not always have a high opinion of the Government, but they like to see members of Parliament serve their 3 years, earn their money and introduce legislation.
I conclude as I commenced: The people who put this Labor Government into office are not gulled by this stupid idea about what the founding fathers thought. Legislative councils may be houses of review but, after all, the emergence of Australia in a proletariat form has meant that people with those old attitudes, whether in the Upper House in South Australia or elsewhere, are not acceptable. I am not one to cry stinking fish about this Senate. If and when there is an election for half the Senate and we get back a very illustrious statesman in the person of former Senator John Gorton, I will welcome him. I found, from my dealings with some of the former Ministers in the Senate, that at least former Senator Gorton would get answers. On the question of estimates and information, I say to Senator Carrick that in two successive years I had information from United States congressman O’Hara about corruption in Vietnam, but I could never get an answer from the Government about how Australian aid was being spent in Vietnam. Even people like Peter Samuels and Denis Warner accepted that situation in a grudging way. If former Senator John Grey Gorton comes back to this Senate and joins a person like Senator Hall, who really has a national attitude, well and good. I will have no regrets when Senator Field fades out, but I will have an honest regret if Senator Cleaver Bunton is not with us. Whatever the difficulties might be and whatever passions we might have, we are in the middle of both a vast social security experiment and the injection of nationalism into mineral policy, and Senator Cleaver Bunton is prepared to evaluate every issue on its merits. As far as Senator Townley is concerned, I will let the people judge him. He came into the Senate allegedly as an Independent. We are told that he had a moratorium on his Liberal Party membership in Tasmania. When Senator Carrick talks about personal integrity, I think it is time he looked at the people in his own ranks.
– I rise to support the amendment of the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Withers). It has once again set out the attitude of Opposition senators with regard to delaying the Bills at present before the Senate. I want to refer briefly to some of the comments of Senator Mulvihill in the speech he has just made. He referred to former Senator Gorton and the tabling in the Senate of the VIP flight papers. I parallel that with the situation of the present Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Wriedt), now the Minister for Minerals and Energy, and the repeated requests from the Opposition for him to table in the Senate the papers relating to the overseas loan borrowings. Senator Wriedt repeatedly has made comments that the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) is dealing with questions on notice and that it will take some time to put together the papers relating to this subject that the Prime Minister wishes to be released. What we are asking for is all of the papers, not selectivity with regard to those papers. We would like to see them all because we believe that then the act of conspiracy that was created on 13 December will be revealed for what it was and for what it has continued to be. It is with those sentiments that the Opposition again repeats in this debate that it wants a tabling of the papers as they exist at the present time.
I am delighted to hear of the interest of the Government- a newfound interest- in the parliamentary institution and in the Constitution of Australia. To have some recognition of the importance of these institutions is something that should be more finely developed than it has been by members of the Government in the recent past. To talk of a breakdown of democracy, as
Senator Mulvihill has, is, in his terms, to be inciting revolution. I remind him that 2 elements that are very important in the revolutionary process are massive inflation and a breakdown of the economic process in any country and a disregard for the rule of law. I suggest that the present Government has developed to an alarming degree both of those components for a breakdown of democracy.
Let me talk about the present political crisis. It has been referred to as a constitutional crisis. It is a crisis about whether the people of Australia will be able to vote for a government and whether they will be able to deal at the ballot box with the situation that has arisen. The emphasis and the understanding of this present crisis have been placed quite improperly before the Australian people. The Opposition in the Senate is being blamed for the possibility of short supply after 30 November. The responsibility to gain supply for Government purposes rests with the Government, and if the Government is unable to gain supply through the parliamentary process it can no longer continue to govern. It should accept that as an inescapable fact and deal with the situation as an act of responsibility and not with the continuing irresponsibility which we see. It is the action of a responsible government to be able to have appropriation for government purposes and it is the action of a responsible government in terms of our Constitution to have supply dealt with by both House of Parliament and approved by both Houses of Parliament.
We have heard a whole lot of words from the Prime Minister about the constitutionality of the present situation. Indeed, the message which was sent last night from the House of Representatives referred to this. The Opposition would remind the Prime Minister, although he already acknowledges it, that in this country the system of parliamentary democracy is that we have at the head a monarch, that we have 2 Houses of Parliament, and that a Bill cannot be enacted unless it passes through both Houses of the Australian Parliament. The compact of Federation in the formation of this great nation was that there would be an Australian Senate, and I believe that, without contest, the Australian Senate now has the powers to deal with all Bills and to deal especially with money Bills in the way in which it is dealing with them at the present time. To suggest otherwise is to highlight the inconsistency of the Prime Minister in the statements which he has been making in recent days. A day or two ago a headline appeared in the Press which stated that the Prime Minister will curb the power of the Senate. The day before that, he was suggesting that we did not have the power. He seems again to be overlooking that it is the Australian people who will alter the Australian Constitution and not an action from the Prime Minister who decides that he will change the powers and curb the powers of the Australian Senate as they exist.
We also remind him that he would need to gain a majority of the votes in a majority of the States of this country to change the Australian Constitution. He has been singularly unable to do that by amendments to the Australian Constitution, which he repeatedly is placing before the Australian people. I want to come back to the basis of the present impasse, the deadlock which has arisen and the reason for it. As far as I am concerned, the reason is that this Government has been a government which has abused the trust that has been given to it by the Australian people. The act of government is an act of trust between government and people. When a government tries to by-pass the institution of Parliament and when it tries to by-pass all the established processes that have existed, there is a breakdown in government and the people are the first to recognise this.
The breakdown of government has originated in the one act- I would be prepared to test this before the Australian people- of illegality which took place on 13 December last year. I refer to the act of illegality which took place at the meeting of the Executive Council at which 4 members of the Government were present. Three members of that Government no longer serve in the capacities which they then held. The Prime Minister is the remaining member. The consistent factor in this act of conspiracy was perpetrated at the formation of the Executive Council meeting and has been developed through these months. It is being unveiled to the Australian people only by the act of the free Press in Australia which has used its processes to print the truth as it finds it. We would like to have all of the truth but we have enough of the truth and enough recognition by government of the truth that this Government is no longer able to hold the trust which the Australian people gave to it as a government to act in the interests of the whole of Australia.
The meeting, of the Executive Council on 13 December devised a process by which it could by-pass the Treasury and the Australian Parliament and by which it could mislead the Australian people so that the enormous sum of $4,000 m could be borrowed. As we have tried to determine the purposes for this loan, mistruths and half-truths have emerged from members of the Government and from the Prime Minister. I refer to Hansard of the House of Representatives of 20 May when the Prime Minister was asked by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Malcolm Fraser) for what purpose did he seek the loan. The Prime Minister said that the loan was sought for matters related to energy. He was also asked whether he sought the approval of the Loan Council, as he must constitutionally do if he requires sums to be borrowed on behalf of the Australian people. He was also asked whether he had informed the Loan Council. He acknowledged that he had not. I am talking about 5 months after the date of the Executive Council meeting. But the Prime Minister did say that he would seek the approval of the Loan Council. The inconsistency in that answer, that one answer alone on 20 May, is enough for us to question the veracity of the Prime Minister and his Ministers at the Executive Council meeting.
The fact that the Prime Minister described the loan as being for termporary purposes, in his terms, meant that he did not need to seek the approval of the Loan Council. Yet in his answer of 20 May he said that he would do so. That was a cover up for the first time. The second cover up was the purpose for which the loan was sought and the Prime Minister indicated that it was for matters related to energy. It was not until we debated the matter in the Senate that the Minister for Labor and Immigration (Senator James McClelland) tabled the Executive minute. The explanatory memorandum which was attached to it indicated that the Australian Government needed immediate access to substantial sums of non-equity capital from abroad for temporary purposes, amongst other things, to deal with exigencies arising out of the current world situation and the international energy crisis, to strengthen Australia’s external financial position, to provide immediate protection for Australia in regard to supplies of minerals and energy and to deal with current and immediately foreseeable unemployment in Australia.
We ask at this stage: Does that explanatory memorandum substantiate the Prime Minister’s answer to the Parliament of Australia on 20 May that the purpose for the loan was for matters relating to energy? It is not a complete answer. It is not a truthful answer but perhaps I will say more about that later. On 21 May when the Prime Minister was asked further questions about overseas borrowings by the Leader of the Opposition, he then said that the authority had been revoked. What happened between 20 May and 21 May to change these special circumstancesthe supply of minerals and energy, the unemployment immediately foreseeable in Australia, the world situation, the international energy crisis and so on? How is it that a government can take decisions of such magnitude and then change them because it was uncovered that their purpose was an act of conspiracy and that act was illegal in terms of the Australian Constitution?
I want to go further and show that the Prime Minister was less than honest on 2 1 May when he said that the authority had been revoked. Honourable senators may recall the Prime Minister’s Press conference on 10 June when he answered questions which related to his answer of 21 May. He said:
I informed the House that the authority given to the Minister for Minerals and Energy in connection with a proposed $2 billion loan had been revoked.
He said that the authority had not been renewed. He went on further, after making some statements with regard to a loan that was being negotiated at the same time by Dr Cairns, to say:
Henceforth, no person has authority to do anything in relation to borrowings by the Australian Government unless it is done with Mr Hayden ‘s authority.
Mr Hayden is the present Treasurer. I place in question that statement of the Prime Minister because we have reason to believe that Mr Connor enjoyed the authority of the Prime Minister from 2 1 May when he said that the authority had been revoked until this date of 10 June when he said: Henceforth no person has authority’.
The Prime Minister is very clever in his use of words. On 10 June when he used the word henceforth’ he meant from that date he had cancelled the authority to the Minister for Minerals and Energy and not on 2 1 May as he had advised the Australian Parliament. These are matters that have led to the situation at the present time. We are using the only mechanism available to the Australian Parliament to force this Government to the Australian people for their verdict. The breakdown I spoke of earlier with regard to government and administration was felt intensely at the time of the loan agreement. The breakdown arose because the officers of the Treasury and their services as they exist around Australia for international money transactions had been ignored by the Government. The breakdown that we are now seeing in the Parliament is the important and the last step in forcing a government because of its act of conspiracy to the Australian people for their verdict. The fact that the Government by-passed the Treasury, the Loan Council and the Parliament in these matters cannot be stressed too strenuously at this stage so that the Australian people will understand that all of the checks and balances that do exist in the Australian Parliament have been ignored by the Government and the safeguards that should exist between government and people have not been preserved.
It was with some dismay this week that I read of the attitude of the present Deputy Prime Minister (Mr Crean) who suggests that if the Government is unable to have the Appropriation Bills passed by the Australian Parliament it would then pay the amounts while it is still collecting taxation. I wonder what act of irresponsibility “that would set in motion. What instructions would be given to officers of the Treasury and officers of other departments in terms of their responsibilities as members of the Australian Public Service to suggest that they should pay cheques or that they could negotiate payments in the name of the Australian people without the Appropriation Bills as they exist in our parliamentary structure?
There would be no parliament in the world that would allow the passage of funds of the people of any country to be paid without an appropriation from the Parliament. That is the system under which we live. For the Deputy Prime Minister to suggest that that could be undertaken is something that I find very disturbing. When we look at the amount of funds that were to be borrowed in terms of the overseas loan market, the sum of $4,000m sounds a large amount. But it is not very much when we compare it with the deficit which is provided in the Budget and with what we know will arise before new Appropriation Bills can be brought into the Parliament to deal with the situation. The amount of $4,000m which the Government firstly required is approximately the same as the amount contained in this year’s Budget. I pose the question quite seriously: Were these the temporary purposes which the Government had in mind when it sought this overseas loan, with the subterfuge which it used so that the Parliament, the people and the Treasury of Australia would not know of its existence? Is this the situation which Mr Crean is describing when he speaks about paying money without an appropriation from Parliament? If we had $4,000m sitting in a bank somewhere in the United States of America, we could selectively pay the responsibilities of government at this time, bypassing the Parliament. The whole’ conspiracy started with an act of the Executive Council which bypassed the Parliament.
These are the things which we think need to be placed in balance with our understanding of the requirement for continuity of government. It is our understanding that Parliament must have the supreme power over the actions of the Government as it appropriates the funds of the people of this country. It has been suggested that the Senate had no right to hold up money bills. The Leader of the Opposition (Senator Withers) in his amendment has described the action which we propose to take to delay the Appropriation Bills. We have reiterated the requirements which we have before we will allow the passage of these Bills. I hope it was not lost sight of by the Government that the Leader of the Opposition very responsibly said that we were delaying these Bills so that the Parliament still would have control of them. He made the point when moving our amendment to the motion that we require control of the Bills at this stage because of statements by the Government, by the Deputy Prime Minister and because we know that this Government is prepared to bypass all the processes of administration and Parliament as they exist in our established system of government.
These are our requirements at this time. It is for this reason that we have no hesitation in saying to the Australian people that this Government has shown the dishonesty which requires it to face them for their verdict. We are using the mechanism of the elected senators in this country to force this Government to the Australian people. It is a situation where a government without integrity is too dangerous to be allowed to remain. It is a situation for which the Constitution of Australia has already provided in that it provides a means of dealing with a deadlock between the 2 Houses of Parliament. There is no danger to true democracy when the people have a right to use the processes that are in their own Constitution to deal with this very situation. The Prime Minister should recognise that he no longer has the right to govern because he no longer can find support in both Houses of Parliament for his Bills. It is a situation which, in constitutional terms, has already been foreseen. It is a situation which does not create a crisis because provision is quite specific in relation to a double dissolution mechanism which exists at the present time because some 22 Bills have been twice rejected by the Opposition in the Senate. There is a clear duty on the Prime Minister not to create a crisis but to use the constitutional process and to advise the Governor-General that the Prime Minister no longer can govern this country and that he must take his Government to the people for their verdict.
These are the important things which I think have been clouded because of the way this situation has been dealt with in recent days. I think it is timely that we use the Parliament to explain to the Australian people that their verdict is required on a government which, through its conspiracy, has lost the trust of the Australian people, and which no longer has the right to govern. I cast to one side the objections which I have to the economic mismanagement which this Government has shown. I believe that the people of Australia long ago made up their minds about that. The economic mismanagement, as we have seen it, has destroyed the very process of government. It has destroyed the standard of living in this country. It has disturbed very greatly those of us who care about the future of Australia. But I put that to one side in dealing with the present Appropriation Bills because they have been constructed by the Government having regard to the way in which it wants to govern. The basis of these Bills points out the Government’s objectives. I put that to one side at this stage. I deal instead with the responsibility of the Senate to use the only mechanism available to it to force a government, which has carried out the dishonest practices to which I have referred, to face the Australian people.
This Government could be referred to as a paper government. It has required from all of us so many pieces of paper to be filled in, it has sent out so many pieces of paper describing its policies and programs and its approach to government, and yet the pieces of paper which we really require are those which the Leader of the Government in the Senate refuses to table in the Senate and which the Prime Minister refuses to table in the House of Representatives. We would like to see not a selected group of documents with regard to the loans affair. We would like to see all the documents. We would like to know that no longer are the meetings of the Executive Council in conspiracy against the processes of Parliament and the practices of this country. We would like to see the Government at last reveal all those things which we believe are important. These things should be within the knowledge of the Parliament to enable it to deal with the practices of government. It is somewhat disturbing, in the way that this matter has been revealed, to know that it was by the use of the free Press in this country that the people have become aware of the situation. I suggest that we place into balance the fact that it is the free Press which has had the suggestion from the Government that it should discuss with the Government the right to hold a licence to print newspapers and to be part of the mass media communication in this country. If we put that into balance with the fact that we cannot get information in the Parliament, and that we may somehow devise a system whereby we can license newspapers or the other means of mass communication, we reach a situation of very grave concern when we are talking about dealing with the financial responsibilities of government as they relate to the Australian people.
It is for all these reasons that having had many messages from people whom I respect and who are concerned at this time- and I have had many more messages from people who are obviously supporters of the Government in relation to dealing with this situation- I insist, as an elected senator for Australia, that the constitutional provisions to deal with the deadlock between the 2 Houses of Parliament should immediately be put into operation by the Prime Minister. His advice to the Governor-General should be to arrange immediately an early election so that all the hardship which seems to be forecast in some detail by the Government can be avoided. I again stress the point that the emphasis on the present crisis is in juxtaposition to the real facts as they are, because the responsibility for Supply rests with the Government. If it is unable to gain Supply it is no longer the Government of this country. Accordingly, it should take action to deal with the situation. It should allow the democratic process to take effect so that we can have a government elected which will have the confidence and trust of the Australian people. In turn, that government will have an understanding that the Australian people should have better access to sound administrative processes than those that have been developed since December 1972. I support the amendment which was moved by the Leader of the Opposition. I assure the people of Australia who have an interest in this situation that as a member of the Opposition I feel it is my duty to deal with this situation as it exists.
– I am rather pleased that Senator Guilfoyle in the final stages of her speech decided to speak about the free Press which operates in Australia. I shall tell honourable senators a little about the free Press which operates in Australia. This information is taken from an article written by journalists about journalists. There is a reference to the newspaper about which I know most- the West Australian, that supposedly unbiased disseminator of news throughout Western Australia. This is what a journalist has to say about the editor of the West Australian:
The West Australian has been called the most biased daily newspaper in Australia. Its support for the Liberal Party extends beyond editorials into the selection of stories and even advertisements. The man who controls ‘the West’ is small, dapper Fred Morony.
What is Mr Morony ‘s background? He was a journalist. He came up through the ranks. He is supposed to have a rapport with the people who work beneath him. In this article he is referred to as one of the most powerful men in the Western Australian media. The article continues:
These men (no women on the bridge at W.A. Newspapers) direct the gathering and presentation of the news that most Australians will read, see and hear about the West.
For W.A. Newspapers is also in the business of selling news elsewhere, which it does to friendly and rival newspaper chains in the East-
And why should it not? It is owned by the Herald and Weekly Times, so why should not it disseminate its news through those channels? The article continues:
Which means that if these men decide that an event will be ignored or a viewpoint rejected then the chances are high that you will remain forever ignorant.
That is the free Press about which Senator Guilfoyle spoke earlier. That is the free Press that has never yet seen fit to publish an advertisement offered by the trade union movement without the threat of industrial action being taken by the trade union movement in Western Australia. There was the event which occurred only quite recently when the trade unions wanted to mention the name of a person who was not a member of the Labor Party in a political advertisement to be inserted by the trade union movement. The advertisement was in danger of not being published on the advice of Mr Fred Morony because he did not think that the trade union movement or the working people in the West should be allowed to express their points of view in paid advertisements- although he felt that advertisers could do what they liked as far as the consumers of news in that State through the West Australian are concerned.
I understand that last night in the program This Day Tonight on the Australian Broadcasting Commission- that favourite of the members of the Opposition- there was a quite interesting segment on the bias of the Western Australian newspapers. It might be interesting to get a biased report about the biased reporters. It certainly would not do any harm. Let us look at what is said in the New Press, lt says:
Journalists are popularly supposed to be relentless seekers of the truth, iconoclasts all, firing penetrating questions at society’s most powerful figures.
The Truth is far distant.
I remind honourable senators opposite that this article was written by a journalist about journalists. It continues:
The questioning stops outside. The staff at W.A. Newspapers, like the staff in any big organisation, worry about maintaining the mortgage repayments as much as anyone else.
If there’s to be a revolution in the W.A. media palace it won ‘t start among the guards.
The hierarchy of W.A. Newspapers is top heavy. The managing director, Keith Duncan Macpherson, an accountant, presides over the whole company, but taking his orders from the board of the Herald and Weekly Times in Melbourne where he was formerly general manager.
I am just disseminating some of the news that is disseminated about newspapers in Western Australia. Further on the article states:
The West today is certainly a better paper . . . but that statement has nothing to do with the quality of the writing or the objectivity of the reporting.
So much for Senator Guilfoyle ‘s free Press! Further on in the article it states:
Morony knows how to steer clear of trouble The hatred of his company- so deeply felt by the intelligentsia and the young- pass him by. The West supports the party with the best policy. That’s it. That’s always it. The West has never supported the ALP. But then the ALP has never come up with the right policy.
When Morony made one of his rare excursions into the outside world and met the Country Women’s Association he was astounded at their anger. They wanted the Women’s pages abandoned because they claimed these segregated women from the rest of society.
What was Mr Morony ‘s answer to the people from the Country Women’s Association? He removed the heading ‘For Women’ from across the top of the pages in the newspaper. He left everything else alone. He even includes the listing ‘Women’ in the index. The article concludes by saying:
A man who knows those who know what’s good for W.A.
Surely the only thing which can defeat this man is a board, change in Melbourne, poor health from the pressures of the job, or a drop in sales.
Yet the consumers of news in Western Australia are left without any alternative. We find that the only 2 daily newspapers are controlled by the one organisation. We do not have freedom of the Press in Western Australia. We do not have the freedom to say what we want to say and know that it will be reported. If one wants a typical example of that one has only to look at the front page of Monday’s Daily News where it was claimed that 200 people attended a rally in Kwinana. The West Australian the next morning was a little more optimistic; it said that 500 people attended the rally. The ABC was just about right; it said that more than 1000 people attended the rally. That was only one misprint on the front page of” the Daily News. The other one was attributed personally to me. That story was also incorrect. When listening to Senator Guilfoyle a little while ago I was reminded of
Mrs Margaret Thatcher in the British Parliament who said quite recently that a terrible thing is happening in Britain. That terrible thing is that the rich are getting poorer and the poor are getting richer. That is a terrible thing to be happening in such a great nation as Britain. It is a terrible thing to be happening in a great nation like Australia, but that is what has been happening to the people in Australia under this Australian Government. They are getting a more equitable share of the wealth of our great country.
I think that it is rather tremendous of the Opposition to have designated this time on this day for this debate to commence, because we must remember that honourable senators opposite had an opportunity last night to commence this debate. They were the ones who deferred it until today when the proceedings are being broadcast to the nation at large. Whilst I, having worked in radio, advertising and the publicity field, would be one of the first to admit that the audience listening to the broadcast of parliamentary debates is not generally very large, I assure honourable senators that at this point of time more people are listening to the broadcast of the parliamentary debates than have ever listened to it in the past or are likely to listen to it in the future, because it is the people’s future that hinges on what happens in this chamber today, tomorrow and next week. It is the future of the people of Australia.
We have had the experience of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Malcolm Fraser) in the other House telling the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) that he should go to the people. He did go to the people to find out what they were thinking on this issue. He went to the people in Melbourne last Monday, and his representatives went to the people in South Australia and in Western Australia last Monday and will do so again later this week.
– And in Tasmania.
– And in Tasmania. I had not neglected Tasmania. I intended in a moment to refer to Tasmania where there was the largest crowd that has ever attended a rally of that sort in Tasmania. We have only to look at what happened outside this Parliament House on Thursday of last week when there was a demonstration by the Australian people who are concerned that the lifeblood of this country is in danger of being denied to the Government. We have to acknowledge the demonstration that took place outside this Parliament House yesterday. It was a demonstration organised by the Liberal Party and its supporters who came along with their placards which stated: ‘Gough is going, great! ‘
They were drowned out by the number of supporters of democracy who came along and said: Fraser should not be doing what he is doing’. Of course, on the advice of his market researchers he has gone too far; he cannot find the face to back down. These are the market researchers who only last week said that about 3.5 per cent of the population would express some form of concern if he denied Supply in the Senate. They said that only a very small percentage of the population was in any way concerned about the matter. These are the same market researchers, one presumes, who gave the Opposition advice in April of last year that the threat to refuse Supply would not upset anyone a great deal and that it had every chance of winning in any subsequent action taken by the Government. The market researchers were proved wrong yesterday, as they were 1 8 months ago and would be again in the event that Mr Whitlam decided to have an election- and it is going to be Mr Whitlam ‘s decision, not the decision of the members of this Opposition who see themselves in the role of the God-given right to rule.
This is what this is all about. It is not about political convention or constitutional democracy. That has nothing to do with it. This debate is taking place at the moment purely and simply because the people on the Opposition benches cannot bear to sit there. They have been there since December 1972 and they do not like it. They would like to see the Australian Labor Party back on the Opposition benches and they will pull out all stops to make sure that that happens.
We heard Senator Margaret Guilfoyle saying that we were inciting revolution and that we held a disregard for the rule of law. We are not inciting revolution; we are looking for democracy in this country because we are one of the few democratic nations left in a world that is torn with strife at the moment. We are one of the few democratic nations that in actual fact can hold its head up- or could until last week- and say: ‘We are a democracy and we believe that every person in this country has the right to vote on issues’. But how often are they expected to vote? We have had 2 very expensive elections since the beginning of December 1972 and now this irresponsible Opposition wants to see us go back and have another one. I doubt that we have even been able to pay for the last election, but already the Opposition is saying to the taxpayers of Australia: ‘Let’s have another election. Let’s give you the opportunity to vote. We have plenty of money in the kitty to finance an advertising campaign. We have plenty of money to put out our “how to vote” pamphlets and all our literature that is necessary with an election’.
- Mr Daly detailed it all in the House of Representatives today. They were very illuminating figures.
– I am sorry that I was not able to hear Mr Daly’s remarks, senator. Thank you for drawing my attention to them. We have heard the phrase used many times that this democratic constitutional activity that we are involved in at the moment is a political innovation. I do not think it is. I do not see it that way. I see it as rape, pure and simple- rape of democracy, rape of the people of Australia- and the Opposition’s attitude is that of the rapist who argues that any damage that is done is caused by the resistance of the victim. I presume that the Opposition would argue that non-resistance is consent, but this Government intends to resist and the people of Australia will not consent to rape.
It is not the Government that is at stake at the moment; it is not the Prime Minister; it is not individual members of Parliament. It is the people of Australia. This confrontation is no longer just a political confrontation between Labor and Liberal-National Country parties. The Senate cannot any longer claim that it is a States house of review because not one member of the Opposition has taken into consideration the feelings of any of his electors inside his State. We are not debating whether the States have rights in this House or anything else. We are debating whether, in actual fact, the Government will permit the Opposition to continue on this course of suicide as far as Australia is concerned.
We heard the comments of members of the Opposition about constitutional convention at the time of Premier Lewis’s actions in New South Wales on the appointment of Senator Bunton. They said that the appointment was not very nice of Premier Lewis; that it was an established convention that when a senator retired or died he should be replaced by a member of the same Party. We heard them express their views about convention at the time that Premier Joh Bjelke-Petersen- the workers’ friend in Queensland- appointed a non-Labor Party person to fill the vacancy caused by the death of Senator Bertie Milliner. We heard them say that that was not in accordance with established convention and that the Premier should do the right thing and recognise that there are traditions; that he should appoint a Labor Party person to fill the place. Yet they took advantage of the place not being filled by a Labor Party person to win the vote in this House last week and to continue in this manner today.
It is the intention of these members of the Opposition here to extort as much as they can from the communities throughout Australia by denying them the right to have funds available to continue. They will be denying them the money that should be made available for pensions. They will be denying them the money that should be available for hospitals. They will be denying them the money that should be available for those dependent on social security. They will be denying them the right to live in decency and in dignity.
Even in Western Australia, where we have our own natural disaster in Sir Charles Court as Premier, it has never been envisaged that an upper House had the power to refuse Supply. In the days of the Hawke Labor Government, when the Opposition had a working majority in the Upper House, the Legislative Councilgerrimandered incidentally, to ensure that they always had a majority in the upper House- no government was ever upset by the refusal of Supply. In actual fact, in the time of the Hawke Labor Government, both Mr Lynch and Mr Diver, members of the Country Party, stated their attitude that the platform on which the Hawke Government was elected was such that the Government should be allowed to have Supply. The members of the Opposition here are not simply withholding Supply; they say they are deferring it until such time as the Prime Minister agrees to go to the polls.
I remind members of the Opposition that they have a responsibility to each and every person, irrespective of whether they voted for them or not- after today’s proceedings I should imagine that half of them will not. Even those who did vote for members of the Opposition are disillusioned by their actions now. I simply remind members of the Opposition that they are all- I hope they are anyway- getting the same amount of correspondence from the ordinary people of Australia as I am, and I am getting it by the bucketful; I hope they are too. I hope that they think about it very carefully and that they will change their minds on the course they have decided to take. The communications I am getting openly state that the people concerned do not necessarily support the Labor Party at electionsthat they may not have voted for the Labor Party at the last election- but that they will not stand idly by and watch the Opposition in its attempts to gain control of the Government benches when we have a freely elected Government, twice freely elected government, already on those Government benches. I leave honourable senators with this one thought: As the Opposition you have a responsibility to those people of Australia to be constructive, not destructive.
– I rise to support the amendment that has been put down in this place today by the Leader of the Opposition, Senator Withers. In the course of this debate, which is indeed a serious debate, much strength and weight has been put upon the word ‘responsibility’. I think we should look at the word ‘responsibility’ in the equation that represents the Government and the Opposition, because on both sides of that equation there is a very large measure of responsibility. The Opposition in this Senate has the extreme responsibility to examine every part of legislation that comes before it. It is a responsibility on behalf of the total Australian electorate. It is a responsibility that it cannot and must not afford to neglect in any circumstance. Whilst it is said on numerous occasions by the Government that the Opposition is responsible for the circumstances that currently exist in the Australian scene, I want to suggest that the responsibility is equally- in fact, more heavily- laden on the Government. People in Australia do not normally talk of elections. They do not normally talk of changing governments over periods of 18 months. That is not the natural circumstance. If the Government had a specific view on the real meaning and value of responsibility, it surely would be asking itself: ‘Why are people today constantly asking themselves whether they should not have an opportunity to change the Government?’ The responsibility lies almost entirely in the fact that the Government has failed consistently for 3 years to establish an economic social situation in this country that leads to the general satisfaction of the people whom it must represent. That is the responsibility it has.
There has been constant reference to the fact that only 1 8 months ago the Government went to the people as a result of the existence of a circumstance similar to that of today. We are reminded- it is true- that the Government was returned to office on that occasion, but it is not brought to the forefront of people’s concern that when the Government was re-elected 1 8 months ago it was re-elected with a majority that was reduced in the House of Representatives from nine to five and it failed to gain control of the people’s only brake in this Parliament, the Senate. So if the Government had been really responsible, at that stage and as a result of that election it surely would have taken stock of its policies and attitudes. It surely would have started to govern in a manner which would have defeated rather than encouraged inflation, unemployment, industrial unrest and a terrifying lack of development in this great land. Yet 18 months after the Government received that distinct warning in the area of responsibility from the Australian electorate, we find in this country inflation, which was then at 10 per cent or 1 1 per cent, running at 17 per cent. We find the highest unemployment since the days of the 1930-31 depression.
Indeed the Government, having had the opportunity to continue, having been given what it asked for- namely, a fair go, a chance to do the things that it maintained it was capable of doing and determined to do on behalf of the total Australian people- has, 1 8 months later, as a result of its policies and as a result of its legislation, put the country in a considerably worse circumstance than it was in previously. The point I make is that the Government was absolutely and totally unwilling to accept the responsibility that was laid on it fairly and squarely by the electorate of Australia when it returned it to government with a reduced majority in the House of Representatives and without control of the Senate- in other words, without total control of the Parliament of Australia. I believe that that sort of responsibility has been relegated virtually to oblivion by the Government in the 1 8 months that are the prelude to this specific time. Indeed, the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) has said on a number of occasions that democracy is a fragile plant. Of course, it is a fragile plant.
– Malcolm Fraser is a fragile plant.
-I am glad that the honourable senator mentions that Malcolm Fraser said that too. Malcolm Fraser also said- this is most significant- that people in government have nothing to fear if they are prepared to go to their masters. Indeed, if that is the circumstance then there is no challenge to democracy. In other words, in that circumstance the fragile plant of democracy will survive- but only in that circumstance. In the situation which confronts us today the people who govern this country are totally unwilling to put themselves before the people who elect them to be that Government.
Over the last few weeks there have been some views- I must admit that these views are still relatively few- emanating mainly from academic cocoons and other ivory towers to the effect that the Senate Opposition in the Parliament of this country is acting in a manner which is anti-constitutional and which is not related to the conventions under which we operate. There are a number of things with which I wish to deal in this area. I believe that some of them have been pointed to and talked about previously. The fact that they have been talked about and the fact that they may well be repeated is of great significance because people have to understand the basic things that are at stake today. It has been somewhat mischievously suggested that the House of Lords is the equivalent of the Senate in this Parliament. Of course, that is not true. The House of Lords has no power over money Bills. The House of Lords is not, as is the Senate, an elected House. The Senate is elected by exactly the same number and character of people as elect the House of Representatives. The Senate therefore has a mandate of its own. It has a very severe, distinct resolve and a very distinct responsibility to the total electorate of Australia. So there is no real parallel between the House of Lords and its powers and the Australian Senate in this Parliament.
It has been suggested that it is improper for the Senate to use its numbers in relation to matters such as this. That suggestion has been made by our Prime Minister. I suggest that it is not an improper use of numbers. The Prime Minister has said that the Constitution did not envisage the Senate to have this power. However, there are many views, both from within the Labor Party and from outside the political scene altogether, which suggest that it most certainly does have the powers that it claims- the powers that are rightly the powers of the people of Australia. I quote just one or two instances. Sir John Quick and Sir Robert Garran in interpreting the Constitution, of which they were draftsmen, put forward this view:
The Senate has co-ordinate power with the House of Representatives to pass all Bills or to reject all Bills. Its right of veto, as we know, is as unqualified as its right of assent.
That is a pretty clear indication of the power of the Senate. Further, on looking through the comments of various members of the Labor Party, we find that former Senator Murphy had this to say in the Senate on 12 May 1967:
The Opposition opposes this Bill.
The Bill was the Post and Telegraph Rates Bill. He continued:
There is no tradition, as has been suggested, that the Senate will not use its constitutional powers, whenever it considers it necessary or desirable to do so, in the public interest. There are no limitations on the Senate in the use of its constitutional powers except the limits selfimposed by discretion and reason. There is no tradition in the Australian Labor Party that we will not oppose in the Senate any tax or money Bill, or what might be described as a financial measure. Our tradition is to fight, whenever and wherever we can, to carry out the principles and policies for which we stand. We are not circumscribed by any notions which arose elsewhere in connection with other institutions. It has been said that this is a money Bill. It is not a money Bill. If it were a tax or money Bill, we would still oppose it.
The then Senator Murphy further said:
We in the Senate are democratically elected by the people of the States. If we consider it to be in the public interest that a measure be rejected, who gave us the right to refrain from doing so under some pretended notion that the Senate cannot reject a tax or money Bill?
Those are the words of the then Senator Murphy, one who is regarded and rightly so as a legal mind of considerable standing. We have Senator Willesee with us in the Senate today. At that time, Senator Willesee made this statement -
– He is not here.
– I have no doubt that he is listening. He said:
The implication is that because this is a measure relating to finance in that it is a Bill to increase charges, the Senate dare not reject it. But as recently as 1 965 the Senate rejected an income tax Bill and sent it back to another place. The same thing happened during the credit squeeze when we rejected an increase of 10 per cent in sales tax on motor cars. We did not hear anybody complaining in those days. The Senate has rejected measures time and time again. The position has been stated clearly today. So long as we are in Opposition we intend to act as an Opposition and so long as we can register our vote, irrespective of whether it is successful, our duty as members of Parliament and as members of the Opposition is to do exactly that.
That is what Senator Willesee had to say. They are his reflections on the power and right of the Senate to reject a money Bill. As recently as 1970 the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) has said certain things on the subject. I quote from the House of Representatives Hansard of 12 May 1970 in which the Prime Minister is reported to have said, amongst other things:
Any government which is defeated by the Parliament on a major taxation Bill should resign.
That is what the Prime Minister-said as recently as May of 1970. Mr Odgers, in his work on the Australian Senate, has some interesting things to say and I believe the people of Australia should be aware of them. He said:
The Senate has co-ordinate power with the House of Representatives to pass all Bills or to reject all Bills. Its right of veto as we know it is as unqualified as its right of assent. The only restrictions on the exercise by the Senate of financial powers are the restraint which it traditionally exercises, and the electoral sanction. A Senate which used its power capriciously could suffer only one fate, punishment at the ballot box -
So it becomes quite evident from a wide range of opinions from outside the Parliament and from opinions of senior members within the Australian Labor Party that the Senate has the power and on proper occasions the duty to take the action that it proposes to take at this point. In fact, this circumstance arose in the Houses of the Victorian Parliament in 1947 and 1952 when the Upper House, by blocking money Bills on both occasions, brought about elections. It is interesting to observe that on one occasion it was the Liberal Party that forced the circumstance and on the other occasion it was the Labor Party. It is more interesting to observe that on both occasions the action taken by the Upper House was endorsed by the people of the State. So the circumstances are proper and have occurred before.
It surely must be the people who ultimately are given the opportunity to make the decision with reference to government. The government in this country, as in any democracy, has to be judged on its performance. I am suggesting that the Senate Opposition is taking the proper view and the responsible view in acknowledging that the circumstances, economic and social, that are becoming continually worse in this country are such that people must be given an opportunity to decide whether the Government that they have is the government that in fact they want.
I think that a word may well be said regarding the circumstances and the significance of the role of the Senate in the 1970s. Mr President, I want to suggest that although this role is virtually unchanged technically, it has as a result of the last 3 years of socialist government in Australia become more crucial than ever in the history of this country. It has become more crucial because the 3 years that have elapsed in 2 periods- the period to May 1974 and the period from then to the present time- have indicated the vast and basic difference between the major political entities of this country. Consequently, because we are looking at a circumstance which has clearly revealed political philosophies which relate to the State as the master in the socialist image of the people and as the servant in the free enterprise democratic image, because we are looking at these 2 alternatives diametrically opposed and clearly defined in the last 3 years, I am suggesting to honourable senators and to the people of Australia that the role of the Senate at this time is more crucial than ever in its history. We must be aware of this as we take our place in reviewing the circumstances that are before us.
I suggest that the responsibility of the Opposition in this matter which it promotes in the Senate today is indicated by the fact that it has spent literally hours and weeks, now running into months, of decision making and of consideration before taking this sort of action. It is not the sort of action that has been taken out of the clouds or grabbed from the trees. It is the sort of action that is the result of sincere and solid judgment, of investigation of the circumstances of the whole Australian community. I suggest that it is most unreal to promote the view that the instability, uncertainty and lack of confidence that have pervaded this country and which continue to pervade it are the result of a constant threat of elections. Rather, it is directly the opposite. The instability and insecurity that we see in this country, the lack of confidence that is all around, are the result of the circumstances of the Government. They are not the result of a constant threat of elections. The insecurity and the instability are like inflation itself, the direct result of government operations. lt is constantly suggested by this Government and by its Ministers, including those in the Senate, that the inflation which troubles us in this land is an imported circumstance and that it exists all round the world. Inflation in Australia is running at the second highest level in the developed countries of the world today. We have imported not one bit of it. We have established it and nurtured it. So the idea that the threat of elections is the cause of insecurity is totally false. The cause of the insecurity is to be found in the changing attitudes to policies and legislation and the reversals of policies that are constantly occurring in the history of this Parliament.
Let us look for a moment at what is the cause of this instability. The instability and lack of confidence in this land are surely the reasons that make it justifiable to say that Australians as a total electorate should indicate whether they believe that the Government is governing in their best interests. What are the causes of the instability? There are many. In the first place I suggest that the instability is related to the failure of the Prime Minister himself to weld a strong and reliable team in government. What other government in a period of 3 years has seen no fewer than 3 Treasurers, one of whom was not even given the opportunity of bringing down a Budget? What other government in that sort of time has seen the sacking of 2 Acting Prime Ministers? What other government has seen the cutting down of the Speaker of the House of Representatives, as Mr Cope, a distinguished parliamentarian, was cut down unceremoniously by his great Leader not so long ago? There has been a constant shift. There has been the departure of the former Leader of the Government in the Senate, the then Senator Murphy, to the High Court of Australia. There has been the departure of Mr Barnard, the original Deputy Prime Minister, who is now on some overseas assignment. There has been this continuing instability in the actual manning, the personnel, of the Government and that can only relate to the instability and insecurity that is to be found in the total socio-economic circumstance of the Australian scene.
I want to suggest that we will find as we look at the past 3 years that there has to be a relationship between the problems that beset this land now and the attitude of the socialist Government when it came to power- an attitude that seemed to be driven by the desire to implement an ideology rather than an economic and social system. I believe that the rush to implement and to establish an ideological circumstance is in no way divorced from the problems, economic and social, that have continued to confound the Australian people. If the Government had not started in the way in which it did in the very first Budget in 1973 I believe that the circumstances that have followed would have been moderated enormously. In the 1973 Budget, as honourable senators will well recall, the then Treasurer, Mr Crean, made the remark in the preface to the Budget Papers that the conditions were favourable for the transfer of resources from the private to the public sector, and that policy was followed with great determination. As it was followed with great determination the circumstances of the socio-economic provisions in Australia became steadily worse. There was the beginning of the major problem and it was a problem that was related to the installation of an ideology rather than an economic system.
I wish to look briefly at the other areas that have caused this insecurity- areas which are relevant to the problems that face Australians today and areas which indicate the rush and the speed of the Government to act regardless of the real circumstances in which it finds itself. Very shortly after gaining office there was a 25 per cent tariff cut across the board. Nobody would deny the need to adjust intelligently from time to time the tariff structure of this country. It involves itself with the whole distribution and development of Australian resources. But to come to power and suddenly to wipe 25 per cent off tariffs across the board is a totally irresponsible action. That was one of the Government’s first actions. Then, of course, there is the question of the superphosphate bounty. It was totally abolished; then its application was put to the Industries Assistance Commission; the Industries Assistance Commission then brought down recommendations; and the recommendations, presumably, have been shelved. I do not know what has happened to those recommendations. At least we understood that the Industries Assistance Com.mission ‘s recommendations would be implemented, but they have been shelved.
We were to witness the elimination of compensation and incentives in the whole range of primary industry, particularly in the mining industries of this country, not to mention significant areas of manufacture insofar as they relate to export. The loss of these incentives and compensations has contributed in no small way to the lack of production in this country and to the level of unemployment we find now. Foreign investment was attacked tremendously vigorously by this Government when it came to power; so much so that it implemented a 33.1/3 per cent deposit requirement with the Reserve Bank of Australia. That did what it may well have been intended to do- it totally dried up the flow of foreign investment into this country. Then within months- within eight or ten months- the Government became a little excited that it may have acted too savagely, too quickly, so it reduced the requirement to 25 per cent, then to 5 per cent and then totally rubbed it out. The result was that the situation virtually remained the same. There was not sufficient confidence in the future of this country, in the Government of this country, for people to invest in it in almost any circumstances.
We have seen reversals in the tariff circumstance, we have seen the imposition of import quotas and we have seen revaluations and devaluations. We have seen all of those things upsetting policies. We have seen policies and legislation made today and changed tomorrow. Yet the Government says that it is the threat of an election that is causing instability in this country. It is the performance of the Government that is causing instability in this country and it is the performance of the Government of which the Senate Opposition must take heed today and on which it must act in a responsible manner within the constitutional powers of review that so rightly and properly rest with it.
I could deal at some length with some of the problems facing the major primary industries in this country, but time will not permit me to do so. But let me say that the instability that has occurred from time to time in the Australian wool industry is in no way unrelated to the kite that was flown in May of this year that the base price of wool should be reduced to 200c per kilo. What sort of confidence did that bring about right around the world? There was a significant loss of confidence not only within the Australian wool producing industry itself but-
– You would not even give the wool growers a floor price. You are talking absolute nonsense.
– Tell us what the floor price was when your Party was in office.
– The measure of guilt of honourable senators opposite is in direct relationship to the way in which they squeal. They know, of course, that this is a fact because in the few months that have passed since May- prior to the 200c per kilo incident- the wool industry has fallen from a point at which 98 per cent of its wool was being disposed of to the trade at the 275c per kilo price level to a point at which 60 per cent of it is being disposed of to the trade at a 250c per kilo level.
– Order! The honourable senator’s time has expired.
– The re-presentation of these Bills allows us to assess now some of the results of the events that have occurred in the community following the delaying and obstructionist tactics of the Opposition last week. It is quite evident to everyone, including members of the Opposition, that it has been a tragic week for the Opposition. We hope now that it will not be a tragic week for Parliament and for the Senate because the action which has been taken has raised many questions and thoughts about the very basis of this House and the powers which it now possesses. What we have seen, in a tactical sense, is the situation where a Leader of the Opposition and his Party have the Government completely at their mercy, a government which had suffered many reversals in the public and in the Parliament and stood clearly outlined with its policies so that the public could see and reject them. The gallup polls around Australia showed clearly that the Opposition had an overwhelming superiority of public support. Therefore the Opposition stood poised to take office automatically in 18 months time, with its guns firmly trained on the Government. In one action in the Senate it has turned those guns from being accurately trained on the Government to being trained on itself.
Today it is the Opposition which is the target, not the Government. I can think of no worse piece of generalship in history or in current political events than that. It is a tragic change for the Opposition within five or six days. It illustrates the harm that can come to any organisation, particularly a political party, if it organises its affairs and plans its strategy by reading the gallup polls.
The public opinion polls of Australia are organisations for assembling public opinion and I have a great deal of admiration for them. I do not believe their results are wrong at the time they take their surveys, given a margin of error, and with cross-checking that can be done through various polls at various locations in Australia. I believe they give essentially a correct and proper report of public opinion. However, they report public opinion as it exists at the time of the poll, quite free of any pressures which may later be exerted on those who give their opinions to these pollsters. Of course, the Opposition would find a quite different public opinion this week from that which was found last week. Someone soon will publish another poll because I am sure that the pollsters are interested in the obvious change of public opinion. We no doubt will find in a few days a different assessment. What will the Opposition do then? Will it again read the poll and dart off on some other tangent on the periphery of this political controversy? It is a very great warning for all parties hereafter never to decide upon their actions entirely by reading public opinion polls at the time.
I listened to Senator Scott with some interest and I was disappointed. I think he merely pointed up the tragic position in which the Opposition now finds itself. It is in a corner from which it can find no outlet. It has painted itself into a corner and there is no way out with honour. I have a great deal of feeling for people in that position. It is the worst of all political situations. However, Senator Scott justified his stand by saying that upsetting events had occurred. For instance, tariffs had been altered, the superphosphate bounty had been removed and there had been a change in foreign investment policy, even though nearly all impartial observers today agree that there is hardly any difference between the foreign investment policy of the Opposition and that of the Government. Despite that small difference he used it as a reason and said that there are reversals of opinion. I remember last year or early this year in this chamber the Opposition rejecting a charge for Medibank, yet the Opposition spokesman for health last week or early this week said that the Opposition would bring one in. There have been devaluations and revaluations but most financial observers, with hindsight, now would say that they were fairly accurate.
I do not criticise the points which Senator Scott used. I agree with him on some of those issues. But all I say to him is that on average they represent the good and the bad of an administration that is different philosophically from this side of the chamber. If we are to list all these items and say that in total they represent sufficiently grave reasons, for this House to tell the lower House to go out and have an election, I simply do not understand the reason. This is why the Australian public also does not understand that reason.
– Do you think the events have changed since you gave -
-No, I do not think the events have changed since Senator Jessop wrote to the Advertiser some weeks ago. I do not for a minute think that they have changed since then. As a matter of fact, there was a quotation used by a Minister in the lower House today that I thought was a good one. Everyone is using everyone else’s quotations. The Minister speaking in support of the Bills being put through the lower House for the third time said:
If the Parliament becomes unworkable by destruction of convention, democracy itself becomes unworkable because democracy rests much more on adherence to convention than to the rigid application of rules and laws.
There are many challenges to the preservation of Parliament. There are forces within our community, some of great power, that do not believe in Parliamentary government. There are economic and social problems which the Parliament has not yet been able to solve.
These problems alone would be daunting for present legislators and Ministers. If we add to that list the problems created by the behaviour of Parliament itself, the destruction of convention, the defiance of reason, the pursuit of power without concern for the rights or privileges of minorities, then Australians will have little faith in the future of Australian democracy.
Would anyone here disagree with that? I assume they would not because the Minister was quoting from an election talk given by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Malcom Fraser) on 2 March 1975, in which he clearly set out the rules and the basis for the operation of Parliament and stressed the supremacy that needs to be exerted by Parliament and the stability that we need to obtain from it. We know that public reaction has been adverse to the Opposition’s course and there are many ways of cross-checking that with the tenor of communications which all members, including members of the Liberal Party who do not agree with the move, have been receiving on this issue. I have received many, as have many others in the community. If we cross-check them with what has been flowing into the newspapers and radio stations we can certainly get the clear idea that the Australian public does not generally agree with the Opposition.
It is quite clear that the Australian Labor Party has been galvanised and unified by Mr Fraser’s action. This is undeniable and anyone walking these corridors and seeing the attendance at
Labor rallies organised at a few days notice will see that for himself. The Opposition is divided on this issue and there is no point in saying otherwise. Members of those Parties are writing and telegramming members of Parliament signing themselves as members of the Liberal Party. We know of the telegrams coming into this House and of their significance. We have the unpleasant prospect- I say no more than that- of the Leader of the Opposition proposing to know the intentions of the Governor-General. I find that distasteful. But never mind that. I have stated the issues, very briefly, as they stand with the parties.
The Australian public is alarmed. There are very alarming signs that the community is being polarised at the extremes. I know that those who want government at any price appear close to a dictatorship type of organisation and that is very disturbing. I had a person of very good repute approach me in King’s Hall yesterday and say: ‘I was disappointed earlier this week travelling on a plane on which I recognised clearly a notable supporter of the Liberal Party’. He was not a member of Parliament. He said: ‘His companion said to him: “If this continues there will be violence in the streets”, and the notable reporter replied: “A bit of bloodshed would help the Opposition at this time”.’ This is the sort of extreme which is permeating the community and frightening it and it shows the good sense of Australians that they are reacting not with violence at this time but properly, through the very proper means of showing their opinion through the media and through approaching peaceably members of Parliament. All we need now is for members of Parliament to take note of what has been one of the most responsible reactions of any community in the history of Australia. The prospects for Australians obviously are not good in the immediate sense.
We in politics have always been brought up on the theme that the greatest nerve in politics is the hip pocket nerve. The most sensitive nerve, it has been said to every new member of Parliament on any side of politics, is the hip pocket nerve. If there has ever been a built-in factor in this controversy to keep it right on the rails, to prevent the central argument from ever being forgotten, it is the hip pocket nerve which will become more acutely agitated as each day passes. On the notice board at one of the Government services in Adelaide, which covers quite a large area of government operations, by direction of management a notice has been placed. It says to the staff that they have 3 more pays coming from this organisation and then the money is finished. What is stirring the community is the prospect that they will go without what is necessary for them to continue their normal expected standard of living. There is a very great fear in the community of the unknown if the Opposition continues this course.
It is evident that the Opposition would like to turn the public’s gaze away from this issue and from those who cause it. The inbuilt matter of financial stringency will not allow the Opposition to do so. It is most unfortunate for the Opposition, but it is a fact of life. I was proud of the editorial which the Adelaide Advertiser printed on Monday of this week. I read the final paragraph of the leader, which stated:
It is not open to Mr Fraser to complain that Mr Whitlam is defying convention by not going direct to the people because the Budget has been blocked. It is Mr Fraser who first threw away the rule book and made this a boots and all fight. He and his supine followers who, incidentally, have finally shed any lingering pretence that they are somehow less subject to party discipline than their Labor counterparts, cannot now complain if they get hurt. They might ponder also that a normal general election would have been due in December had they not unwisely sought a premature return to power last year.
– What was that source?
-The leader of the Advertiser of 20 October, which was last Monday. That paper is generally presumed to be fairly careful. In past years it has often been said to be conservative. I believe that is an entirely responsible statement and one which is indicative of the point that I made before I read it. The issue cannot be turned away from its source. No one in the community will start an argument if we are to approach an election under crisis circumstances. No one in the community will be able to develop a theme that the Senate did not do it and that the Opposition did not do it. No one can do that because people will want to know why they do not have any money. There is a simple answer. The crossing of the floor in this chamber will ensure the provision of money. It is people who are responsible. They are named. People are contacting them. People are writing to them. They know who these senators are. They are targeted.
I have always been disturbed that our side of politics would never listen to a reasoned argument. It chooses always, it seems, to reject warnings against any move which its great machine makes. It is impressed by the possession of money and of great numbers of staff. Any individual or smaller group that warns against the direction which it takes is to be automatically rejected. This I have found in the long history of our side of politics. Therefore I will not venture into a ‘I told you so’ position about the letter I wrote to Mr Fraser. I suspect he was warned. I cannot imagine this matter being resolved without the subject being discussed fully in the Party room. He surely must have had Party room warnings. He certainly had public warnings. He chose to ignore them.
Having reached this position, we know the matter must be resolved. Despite what some of my most virulent critics on this side of the House would say, the position is one of the most terrifying corners politically which the Opposition could ever get into. People who have resented my position in support of a levy for Medibank, which they then opposed, now want that sort of provision. Those critics of that action do not criticise me now. The Opposition must get out of this position. It can get out of it in 2 ways- by giving in or ultimately by bringing this country to its knees and forcing an election on the issue.
I am not in the business of politics, however much I may be vilified by some people on my side of it, to put the Labor Party in office. My objective is to keep it out of office and to make certain that it is defeated in the lower House. Others who do not see it that way would like to adopt a siege mentality. When they cannot win the lower House they would like to take siege in the upper House, to throw away public opinion, to stand against it, to put up a wall and to prevent from that fortress the other side governing. It does not work. It will never work in future. The Opposition is creating the conditions which are favourable to the Government. If the Opposition continues on this course which will bring this country to its knees economically, it could well produce in this community at some stage in the not too distant future conditions under which there will be an election which the Government will win. How will the Opposition have served its backers who have emptied their cheque books into the coffers of the Liberal Party? How will its backers be served if the Australian public says: We want a fair political test to see who will govern in Canberra. We will not support you in a fortress in the Senate’? Then we will see even further division in the Liberal Party. There ought to be enough brains and enough level headed thinkers in the Opposition who can see where it is heading at a quite revolutionary pace.
I do not think anybody gave one iota of credence last Monday to the thought that the Labor Party could win any election in the next 3 years. No one in Kings Hall today will take bets on it. That is the pace of the political activity in this country- in Canberra and right across Australia today. The Opposition must face the fact that by bad generalmanship it has got itself into a corner. It must get out of that corner. I do not pretend to be able to tell it how to do so, because it would not take any notice. Past form has been to ignore all advice. The Opposition can no longer afford that luxury. It had better get its advice from somewhere because it must change its mind. I warn again that unless it takes the appropriate action it will do what its supporters and I do not want it to do- it will help the Government back into office for another term.
– I believe we are in the midst of a battle which is reminiscent of the great battles of the 17th century in England. It is the question of the supremacy of Parliament against Executive power. It is the question of the ultimate responsibility of that Parliament to the people. They are the simple questions or the very complex questions, depending upon the view which is adopted by those who approach these questions. Under our Constitution, Parliament is made up of the Queen- in Australia, her Governor-General- the Senate and the House of Representatives. Parliament is not the plaything of the Prime Minister of the day. No Prime Minister, no government, is supreme over the Parliament or any one of its constituent parts. He does not have the authority to dictate to the Senate. He does not have the authority to dictate to the Governor-General. The Senate is one of the parts and has a clear and independent role to play.
Unlike most other upper Houses, the Senate is a people’s House, fully elected. The Constitution was drafted to provide a balancing of power. The Senate has powers to provide that balance if and when it decides to exercise them. At all times it is answerable to the people for its actions. Unlike the Senate in Canada, which is nominated for life, unlike the House of Lords in the United Kingdom, the Senate in Australia is answerable to the people of Australia. The Constitution was drafted to make it so. The Constitution was drafted to give the Senate equal powers, with one small exception, to those of the House of Representatives. The Senate has a power to reject money Bills; it has a power to reject Appropriation Bills. It has decided to exercise that power, and not all of the huffing and puffing of a dictatorial Prime Minister nor of a beleaguered government can prevent the democratic process from proceeding.
During the great National Australasian Convention Debates of the 1 890s when the Constitution was so laboriously but splendidly drafted and agreed upon, great attention was given to the question of the Senate’s powers in relation to money Bills and the possibilities and the consequences of deadlocks. At the 1897 Adelaide Convention Mr Higgins made what I think is an extremely pertinent comment, which I wish to quote. He was one of the founding fathers who showed what one realises when one re-reads the convention debates was perhaps typical perception about what might happen. He said:
The Premier of New South Wales has shown that the system of giving suggestion involves this: that the Senate will, and indeed should, consider the full details of Money Bills, that it is their duty to go into them because they have the power of giving suggestions, and that being so, and if these suggestions are not acceded to, there is a great danger of a deadlock arising, a danger which never arose before. It is quite untrue, as Mr Barton says, that deadlocks in the past have arisen on questions of tacking and so forth, and that we have to deal now with a totally different set of relations, but we have to deal now with the position in which the Senate are invited to give suggestions, and that if these suggestions are ignored there will bc a great temptation to the exercise of the full power of veto, and, although history shows that deadlocks have arisen from those other causes, still we are now introducing new causes- causes which are almost certain to be fertile in deadlocks unless we take great care. The Premier of New South Wales stated most explicitly that he would not consent to this Constitution unless the will of the people were eventually to rule; and unless some machinery be provided which will let the will of the people eventually rule there is no prospect of the Constitution being accepted by the people of Australia as a whole.
Those words indicate the view of those at the Conventions. They indicate the views which were accepted as the very basis upon which the Constitution was prepared and the powers given to the Senate. Those views were, as I indicated before, that ultimately both Houses are responsible to the people and that the Executive has not got absolute power over either House and certainly not over the Senate. The Executive is answerable to the Parliament and the Parliament to the people.
The Senate has now decided by a majority that a great question of public policy has arisen, that a great and unusual situation has arisen in Australia. Other speakers have referred to the circumstances of a government convicted now of deception and deceit; of a government broken in its economic policies; of a government plunging Australia into economic disaster; of a government providing for the people of Australia unemployment reaching hitherto unknown heights, with numbers going up from around 100 000 at the time the Government came into office just short of 3 years ago to over 300 000 now, numbers that are predicted by the Government itself to rise past 400 000 within a few months. There are many other circumstances to which reference has been made by other speakers. I sum up those circumstances simply by saying that in the minds of a majority of the members of this chamber they constitute a great question of public policy, a great and unusual situation requiring the judgment of the people as to whether they want the Government to continue or whether they wish to change it. The Opposition in this chamber has decided that it should exercise its constitutionally given power to send Parliament back to the people for judgment.
I do not think that there can be any longer any doubt as to the power of the Senate in relation to Supply. But because there has been some confusionI believe created deliberately to mislead the Australian public- I want to refer to the very first Supply Bill which was introduced into this Parliament and to the debate which took place at that time. The debate settled clearly the question of the Senate’s role in relation to Supply. On 13 June 1901 the matter was raised when the Supply Bill was first introduced, and Senator Neild stated at page 1023:
I hope that the Senate will not entertain the motion. This is the most deliberate attempt that could possibly be made to belittle the Senate and treat it as occupying the position of the second Chambers of the different States. We are apparently to be treated by the Ministry in the matter of the public expenditure simply as a Chamber of revision.
He expressed his concern about the mode which had been adopted. I quote further from what Senator Gould had to say at page 1025:
Would that not be an absurd position, when we have powers given to us by way of suggestion? Having such powers, it becomes our duty to exercise them whenever we find it necessary to do so; otherwise we are false to our trust and false to our duty. I say that, in the present position of affairs, this is a direct insult, a flout to this Chamber.
It is also interesting to see what Senator Sir Josiah Symon said, and I read from page 1030:
I suggest, not merely as a matter affecting the privileges of the Senate at all, but as one affecting a new system of parliamentary government, under the Constitution of the Commonwealth, that the position had better be reconsidered, because this will be a precedent that will govern us as long as we last as a Parliament. After all, I think, time will be saved and difficulty will be avoided if that course is now adopted.
The course was to send the Bill back to the House of Representatives for amendment. Strangely, it was one Senator Fraser in the first Parliament in the first Senate dealing with the first Supply Bill who moved the motion, which was an amendment to have the effect of sending the Bill back to the House of Representatives to be properly and appropriately drawn so that the Senate could consider it fully. That Senator Fraser was the first of that longstanding name to deal with the proprieties of Supply Bills. In fact, he was the grandfather of the present Leader of the Opposition, so I understand. The situation then was that the Senate asserted its right and its duty to peruse, to scrutinise, to make suggestions in relation to Supply Bills and, if necessary, to reject them.
The definition of a money Bill is something which is perhaps relevant for consideration in the light of the confused way in which it has been used by certain people, principally the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam). I refer to a work which is often quoted with authority and approval in this chamber, Australian Senate Practice, by the Senate Clerk, Mr Odgers. At page 312 of the fourth edition he states:
A money Bill in the Australian Parliament clearly means a proposed law which appropriates revenue or moneys, or imposes taxation, and which shall not originate in the Senate.
I will not read that in any greater detail, but I refer those honourable senators who may still be confused on this matter to that page. I think that they will be satisfied that the Bills to which I am going to refer in a moment do come within that definition. The Prime Minister has seen fit to make statements, including one dated 19 October 1975, which is on his Press statement letterhead. It refers to a meeting at Kirribilli House of the Commonwealth Labor Advisory Committee, which comprises the four federal parliamentary leaders and certain other people. The statement refers also to what they said. I mention specifically that all 4 parliamentary leaders were there- the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam), Mr Crean, Senator Wriedt and Senator Willesee. The statement put out by the Prime Minister on the committee ‘s behalf read:
The Committee called on Opposition senators to cease obstruction and to exercise their constitutional responsibility to pass the Budget. While not conceding the right of the Senate to reject Money Bills and while noting that no Senate has ever done so the Committee . . .
That is an untrue statement. That is not a statement of fact. The Government may not concede the right of the Senate to reject money Bills but it has, in the past, asserted that right. It has asserted it with success. So, if the Government wishes to make a statement it should have said: Whilst we have changed our mind for current personal, political, reasons from the stance which we adopted heretofor we do not now concede the right of the Senate to reject money Bills. Whilst noting that the Senate has in the past rejected money Bills on a number of occasions and whilst we have in the past as a party asserted the Senate’s right to reject money Bills, we do not believe it should be done now’. That is the way that that statement could have been made if the Government wished to state the truth and express such views.
Instead of that, the Government chose deliberately to confuse and mislead the Australian public. It is a deliberate untruth. It is a pretext to wage war on the Senate. Mr Whitlam has always hated the Senate and he has made it clear that he would like either to abolish the Senate or to curtail its powers. He is now misrepresenting our Constitution and with the aid of some people, who may or may not have an adequate academic status to express a view, is attempting to mislead Australians and to create fear and confusion. Senator Hall, who is no longer in the chamber, I think put his finger on the point when, during his speech, he said that the fear of loss of income and of loss of Government payments is what is concerning people in Australia at the moment. He put his finger on it. Not much else of what he said was accurate but’ that at least was. We should look at- I think all Australians should look at- who created that fear. Who is whipping up this fear every day that this Parliament sits? Who raises it every day at question time? In every speech that is made by a member of the Government, in every public statement that has been made lately, there is reference to the dire crisis, the monetary crisis. It is a crisis that can end today, this afternoon or even within an hour. It can end the moment the Government says: ‘We will do what the Constitution requires us to do in a deadlock situation. We will go to the people’. If honourable senators on the other side of the chamber are serious in not wishing to see fear and confusion reign supreme in this country they will do that which is honourable and that which is required according to constitutional practice. They will resign. They will not pursue this deliberate policy of creating fear within the community so that they can create a climate for the conservation -
– Why do you not pass the Budget?
- Mr Deputy President, I would like to address you without having to shout over the top of some nitwitted character whose name I do not even recall at the moment because his contributions in this chamber have always been so insignificant. He has never made a sufficient mark for anybody to have cause to recall his name. The Government would take the course I have suggested unless it was deliberately setting out to create a situation in which the Prime Minister and his supporters could take advantage of that fear to smash the Senate’s power. The headlines in the Press the other day carried a report of what the Prime Minister had to say. The headlines stated:
PM- I will smash the Senate’s power.
Smashing the power of the Senate- that is what it is all about. It is part of a deliberate campaign by the Prime Minister to mislead the Australian public and lead the people into a situation in which the Prime Minister could put before them a referendum to curtail the powers of this chamber so that he can rule absolutely without challenge and without anyone being able to prevent him from being able to carry out the schemes which have already cost Australia so dearly.
– He wants to be the dictator.
– He is determined, as Senator Wood says, to obtain and retain absolute power. The real constitutional crisis arises from the Prime Minister’s determination to follow the lead of Mrs Ghandi in India- a country which had a Constitution to protect it from absolute power. Its Constitution was not at all dissimilar from Australia’s. That constitution has now, by the act of someone who can only be classified as a dictator, been torn up and thrown out. Is that what the people want for Australia? If they do not, they will join with us in demanding that this Prime Minister cease his arrogant defiance of the parliamentary process and go to the people for their judgment. If the people do not agree with us and with the stand that we have taken, then we, the Opposition, will pay the penalty.
How true were the words of Lord Acton when one thinks of this Prime Minister. Lord Acton said that “all power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely”. When one thinks of the corrupt record of this Government in recent times, one is reminded that many a statement which has gone down into the political science books, the philosophy books and the law books in the English speaking world has an existence which does not change but which is everlastingly potentially present. That is what has happened here. That is the threat to the Australian democracy. It is not only a threat to the Australian democracy as we know it, it is a threat to the federal situation as we know it. It is a threat to our federal compact. The Senate, with its full role in relation to money matters, was given those powers to be able to protect the States as one of its principal functions. Without that power, it would not be possible for the smaller States to be protected against the use or abuse of power in the interests of the larger States in Australia or of one particular State against some of the others.
The threatened curtailment of the Senate powers is a direct attack upon the States. It is a direct attack upon federalism. It is a direct move towards centralism. The Government is using this occasion to further its attempt- already made on a number of occasions through referendums and through legislation which it has tried to put through this chamber and which this chamber has resisted on behalf of the States and on behalf of the federal principle- to destroy Australian federalism. The Government has the hide to do it in the name of preserving democracy. That is the most shallow claim that I think could be made. When one looks at some of the shallow bases of support for the claim, one can see the ultimate cynicism which is behind it.
Let me deal for a moment with the incredible statement made by the Attorney-General (Mr Enderby). He said:
The Senate’s power to reject a money Bill has atrophied and become a dead letter.
Let me tell honourable senators, some of whom may have forgotten but many of whom will know, that in the period from 1950 to 1970 individual senators who were members of the Australian Labor Party recorded approximately 6000 votes in the assertion of the power of the Senate to reject or to take equivalent action by deferral or other similar action on a money Bill as defined by Mr Odgers and as accepted by this Parliament. This information is taken from a list given to the Senate by a former leader of the Labor Opposition, Senator Murphy. It appears in Hansard at page 2651. It is preposterous for the current Attorney-General in 1975 to assert seriously that the power has atrophied and become a dead letter when members of his Party, in a 20-year period between 1950 and 1970, individually on 6000 occasions asserted that right. It is more than preposterous. It shows either his extreme ignorance or his unpreparedness to stick to the truth.
– In this case both.
- Senator Chaney suggests that it is both. I do not pause to debate the matter with him. I also refer to the number of occasions on which such motions were successful. There was the 1 967 Post and Telegraph Rates Bill, the 1 968 Aerodromes (Passenger Charges) Bill and the 1970 States Receipts Duty Bill. All three of these were important money Bills and were important aspects of a Government’s budgetary program. All of them were successfully rejected by the then Labor Party Opposition in this chamber. Yet the Prime Minister stated in that statement from which I have already quoted, supported by Senator Wriedt, Senator Willesee and others, that they noted that the Senate had never rejected a money Bill. That is the ultimate proof of the dishonesty of this Government. It cannot tell the truth for a moment. We have found that fact demonstrated in relation to the recent Loans affair and in relation to so many other actions characterised by conviction. Dr Cairns and Mr Connor have been convicted of dishonesty and dismissed.
I assert here and now that those who were signatories to this statement are equally guilty. If anyone wishes to dispute that they have successfully, on those and other occasions, exercised the right to reject money Bills he will have to re-write the Hansard and the records of this chamber. To be fair to Senator Murphy and Mr Whitlam, in those days they did not say that the Senate did not have the power to vote against a money Bill or to force a Government to resign. In those days they asserted both. Quotations have already been put before the Senate which have been taken from the Hansard of both chambers showing that both Senator Murphy as Leader of the Opposition in this chamber and Mr Whitlam as Leader of the Opposition in the House of Representatives asserted the right to vote against a money Bill and to force a Government to resign. Mr Whitlam called on the Government to resign after the rejection of the States Receipts Duty Bill in 1970. If an honourable senator is entitled to vote against a money Bill- as individual honourable senators have done, including some fifteen who are still Labor members of this chamber, on some 6000 occasions between 1950 and 1970- then all honourable senators have the right and the power so to vote. It matters not to the existence of the power whether they voted successfully or unsuccessfully. They have continually asserted the power over the years.
I shall be even more specific because I believe Senator Wriedt has to carry the responsibility here for what his Party is doing. I have always had the highest regard for Senator Wriedt. I state that here and now. I am disappointed to find him in a difficult position and unable to answer questions at question time because he is required to assert that which, in honesty, cannot be asserted. On 33 occasions between 1968 and November 1 970 he has voted to reject a money Bill. He has voted successfully to reject a money Bill. So have other honourable senators in this chamber. There are others to whom I would like to refer specifically as examples. I have not taken out all the figures for the latter part of 1970, nor for 1971 and 1972, but I did use some examples to which I will quickly refer. In 1971, in relation to the Post and Telegraph Bill, 3 votes were taken to reject it, namely, on the second reading, at the committee stage and on the third reading. The Opposition, now the Government, voted to reject that money Bill. There was the Post and Telegraph Rates Bill which met a similar fate. The Broadcasting and Television Bill, which was a money Bill, was voted against on the second and third readings. The Excise Tariff Bill was voted against on the second reading. There was the Income Tax Bill. If anyone is left wondering because I have not paused to explain in detail about for instance the Post and Telegraph Bill, I point out that it was a money Bill. In fact, these were all Bills which raised charges. The Income Tax Bill, by its very name, is clearly a money Bill.
In 1971 when dealing with the Income Tax Bill the Labor Party asserted its right to reject a money Bill in the Senate. It voted to amend the second reading to have the Bill withdrawn. Those were all occasions on which the present Leader of the Government in this chamber, Senator Wriedt, voted to reject a money Bill. I suggest it is nonsense even to contemplate for a moment that a power given by way of the Constitution, admittedly one to be used, as was obviously contemplated, on but very rare occasions, should be able to atrophy. I think we have a situation in which the Government is desperately trying to find a way out of an imbroglio into which it has got itself because of its total incapacity to govern and to manage the Australian economy. I sum up by referring to a statement made by Sir Robert Menzies who so often has been quoted with approval by the present Prime Minister. I doubt that that will happen any longer. Sir Robert Menzies is well known as a leading constitutional lawyer in Australia. He was Australia’s longest serving Prime Minister. The conclusion of his statement reads:
To offer advice to the Governor-General on the lines that have been hinted at would, I think, be both improper and insulting. There is no legal principle that permits a wrongdoer to profit from his own actions.
At the conclusion of my speech I shall seek leave to incorporate that statement in Hansard. I also refer to others who have made statements similar to that of Sir Robert Menzies, such as Professor Lane, Mr Odgers, Quick and Garran, Harrison Moore and Professor Crisp who could certainly not be regarded as an Australian Labor Party hater, or as a right winger or as a conservative lawyer. There are numerous others including, as I have mentioned, the founding fathers, the first Senate on the. first Supply Bill and such other lesser mortals as Senator Murphy and honourable senators of the Labor Party in this chamber who on some 6000 occasions asserted their right to reject moneys Bills. Let me sum up by saying that it is a question of the supremacy of Parliament. The Constitution deliberately gave the
Senate the power to reject money Bills, knowing that this could create a deadlock. The people were to be the ultimate arbiters through the ballot box. That is the ultimate in democracy. Ours is the finest and most democratic Constitution in the world. It must not be damaged and destroyed by the determination of the Prime Minister to avoid the judgment of the people. There is no need for the things to which Government speakers have referred to take place. The GovernorGeneral should be asked to dissolve both Houses and to let the people judge. It is a matter of saving the principle upon which the Constitution was founded.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Davidson)- Order! The honourable senator’s time has expired. Senator Rae, you mentioned that you would seek leave to incorporate a document in Hansard?
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT-Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows)-
STATEMENT BY SIR ROBERT MENZIES
As is well known,I have, for a long time abstained from entering into any current political controversy. But the circumstances today are such as to compel me to break that silence. For, quite simply, I think more nonsense is being talked about the constitutional position of the Senate than I can comfortably listen to, or read.
Powers of the Senate
If we desire to know what are the powers of the Senate over money bills, we find them expressly set out in the Constitution. The draftsmen of the Constitution included these provisions because they knew (and this is a matter of historical fact) that the smaller States i.e. smaller in population, would not vote for federation unless they have some protection given to them in the Senate and they got it. And they still have it. The relevant provisions of section 53 are as follows:
The Senate may not amend proposed laws imposing taxation, or proposed laws appropriating revenue or monies for the ordinary annual services of the government. ‘and
Except as provided in this section, the Senate shall have equal power with the House of Representatives in respect of all proposed laws.’
Now these provisions, which are the material ones, establish quite plainly that, while the Senate may not itself amend what we call ‘money bills’, it can pass them, or reject them, because these are the powers of the House of Representatives in respect of the same measures.
Let me repeat, the Senate may not amend these measures, but it may reject them, or, of course, in the ordinary course of debate, it may adjourn them.
It would be absurd to suppose that the draftsmen of the Constitution conferred these powers on the Senate with a mental reservation that they should never be exercised.
Now, nobody has any doubts about this legal position. Mr Whitlam had no doubt about it when he was Leader of the
Opposition, nor did Senator Murphy, as he then was, when he asked the DLP senators to join with Labor in throwing out a financial measure. All that has happened is that Mr Whitlam is now Prime Minister and, as I know from experience, Prime Ministers become a little frustrated if the Senate carries a vote against them. But this does not settle the arguments of constitutionality. The Constitution’s meaning does not change according to the direction from which Mr Whitlam and his Ministers look at it.
Now let me go on from there.
I do not believe that the Senate ought as a matter of political judgment, to exercise its powers in every case.
I think that in the interests of stability of government it would be wrong for the Senate, for example, to reject a Supply for the sole reason that it did not like the financial measures and had the power to reject them.
Everything depends on the circumstances. For a Government, fresh from the people, with a victory to be challenged in the Senate under section 53, would be, in my opinion, wrong. Not illegal, no, but politically wrong.
But these are not the circumstances today. The Government has, in the last 12 months, itself put up a record of unconstitutionality and, if it is not too strong a word, misconduct on a variety of occasions.
On one occasion, it concerned Dr Cairns, who was put out for not accurately informing the Parliament. On a recent occasion, it was Mr Connor (so senior a Minister, as Cairns was, as to have acted in the highest ministerial capacity);. Connor has gone because, on the Prime Minister’s own statement, he misled the House. And then there is the not to be forgotten incident of the Executive Council meeting at which the Prime Minister was present, and at which the then Attorney-General gave a ‘ kerbstone ‘ opinion.
At that meeting, the Executive Council, the GovernorGeneral not being present, authorised the borrowing of a sum of so huge a description that it would far exceed all the borrowings ever made by the Commonwealth in 75 years. It was to be done through obscure and unorthodox channels.
It was to be a borrowing for 20 years. It was to be a huge borrowing in which the sum received by the Commonwealth from the lenders was 951/2 in 100, but the total of 100 had to be repaid at compound interest.
This Executive Council decision was scandalous. It was clearly and unblushingly designed to escape the obligation in the Constitution to go to the Loan Council under the finan cial agreement for approval.
True, it thought it expedient to call the borrowing one for temporary purposes ‘; but a first year student would laugh at this as a prescription of the loan to which I have referred.
It was a disreputable incident. It was designed to evade the constitutional obligations of the Commonwealth.
Now, you cannot add these things together and say that the Senate ought to accept them with complacency. This, if there ever was an occasion, was one when the Senate ought to have exercised its undisputed right to defer or reject financial measures involved in the Budget.
All these things are so simple to anybody who (like myself) has been both legally and politically familiar with the Constitution and its workings that I have been astonished to discover that the Opposition is now being treated, not as a body authorised to check malpractice by the Government but, as itself, guilty of violating and defying the Constitution! !
I cannot imagine that any competent lawyer would agree with this view. But a lot of people will, if it is sufficiently pushed into them by a variety of people in the Government, aided and abetted by some elements in the media.
Finally, and I would say this with unfeigned respect for the vice-regal office, I think it would be a singular piece of impertinence on the part of the Prime Minister to go to the Governor-General, whose reputation is high, and who understands these things very well, and ask him for a premature ‘half Senate’ election, calculated and designed, hopefully, because of the recent legislation about senators from the Capital Territory and the Northern Territory, to give the Government control of the Senate for a month or two, in which time, of course, all their legislation which now has been attacked in the Senate, could be carried, with permanent (and I think damaging) effects on the Australian political structure. To offer advice to the Governor-General on the lines that have been hinted at would,I think, be both improper and insulting. There is no legal principle that permits a wrong doer to profit from his own actions.
ROBERT MENZIES, Melbourne21 October 1975
– It is, I believe, a fair measure of the desperation of the Opposition in this chamber this afternoon that Senator Rae should hang his case on a statement issued in the name of the former Liberal Party Prime Minister, Sir Robert Menzies. Allegedly the statement was written or dictated yesterday by Sir Robert Menzies himself. There is perhaps some area of doubt as to whether it was dictated spontaneously or under instruction. It is interesting that the Opposition should hang its case on the statement issued by a man who retired from politics 10 years ago and whose linkage goes directly back to the last century when the same man is on record at the height of his intellectual powers in 1932 and under somewhat more objective circumstances as stating:
Under the Australian system of universal suffrage and triennial parliaments, with a legally recognised and responsible Cabinet, it must, in my opinion, follow that so long as a Premier -
Of course the same goes for a Prime Minister- commands a majority in the lower House -
I emphasise ‘lower House’- and so long as he is guilty of no illegal conduct which would evoke the exercise of the Royal Prerogative, he must be regarded as the competent and continuing adviser of the representative of the Crown. For a newspaper to urge a dissolution because in its opinion the government has lost the confidence of the electorate is a mere impertinence.
Sir Robert Menzies, 43 years ago when he was at the height of his intellectual powers, continued:
The constitutional authority of a Premier rests almost entirely upon his success at a general election, and upon his continued authority in the popularly elected House, and not upon irresponsible speculations as to whether he would have lost his majority if the Constitution had provided for annual and not triennial elections.
That was a quotation from the Game papers, from a letter written by Sir Robert Menzies on 3 November 1932 when he was at the height of his intellectual powers. It is not a statement which was solicited or coerced from him yesterday, as he was dragged out of the cobwebs to try to give some degree of respectability to this contemptible action which the Opposition contemplates taking. Senator Hall, when he began to speak about half an hour ago, asked how it was that this had happened again to the Liberal Party, why it was that the Liberal Party seemed to have a recurrent capacity to drift into disaster when it seemed to be facing a bright electoral future- at least in the short term. I should have thought that the answer to that question was patently obvious. The Liberal Party has drifted into disaster on this occasion for precisely the same reason as it drifted into disaster in April 1974- because the Leader of the Liberal Party then and the Leader of the Liberal Party now were not sufficiently astute to resist the urgings of the Leader of the National Country Party (Mr Anthony) to force a premature election.
Let me put it this way: The Leader of the National Country Party- who of course above all fears a just redistribution which would decimate his political power base- in common with Senator Withers and one or two others, has never accepted the verdict of the people at either the 1972 or 1974 elections. Consequently, from the point of view of the Leader of the National Country Party it seems an attractive proposition that at any time when it appears that the Opposition may be able to seize power it should force an election. If the Opposition wins he is Deputy Prime Minister. If it loses the Leader of the Liberal Party gets the blame. Ultimately he gets rolled by his own Party, as the former Leader of the Liberal Party was rolled by his own Party in March of this year after his failure to attain power following his acceptance of Mr Anthony’s self-interested advice.
I am surprised that the present Leader of the Opposition, with that horrible experience before his eyes, has fallen for the same trick. This power-hungry Richmond bushranger has again tricked or seduced the Liberal Party into trying to force a premature election in order to make him Deputy Prime Minister, knowing full well that if it fails the blame, the stigma will accrue not to him but to the Leader of the majority Party in the coalition, the Liberal Party. I have no doubt that as a result of the failure of this second premature grab for power the present Leader of the Liberal Party will be destroyed as his predecessor was destroyed, and the prime destroyer in both cases will have been the Leader of the National Country Party. I am sure there are many members of the Liberal Party on the Opposition benches who are fully aware of those realities.
If, for the moment, we make the preposterous assumption that the argument which has been presented by the Opposition in this chamber this afternoon is sound and valid, it comes out to be something near a watertight case for the rejection of the Appropriation Bills at the second reading stage. The Opposition though is not proposing to reject the Bills at the second reading stage. It has adopted another stalling device. It will not allow these Bills to proceed to a second reading debate or to a second reading vote. The Opposition adopts the same stalling device as it adopted last week, that these Bills not be further proceeded with. If honourable senators opposite are so convinced that they have a watertight esse justifying the rejection of the Appropriation Bills, why do they not vote on the Bills? Why do they not let the second reading debate proceed? I suggest that the answer is self-evident- they are fully aware that that would be, to borrow a word, a most ‘reprehensible’ action. Opposition senators, particularly elderly Opposition senators who have some sense of history, do not want it to be indelibly recorded in Hansard that they personally voted to reject Appropriation Bills for the first time in 75 years of Federation, thereby jeopardising or endangering the survival of constitutional government. Their actions belie their brave and pretentious words. The National Times of 6 October carried this statement:
The Opposition looks more like a shonky insurance company than an alternative government. As soon as you make it plain you find the small print cancels the cover.
The more one listens to the debate in the chamber this afternoon and to the things which are said outside the chamber by members of the Opposition, the more obvious it becomes that the judgment of the National Times is correct. Firstly, Senator Withers’ amendment contains a lie which was exposed in this House by myself last week and which has been exposed by other people on numerous occasions. Paragraph (2) (c) of the amendment suggests, in part, that the nation has inflation not experienced for 40 years. Although last week I corrected that lie which has been stated by assorted spokesmen for the Opposition, I will correct it yet again. I have in my hands figures relating to the consumer price index for the early 1950s and the early 1970s. If we look at the percentage changes in the consumer price index from the December quarter of 1949- which I interpolate was immediately after the election of the MenziesFadden Liberal-Country Party Governmentand trace them through to the end of June 1952- the same period as the period for which the present Government has been in office, from December of one year to June 2y2 years later- we find that the total increase in the consumer price index in that period under a Liberal-Country Party government was 42.8 per cent. The figure for the comparable period from the beginning of 1972 is 36.3 per cent. If we take from the figures the highest 12-monthly or annual rate of inflation recorded in any period, we find that for the year ended December 1951 the annual increase in the consumer price index was 23.1 per cent, and the highest increase in recent times, since the election of the Whitlam Government, was 16.6 per cent for the year ended March 1975.
We find that on a quarterly basis the highest figure ever recorded was 6.9 per cent in December 1951 and the highest figure recently recorded was 5.1 per cent. So whether we like to measure the increase from the time that this Government attained power on an annual basis or on a quarterly basis, the facts show that this claim which is made so constantly by members of the Opposition and which was repeated by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Withers) in the motion that he moved is simply untrue. I suggest that to men of honour that should be sufficient reason for either voting against this motion which states a demonstrable untruth or moving for its further amendment.
Senator Rae attempted to present this controversy in terms of the States rights argument. I must confess that I cannot follow the logic of Senator Rae’s position. I do not know what this has to do with States rights when we have a vote- I exclude Senator Bunton and Senator Hall from this because they are Independents- in which the parties are divided on rigid party lines and indeed on which there is ample reason to believe that several members of the Opposition were bludgeoned into submitting themselves to party discipline and vote to defer these Bills against their personal better judgment.
– But they always have a free vote, do they not?
- Senator Hall already has quoted from the Adelaide Advertiser which has finally spelt out the reality that of course there is no free vote and there never has been. Since Senator Rae or someone else has mentioned the constitutional conventions I suggest that he look at the record of the constitutional conventions of the 1890s and see where Deakin realised right from the beginning- in fact from before the beginning- that the Senate would operate as a party House and not as a States House.
– Would they have a secret ballot on it?
-On how they would vote? I doubt it very much.
– No, on the Appropriation Bills?
– If I may respond to the interjection, Mr President, I think it possibly could be a matter that the people who conceive legislation in the Opposition ranks could well consider the possibility of making it mandatory for members of the Opposition to have secret votes in their party meetings since they seem to think it is a good idea in union elections. They have the view that in labor unions a few standover men force the rank and file to do things that they do not want to do. This seems to me to be a fairly succinct description of what happened in the Liberal Party last week when a particular standover man stood over several Liberal senators who knew that what they were doing was wrong and who did not want to do it.
– How would you know? You have been reading things.
– If Senator Missen wishes to dispute his leader’s assertion that he makes these decisions perhaps he could join in the debate afterwards and do so. But the really ludicrous aspect of Senator Rae’s pathetic attempt to present this in terms of a States rights dispute or a States rights argument is that Senator Rae has aligned himself with a course of action the purpose of which is to force a premature election and, the Opposition hopes, bring in a Fraser Government- a Fraser Government which recently announced a new federalism policy. I shall not go into this in any great detail as the matter is so vague and so contradictory that no one could really be very definitive about precisely what it means; but insofar as it has any meaning at all, what the Opposition’s new federalism- or Fraser ‘s new federalism- sets out to do is to reduce the redistributive role of the national government and to make State governments, to some degree anyway, fiscally responsible. To whatever degree that objective is attained there is no doubt that it will disadvantage the less wealthy and less populous States.
It is so appropriate that Senator Rae should raise this issue. We find that the tax paid by Tasmania per capita for the 1972-73 taxation year- that is the most recent figure availablewas $234. For Victoria the tax paid per capita was $302. If we look at the distribution of federal revenue on a per capita basis we find that the State of Tasmania receives $240 per capita more than the national average. The State of Western Australia, by the way, receives $107 more than the per capita average, so this argument is particularly pertinent to my State as well as to Senator Rae’s State. Senator Rae would have us believe that as a representative of the State of Tasmania he is standing up in this Senate in an attempt to introduce a State-Federal financing policy- which will be, to the degree it is implemented, disastrous for the State of Tasmania. I trust that the people of Tasmania are or will shortly be fully aware of what this man who claims to speak for them has done in this Senate.
Of course Senator Rae’s private opinions are somewhat different. I recall- and I accept- that Senator Rae was being basically a very loyal Tasmanian and a fairly astute politician. But Senator Rae was the person who led that rearguard fight in Tasmania against the political execution of the former leader of the Liberal Party. Senator Rae showed just how astute he was in doing that. He apparently showed a great deal of perspicacity, because he had some idea just what a disaster a Fraser Liberal Government would be for the State of Tasmania. Indeed, apart from leading this rearguard action in his own State to try to prevent the political assassination of the former Leader of the Opposition, Senator Rae circulated some thousands of telegrams- at great expense to the taxpayer too, I daresay- to prominent Liberals all over Australia attempting to forestall this conspiracy against the then Leader of the Liberal Party. So, on intellectual grounds I excuse Senator Rae because he really knows better than to say the things he said this afternoon; on ethical grounds, of course, it is another matter.
Senator Carrick had his Senate numbers confused. I shall not go into this in any great depth, but just to set the record straight for the benefit of Senator Carrick and the people who read Hansard, when the 1974 Senate election was held 29 Labor senators were elected, one Independent, one Liberal Movement- Senator Hall- 28 members of the Liberal and Country Parties and one member ofthe National AllianceSenator Drake-Brockman from Western Australia. Subsequent to their election, and as a breach of faith with the people who had elected them, Senator Drake-Brockman joined the Country Party, subsequently called the National Country Party, and Senator Townley joined the Liberal Party, which gives the Opposition its current number of 30. But 28 were elected as Liberal or Country Party senators. The other two have joined them since, I would suggest in breach of their moral contract with the electors who put them into the Senate.
Senator Guilfoyle postulated that the Opposition’s current complaints about obtaining documents or files- their current request that the files of the Department of Minerals and Energy be tipped out on the Clerk’s table in the Senatearose from a position analogous to the VIP scandal of 1967. Senator Guilfoyle conveniently has overlooked that throughout 1966 and early 1967 the responsible Liberal Ministers, and indeed the then Prime Minister, consistently denied that those VIP aircraft records existed. It was only because the then Senator Gorton tabled those records that the public ever found out the truth. I might add that when the then Minister for Air, Mr Howson, was finally called upon to account for his lies, Mr Howson offered his resignation to the House of Representatives on 2 November 1 967, I think it was, because he had misled the House of Representatives. If one wants to use the euphemism one would say that he misled the House of Representatives; if one wants the blunt truth, one would say that he had lied to the House of Representatives. The Liberal Prime Minister of the day refused to accept his resignation.
That, I suggest, is the essential difference between the moral, the ethical standards of this party and the party which it replaced in government. Prime Ministers of the Liberal Party have lied to the House of Representatives but they did not consider that that was justification for them to resign. They did not consider that to be grounds for their resignation, let alone the resignation of the entire government. The Liberal Party today was so desperate that it dragged Sir Robert Menzies out from the cobwebs. I understand that the Liberal Party was trying to get him to appear on television but it could not obtain any invisible props to prop him up. It is perhaps appropriate to read this passage from page 1060 of Hansard of 29 April 1965. In a ministerial statement the then Prime Minister, Sir Robert Menzies, said:
The Australian Government is now in receipt of a request from the Government of South Vietnam for further military assistance. We have decided- and this has been after close consultation with the Government of the United States- to provide an infantry battalion for service in South Vietnam.
That statement was made by the then Liberal Prime Minister, Sir Robert Menzies, who is the author of the article which appeared in today’s Melbourne Age, Sydney Morning Herald, West Australian, and I do not know how many other newspapers. That statement was subsequently shown to have been a lie, both by the publication of the Pentagon Papers and by the publication last year of the foreign affairs paper concerning Australia’s initial involvement in Vietnam.
Indeed, I believe it was finally acknowledged by a subsequent Liberal Prime Minister in the House of Representatives that no such request was ever received. I think it emphasises yet again the Opposition ‘s desperation that it has sought to provide some respectability for its actions by calling for support upon a former Prime Minister whom the public record shows lied himself to the House of Representatives. A more reprehensible issue upon which to lie to the House of Representatives would be impossible to find.
Mr Fraser pretends to have some sympathy for those people- he referred particularly to the elderly people- whom he says have been hurt by this Government. I do not know how they have been hurt, unless it is because they have got a higher pension in real terms than they have ever had before. He claims that they have been hurt and that they did not have time to recover from it. I think the appropriate response to that remark is this: Does Sir Robert Menzies or any member of the Opposition suggest that we can resurrect those 400-odd Australians who were killed in Vietnam or the countless numbers of Vietnamese who were killed pursuant to the dispatch of those Australians to Vietnam, a dispatch which was justified on the basis of a lie to the House of Representatives by a Liberal Prime Minister?
If one were to examine the credentials of those members of the Opposition- I was going to use the word ‘conservatives’ but I do not dignify them by the use of that word; ‘protofascists’ would be a more appropriate term- who purport to be concerned about truth and honesty, one might also examine the statement made by Sir Robert Menzies in the House of Representatives in April 1954 when he said he had never heard of one Vladimir Petrov until he had discussed him with a member of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation on the previous Sunday. Brigadier Spry, the head of ASIO, subsequently stated that he had discussed the matter with Sir Robert Menzies in February, 2 months previously. I do not know whether anyone was lying or whether someone had a lapse of memory, but the 2 stories are mutually exclusive; they both cannot be the truth. Perhaps since Opposition senators are so keen on having files tipped out on the Clerk’s table in the Senate they would like to move that the Petrov files be tipped out on the Clerk’s table in the Senate; perhaps they would like to move that the Vietnam files be tipped out on the Clerk’s table in the Senate. Indeed, I challenge any of them to so move.
- Mr Fraser would not agree to have them tabled.
– Precisely. As my colleague, Senator Gietzelt, interjects, Mr Fraser was invited to have them tabled and he refused. Without going into innuendoes, the sort of smear attack launched under parliamentary privilege this afternoon by Senator Carrick upon the Prime Minister when he did not have one scintilla of evidence- it was just something that had been fabricated by Senator Carrick ‘s fertile but jaundiced imagination- without going into that sort of wild and unproven speculation, the public record shows that the present Leader of the Opposition on 8 February this year said:
I support the leadership of Bill Snedden . . . Bill Snedden has my full support . . . There is no contest.
That is the man who now presents himself as a man of honour, a man of truth, a man who above all insists upon a proper standard of conduct both inside and outside the Parliament, a man who has the audacity to present himself as an alternative Prime Minister. My time has almost expired.
– I dare say it is fortunate for Opposition senators. It is unfortunate for them that these facts are again being put on the public record. On this issue of the passage of the Appropriation Bills, there are in this Parliament 3 people who are outside the rigid discipline of parties. I suggest, Mr Acting Deputy President and fellow senators, that it is highly significant that all of those 3 people who are outside the rigid discipline of party politics have strongly opposed the action which the Opposition has taken on these measures. I ask the Senate to reject the amendment moved by Senator Withers because it is fundamentally a subterfuge designed to avoid coming to grips with the issue involved, which is the debating of the Appropriation Bills. Opposition senators do not want to go on the record as having rejected the Appropriation Bills and they want to attain their shonky objectives by using this subterfuge. I ask the Senate to reject the amendment also because it contains a statement which simply is not true, and that is the statement that we have not experienced for 40 years inflation as high as we have now.
– I have sat in the Senate chamber for the last halfhour and listened to Senator Walsh’s contribution to the debate. It is quite normal, of course, for senators to sit in the chamber and listen to the remarks of the speaker who precedes them because there is always the possibility that something will be said in that speech which needs to be replied to, which needs to be debated. Instead we have spent most of the last half-hour listening to Senator Walsh wander through his own particular garden of political memories. There is nothing in his speech which is worth answering. However, there is one point on which I feel a personal constraint to comment. Senator Walsh, along with other Government senators, made reference to rumours about dissidents who do not want to take this course of action and who have been pulled into some sort of ‘line’ by the Liberal Party. I reject that statement absolutely and utterly, as does every member of the Opposition. It is well known that the decision in our Party room last week was a unanimous one and that nobody was leant on, nor has anybody been leant on since then. Nevertheless, the Government keeps these stories going and one may well wonder, with the experiences that I have had over the last couple of days, where the stories originate. Apparently, the Government clutches at these straws in the hope that somebody on the Opposition side will change his or her mind and weaken. The Government wastes its time. It could do better than to put up Senator Walsh to lecture members ofthe Opposition in the Senate.
There is another comment I want to make on a speech which has been made in this debate. I refer to the contribution made by Senator Hall. I have heard Senator Hall debate liberalism on many occasions. There have been a good number of occasions when I thought that Senator Hall contributed something which was of worth to the debate on the political philosophy of liberalism. But today Senator Hall has shown that his actions will go rather differently to his words. He has espoused principles which have supported federalism in the past. He has claimed to espouse principles which support a free enterprise system. Today he has shown himself as somebody who will vote for a government which is committed to centralised government, and which is committed to destroying the private enterprise system and replacing it with a socialist system. He has gone against the spirit and the letter of his words in the Senate last July when he made the statement that he believed that the Opposition should adjourn the Senate until 1 January, the intention obviously being that any such lengthy adjournment would force the Government to the people. Today he has his opportunity to vote. One ofthe great issues of this debate today, of the motion and of the amendment is that issue on which Senator Hall spoke a few months ago. He has turned a complete somersault. He goes against everything he said then and he will vote with a party whose principles and policies are against what Senator Hall has always claimed to represent.
I think that it would be worth while at this stage if we had a look at the wording of the motion very briefly, so that we can return to the subject which Senator Walsh took us so far from. The motion that was moved and passed in the House of Representatives yesterday expressed the sentiment that the reasons given in the Senate resolution- that was our resolution of last week- first, were not contemplated within the terms of the Constitution and, second, were contrary to established constitutional convention. There has been much in print and much said today and yesterday which explodes that contention of the Government. Nevertheless it is worth pointing out that that is the message we are debating and to which an amendment has been moved. I feel that I ought to contrast the statements of certain members of the present Government when they were then in Opposition over a period of time to what they say now. Of course, we have the well-known 1970 statement of the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) which contrasts so sharply with that motion which he moved yesterday. I quote from page 465 of the House of Representatives Hansard of 25 August 1970, the quote that we have become familiar with but which the whole of the Australian public has to know, understand and put in the context of the present debate as well as putting it alongside the Prime Minister’s present comments. As the then Leader of the Opposition he said:
Let me make it clear at the outset that our opposition -
That is the Australian Labor Party’s opposition- to this Budget is no mere formality. We intend to press our opposition by all available means on all related measures in both Houses. If the motion is defeated, we-
That is again the Australian Labor Party- will vote against the Bills here and in the Senate. Our purpose is to destroy this Budget and to destroy the Government which has sponsored it.
They were the Prime Minister’s words in 1 970.
Then, of course, we had the words from the then Senator Murphy in the debate in the Senate as he led in the debate for so many honourable senators who sit opposite and who decry the Senate ‘s power at this point of time. After many divisions on different sections of the Bill, which the Opposition had opposed, the then Leader of the Opposition, Senator Murphy, the man who led honourable senators opposite, said in the Third Reading debate, as reported on page 2030 of Senate Hansard of 3 November 1970:
I simply want to say that in accordance with what we indicated earlier, we propose to vote against the third reading of this Appropriation Bill as an indication of our complete and utter rejection of the Budget.
That was then the Australian Labor Party’s stated intention as it pursued that course behind the then Leader of the Labor Party and Leader of the Opposition in the Senate, the then Senator Murphy. It was their intention to defeat the Government and force it to the people. Seventeen senators who vote in the Senate currently voted with the Labor Party behind Senator Murphy in following that intention of 1 970.
We have also had quite a bit of comment about constitutional conventions. I refer again to a statement of Senator Murphy in June 1970. He said:
The Australian Labor Party has acted consistently in accordance with the tradition that we will oppose in the Senate any tax or money Bill or other financial measure wherever necessary to carry out our principles and policies. The Opposition -
That is the then Labor Opposition- has done this over the years and in order to illustrate the tradition which has been established, with the concurrence of honourable senators -
The then Senator Murphy went on to seek the leave of the Senate to incorporate in Hansard a list of the financial measures which the present Government voted against when it was in Opposition. A list of 1 68 measures was entered into the Hansard record in June 1970. It was a list of the financial Bills that the Australian Labor Party voted against in the Senate when it was in Opposition. It is interesting to note the words of the then Senator Murphy. He said:
It was a tradition of opposing money Bills and voting against them in the Senate which the then Senator Murphy claimed that he and the Labor Party had set.
What are the more recent comments of the Government both in the House of Representatives and in the Senate? Yesterday in the House of Representatives the Prime Minister made many statements in a very long speech. Time does not enable me to state all the points that I think should be debated in the Senate, but I shall mention some of them. I shall bring to the attention of the Senate the words that he used to frame the challenge that the Labor Party is now putting to the Senate and to the Opposition. He said:
The message from the Senate on the Bills which appropriate the moneys for the ordinary annual services of government is a direct challenge by the Senate to the authority of the House of Representatives.
A couple of minutes later in the same speech he said:
We as the elected Government of Australia- the Government solely because the people gave us a majority in this House- must now so conduct ourselves that this act of aggression by the Senate shall never again be attempted.
The Prime Minister has quite clearly, over the last few days, set himself to the task of destroying an important and a deliberate power of the Senate, a power which the Labor Party enjoyed to the full when it was in Opposition, but which now makes its members cringe, because they fear not the power but the consequences of the power, the fact that they will have to face the ultimate holders of authority and power in our political system- the people, the electors of Australia.
I was interested today to hear the statement of the Leader of the Government in the Senate, Senator Wriedt, when questioned on the matter of the Senate rejecting or voting against the Appropriation Bills. He said that it was ‘true that it is a matter of political judgment at the time that the decision is taken’. He rejected the idea that it was any sort of constitutional affront. He, the Labor Party Leader in the Senate, rejected the argument that the Senate did not have the constitutional power and said quite clearly that it is a matter ‘of political judgment at the time that the decision is taken’. Times have changed, apparently, because the political judgment of the Labor Party when it was in Opposition has gone not just to the other extreme but to denying absolutely a point of view that it took consistently when it was in Opposition.
Some reference has been made during the debate to a statement which was released yesterday and which appeared in the newspapers today by a former Prime Minister, Sir Robert Menzies. I must, just to pay due respect to the gentleman, refer very briefly to Senator Walsh’s comment on how that statement came to be made. Honourable senators will remember that Senator Walsh, when speaking immediately before me, said several times that Sir Robert had been dragged out of the cobwebs yesterday’. It was never my privilege to serve in Parliament under Sir Robert Menzies, but I was a member of the Liberal Party of Australia when he was its Parliamentary Leader and I did meet him on some occasions. I was then very actively interested in what was happening in the Parliament, so I know a little- certainly I know as much as Senator Walsh does- about Sir Robert Menzies as a man and as a Prime Minister. I doubt very much from what I know that anybody could, even now, drag Sir Robert Menzies against his will into making the sort of statement that he did yesterday. He is obviously his own man and has been in his political life and in all the time of his private life.
I do not want to take up my speaking time in reiterating the statement of Sir Robert. Nevertheless I wholly endorse it. I would like the statement and the arguments contained in it to be included as part of my speech- not, but of course, accredited to me. Therefore I seek the leave of the Senate to have the text of Sir Robert’s statement incorporated in Hansard and I seek leave to table the document.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Davidson)- Order! Senator Martin has sought leave to have the document incorporated in Hansard. Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows)-
STATEMENT BY SIR ROBERT MENZIES
As is well known, I have, for a long time abstained from entering into any current political controversy. But the circumstances today are such as to compel me to break that silence. For, quite simply, I think more nonsense is being talked about the constitutional position ofthe Senate than I can comfortably listen to, or read.
Powers of the Senate
If we desire to know what are the powers of the Senate over money Bills, we find them expressly set out in the constitution. The draftsmen of the constitution included these provisions because they knew (and this is a matter of historical fact) that the smaller states Le. smaller in population, would not vote for federation unless they have some protection given to them in the senate and they got it. And they still have it. The relevant provisions of section S3 are as follows: the Senate may not amend proposed laws imposing taxation, or proposed laws appropriating revenue or monies for the ordinary annual services of the government. ‘and except as provided in this section, the Senate shall have equal power with the House of Representatives in respect of all proposed laws.’
Now these provisions, which are the material ones, establish quite plainly that, while the Senate may not itself amend what we call ‘Money Bills’, it can pass them, or reject them, because these are the powers of the House of Representatives in respect of the same measures.
Let me repeat, the Senate may not amend these measures, but it may reject them, or, of course, in the ordinary course of debate, it may adjourn them.
It would be absurd to suppose that the draftsmen of the constitution conferred these powers on the Senate with a mental reservation that they should never be exercised.
Now, nobody has any doubts about this legal position. Mr Whitlam had no doubt about it when he was leader of the Opposition, nor did Senator Murphy, as he then was, when he asked the DLP Senators to join with Labor in throwing out a financial measure. All that has happened is that Mr Whitlam is now Prime Minister and, as I know from experience, Prime Ministers become a little frustrated if the Senate carries a vote against them. But this does not settle the arguments of constitutionality. The constitutions meaning does not change according to the direction from which Mr Whitlam and his Ministers look at it.
Now let me go on from there. 1 do not believe that the Senate ought as a matter of political judgment, to exercise its powers in every case. 1 think that in the interests of stability of Government it would be wrong for the Senate, for example, to reject a supply for the sole reason that it did not like the financial measures and had the power to reject them.
Everything depends on the circumstances. For a Government, fresh from the people, with a victory to be challenged in the Senate under section S3, would be, in my opinion, wrong. Not illegal, no, but politically wrong.
But these are not the circumstances today. The Government has, in the last 12 months, itself put up a record of unconstitutionality and, if it is not too strong a word, misconduct ona variety of occasions.
On one occasion, it concerned Dr Cairns, who was put out for not accurately informing the Parliament, on a recent occasion, it was Mr Connor (so senior a Minister, as Cairns was, as to have acted in the highest Ministerial capacity). Connor has gone because, on the Prime Ministers own statement, he misled the House. And then there is the not to be forgotten incident of the executive council meeting at which the Prime Minister was present, and at which the then Attorney General gave a ‘ kerbstone ‘ opinion.
At that meeting, the executive council, the Governor General not being present, authorised the borrowing of a sum of so huge a description that it would far exceed all the borrowings ever made by the Commonwealth in 75 years. It was to be done through obscure and unorthodox channels.
It was to be a borrowing for 20 years. It was to be a huge borrowing in which the sum received by the Commonwealth from the lenders was 95!6 in 100, but the total of 100 had to be repaid at compound interest!
This executive council decision was scandalous. It was clearly and unblushingly designed to escape the obligation in the constitution to go to the loan council under the financial agreement for approval.
True, it thought it expedient to call the borrowing one for, temporary purpose’: but a first year student would laugh at this as a prescription on the loan to which I have referred. lt was a disreputable incident. It was designed to evade the constitutional obligations of the Commonwealth.
Now, you cannot add these things together and say that the Senate ought to accept them with complacency. This, if there ever was an occasion, was one when the Senate ought to have exercised its undisputed right to defer or reject financial measures involved in the Budget.
All these things are so simple to anybody who (like myself) has been both legally and politically familiar with the constitution and its workings that I have been astonished to discover that the Opposition is now being treated, not as a body authorised to check malpractice by the Government but, as itself, guilty of violating and defying the constitution! 1 cannot imagine that any competent lawyer would agree wilh this view. But a lot of people will, if it is sufficiently pushed into them by a variety of people in the Government, aided and abetted by some elements in the media.
Finally, and I would say this with unfaigned respect for the Vice Regal office, I think it would be a singular piece of impertinence on the part of the Prime Minister to go to the Governor General, whose reputation is high, and who understands these things very well, and ask him for a premature ‘Half Senate’ election, calculated and designed, hopefully, because of the recent legislation about Senators from the Capital Territory and Northern Territory, to give the Government control of the Senate for a month or two, in which time, of course, all their legislation which now has been attacked in the Senate, could be carried, with permanent (and I think damaging) effects on the Australian political structure. To offer advice to the Governor General on the lines that have been hinted at would, I think, be both improper and insulting. There is no legal principle that permits a wrong doing to profit from his own actions.
ROBERT MENZIES, Melbourne, 2 1 October 1 975
-Mr Acting Deputy President, I could not hear you very clearly because of the noise that was coming from the other side when you spoke. I did seek leave also to table the document. May I take it that I have been granted leave on both counts?
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT- Yes.
– Thank you. In fact, of course, this great debate is really not a constitutional one because it was conceded long ago, and it was conceded specifically today in the Senate by the Leader of the Government in the Senate that the real debate is on a political situation. The political situation and the reasons for our move are well outlined in the amendment moved in the Senate by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Withers). It was the intention of those who drew up our Constitution and who agreed to it that the Senate should have the power to reject money Bills. Certain powers it does not have in relation to money Bills, but there is no doubt that it has the power to reject. One ought to look, therefore, at what the Prime Minister, Mr Whitlam, saw fit to say in the House of Representatives yesterday on this point. He said:
At stake is the same great issue -
He was referring to some previous issues in the evolution of democracy- the people’s control of the Executive and the moneys raised and spent by the Executive through the people ‘s control of the lower House, the people’s House. The taxpayers’ control over their money through their elected representatives in the people’s House is the foundation of parliamentary democracy.
He went on then to talk about the Westminster system of government. Does the Prime Minister suggest that the Senate is not an elected House? He has taken the Westminster tradition, the Westminster model, and has drawn an analogy which applies only when one thinks in terms of the House of Lords in Great Britain. It does not apply to the Senate in Australia. The Senate is not a House of Lords; it is a duly constituted and elected body which has the right to speak for those who elect it, who are the same people as those who elect the House of Representatives. It is not only the House of Representatives which has executive power. If the Prime Minister thinks that the executive control lies wholly in the House of Representatives why does he have Ministers who are appointed from the Senate? If he sees Executive power as something which should lie only in the hands of members of the House of Representatives why does he allow any of that power, even within his own Party, not to lie in the hands of members of the House of Representatives? He does not follow his analogy. It is an analogy which, asI have said, applies only in the case of the House of Lords.
The Senate does, however, have some Executive power and it has the same responsibilities as the House of Representatives in the matter of surveillance over public funds. The essence of a democracy lies very simply in the answer to the question: Who controls the purse strings? The debate on that subject is centuries old; the fight is centuries old. It goes back to the fight between the kings and the barons. The development of democracy in our Western civilisation was the result of a demand that those who finance a government have a say in the disbursement of that finance. In Australia the people have 2 direct says. They have one when they vote for the House of Representatives and they have one when they vote for the Senate. Concurrent with that right, that privilege of democracy, there is the responsibility of all elected members to take upon themselves the task of surveying government expenditure, deciding whether the Government is acting as it should, and whether that power of the purse is being exercised as it should be. It is in this context that the Senate, of course, operates its Estimates Committees.
The House of Representatives makes no worthwhile surveillance of the expenditure of public funds by the Government. The Prime Minister pretended it for the purposes of the debate yesterday, but it is not so. Every honourable senator who is present knows that there is no equivalent in the House of Representatives of the sort of surveillance that is meant to be given by the elected representatives of the people to the disbursement of public funds as is given in the Senate Estimates Committees. Those Estimates Committees have served this country well. They attempt to make that basic principle of democratic government- the reason the movement ever started- a reality in a parliamentary context in the Senate. But the Prime Minister chooses to ignore and to scorn the Senate’s right. He also chooses to ignore and to scorn the right of the people when he does that.
It is worth noting, in this context, how the present Government has again vacillated in its attitudes towards those Committees in time. It was, of course, in favour of them when it was in Opposition, but when we were voting last year on a motion which had to be moved by the Leader of the Opposition, in default of the Leader of the Government moving it, to set up those Estimates Committees and to give this Parliament the one chance it has to really carry out that particular aspect of its democratic function, the Labor Government opposed it. Every honourable senator who today will vote with the Government against the Opposition’s amendment, every honourable senator who adheres to the point of view that we do not have the moral, political or legal right to delay, defer or take a positive action in relation to Appropriation Bills, also opposed the setting up of the Estimates Committees last year. The Labor Party has abrogated, through its votes in this House and through its speeches in this House and in the other place, its right to claim that it defends the interests of the people in the matter of the basic thrust of democratic government. The Labor Party -
– Do you have any Estimates Committees in Queensland?
- Senator McLaren would not need to refer to the situation in Queensland. I would be delighted to debate it with him. The Labor Party’s legacy there is one from which the people of Queensland still suffer and I will be the first to admit it. Senator McLaren knows nothing about the history of the Queensland Government and of the Labor Party in government in Queensland. If he does he has chosen to forget it. We have in this Parliament a man who was a high office bearer in the Labor Party in the days when the Labor Party was in Government in Queensland. Never once did that man raise his voice then for the establishment of ordinances committees and all the other things that I could go on with. He tolerated the situation of a Labor Government which had not for 30 years called together any committees. That was understandable because the most exalted one was the Library Committee. Senator McLaren knows nothing, in those terms, about the situation in’ Queensland. He has chosen to throw in his comment to try to waste time and to divert the debate away from the central issue which is so important to the people of Australia today.
Yesterday the Prime Minister said:
Governments are made and unmade in the House of Representatives- in the people’s House . . .
I suggest that governments are made and unmade in the ballot boxes of this country and that the Government has shown its abject fear of that principle. It has all the grounds it needs to go for a double dissolution, but why will it not do so? There are 20-odd Bills which it could use as the grounds for a double dissolution. However, it chooses not to answer questions that are asked of it on that subject in this chamber and in the other place. In the context of the deadlock for which the Government must take equal, if not full, responsibility it is interesting to look at the Prime Minister’s words to the Governor-General in April 1974 when he requested a double dissolution. I have time to quote only a couple of brief pieces but they must be quoted. These were the words of the Prime Minister in April 1974 to the Governor-General:
I must, therefore, advise Your Excellency that the Senate has by its attitude brought about a position where the normal operations of government cannot continue.
Then after requesting the double dissolution he said:
This will avoid the further possible inconvenience to electors of a later election, will permit the referendum proposals to be put as already determined, and will of course result in the saving of considerable public expense.
Contrast that with the Prime Minister’s statements of the last few weeks and earlier. Why will he not go to the Governor-General and request a double dissolution now? Why is it that he pretends he can go on governing now when last year, in a similar situation, he said the Government was in a position where the normal operations of government could not continue. How does he pretend that the Government will continue at the moment?
It is also worth at least half a minute to comment on any suggestion of a half Senate election. The Prime Minister appears to be running from this suggestion now but everybody in Australia who has ever taken any notice of any of his speeches in an election will know that the Prime Minister adheres to the point of view that elections for the House of Representatives and the Senate should be at the same time. That is one of the reasons he gave to the Governor-General last year for a double dissolution. It is a principle which he forgets about when he talks of calling a half Senate election this year and afterwards to let us see what happens’. We now have a situation where the Government cannot, in the Prime Minister’s own words, pretend to be able to govern, where it has been provided with the grounds more than 20 times to call an election, and yet still it chooses to ignore the facts. I refer briefly to my Leader’s statement this afternoon. Senator Withers said:
He, the Prime Minister, and he alone has attempted to thwart the wishes of the people. He and he alone is attempting to distort and defy the Constitution. He and he alone is attempting to destroy democracy.
Finally, I refer to the sentiments of the then Deputy Leader of the Opposition in the Senate in the crucial debate in the 1970 Budget when the Australian Labor Party believed that it could oust the Government, that it could do it by voting against the Budget. I quote from Hansard of 26 August 1970 when Senator Willesee, the then Deputy Leader of the Opposition in the Senate -
– Not the present senator?
– Yes, the present Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate. In 1 970 he said:
If honourable senators opposite are democrats they will accept our challenge, grasp the nettle and go to the Australian people whom they are supposed to represent and whom we are supposed to represent. Let the people give the reply. I look forward to their decision with a great deal of confidence.
I similarly look forward with an equal amount of confidence to the decision of the Australian people as soon as they are given the opportunity.
Sitting suspended from 5.59 to 8 p.m.
-When this debate, which drones on and on like many in this place, is extended further into the population of this country, it will be about whether an Upper House, not elected on the same democratic basis as the Lower House in this country, should refuse Supply, therefore throwing out a democratically elected government. We have had a lot of argument and a lot of suggestions in this place about imagined government mismanagement and imagined government dishonesty. As Senator Steele Hall and others have said, the question will be: Should an Upper House in this country throw out a democratically elected government in a Lower House? We have heard Senator Wright and others state that this House is as democratic as the Lower House, it is a people’s House elected by the people. In the past we have heard people such as Senator Wright justifying a 20 per cent variation in the size of electorates in this country. Now we have an extraordinary situation in which these people are justifying the fact that it takes 10 times as many people to elect senators from one State as it does to elect senators from another State. We are now talking about a variation of 1000 per cent, which is an incredible argument from a House claiming to be a democratic House.
I believe that Senator Martin was guilty of an inaccuracy in her speech, an inaccuracy which was put forward in this House last year when we were appointing the Estimates Committees. She claimed that when they were established they were established with the support of the Australian Labor Party. She claimed that now they are established we are opposing them. I remember the debate last year. I remember Senator Murphy and others pointing out that we always have opposed the setting up of Estimates Committees. We have always been in favour of the setting up of standing committees. I did not have time in the evening break to check the times, the dates and the pages of Hansard, but I am told that one of my colleagues who will follow me had done so and will put this matter to rest. This debate is not about the Estimates Committees. They were set up because it was thought they would be a more convenient way of dealing with the Estimates. Without the Estimates Committees this House would still have to deal with the Estimates. That is perfectly obvious to anyone who has been a member of this chamber for any length of time.
Senator Rae made great play of the claim- he repeated it over and over again- that the Senate has the right to refuse Supply. The Senate is merely deferring Supply. He said that the Senate has done this, the Senate has done that. Those of us on this side of the House and those people outside who have been reading articles in the newspapers and listening to interviews on the television for many months now know that the question has been: Will Mr Fraser decide that the Senate will refuse or defer Supply? Many articles have been written about what a lonely man he is and what a difficult decision it was. From all the evidence, including the statements by Senator Withers and others, there is no question that the decison was Mr Fraser ‘s. If Mr Fraser had not made this decision the Opposion would have passed Supply, but Mr Fraser decided that the Opposition should refuse Supply now. I suppose in this decision he took the advice that he asked the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) to take tonight. He said that the Prime Minister should do what the London Times tells him. I think that statement tells us a lot about what Mr Fraser thinks of this country, the powers available in this country and the traditions and conventions of this country, when he advised the Prime Minister to take notice of and quoted the London Times.
The act which the Opposition is perpetrating in this House is the deferring of Supply in an attempt to force this Government to go to its third election in 3 years. I think it should be of concern to all of us. It should be of concern to all who want stable government, who worry about the future planning and development of this country and who worry about the preservation of the parliamentary system of democracy in this country. It comes as no surprise to those of us on this side of the House that the opponents of social reform and the defenders of privilege in this country will go to any length to maintain the advantages which they have. It is disappointing to me that the members of a party, which for some extraordinary reason calls itself the Liberal Party, in this House will follow the instructions of this group and will obey the call of those who attempt to defeat this democratically elected government. Those of us who were reactivated politically, if that is the word, in the 1960s by the gross distortions of view which were presented then, who saw this country dragged through the shambles of Vietnam and who saw that everyone who professed to be a social democrat or a democratic socialist was labelled a communist by people such as Senators Carrick and Greenwood, were dismayed with what we saw and heard. Some of us had been to Europe. Some of us had seen the sensible political debates which take place in most of the free countries there. We saw the exchange of ideas and philosophies without the name calling, rhetoric and accusations of communism which go on in this country and which have gone on in this country for far too long.
We believed that in this country there were natural advantages to those who opposed our side of the House- advantages of money, of media control and of influence- but we thought that they were at least balanced by the parliamentary system which we have. We thought that a government should have three or so years to carry out its policies. I know of no other country which has a shorter term of office for a government than this country has. I do not believe that anyone imagined that the power put into the Constitution at the time- Senator Jessop called it the wild colonial days- would be used now that the Senate is a party House. The people who vested this power in the Senate imagined that it would be a States House, a House in which the small States could protect themselves from the large States. Senator Rae made great play of this in his speech. If he had looked at the people sitting behind him he would have seen that they come from all States. If he had looked opposite he would have seen that we come from all States. No one with any sense really imagines that the Senate is still a States House. No one, I believe, imagined that the State Premiers would abuse the conventions as Mr Bjelke-Petersen has done and would do dishonour to the memory of an honourable, gentle and conscientious man by appointing a pathetic character to take his place. No one in his wildest dreams, I believe, would have imagined the Opposition taking advantage of this quirk of fate to pass motions in this House. I do not believe anyone considered the lack of principle of people such as Senator Withers who admitted that a couple of months after the Labor Government came to power the Opposition started working towards not one but two double dissolutions to try to get rid of this Government.
This country is now in the ridiculous situation that a fortuitous combination of numbers in the Senate and unpopularity in the polls could result in the defeat of a government. We are now in the even more ridiculous situation that the balance in this place can be altered by the appointment of a senator to replace one who has died, who has had an accident or who, for any cause, has retired. The appointment can be made by a Premier who has no morals and no respect for any conventions. I think the situation is ridiculous. I ask honourable senators to think of the position if Senators Davidson, Jessop, Young and Laucke were to perish in a plane crash or a car accident. Who in this place would have the gall to criticise Mr Dunstan and Mr Millhouse if they got together and appointed in the place of those senators 2 Labor and 2 Liberal Movement senators. If they did that the whole situation would change and this sort of debate would not be in progress. I think it is even more distressing to think of the possibility of some person with a twisted mind sitting somewhere in a back room who may decide that he should do something to influence the situation with a bullet or a bomb.
Concern has been expressed on both sides of this House about the possibility of rioting, of marches, of punch-ups in the street. Those things may indeed happen, but they have happened before in this country, and people have short memories. They happened in the 1960s, they happened in the early 1950s, they happened in a grand way, particularly in New South Wales, in the 1930s, and we always got over them. We always got over that state of affairs. But I wonder how we will recover from the bitterness and the disillusionment that is produced by the certain knowledge that we all have now that if a Labor government wins an election in this country the conservatives in the Opposition will do everything they can to have that Labor government out within months. They will do everything they can to shorten its term of office. I ask: What faith will people have in the parliamentary system? I suggest that they will have no faith. They will gradually leave this field and graduate to the streets. They will join the few extremists present on both sides of politics in this country who do not believe in a parliamentary democracy.
– They are nearly all of the Liberal Party, though.
- Mr Deputy President, I object to the interjection by Senator Keeffe. I ask you to request Senator Keeffe to withdraw the remark which alleged that most of the dissidence in this Parliament in terms of disorderly conduct exists on this side of the chamber. I would be grateful if you would draw Senator Keeffe ‘s attention to the propriety which should exist. Senator Grimes quite properly is addressing himself to a philosophical argument and that is being destroyed by the disorderly interjection of Senator Keeffe, who is behaving in his normal manner in these matters.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Webster)- I think that the Senate has been reasonably controlled this evening. Senator Keeffe ‘s remark was one of a political nature and was not an imputation about or reference to a particular senator. I would ask all honourable senators to assist me to control the Senate this evening.
– As I was saying before Senator Sir Magnus Cormack interrupted me, in fact there are people in this country who are extremists, people who, unlike those of us here, do not believe in parliamentary democracy. 1 believe that by making people feel frustrated they will be driven to that group. It is no good me and others on this side of the chamber who believe in a parliamentary democracy saying to these people: ‘Look, this is a one-off situation. It will never happen again. They will go back to the conventions. They will go back to behaving themselves.’ Once conventions are broken they are gone; they are gone forever. In 10 or 15 years time, if I am lucky enough or unlucky enough to be here and the situation arises where the wheel has turned, as it always does in this game, where there may be a conservative government and a Labor majority in the Senate, where there may be a low vote on the opinion polls because some unpopular but perhaps necessary decision has been made, I do not believe that I will be able to say to my colleagues: ‘We should not do this’, because they will say: ‘Do not be a fool. Go for what you can. ‘
Senator Withers in an interview reported recently in the newspapers made his position quite clear when he said: ‘Winning is what counts.’ That attitude, if taken generally, is a formula for political trouble. If the only thing that matters is winning and if any means are considered fair means, then in fact any means will be used to win. Philosophies and ideals will not matter and policies will not count at all. We will have the sort of situation that existed in America with Hughie Long, with Governor Gerry in Massachusetts, or even the sort of situation that exists in South America. Although I am not a lawyer, I believe that both laws and conventions are necessary to sane parliamentary government in the same way as a combination of laws and customs is necessary for a civilised society. I think it was Senator Button who said in a debate in this place the other night that to suggest that people should take the attitude that they will do anything that is legal is the cry of a political trollop. Even in ordinary society it is the cry of an antisocial being. To go on like that and say: ‘The law is there. We can do it. That is what is written. We will do it no matter what the consequences’, is asking for trouble in this country or in any other country. The hypocrisy that is used to justify that sort of attitude and action is to me at times breathtaking.
I think it is the height of hypocrisy for a party to suggest that a government should resign because 2 Ministers misled the Parliament when that party does not even follow that dictum when it is in government and its own Ministers are not asked to resign when they lie to the Parliament, and sometimes lie repeatedly. I think it is hypocritical for people like Senator Townley and Senator Baume to talk about dishonest government when there is no proof of dishonesty. The person who made that accusation entered this Parliament as an Independent, with signs appearing all over Tasmania saying: ‘Tasmania needs an Independent’. He wrote to the Tasmanian branch of the Liberal Party Executive on 5 August 1970 and, after announcing that he would not stand as a Liberal candidate, finished his letter with these words:
My course of action is clear and quite decided. I will be a candidate for the Senate and failing that I will stand as an independent at the next State election. Under no circumstances would I apply again for Liberal endorsement.
I know that there are some honourable senators who wish he would follow that firm statement that he made back in 1970. Senator Baume got up here and carped about dishonesty in government without giving any facts. He never gets up and complains about the dishonesty of firms like Patrick Partners, whom he seems only too keen to protect. When he votes against securities and exchange legislation in this country because he wants to protect that group, I think that that is also the height of hypocrisy.
I believe very much that the Opposition has been casting around, looking for a reason to take this action, in the same way that it cast around and looked for a reason to take it in 1974. 1 think that it set out to manufacture a crime in its own terms. The Opposition went from crime to crime. It produced letters in the House of Representatives which were shown to be either false or even months old. Then, when it could not find a crime, it cast about for a criminal. When it could not find one, eventually the Opposition decided that it would go the whole hog and cast the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) in the role of a criminal. It has failed to make that charge stick. It could not find any evidence at all, so it decided: ‘We will act anyhow. We will say that this whole Government and all its actions have been reprehensible’. I believe that this week the Opposition has been answered by the public, by the Press and by those people who are concerned about democratic government. The Opposition even came up with new policies. It decided that it was quite reasonable that if you wanted to throw out the Government you had to produce some sort of policy, some sort of Budget which would be different from this Government’s Budget, lt has even had difficulty doing this. The Opposition produced a new policy on federalismSenator Carrick ‘s policy. It was a policy that was rejected by Sir Gordon Chalk and by Mr Gorton. It worried Sir Charles Court in Western Australia, and it worried the life out of Mr Kevin Cairns, one of the Opposition’s own members from Queensland. More than that, it has very much worried the people of Tasmania, both Labor and Liberal supporters, because they have seen the result of this sort of system in Canada where people in the small Provinces pay anything from 5 to 6 per cent more in income tax than those elsewhere. As well as that they have to pay the extra prices which are the standard thing in small Provinces with small populations.
The Opposition decided quite firmly that it would throw out the Legal Aid Office. It definitely had to go and definite statements were made to that effect. Then the Opposition discovered that a poll had been taken and an investigation made which ascertained that people liked the Legal Aid Office and people were using the Legal Aid Office. Now I believe the Opposition does not intend to throw this Bill out. They intend to send it to a committee of the Senate where they hope it can be put in a pigeon-hole for a while.
People in Australia know that bodies like the Schools Commission are in danger. They know that the Hospitals Commission is doomed. They know that if this Opposition gets into power it will be determined to tear down all the good things that this Government has done whenever these things affect the position of privilege of certain people in the community. I believe that the people of Australia will be frightened of this. Above all, they will be frightened by the arrogant grab for power by a man who has already assassinated one Prime Minister and removed a leader of his own Party in a very short time. I think they will be frightened of a man who pontificates to the people, who gets up and says: Life is not meant to be easy. You all must work hard’, when he has had an easier life than anyone in this place. He has had a more privileged life than anyone in this place. His only experience of a hard life is something he has read in books or newspapers.
I believe that the thing people fear most is the bitterness which will arise from the frustrations of a large group of people who will have no representation and who will have no hope of getting their government into power. They will have no hope of influencing the future of this country and they know that if their representatives ever get into government in this country action will be taken immediately to get them out as quickly as possible by fair means or foul. 1 believe that this can only result in the breakdown of the parliamentary system in this country.
I am not concerned about the immediate effects. I am not concerned about a few punchups in the streets or a few demonstrations. I am concerned that what will happen in 10, 15 or 20 years time in this country may be what has happened in other countries where this sort of behaviour has been allowed to go on. People can rant and rave in this place. People can bring up false charges. People can spend 6 months trying to pin something on the Prime Minister and trying to pin something on other people. The Opposition can spend vast sums of money flying people to Australia to tell stories to the Press at a very convenient time. It can spend many hours on the telephone and use other means to convince various editorial writers in Australia to come out, all on the one day, with the same point of view, a point of view which they had rejected in the weeks before. But this is all too patently obvious. It will not work forever. I do not believe it will work this time. This Government is not going to lie down. This Government does not believe that we should be kicked like this for no good reason.
Therefore we believe that these Bills should pass. We believe that these Bills should at least be debated in this House. We really believe that if the Opposition is opposed to them it should not just defer them, using the vote of a man who could not be here because he died. The Opposition should not just refuse to debate the Bills again which is what it is doing now. It is refusing even to put them on the Notice Paper. Members of the Opposition should have the guts to stand up and vote against the Bills.
– That would be the honourable thing.
– That at least would be honest, and as Senator Mcintosh says, it would at least be honourable. I do not think the Opposition will do that. I do not know why it will not unless it is that they are uncertain of the numbers on the other side of the House. I believe these Bills should go on the Notice Paper and we should be debating them so that some firm decision may be made.
– I listened with some fascination to what purported to be a speech by the Senator from Tasmania, Senator Grimes. His speech reminded me of bedtime stories, with the odd touch of the ugly sisters in them and occasionally a witch and a dragon and all kinds of fanciful things, for little children whom he perhaps at some stage in his life gathered around his knee. I think that even the children who might have been terribly fond of him would have found it exteremly hard to digest that complete load of irrelevance and nonsense that came from his mouth. What we are talking about is a motion for the restoration to the Notice Paper of the 2 Appropriation Bills which have, indeed, been disposed of by this chamber. They have been deferred. They have been sent to the House of Representatives with a clear indication that the Senate will pass those Bills when the House of Representatives, through its Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam), presents itself to the Australian people. That is clear and unequivocal. It does not admit of confusion even in confused minds such as honourable senators opposite have displayed to us since the debate began. If Senator Grimes becomes distressed about this, let him possess his soul in patience because his own Party in the other place is, I understand, in the process of forwarding the same Bills to us again. So he has only got to wait a day or so and we will have the same debate over again with the same result.
What we are saying in effect, is that the Australian people have got a right to determine their future. Their future should not be determined from some high and lofty posture by a group of people who believe they know best for everybody and that the people themselves have no right to make a judgment about their future. Both the Bills are concerned and one might simply say that what we are talking about is a situation of to have or to have not. We believe the people of Australia have an entitlement to judge the House of Representatives on its record after nearly 3 years of government. What we have heard is extremely confused debate from the Government side. The debate has been extensive. It has borne little relationship to the issues involved. The debate has contained a fair amount of personal acrimony, quite a lot of innuendo and unsatisfactory comment about some fairly decent people both inside this House and outside the House, and historical reviews that bore no relevance. Indeed, if one listened to the debate very carefully, as I have had the misfortune to do for most of the day, one would realise that it has been a totally disastrous debate for speakers on the Government side. They have made no case. If I was part of the Australian public listening to these proceedings- who I gather represent about 1 16 per cent of the population on broadcast day- I think I would have found it incumbent on me to turn off the radio when Government speakers were engaged in the exercise of trying to prove a completely false case. What we have here, therefore, is a very clear position. An amendment to the Appropriation Bills has been moved by the Opposition. It would not do any harm for the accuracy of the record and for the illumination of people’s minds- the people have had little chance to be illuminated by the speeches we have heard from honourable senators opposite- if the amendment we proposed were to be read out, and I intend to do that.
– I think you should do that.
-I think I will. I am so glad to have Senator Devitt’s encouragement. On Senator Devitt’s side of the House there are a lot of honourable senators for whom I have some regard and he is one of them. So that when he encourages me to read into the record the amendment proposed by the Opposition, I am grateful. Our amendment says–
– You are wasting our time.
-You are one of the people who say I should not do it but I have relative values for those whom I think a lot of and those whom I do not think much of. Unfortunately you, Senator Poyser, fall into the latter category. This is the amendment we propose to put to the Senate.
– You sound as though you are sore about something.
-No, I am not sore about anything at all. I have had a happy evening. I enjoyed my dinner and I am looking across at honourable senators opposite and thinking to myself: ‘What an extremely sad case for Australia to have these people trying to govern it. ‘ The Opposition’s amendment states:
Leave out all words after ‘That’, insert- ‘the Senate having considered Message No. 380 ofthe House of Representatives asserts
That the action of the Senate in delaying the passage of the Appropriation Bill (No. 1) 1975-76 and the Appropriation Bill (No. 2) 1975-76 for the reasons given in the Senate Resolution as communicated to the House of Representatives in Message No. 276 is a lawful and proper exercise within the terms of the Constitution of the powers of the Senate.
That the powers of the Senate were expressly conferred on the Senate as part of the Federal Compact which created the Commonwealth of Australia.
That the legislative power of the Commonwealth is vested in the Parliament of the Commonwealth which consists ofthe Queen, the Senate and House of Representatives.
) That the Senate has the right and duty to exercise its legislative power and to concur or not to concur, as the Senate sees fit, bearing in mind the seriousness and responsibility of its actions, in all proposed laws passed by the House of Representatives.
That there is no convention and never has been any convention that the Senate shall not exercise its constitutional powers.
That the Senate affirms that it has the constitutional right to act as it did and now that there is a disagreement between the Houses of the Parliament and a position may arise where the normal operations of Government cannot continue, a remedy is presently available to the Government under section 57 of the Constitution to resolve the deadlock.
That the Senate reaffirms to the House of Representatives its resolution set out in Senate message No. 276 in respect of each of the 2 Appropriation Bills . . .
That needs reading into the record for the Australian public and in order to clear up the confusion, the misstatement of fact, the hysteria and to get away all the rubbish with which this quite simple issue- that is to have or not to have an election- is being confused and confounded. In reply to the message which we sent to the House of Representatives we got a most inaccurate and untruthful assertion in reply. This was the message passed by the Senate:
That this Bill be not further proceeded with until the Government agrees to submit itself to the judgment of the people, the Senate being of the opinion that the Prime Minister and his Government no longer have the trust and confidence of the Australian people because of-
the continuing incompetence, evasion, deceit and duplicity of the Prime Minister and his Ministers as exemplified in the overseas loan scandal which was an attempt by the Government to subvert the Constitution, to by-pass Parliament and to evade its responsibilities to the States and the Loan Council;
the Prime Minister’s failure to maintain proper control over the activities of his Ministers and Government to the detriment of the Australian nation and people; and
the continuing mismanagement of the Australian economy by the Prime Minister and this Government with policies which have caused a lack of confidence in this nation’s potential and created inflation and unemployment not experienced for 40 years.
That is the resolution which was transmitted to the House of Representatives. That is what we are saying now. It is what we said before. That is what this matter is all about. It ought to be clear to all concerned that that is the issue. The Bills are deferred. They will be passed immediately the House of Representatives, led by the present Prime Minister, agrees to take itself to the people after nearly 3 years in office. Section 57 of the Constitution is quite clear on the Prime Minister’s present position. He has the option conferred upon him by the resolution of the Senate. He has another option under section 57 which is based on a double dissolution. After 3 years- he has nearly had those 3 years- his time is really up. He can go to the people. He ought to go to the people. Why does he not go to the people? I think these issues have been made quite clear in various fairly sensible comments which have been made by Opposition speakers on this side of the chamber and by honourable members on our side of the House of Representatives. So that honourable senators on the Government side can draw extra comfort I commend to them some of the editorials, particularly that in the Sydney Morning Herald which makes a very clear point. This point is reinforced by Sir Robert Menzies. I shall read into the record again some of the comments of Sir Robert Menzies. It gives me some pleasure to do so. I think that Sir Robert has a considerable advantage in his intellect and in his capacity to judge the scene when compared with some of the honourable senators on the Government side, particularly those who have been contributing so-called messages in this debate. I do so also because it is true that I am in politics because of the influence Sir Robert had on me as a young man. This was because of his stand at a time of crisis like this when many of us were drawn to his banner, his purpose and his philosophy. We have stayed with that ever since. Therefore when Sir Robert speaks to me and to the Australian people I have a considerable respect for what he says. I shall not quote all that he has said. I will read some of what he has said into the record. He stated:
Powers of the Senate
If we desire to know what are the powers of the Senate over money Bills, we find them expressly set out in the Constitution. The draftsmen of the Constitution included these provisions because they knew (and this is a matter of historical fact) that the smaller States, i.e. smaller in population, would not vote for Federation unless they have some protection given to them in the Senate and they got it. And they still have it. The relevant provisions of section 53 are as follows:
The Senate may not amend proposed laws imposing taxation, or proposed laws appropriating revenue or moneys for the ordinary annual services of the Government.’ and
Except as provided in this section, the Senate shall have equal power with the House of Representatives in respect of all proposed laws. ‘
What is the Australian scene? It is the Queen, the Senate and the House of Representatives. That is the Parliament. It is not a solo exercise and dictatorial fantasy at the other end. Sir Robert Menzies continued:
Now these provisions, which are the material ones, establish quite plainly that, while the Senate may not itself amend what we call ‘money Bills’, it can pass them, or reject them, because these are the powers of the House of Representatives in respect of the same measures.
Let me repeat, the Senate may not amend these measures, but it may reject them, or, of course, in the ordinary course of debate, it may adjourn them.
It would be absurd to suppose that the draftsmen of the Constitution conferred these powers on the Senate with a mental reservation that they should never be exercised.
Now, nobody has any doubts about this legal position.
– When did he say that?
-I think he said that last night. If Senator McLaren has a chance to read he might care to read that statement. Perhaps it would help him. In the moment of silence which we sometimes get from Senator McLaren- it does not happen often- I say that I do not think we ought to regard Senator McLaren, the poultry farmer from South Australia, as a constitutional expert alongside Sir Robert Menzies.
– I will tell the Senate what Menzies said when I get up.
– The honourable senator will have a chance to do that. I think the recollection of Sir Robert last night would be more reliable than the recollection Senator McLaren might have of something he might have said somewhere back in Murray Bridge in the shades of his past.
– His memory was not too good in 1 965, was it?
-Senator Grimes and Senator Walsh might take notice of this because it could well be that they might profit from some education by somebody like Sir Robert Menzies who knows something about the matter. In regard to the Executive Council decision in which the Prime Minister- the now incumbent Mr Whitlam- was involved, Sir Robert Menzies, a very great Prime Minister on any test, stated:
This Executive Council decision was scandalous. It was clearly and unblushingly designed to escape the obligation in the Constitution to go to the Loan Council under the financial agreement for approval.
True, it thought it expedient to call the borrowing one for, temporary purposes’; but a first year student would laugh at this as a prescription of the loan to which I have referred.
It was a disreputable incident. It was designed to evade the constitutional obligations of the Commonwealth.
Now, you cannot add these things together and say that the Senate ought to accept them with complacency. This, if there ever was an occasion, was one when the Senate ought to have exercised its undisputed right to defer or reject financial measures involved in the Budget.
As I said earlier, I am a great deal happier to have Sir Robert as a reference for our behaviour than I would be to have Senator McLaren and others. I shall say some things to the Government, whether it likes it or not. To most Australian people this country is a great deal more important than any single man, no matter how high his self-esteem and how high his vanity. I for one am tired of being bluffed, talked down to, bullied and threatened by the present Prime Minister. I believe that he has to come to account before the Australian people. We all must do this. We are happy to do it. Let him also do it. What we seek to achieve is that he comes to be recorded before the bar of the Australian people at a proper time and on a proper occasion.
We have had this sort of a debate on the Appropriation Bills for quite a long time. I again take honourable senators back to the Opposition’s concern which was expressed in the debate on Supply in May, in the debates on the Treasurer’s Advance and in the Budget debates. We looked at the expenditure expansions in the debate on Supply in May when there was an increase of 63 per cent in the expenditure. We looked at the Budget position. We expressed great concern about it. We went through the record of things that were then happening. I can again quote from Hansard what the Treasurynot the Treasurer- and the Reserve Bank said in combination. They said that that in 1974-75 the Australian economy experienced more instability than for many years, aggregate output declined for the first time since 1952-53, consumer prices rose by 17 per cent and unemployment reached nearly 5 per cent of the work force. That is the record of the Government which honourable senators opposite propose to us ought to be allowed to go on indefinitely, for ever and ever, because out of some sense of vanity and self-esteem they hold the view that they know what to do when the record stands against them massively and convincingly on any test.
As I said during the Budget debate, the Government ought to resign- that is its proper course of action. Any one of us would be ashamed to be an Opposition senator and not take a stand against honourable senators opposite and against their Prime Minister, for the way in which they have behaved and for what seems to us to be their concept of their infallible view that they are the only people capable of handling a country like Australia. Demonstrably they cannot do so. The previous Government could do it, and it did so. This Government inherited full coffers, great wealth, stable prices and practically no unemployment. In 2V4 years it has practically wrecked the whole economy. What a diatribe honourable senators opposite have put against us. What a group of people they are. If I were in their position I do not think that I could stand here and make any explanation whatsoever. I would hang my head in shame. Therefore, when I think about this country I ask myself: What lies ahead of Australia if this group of people is allowed to go on? What is facing Australia? What are we looking at unemployment at higher levels, inflation at a higher level, a lack of confidence in this country, a lack of demand, a lack of investment and growing unemployment? That is the sort of thing that honourable senators opposite are putting up as a proposition. They believe that they have something to offer Australia. What they have to offer Australia is to get out of the road and go away. The record is there to be seen. If honourable senators opposite remain in power they will get this country into more and more trouble. Why is this? It is a sense of vanity; it is a state of incompetence.
The other thing for which I do not care one little bit is this rubbish that is being fed out by honourable senators opposite about the challenge to democracy, about violence and about riots in the streets. They ought to be ashamed of themselves. It is a complete and utter load of nonsense. I have been in this country longer than many honourable senators opposite. I have been here in all kinds of troubles. I have been in depressions. As a young boy I was in Broken Hill when the communists threatened us with physical violence. Who gives a damn about that? Not me. Honourable senators opposite put on these acts of violence and threats. They talk about these things. They do this country and equally its people a great disservice. They ought to be thoroughly fed up and ashamed of themselves, because I am. I say to honourable senators: The Government has to be changed, it has to go. What we in the Opposition are doing is seeking to give the Australian people properly and sensibly a chance to look at honourable senators opposite with clear eyes and to say, as I am sure they will, that they have had enough. Australia and its people have nothing to worry about at all from the Opposition. We have guaranteed the Australian people that their present position will be maintained and that we will safeguard their future. The problems and dangers that face the people come from this Government. Why will it not go to the people? Honourable senators opposite talk about what they are. I wonder what they really are. Are they a democratic government or are they a revolutionary government? Please tell me.
- Mr Acting Deputy President, I have been in this Parliament now for only a short time- 4 years- and that is the most hysterical outburst that I have every heard from Senator Cotton. Why is he so hysterical tonight? It is because he is one of the ringleaders who gave the advice to Mr Fraser as to what he ought to be doing with this Budget. Senator Cotton’s voice tonight indicated defeat because he knows that very shortly his colleagues will rat on him, they will capitulate, and he is trying to salvage whatever advice he has given to Mr Fraser. I am rather disgusted with the way that Senator Cotton got so hysterical tonight because from 8 o’clock the debate was on a very good plane. But he came in here and he made his outburst.
We are debating a motion to restore Appropriation Bill (No. 1 ) and Appropriation Bill (No. 2) to the notice paper, to which the Leader of the Opposition, Senator Withers, has moved an amendment for no other purpose than to further delay the passage of these Bills. All the posturing and manoeuvring of the Opposition- that includes Senator Cotton- in an endeavour to hoodwink the people as to why the Opposition has taken this action mean nothing. As I told the Senate on the night of 30 September, Mr Fraser was busily organising 12 months ago to take the very action that we are embroiled in now. The reason why this action has been delayed for 12 months is only that Mr Fraser failed in November last year to get rid of Mr Snedden.
It would appear that every time the Liberals have a blood bath in their own party and a change of leadership they want a general election. Snedden replaced McMahon and then sought an election last year. He lost. Now we find that Fraser has brought off a coup against Snedden, at his second attempt, and he now wants to put the Australian electorate to enormous cost to try himself as the Leader of the Liberals. As I have said, McMahon failed in 1972 and Snedden failed in 1974. What did Senator Cotton say? He said that the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) should go to the people. He asked: Why does not the Prime Minister go to the people? Honourable senators opposite said this in this Parliament last year. The Prime Minister went to the people, and what was the result? The Labor Government was returned to office. We were returned with 29 members in this place, and later I will have something to say about why we now have only 27 members. It is because of the flouting of conventions by a person who was upheld in this Senate tonight by Senator Martin- that is BjelkePetersen of Queensland.
Senator Cotton claims that the Senate should have the right to turn out the government between general elections. His views are completely contrary to those of other eminent people. I refer to 3 ex-Liberal Prime Ministers, one Liberal back bencher and 2 other eminent people whom I shall quote. Senator Cotton went to great lengths to read into Hansard tonight a statement by Mr Menzies which was issued yesterday. That is the third time that the statement has been put into Hansard today. Firstly I think Senator Rae had it incorporated in Hansard. Then Senator Martin had it incorporated in Hansard and laid on the table. Then Senator Cotton read it into Hansard tonight. If that is the only peg on which they can hang their hat to bring about a delay in the consideration of these Bills, they have a pretty weak case. Senator Cotton thought that he made a strong case tonight because of what Mr Menzies said in his Press statement yesterday. Let us look at what Mr Menzies said in a letter dated 3 November 1932 to the Governor of New South Wales, Sir Philip Game. It is quoted in the Dismissal of a Premier .The Philip Game Papers by Bethia Foott, which is to be found in Morgan Publications (Sydney) 1968 at pages 2 19 to 222. This is what Mr Menzies had to say then:
Under the Australian system of universal suffrage and triennial Parliaments, with a legally recognised and responsible Cabinet -
That is what this Government has today- it must, in my opinion, follow that so long as a Premier commands a majority in the Lower House, and so long as he is guilty of no illegal conduct which would evoke the exercise of the Royal Perogative, he must be regarded as the competent and continuing adviser of the representative of the Crown. For a newspaper to urge a dissolution because in its opinion the Government has lost the confidence of the electorate is a mere impertinence.
I interpose here to refer back to Mr Fraser ‘s Press conference in the precincts of this Parliament last week. He was asked from where he got the message that there should be an election. He said: ‘Look in today’s newspapers’. But what did Senator Hall tell this Parliament? He told the Parliament that the previous night Mr Fraser had rung around all the editors of the newspapers and asked them to give him a message. That message came out the next day by way of editorials. Mr Fraser has done the very same thing as Mr Menzies says ought not to be done. Then again we see in the Sunday Mail in South Australia all these editorials in a full page advertisement, with a photo of Mr Fraser superimposed, backing up his argument that he has a message from the people. Of course, if he has taken any notice of the message that is coming out from the people in the rallies that have been held I am sure he has changed his mind. I quote further from Mr Menzies:
The constitutional authority of a Premier rests almost entirely upon his success at a general election, and upon his continued authority in the popularly elected House, and not upon irresponsible speculations as to whether he would have lost his majority if the Constitution had provided for annual and not triennial elections.
Senator Cotton is advocating here tonight that there should be an election every 18 months. I want to quote from some other eminent people. Another ex-Liberal Prime Minister, Mr Holt, stated in a Press release No. 52 1967, issued in Canberra, on 10 May 1967:
It is one ofthe most firmly established principles of British Parliamentary democracy that a House of Review should not reject the financial decisions of the popular House. The terms of the Commonwealth Constitution reflect this principle.
We then look at what Mr Gorton, another exLiberal Prime Minister, was reported to have said in the Age of 25 August 1953 when he was very popular with all those people sitting on the other side of the House. The then Senator Gorton said: . . the problem of preventing the Senate from inhibiting and frustrating government can be solved (by Constitutional amendment) . . . First, deprive the Senate of the power to reject Supply, for if it is to defeat a Government it should do so on a specific measure, not on general grounds of dislike. Second, if the Senate does defeat a Government on a specific measure, then, instead of a double dissolution, the Senate alone should go to the people.
This is what the Opposition ought to do this time. It ought to have the courage to go to the people instead of trying to drag the House of Representatives out with it. The newspaper article continued:
This would prevent an Opposition with a majority in the Senate from using that majority capriciously, because no party would jeopardise such an advantage except on a matter of fundamental importance.
I have quoted from 3 ex-Liberal Prime Ministers. Senator Cotton quoted one of them and the statement by Mr Menzies from which he quoted was issued yesterday is completely the reverse of what Menzies said in 1932. 1 shall leave it to the public at large to ascertain or conjecture why Mr Menzies made that statement. Was his arm twisted? I should like to think that it was twisted and I am pretty sure that it was. Mr David Hamer, M.P., the brother of the Victorian Premier, was quoted in the Age of 18 February 1974 as saying:
Such a precedent could well render Australia ungovernable. Governments frequently have to make hard decisions, which will be unpopular in the short-term in the hope that their beneficial long-term effects will be apparent before they have to face the electors.
It would be outrageous if a Government, whenever it took such a hard decision, could be forced into an election at the whim of minor parties in the Senate. The disastrous effect would not be that there would be many elections but rather that hard but necessary decisions would not be taken.
As I said, these are quotations from 3 ex-Liberal Prime Ministers and one Liberal who was a backbencher and a brother ofthe now Victorian Premier. But we can go right back to 1901. I quote from the House of Representatives Hansard of 14 June of that year. The following statement by Mr Edmund Barton appears at page 1175 of that Hansard:
When the Constitution was being framed, I was not slow in endeavouring to see that the other Chamber should, in some effective sense, represent the States in their position as contracting parties to this union. It has never been my desire to belittle the Senate, but only to require what I think is absolutely essential, that ultimate and actual supremacy in connection with Money Bills must be confined to one House of the Legislature, if any Legislature consisting of 2 Chambers is to work at all smoothly.
These are quotations from very eminent people, but because of the bind that the honourable senators opposite find themselves in they come in here with a very weak statement from Mr Menzies, who is now in his declining years- he is well up in years- and who is a man who has had all his faculties about him when he made the statement in 1932. The Opposition now wants to take us back to the button-up boots days and rely on something that Mr Menzies says now. As I said, if that is all the Opposition members have to hang their hats on then they have a very weak case.
Why do we find ourselves in this present situation? If the Queensland Premier had abided by the time-honoured conventions in replacing our colleague, the late Senator Bertie Milliner, the Opposition would not have the numbers to carry this amendment. As I have said to many members as I have crossed the floor in the last 2 days, they are getting their vote over the body of a dead colleague in this chamber. If Petersen had had the decency and the courage to send a Labor senator down here to replace Bertie Milliner the Opposition could not behave as it is behaving today, because it would be put on its mettle. It would have either to support this Budget or reject it. Opposition members do not have the guts or the fortitude to vote to reject the Budget. They are using a device of delay. We are going to take them on. The Government will not budge. I am sure that in the next day or two we are going to see some defections on the other side. It was evident in an interview with Mr Fraser on the television tonight. I am sure that his representatives will come in here and tell us that they have had advice.
Let us look at what has happened to the people in Queensland. We find the Premier of the State throwing convention out of the window. If we look at the figures for the Senate in the last double dissolution in May of last year we find that 1 032 460 formal votes were cast in Queensland. How many votes did the late Senator Milliner, who was a personal friend of us all, poll? He polled 441 060 votes. We now have a situation where 441 060 people in Queensland are disfranchised in this Senate. As I said, if those Queensland electors had their representative in this Senate now the Opposition would not be able to engage in the humbug that it is engaging in. Yet it is prepared to try to carry this amendment by disfranchising the people of Queensland. I am quite confident that when the people in Queensland have the opportunity to go to the polls again they will not forget what Petersen has done to them and what the Liberal and National Country Parties in this place have accepted from Petersen. The Opposition cannot escape. It cannot blame Petersen for sending that fellow down here. It has to accept responsibility for accepting him. If the members of the Opposition had any courage in here now they would give us a pair and then see how they would go.
I want to cite what State Labor governments have done in cases similar to that of our late colleague. The late Senator Hannaford, who died on 24 October 1967, came into this Senate on 22 February 1950 as a Liberal senator, and because he differed with his Party over its policy on Vietnam he was ostracised by the Liberal senators and sat here as an Independent from February 1 967 until his death on 24 October that year. A Labor Government was in office in South
Australia at that time which honoured the convention and replaced the late Senator Hannaford with a Liberal senator. Bear in mind that when Senator Hannaford passed away he was an Independent senator, but we did not, as a government in South Australia do as Petersen has done and flout the convention and replace him with somebody whom we could call an Independent. We replaced him with a Liberal senator. Who was that senator? None other than Senator Laucke, who is still in this Senate. Senator Laucke should give us some credit, and I think he should have a second thought when he looks back at the circumstances under which he was put into this Senate- he was nominated by a Labor government- and compares them with what Petersen has done and what his Party has accepted in the similar case arising from the death of Senator Milliner. Have some reflections on that, Senator Laucke.
The Opposition claims that the Prime Minister has misled the Parliament. But who misled this Senate last Thursday? I quote from Hansard of last Thursday a question which was put by none other than Senator Guilfoyle, the last person who I thought would attempt to mislead this Senate and to mislead the people at large. When she asked the question she knew full well that it would be rebroadcast that night. As recorded at page 1 198 of the Senate Hansard of 16 October Senator Guilfoyle asked:
My question is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. The Government this morning moved a vote of confidence in itself in the House of Representatives. As the Government did not permit the motion to be debated and immediately moved the gag, was the intent of the motion to commit publicly all votes of the Australian Labor Party to the course of action of the Prime Minister?
Of course, Senator Guilfoyle knew full well that the debate on the motion was not gagged. What was gagged was the debate on the motion to suspend standing orders to bring on the motion of confidence. I tell the Senate now that that debate commenced in the other place at 10.24 a.m. after the Minister for Manufacturing Industry (Mr Bowen) moved for the suspension of standing orders. Immediately he moved that motion he then moved that the question be put. Yet Senator Guilfoyle tells the public at large that we gagged the debate. The debate commenced at 10.24 and lasted until Mr Lynch was gagged when he rose to speak at 10 minutes past 12. So the debate on that motion lasted almost 2 hours. Yet the people at large, the people out in the electorate who heard the Senate question time broadcast last Thursday evening, are now of the opinion that the Government would not allow to be debated a motion of confidence in itself. I hope that perhaps Senator Guilfoyle will rise at some later stage and admit that she was wrong in accusing the Government of not allowing that motion to be debated.
Let us have a look at some of the other statements that have been put out by the people opposite. In a Press release dated 1 5 October 1 975 the Leader of the National Country Party, Mr Anthony, said:
The Government is in a state of internal disorder.
That could well be said about the Opposition parties tonight. He went on to say:
The most senior Ministers of this Government have been dismissed in a disgrace because their words and actions could not be trusted.
My good friend and colleague, the Minister for Labor and Immigration (Senator James McClelland), explained to the Senate tonight how many members of previous Liberal-Country Party governments had misled the Parliament. Did those governments go to the people? Of course they did not. The Minister pointed out to the Senate also that after the change of Prime Minister in 1 97 1 , when the people opposite took part in the coup which got rid of Mr Gorton and replaced him with Mr McMahon, there were 3 1 changes in the Ministry in 6 months. Yet we find people like Anthony and Fraser going to the people and saying that we should have an election because there have been some minor changes in this Government. What rot! Yet they do not want the people to remember these other things. Wherever I go to public meetings I remind the people in attendance of these things. They are all recorded in Hansard. I remind people of the number of Prime Ministers, Ministers for Health, Ministers for Defence and all of these things which Senator James McClelland pointed out here today.
Let me return to the pious amendment which was moved by Senator Withers. Paragraph (2) (c) of the amendment reads: that continuing mismanagement of the Australian economy by the Prime Minister and this Government with policies which have caused a lack of confidence in this nation’s potential and created inflation … not experienced for 40 years.
Let us look at the record. Let us look at the figures. I have had some figures taken out by the Statistical Service of the Parliamentary Library. They show that the inflation rate in 1950, which was the first year of office of the Menzies Government, was 9.2 per cent. In 1951, the second year of office of the Menzies Government, it was 25.5 per cent. Yet the Leader of the Opposition is claiming in this place that we have misled the people. He states in his amendment that we have got the worst inflation rate in 40 years, but the statistics show that in 1951 under Menzies- it was his second year in office- the inflation rate was 25.5 per cent. The graph which accompanies the statistics which have been provided shows a slow climb from 1969. So when we became a government in 1972 inflation was already on the upward turn, as is pointed out here on the graph. I seek leave to have the document giving those statistics incorporated in Hansard.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Georges)- Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows)-
Australia, 1949-50 to 1974-75
The following indicators have been calculated by taking the relationship that Gross Domestic Product at Current Prices bears to Gross Domestic Product at Constant Prices in each year, expressing this as an index number and then showing the difference between one year’s index number and the previous year’s index number as a percentage change.
Since 1948-49 there have been three Constant Price series published by the Australian Bureau of Statistics based on (a) Average 1953-54 Prices, (b) Average 1959-60 Prices and (c) Average 1966-67 Prices.
In view of the difficulties of compiling a satisfactory long term series of the ‘rate of inflation’ it is appropriate to take those overlapping periods into account. Generally the trends in the overlapping periods agree, exceptions being the years 1958-59 and 1965-66.
– I want to refer also to some of the events that took place during the hearings of the Estimates Committees which were concluded last week. It has been pointed out by other Government speakers that an endeavour was made by Oppositions senators during the sittings of the Estimates Committees to prove that this Government could not manage the economy and to say that we had got things in a mess. Senator Webster persevered very vigorously from the Country Party side. During the sitting of Estimates Committee A on 9 October Senator Webster asked Mr Hill from the Department of the Treasury:
Can you give an indication of the extent to which that figure has increased during past years?
He was referring to the percentage relationship between the Advance to the Treasurer and the amount of money appropriated. Senator Webster continued:
I know that it does not have very much application to what may take place, but it has increased sizeably in the past few years, has it not?
The transcript of the proceedings reads:
Mr Hill; How far would the Senator wish me to go back?
– Let us say, just roughly, during the 1970s.
Mr Hill; I will read you the figures for 1970-7 1 onwards. I will give you the dollar figures and the percentage which that provision for the Advance to the Treasurer bore to the whole of the particular Bill. In 1970-71 the advance was $20m, which was 0.74 per cent of the total Appropriation Bill (No. 1) appropriations; in 1971-72 the advance was $25m, and that was 0.03 per cent of the said appropriations; in 1972-73 the advance was $45m, which was 1.31 per cent of the appropriations: in 1973-74 the advance was $50m or 1.23 per cent of Appropriation Bill (No. 1) appropriations; in 1974-75 the advance was $75m, which was 1.61 per cent; and in 1975-76 the bid is $150m, which is 2.15 per cent of Appropriation Bill (No. 1) appropriations. You will note that although the cash figure has doubled the percentage figure has not doubled.
I knew what Senator Webster was after, so later on I asked Mr Hill this question:
It appears that the question is based on the rate of inflation. Could the officer supply the Committee, not necessarily now, with figures going back to 1949 so that we can look at the inflationary rate which was experienced in 1949, 1950 and 1951, and compare it with the inflationary rate in 1971, 1972, 1973 and 1974? We would get the percentage rate from those figures. That is what I would like to examine.
I have been provided with those figures from the Treasury. We find that in the year 1949-50, which was the first year of the Menzies Government, the Advance to the Treasurer expressed as a percentage of the total of Appropriation Bill (No. 1 ) was 6.09 per cent. I shall seek leave to have this document incorporated in order to save time after I have given the percentage figures. Working on a yearly basis, the percentage goes from 6.09 per cent to 4.85 per cent, 3.74 per cent, 3.52 per cent, 3.74 per cent, 3.64 per cent, 3.62 per cent, 3.53 per cent, 2.99 per cent, 3.39 per cent, 2.73 per cent, 2.16 per cent, 2.17 per cent, 2.67 per cent and 2.35 per cent. Then from 1964 to 1969 the percentages are 1.46 per cent, 0.92 per cent, 0.89 per cent, 0.84 per cent, and 0.86 per cent. The figures taken out since we have been in government are considerably less in most cases than they were in the years from 1949-50 to 1963-64. So it is nothing new. As Mr Hill said, although the cash figure for the Advance to the Treasurer has doubled, the percentage figure has not doubled. Right throughout the sittings of the Estimates Committees the Opposition was endeavouring to find some flaw in the Government’s Appropriation Bills. I seek leave to have incorporated in Hansard the document to which I have just referred and which has been provided by Mr Hill from the Treasury, together with an attached letter signed by the Leader of the Government in the Senate, Senator Wriedt, who was in charge of that Estimates Committee.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Georges)- Is leave granted? There being no objection, leave is granted. (The document read as follows)-
PARLIAMENT OF AUSTRALIA THE SENATE
Leader of the Government in the Senate 15 Oct 1975
Dear Senator Primmer,
During the examination of the Treasury estimates last Thursday afternoon, Senator McLaren asked for compar- able information to that givenby Mr Hill about the percentage relationship of the Treasurer’s Advance to the Appropriation Bill No. 1 from 1949 up until 1970.
I attach a list which extends the table given by Mr Hill back to 1949-50.
Yours sincerely, K..S. WRIEDT
Senator C. G. Primmer, Chairman, Senate Estimates Committee A, Parliament House. CANBERRA, A.C.T. 2600
– I conclude with these remarks: Much has been said in the Senate today, particularly by Senator Carrick, about Mr Khemlani. In a Press release which he put out on 1 5 October Mr Lynch said:
Mr Khemlani has now stated that he is prepared to stay in Australia and reveal the documents and names of persons involved in this scandal.
We all know that Mr Khemlani quit the country last week and that he made a public statement to the effect that he would be making no claim on the Government. When the history of this matter is revealed, it will be interesting to learn who brought Mr Khemlani here and what advantage certain people expected to get from his visit to this country.
– The Melbourne Herald.
-The Melbourne Herald, yes. I give my full support to these Appropriation Bills and I deplore the attitude of honourable senators opposite who are depriving the public at large of the finance to carry on everyday life. I predict that within the next week we will see the Appropriation Bills passed. I predict also that people like Senator Cotton who made a very spirited and hysterical bid here tonight to bolster up his case will be, as the old saying goes, eating humble pie.
-Let us get back to a calm assessment of the present situation. Australia today is in a catastrophic economic position. It is a position which should never have been allowed to develop. It is the result of this tragic incompetence and mismanagement by this Government. It has pretty well brought our economy to its knees. A position of economic strength prevailed when the Australian Labor Party came to office. Before that time we had pretty well full employment. The rate of inflation was only about 3.8 per cent. We had a confident and progressive business atmosphere and one in which investment proceeded firmly in business and enterprise generally in Australia. Our natural resources were being exploited effectively. Over the whole gamut of our mineral industries- coal, iron ore, etc- there was a buoyancy which was of immense benefit to the whole of the nation. That buoyancy was being encouraged. There was activity in oil search and exploitation. The result of decent encouragement and incentives had given Australia nearly 80 per cent self-sufficiency in oil. Our overseas balances were in an extremely sound position. As a matter of fact, they were so good that to this inept Government they appeared to be a liability. The reserves were too big. That sort of financial attitude, regarding overseas credits as something undesirable, is pretty indicative of this Government’s business acumen generally.
Let us look at the extraordinary expenditures of this Government during the time it has been in office to see how those expenditures have escalated. The last Budget presented by a Liberal-National Country Party Government planned an expenditure of $ 10,000m. At the time, it was criticised as being a level of expenditure which contained possible elements of danger because of the large amount involved at that time. But we found that in the first Labor Budget in the period of a year the Budget expenditure had increased to $ 12,500m. Its second Budget expenditure was $15,000m with that Government being $3,000m in the red at the end of the year. Present Budget expenditure is estimated to be $22, 500m with an estimated deficit of between $3,000m and $4,000m. The country just cannot afford that sort of expenditure. That is why we are finding ouselves in such an unwholly mess at the present time. We had a really sound financial basis to provide a growing industry capacity. In short, we had a good, sound, viable economy.
I think it is relevant at this stage to make reference to an extract from the speech prepared for His Excellency the Governor-General and read by him at the opening of the Twenty-Eighth Parliament on 27 February 1973. He then said:
The program which my new Government proposes is designed to achieve basic changes in the administration and structure of Australian society-
I repeat that the Governor-General said there would be basic changes in administration and the whole structure of our society. Those words sounded ominous to me then and unfortunately I have now seen the bitter realisation of my fears. Let us look at today’s picture: What is the view of our economy today? I have made reference in the first instance to the whole background of how things were operating prior to Labor coming to office. We are bedevilled at the present time with a lack of business confidence. The unemployment rate is unparalleled in our history. On present trends, the unemployment rate could increase to 8 per cent of the work force or close on 500 000 people by early next year when school leavers commence looking for jobs. This is tragic. There is no greater tragedy in a person’s life than to aspire to work and to be unable to do so. It is soul-destroying in my opinion for good young men and women looking for a job simply to be unable to find a place. This situation, to my sorrow, in no small measure is due to the horrible mismanagement of the Government over recent years.
Inflation is now running riot. The value of savings bank deposits, life assurance policies, superannuation provisions and of money in all these areas owned by individuals is rapidly being eroded. Interest rates are at an unprecedented high. Young people are unable to buy or build homes. That is the base of our society; everybody likes to say: ‘This little two by two is my part of Australia. ‘ For the Government to deny to young people, through sheer incompetence, the possibility of owning a home is in my opinion unforgiveable. The number of new homes being commenced this year is 30 per cent lower than the number 2 years ago. The cost of living has increased in Australia in the last 2!6 years, since Labor came to office, by 41 per cent. The 1973 dollar is now worth 70c. At the present rate of inflation it will be worth only 60c by this time next year or even 50c if one takes note of some expert estimations made by those who are competent to make such assessments.
The current picture is that the rest of the world is reducing inflation rates. In Australia, the inflation rate is increasing. Employees’ tax, that is, pay-as-you-earn taxation, has jumped by 92 per cent in the last 2 years although wages have gone up by less than 57 per cent. The position is even worse for companies. The real gross operating surplus of companies has fallen by 40 per cent since Labor came to office. It represented 1516 per cent of the gross domestic product when Labor assumed office, and now it represents only 9 per cent. Company tax has jumped by 59 per cent in the last 2 years despite the real drop in profitability as this Governments bleeds Australia’s main provider of jobs, that is the free enterprise system.
In the last 2 years Government spending has gone up 76 per cent, double the rate of the rises in outlays in the private sector. Since May last year, this Government has increased its number of employees by 6 per cent, while in private enterprise the number of employees has decreased by 4 per cent. While the private fixed capital expenditure suffered a disastrous fall of 1 4 per cent over the past 1 5 months, the Government has increased its expenditures by that same percentage. This transfer of resources from the private sector to the public sector has gone on steadily under Labor as a deliberate policy and is directly related to what I quoted earlier from the Governor-General’s Speech in which the aim of the Government was said to be to implement basic changes in administration and in the whole structure of our society. It has been a disastrous policy.
Yesterday Professor G. G. Meredith, the head of the Financial Management Research Centre at the University of New England, said that 5000 small businesses in Australia face bankruptcy between now and March of next year. I emphasise the figure and words ‘5000 small businesses’. He said that thousands more would be fighting for survival and that two-thirds of Australia’s 200 000 independent enterprises needed only minor further setbacks to push them into bankruptcy. Professor Meredith said that independent private enterprise employed 40 per cent to 45 per cent of the whole work force and accounted for 97 per cent of Australia ‘s manufacturing companies and 99 per cent of the retail, wholesale and service establishments numerically. He said that 96 per cent of the businesses had a turnover of less than $ 1 m a year and staffs of between 20 and 30 people. Independent enterprise creates competition in Australia. That is why responsible governments will always work for its promotion. Professor Meredith said further that small businesses were being confronted by abnormal odds and that they are going out of business not because of their inefficiency but simply because there are just too many guns aimed at their heads.
This Government has shown absolutely no understanding of or sympathy for the small businesses. How many of its members have really experienced the responsibilities and sacrifices demanded of small businesses if they are to function? In my opinion they are quite oblivious to the risks taken by the small businessman in the capital he invests in his own business and the sacrifice which is involved in the continual ploughing back of whatever is left at the end. I speak with a bit of knowledge on this subject, being a member of a family organisation which for many years has persistently and necessarily ploughed all moneys back into the company for the promotion of that company, the betterment of our whole set-up in the industry in which we are engaged and the betterment of our employees. It has not been able to do otherwise in order to progress than to plough back. If the Government does not appreciate that that is the sort of situation in which all small businesses find themselves then it is ignorant of something which is the very spring of progress economically in our country.
The way in which our economy is now running is quite frightening. The economic mire in which our country is wallowing at the present time, the unrealistic socialistic policies that are being pursued and the inevitability of Labor pursuing the same impossible policies through the sheer blindness of attachment to the proven disastrous attitudes of so-called democratic socialism leave no hope for future betterment. In the national interest the situation is now one which can only be met, I am afraid, by stark realism.
I want to quote now from a statement by the Right Honourable Sir Robert Menzies, who is a man for whom I have the greatest admiration, who is one of the greatest statesmen we have ever known in Australia and who is today one of the most competent gentlemen in the field of constitutional matters in Australia. In a statement he made quite recently, which I think must be broadcast loud, clear and wide, he said:
The Government has, in the last 12 months-
– Just get it incorporated; it will save you time.
-I will not. This is a vitally important matter and Senator Keeffe would be well advised to listen to what has been said. Sir Robert Menzies said:
The Government has, in the last 12 months, itself put up a record of unconstitutionality and, if it is not too strong a word, misconduct on a variety of occasions.
Sir Robert Menzies certainly is a very gracious and generous gentleman. He went on to say:
On one occasion, it concerned Dr Cairns, who was put out for not accurately informing the Parliament. On a recent occasion, it was Mr Connor (so senior a Minister, as Cairns was, as to have acted in the highest ministerial capacity). Connor has gone because, on the Prime Minister’s own statement, he misled the House. And then there is the not to be forgotten incident of the Executive Council meeting at which the Prime Minister was present, and at which the then Attorney-General gave a ‘kerbstone ‘opinion.
At that meeting, the Executive Council, the GovernorGeneral not being present, authorised the borrowing of a sum of so huge a description that it would far exceed all the borrowings ever made by the Commonwealth in 75 years. It was to be done through obscure and unorthodox channels. It was to be a borrowing for 20 years. It was to be a huge borrowing which the sum received by the Commonwealth from the tenders was 951/2 in 100, but the total of 100 had to be repaid at compound interest!
What a thing to enter into or to seek to enter into ! Sir Robert went on to say:
This Executive Council decision was scandalous. It was clearly and unblushingly designed to escape the obligation in the Constitution to go to the Loan Council under the Financial Agreement for approval.
True, it thought it expedient to call the borrowing one for, temporary purposes’; but a first year student would laugh at this as a prescription of the loan to which I have referred.
It was a disreputable incident. It was designed to evade the constitutional obligations of the Commonwealth.
The amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition in this place, Senator Withers, simply has to be passed. The ball is now in the Prime Minister’s court. He should honourably accept the challenge and go to the people for a speedy determination as to who should govern.
I have had my doubts and reservations as to procedures. Earlier Senator McLaren made reference, and rightly so, to the fact that when I entered this place on 10 November 1967 I came in the first instance as one who had been appointed by the South Australian Parliament. I was proposed by Mr Dunstan and seconded by Mr Shard. My arrival here was in that context. I have always appreciated, since 1949, the observance of that convention. I regret departure from it. I would like to say finally that in view of the irresponsible and threatening attitude of the Prime Minister, who would hold the country to ransom irrespective of the hurt and harm that may be done to people, my considered opinion is that the people must now say who governs.
– I rise to speak against the amendment. I realise that the die is cast and I do not propose to repeat what I said a week ago in discussing the Appropriation Bills. The reason I am opposed to the amendment is that I consider it to be unfair. I will, concede the legal aspect, as contained in paragraph (a) of the amendment- that the action is lawful and a proper exercise within the terms of the Constitution of the powers of the Senate- but I would also like to say that there is an implied obligation within that that there should be a just consideration if it is desired that the matter be brought before the Senate. In paragraph (d) of the amendment we find it stated that the Senate has the right and duty to exercise its legislative power and to concur or not to concur, as the Senate sees fit, bearing in mind the seriousness and responsibility of its actions. I emphasise the words ‘bearing in mind the seriousness and responsibility of its actions’. No doubt members of this Senate will agree with me that there is a seriousness in the action which is proposed.
The Leader of the Opposition in the Senate (Senator Withers) said that the Opposition will not reject the Budget but will hold it up; that is, it will delay the passage of the Appropriation Bills. There must be justification for making such a statement. The Opposition has said it will hold the Bills up until such time as the Government gives an assurance that it will go to the people. In other words, the Opposition is quite prepared to admit that there is nothing wrong with these Appropriation Bills as a component of the Budget but has said that it will pass the Bills provided that the Government resigns from office. That is a remarkable state of affairs and one which is very difficult to understand. If the Opposition rejects the Budget, well and good, but to say that the Budget is all right and will be accepted provided the Government resigns is not good enough.
I have said that I am opposed to the amendment. I am opposed to it because I do not think it is fair in its comment. It states in part: the continuing incompetence, evasion, deceit and duplicity of the Prime Minister and his Ministers as exemplified in the overseas loan scandal which was an attempt by the Government to subvert the Constitution, to by-pass Parliament and to evade its responsibilities to the States and the Loan Council;
I advise the Senate that the loan never got beyond the negotiation stage and, despite the multiplicity of questions which were asked about it, the fact remains that nothing of a deceitful or dishonest character has been placed at the feet of the Government. The amendment continues: the Prime Minister’s failure to maintain proper control over the activities of his Ministers. . . .
The Opposition claims that that is sufficient to prevent the passing of the Budget. I do not think there is any credence in those claims and I do not think that the amendment as it is framed is a fair realisation of the position.
This Government was elected in 1972 for a term of 3 years. It was required to face the electors in 1 974 as a result of exactly the same type of consideration as is now being given to this legislation. The reason for the situation then was exactly the same as it is now. The Government was blamed for the state of the economy, and I do not give it all the blame for the state of the economy now. It is claimed by the Opposition that by rejecting the Budget in this way the domestic system is being put into operation. By flouting the will of the people in the 1 972 election and in the second election in 1974 and by moving this amendment the Opposition is taking undemocratic action. Much has been said in connection with this matter which in my humble opinion is quite irrelevant. Every speaker on both sides of the House has been silent on the main issue. The main issue is the Appropriation Bills as a component of the Budget. I was contacted by certain members of the media the day following the presentation of the Budget and asked what I thought of it. I replied that without having had a close look at it, it was the type of Budget I expected; it was a Budget in accordance with the mandate given at 2 elections; it was a Budget in accordance with the thinking of the Government on the form of government it wanted. We all have our different priorities. We must recognise that there is a vast difference in the philosophy of the Government and that of the Opposition but I do not think there is any difference in the honesty of purpose of both sides and, because the Opposition is not in favour of the philosophy of the Government this is not sufficient reason to reject the Appropriation Bills.
Into the debates this week and last week in both Houses personalities have been introduced unnecessarily. I happen to be one of those personalities and I resent references by members of the Government and by members of the Opposition to my appointment to this Senate. It has been stated that the Senate is tainted by my being here. That is the legacy and the product of party politics. Whilst mentioning this matter it might be as well if I let the Senate know how I came to be appointed. I was approached 4 times before I eventually said I would accept the appointment and on the fourth occasion I said I would accept on the condition that I would be a true independent. I have acted with that independence ever since I have been here.
I have acted with dignity in contrast to the lack of dignity that I have often seen in this chamber and as was instanced in the early part of tonight’s proceedings. I assured myself that the New South Wales State Government was going to appoint what the Premier referred to as a neuter and that if Cleaver Ernest Bunton did not accept, Bill Smith, Dick Jones or Harry Thomas- a true independent- would be offered the position. Having assured myself that an independent would be appointed, that there was no chance whatever that a member of a party would be appointed and that the Premier knew I had no affiliation with a party, my appointment was made and I came into this place as a very unwelcome guest.
I feel that in some quarters even now I am an unwelcome guest because I have been prepared and anxious to adopt an independent attitude in the best interests of sound and sane government. I have from time to time voted with the Government and against the Government and when I have gone to retire at night I have been able to put my head down and sleep in the knowledge that I have done what I considered was the right thing. I would like to think that members of this Senate could go home each night and say: ‘My decision tonight was a fair one and in accordance with my conscience’. Unfortunately, all honourable senators cannot do this not only because of their attitude in respect of this matter but also because on so many matters there is a party brand that they have to accept.
Let me repeat what I said before. It is a pity that there are not more, possibly four independents in the States House which is so evenly divided between the major political parties, as is the other place. Much has been said concerning the appointment of Senator Field but the Government has no one but itself to blame for the circumstances surrounding his appointment. There is no doubt in the world that a Labor person would have been appointed to that Senate vacancy if a second choice had been made by the Party. In fact a Labor person was appointed. It is to be regretted that Senator Field cannot be in this chamber now because it is my opinion that he would see that the right thing was done. I honestly believe that. His appointment has nothing to do with this question. Suffice to say that the Opposition is leaning on the fact that a duly appointed Labor representative- one who was a
Labor representative when he was appointed but who was expelled from the Labor Party- is not present. I think he might have voted the way the Government would have liked him to have voted. I wish to say a few words in connection with my appointment. I think I may have brought to the Senate a breath of fresh air, untainted by the dishonesty of purpose so apparent in the Party system.
The economy is showing some improvement, as has been recognised on both sides. Much has been said about inflation and unemployment. The Government is not entitled to all the credit or all the blame for the state of the economy. There is much more than that to the state of the economy. One of the things which is wrong with the economy today, with the adverse conditions which we have- with the high rate of inflation and the high rate of unemployment- is undoubtedly the position which has been created by arbitration. All of us subscribe to the principles of arbitration. It is necessary. The fact remains that in arriving at wages and salaries no restraint has been placed on the cost of every day things. No restraint has been placed on the fees charged by all professions. Very little attention has been paid to the unfortunate position in which primary producers have found themselves. Once wages and salaries are fixed without taking into account the productivity of the land in this rural producing country, it is very difficult to have a stable economy. That is the state of affairs which we have. I do not blame the Government for that state of affairs. I give the Opposition no credit for placing the blame on the Government in this connection. I feel that if it had been in office the position would be just as bad. I honestly think so. I think a determined attempt has been made by the Government, by its policy of wage indexation, to improve the position. I have previously complimented Senator James McClelland on this score. I do so again. I think the Government is making a determined effort to combat inflation and to create a better state of affairs in connection with employment.
There are differing opinions about this matter. Sir Robert Menzies has been quoted very freely today. I will take the liberty to quote that honourable gentleman. He said:
Senate command of Government by a party in a minority in the House of Representatives would be absurd.
He also said on another occasion, as reported in Hansard:
In the end result, the Senate has a full power of rejecting any Bill but argues that the exercise ofthe power would create an impossible situation and would make popular government unworkable.
Some other very interesting comments have been made. A member of the Opposition in the other House, Mr D. J. Killen, writing in the CourierMail on 10 April 1974, which was the morning on which the Senate acted, argued that it was the nature of the Supply Bills and the wording of section 53 of the Constitution which prevented the Senate from rejecting Supply. His argument was that as a government which is denied Supply cannot continue in office the failure by the Senate to pass Supply Bills would automatically result in a dissolution of the House of Representatives. He pointed out that in a normal case, where the conditions required by section 57 of the Constitution for a double dissolution did not exist, the Senate would not face dissolution. He further pointed out that it was not within the power of the House of Representatives to force the Senate to an election. Accordingly, he argued, not only was the situation one which the majority of Australians would regard as absurd but if the Senate were to adopt this course it would mean that the terms of section 53 of the Constitution were being trampled on because the Senate would not have equal power with the House of Representatives but greater power.
The argument of Mr Killen was based, as was that of Sir Robert Menzies, on the principles of democracy underlying the Constitution. It goes further, however, in suggesting that the words of section 53 themselves prohibit the Senate from having greater power than the House of Representatives, thus preventing a rejection of Supply by the Senate. Section 53 is, however, a statement of the powers of each House in respect of all proposed laws; it is the capacity of each House to deal in particular ways with individual Bills with which the section is concerned, not the powers of either House to force a dissolution of the other. It would appear, therefore, that although there may be arguments based on underlying principles which can be used to deny the propriety of a rejection of Supply by the Senate, the words of section 53 cannot be used to deny the basic power to do so.
We have heard quotes from many eminent authorities on the Constitution. I quote Mr J. R. Odgers in the Australian Senate Practice. He does not agree that the Senate should not exercise its power to reject Supply. He believes that the Senate’s power to refuse to join in the granting of Supply is its greatest power, which can be exercised in relation to both the House of Representatives and the Executive Government. He stated:
The only restrictions on the exercise by the Senate of its financial powers are the restraint which it traditionally exercises and the electoral sanction. A Senate which used its powers capriciously could suffer only one fate- punishment at the ballot box. But, a Senate which correctly interprets the mood of the electorate, has a quite remarkable annual opportunity- by refusing to join in the grant of Supply- to bring about the dissolution of the House of Representatives and the resignation of the Government which that House virtually appoints.
It is interesting to note that the electoral sanction will not, unless there is a double dissolution or an impending half Senate election, be likely to affect the Senate at all. It is more likely to be the political allies in the House of Representatives of those majority senators who capriciously exercise their powers who are likely to suffer such punishment.
So we have a conflict of opinion on this matter. It is necessary that before action which would unduly affect the Constitution is taken great care be exercised to see that the wrong thing is not done. I have mentioned eminent authorities on the Constitution. Might I be privileged to refer to one of our modern statesmen- Senator Steele Hall. Seeing that an impasse would be created he contacted the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Malcolm Fraser) by letter dated 1 October, in which he said:
I am concerned about the continuing uncertainty regarding your position and that of the Liberal Party in regard to a possible rejection of Supply in the Senate.
There are almost no limits to the complexities which are now being discussed as a possible result of such an action. For instance, it has been suggested on the one hand that the Governor-General may be the centre of a constitutional storm involving an Appropriation Bill which could be presented to him without passage through the Senate. On the other hand, it is suggested that non-Labor Premiers may not respond to a Government initiative to call out only half the Senate, and may refuse to issue writs for such an election.
That was written on 1 October. Have not Senator Hall’s words come true. He went on and made this further statement:
I hope you will at least consider my prediction that if you take or attempt to take the Prime Minister’s office, by the device of a vote in the Senate, your leadership capacity will automatically degenerate to the disadvantage of the Liberal Party.
It would be extremely difficult to develop a popular base for your leadership in a community which contained the bitter and growing discontent of Labor supporters who believed the ballot box had lost its democratic function.
Strategically, our non-Labor side of politics must surely be better served by planning to win a significant number of years of office at a normal election rather than by prejudicing the length of that office by grabbing at 16 or 17 months of Labor’s remaining term.
If . . . you ‘assemble’ your members in the Senate to reject supply, you will consciously destroy the stability of Australian politics-
These are Senator Steele Hall’s words; I am an Independent- which we, as Liberals have grown to expect under our own administrations since 1 949.
What wise counsel that was by my colleague Senator Steele Hall. I sincerely trust that even at this late stage it may be possible for the opportunity extended by Senator Hall to bear fruit. I have no doubt that Supply should be granted and that a half-Senate election should be proceeded with. That would maintain the status quo which has applied ever since Federation. There has been that understanding of the status quo, and there is no good and sufficient reason why Supply should not be granted. The position today is that a grave disquiet has been created amongst the people generally. So much is at stake in the interests of parliamentary democracy. A vital function of government today is to legislate to bring all people together on a common citizenship basis, where capital and labour each have a part to play and, by working in partnership, create an atmosphere of well-being for the people generally.
I close on this note: During 1975 108 Bills were passed by this Senate and 9 Bills were rejected. The Bills that have been passed include the Australian Housing Corporation Bill, the Australian Industry Development Corporation Bill, the Australian National Railways Bill, the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill, the Customs Bill, the Customs Tariff (Anti-Dumping) Bill, the Customs Tariff Validation Bill, the Dairy Produce Bill, the Dairy Produce Sales Promotion Bill, the Dried Fruits Export Charges Bill, the Fisheries Bill, the Grants Commission Bill, the Health Insurance Bill, the Loans (Australian Shipping Commission) Bill, the Loan (War Services Land Settlement) Bill, the Pig Slaughter Levy Bill, the Pig Slaughter Levy Collection Bill, the Pig Industry Research Bill, the Pig Meat Promotion Bill, the Postal Services Bill, the Postal and Telecommunications (Transitional Provisions) Bill, the Urban and Regional Development (Financial Assistance) Bill, and the Wool Tax Bills Nos 1 to 5. That goes to prove that it cannot be claimed that this Government has been inactive. It goes to prove that the mandate which was given to this Government as a result of the promises made prior to the election has been carried into effect.
– It also shows that the Senate has not been unduly obstructive.
– It goes to show, Senator Baume, that those Bills have been passed. You say that the Senate has not been obstructive.
That is so; in those instances there is no doubt in the world that the Senate was not obstructive, but that does not verify or confirm the contents of this amendment, which suggests that the Government has been doing everything wrong, has been deceitful and so on. Today there is no doubt that the finger cannot be pointed at the Government. Let us be fair and honest in our approach to these matters. Might I say also that some Bills have been rejected by the Senate, and included in those Bills- which incidentally I assisted to have rejected- are the Australian Government Insurance Corporation Bill, Bills in connection with electoral boundaries and the Purchasing Commission Bill. The Superannuation Bill was refused; I supported that. Much has been said about this Government not acting in the best interests of the community. Yet there is a record of service in these Bills which proves conclusively that the Government has played its part nobly and well. It therefore amazes me that such irrelevancies can be put forward when the Senate has presented to it Appropriation Bills which normally should be passed. I have very much pleasure in indicating my opposition to the amendment and in supporting the Appropriation Bills.
– I follow Senator Bunton in rounding up this debate, and I should say at the outset that Senator Bunton, even though on many occasions he has voted against this Government, speaks with the voice of a genuine Independent. I do not agree with many of the things which he has said in this Parliament and, as I have said, I have not agreed with the way in which he has seen fit on some occasions to vote against Government legislation. But on an issue of the magnitude of the one that confronts the Parliament at the present time we have had a genuinely independent point of view put forward, not only to this Parliament but also to the Australian people. The summation of Senator Bunton ‘s point is that this Government does not deserve the treatment which the Opposition is trying to mete out to it at the present time. Senator Bunton has said quite correctly that in the time this Government has been in office it has put forward a whole series of Bills, a whole legislative program which, on a fair and balanced judgment, must be given the credit which is due.
I think that Senator Bunton ought to be commended for the fairness of his approach to this matter. I have no doubt that at some time in the future we will see him- quite legitimately in his view- again voting against this Government on some particular legislation. But the matters that we are discussing tonight and which have been the subject of this long and sometimes tedious debate are matters which are quite basic to our Constitution, to our parliamentary system and to the rights of the Australian people. Senator Bunton I believe has put these matters in proper perspective. Even if the great majority of the Australian people are a not prepared to accept the validity of the arguments of either the Labor Party, the Liberal Party or the National Country Party, at least they can listen with validity to the point of view that is being put by Senator Bunton. I believe that he will do a service to this Parliament for however long he may be here. He has done it a service even tonight in the few minutes that he has spoken.
My task is somewhat difficult in that one could find it almost impossible to introduce new material into this debate. So many speeches have been made on the general question of the Appropriation Bills and the Budget that there is practically nothing left to be said that is new. I should comment on one or two points that were made earlier in the debate, particularly by Senator Carrick. I refer specifically to the references that he made to the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam). It seems to have become the in thing on the Opposition side to use the word ‘corruption’ when referring to the Government. It is generalised; it is never specified. Despite all the argument that has taken place during the past few months on the so-called loans affair, no evidence of illegality has been produced in this Senate. Despite the challenges and despite the opportunity to bring the great Mr Khemlani before this Senate the Opposition let it go because it knew that it would be disappointed again, as it was when Mr Karidis was called before the Senate. The fact is that Mr Whitlam of course was a signatory to the Executive Council minute concerning the loans affair, but it must be made quite clear that that authority was given to the former Minister for Minerals and Energy and to no other person. There was nothing illegal or improper about that action.
Senator Carrick then went on to talk about the record deficit of this Government and the fact that this so-called mismanagement of the economy had resulted in this record deficit. This record deficit was caused, of course, by the need for the Government to expand its spending last year because of the run down in the economysomething which had happened in all the advanced economies around the world, most of which are major trading partners with Australia. lt is interesting to consider facts. I know that Senator Sir Magnus Cormack does not want to hear these facts restated because these are facts which the Australian people want to know because they are being given by the Opposition generalised statements which are not substantiated.
If we compare the deficit position in Australia with our major trading partners- countries of comparable economic development to ours- we find that there is a very strong similarity between the position of this country and the other nations. For example, the Australian deficit position of $2.8 billion represents 3.9 per cent of our gross domestic product. In the United States it is 3.5 per cent and it is estimated that it will climb to 5.3 per cent during this financial year; in Canada it is 2.5 per cent; in Japan it is 3.7 per cent; in the United Kingdom it is 8.4 per cent; in Germany it is 3.9 per cent and in New Zealand it is 4.9 per cent. One would imagine in listening to the statements of members of the Opposition that Australia was in a peculiar position and that no other country could possibly be suffering from the so-called abnormally large deficit which Australia has at the present time. I wanted those figures to go into the record so that those who continue to claim that the deficit of this Government is something exceptional can now see that it is quite unexceptional in world conditions.
We have endeavoured to explain in the last 12 to 18 months that Australia, in exactly the same position as other nations, is affected by the economic conditions that exist in other nations as they are affected by our economic conditions. It is quite ridiculous to suggest that we can isolate ourselves from the effects of economic conditions in other countries. This applies not only in respect of the deficit but it applies also in respect of inflation which has occurred in those countries. The inflation rate, of course, is coming down, and it is coming down in Australia. It is very largely due to the work that has been done by this Government to moderate the increase in wages in Australia. In the last 9 months we have seen a dramatic decline in the rate of increase from something like 9 per cent in the last quarter of last year to about 1 per cent at present.
Senator Hall made some very caustic comments, of course, about the generalship of Mr Fraser. He described him as providing the worst generalship in the living history of the Liberal Party. He warned the Liberals to be aware of the political polls. I think that was good advice. There are many members of the Liberal Party tonight who are wondering just how they are going to get out of this present dilemma because, in the last fortnight, we have seen a sudden dramatic decline in support for Mr Fraser in the
Australian community. It was good while he was riding high but when he came to the first real test as the Leader of the Opposition he apparently found himself opposed by many of the members of his own Party. Finally he has wilted under the pressure and now finds that not only himself but also the Party he belongs to and is leading is in a grim situation. It will be interesting to see whether Mr Fraser himself or members of his own Party finally wilt under the pressures which are very much now upon them.
I suppose the main thing we are concerned about is whether the Senate should be doing what it is doing. Should the Opposition be rejecting these Appropriation Bills? I suppose legal men could argue at length on the matter of the interpretation of the Constitution. I certainly do not intend to do so. But there is only one central issue about which we are concerned and that is the stability of the parliamentary system in Australia. This is being undermined by the action taken by the Opposition. It is quite obvious that the Opposition will defeat the motion which has been moved by the Government. These Appropriation Bills will not go back on the Senate Notice Paper. If that course is adopted we must assume that the Opposition is determined to bring this country to the brink of economic chaos. It is determined to see that many people in the community and many sections of the community will suffer. All this is because of the mad desire of the Opposition to get back into government and to grab power again.
This is not the path that the Australian people want to see the Opposition follow. It is obvious that even at this early stage there has been a strong feeling of revulsion in the Australian community at the action that has been precipitated by the Liberal and National Country Parties. I am sure the Opposition does not care if it sets out to wreck the Westminster system that we accept so much in this country and which, of course, over the years irrespective of which political party has been in power has given this country reasonable stability and the chance for development. It is ridiculous that Mr Fraser should claim that the Budget is a failure. He does not even give the Budget a chance. He is in a quite contradictory position. I believe that even tonight he must be realising the enormity of the step he has taken and of the situation into which he has led his colleagues.
I want to conclude the debate because other matters must be dealt with this evening. I close on this note: I am sure the Australian people realise just how much damage is being done to our parliamentary system. No matter what the politics in this particular debate and the decision that has been taken, one fact remains fundamentalthat any action taken by a political party in this country to bring down that parliamentary system will be rejected by the Australian people. Time will demonstrate that this Government, elected as it was for its 3-year program in 1974, will be vindicated and endorsed by the majority of Australians.
That the words proposed to be left out (Senator Withers’ amendment) be left out.
The Senate divided. (The Deputy President- Senator J. J. Webster)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
That the words proposed to be inserted (Senator Withers’ amendment) be inserted.
The Senate divided. (The Deputy President- Senator J. J. Webster)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
That the motion as amended be agreed to.
The Senate divided. (The Deputy President- Senator J.J. Webster)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Webster)- I have received message No. 382 from the House of Representatives. It reads as follows:
The House of Representatives acquaints the Senate of the following Resolution which this day was agreed to by the House of Representatives:
That the House of Representatives having considered Message No. 275 of the Senate asserts that the action of the Senate in delaying the passage of the Loan Bill 1975 for the reasons given in the Senate resolution is contrary to the accepted means of financing a major portion of the Defence budget of this country and therefore requests the Senate to re-consider and pass the Bill without delay.
Gordon Scholes Speaker
House of Representatives, Canberra, 21 October 1975
Motion (by Senator Douglas McClelland) agreed to:
That consideration of the message be an order of the day for the next day of sitting.
Message received from the House of Representatives intimating that it had agreed to the amendments made by the Senate to this Bill.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Ordered that the Bill may be taken through all its stages without delay.
Bill (on motion by Senator Wheeldon) read a first time.
– I move:
This Bill embodies the Government’s Budget proposals for improvements in social service pensions and benefits. These improvements while significant in themselves do not extend to substantial new initiatives in the social services field. As has been explained by the Treasurer (Mr Hayden), this is a time for consolidation of advances pending a full review of the income security system in the next 12 months.
The main provisions of the Bill are as follows:
The proposed pension increases will flow on to recipients of sheltered employment allowances.
Honourable senators will know it is the Government’s objective to progressively lift the standard of living of pensioners by raising the standard rate of pension twice a year until it reaches 25 per cent of seasonally adjusted average weekly male earnings. Since December 1972 when the Government came to office a substantial real redistribution of income has been effected in favour of pensioners and beneficiaries. However in the present climate of high inflation and unemployment the Government believes that for the immediate future all of us should show restraint in our demands for more resources, whether it be for public services or for higher incomes. For that reason the Budget proposed to increase, as a temporary measure the standard rate of pension by the percentage increase in the consumer price index between the December quarter 1 974 and the June quarter 1975 and to base the increase payable in the autumn of 1976 on the increase in the consumer price index between the June and December quarters of 1975.
This does not represent a change in Government policy or an abandonment of the principle that pensions should be raised to the level of 25 per cent of average weekly earnings. We have decided to increase pensions this year by rises in the consumer price index as a temporary measure to ease the pressures of public spending on the economy. It is, however, interesting that for the first time since this Government has been in office we have, with this latest proposed increase, achieved our goal, and age and invalid pensions now represent 25.2 per cent of average weekly earnings. The increase proposed in this Bill resulting from this method of calculation in the case of the standard rate of pension is $2.75 a week. The proposed standard rate of pension is $38.75 a week which is equivalent to 25.2 per cent of average weekly male earnings for the June quarter 1975, the latest quarter for which figures are available. The increase will consequently maintain for pensioners the real gains in spending power that have been achieved by them since the Government came to office and, on the basis of the June 1975 figures .marginally improve their position. With the proposed increases the standard rate of pension will have increased by almost 94 per cent since December 1 972 and the married rate by 87 per cent. Compared with this, over the period from June 1972 to June 1975 the consumer price index increased by almost 45 per cent and seasonally adjusted average weekly male earnings increased by 61 per cent.
I will now give examples of some of the effects of the proposed increases. A class A widow or supporting mother will receive a basic pension or benefit of $38.75 a week, together with mother’s allowance of up to $4 a week and additional pension of up to $7.50 a week for each dependent child. The mother’s allowance is payable at $6 a week if there is a child under 6 years or an invalid child requiring full-time care. Thus, a class A widow or supporting mother with 2 noninvalid children over 6 years will receive a maximum pension or benefit of $57.75 a week. The same rate will apply to single age or invalid pensioners with children. If the pensioner or supporting mother pays rent supplementary assistance of up to $5 a week is payable in addition to pension. The maximum proposed pension of $64.50 a week for a married couple may also be increased by up to $7.50 a week for each dependent child and, if rent is paid, up to $5 a week is available by way of supplementary assistance.
The proposed increases will have the effect of raising the limits of income and property at which pensions cease to be payable under the means test. This will enable people who are now excluded from pension entitlement to qualify for some payment for the first time. The limit of income which just precludes payment of a pension to a single person without children and with no property affecting his pension, will be increased by twice the amount of the pension increase to $97.50 a week. If he has no other income he will be eligible to receive some pension until the value of his property assessable for means test purposes reaches $5 1, 100. For a married couple without children, the equivalent limits of income and property will be $163.50 a week and $85,840 respectively.
A widow or supporting mother with one child and no property affecting will be able to receive other income of up to $126.50 a week before losing her entitlement to widow’s pension, or supporting mother’s benefit. If her child is under 6 years of age or an invalid child requiring full time care she will be able to receive other income up to $130.50 a week without losing her entitlement. If she has no income affecting, a widow or supporting mother with one child may have property to the value of $56,860. If her child is under six or an invalid child requiring full time care she may have property to the value of $58,940 before entitlement is extinguished. There are various combinations of income and property in between the figures I have quoted which will permit the payment of a full or part pension.
In turning to the proposal to extend the scope of double orphan’s pension I should first say that this pension was introduced by the present Government in September 1973 as a measure of assistance for people caring for children who have permanently lost the companionship, support and comfort normally provided by parents. Double orphan’s pension is paid in respect of a child both of whose parents, or adoptive parents, are dead. The principle also extends to a child one of whose parents, or adoptive parents, is dead if the whereabouts of the other are unknown to the claimant.
Requests have been received from various quarters proposing that the scope of eligibility be extended to include a child whose sole surviving parent is in prison or in a mental hospital. The Government feels that the position of these children is not greatly different from that of children whose parents are both dead or where one parent is dead and the whereabouts of the other unknown. Accordingly it has been decided to extend payment to a person who is caring for a child one of whose parents is dead and the other serving a term of imprisonment for life or for not less than 10 years or who is a mental hospital patient and, in the opinion of the DirectorGeneral will remain so for an indefinite period.
The Bill also contains provisions relating to the treatment of de facto marriage relationships. The policy of the present and previous Governments has been that couples living together on a bona fide domestic basis, though not legally married should not be placed in a better position for pension or benefit purposes than if they were legally married. One effect of this is that the financial resources, if any, of a de facto spouse are included in the calculation of his or her partner’s entitlement to pension or benefit. However, attention has recently been drawn to anomalies arising from the fact that the definition of dependent female in sections 18 and 106 of the Social Services Act relate only to de facto relationships of 3 years’ duration. The Government proposes to correct these anomalies by deleting the references to 3 years’ duration. This will mean that in future a de facto wife who is living with a man on a bona fide domestic basis will qualify for wife’s pension or attract additional unemployment or sickness benefit without any regard to a qualifying period on the same basis as women who are legally married. At present if they have not lived with their husbands for at least 3 years special benefit may be granted but the need to assist them in this way will cease as soon as the Bill receives the Royal Assent.
The Bill also contains a provision which will give specific authority for the exclusion of a woman living with a man on a bona fide domestic basis from entitlement to a widow’s pension. In doing so the Bill removes any doubt which may have existed in this area. While it will of course continue to be necessary for officers of my Department to determine the facts in these matters it is proposed to re-inforce the instructions already in force that all such inquiries must be conducted with tact and discretion.
A further provision will enable an overpayment of child endowment to be recovered from any continuing entitlement to endowment. As the Principal Act stands at present this is not possible. The amendment will suit the convenience of endowees who for one reason or another have been overpaid endowment and have a continuing entitlement.
In addition the Bill provides that where the rate of pension or supporting mother’s benefit as determined under the means test is less than $ 1 a fortnight, payment will be made at the rate of $1 a fortnight. It has been found that the issue of cheques for small amounts such as 20c a fortnightthe minimum rate now paid- is often a source of annoyance rather than satisfaction to the recipient. In future the value of all fortnightly instalments of pension and supporting mother’s benefit will be not less than $1. The same minimum amount is to apply to all adjusting cheques.
The new rates provided for in this Bill will be payable from 4 November, 1975 in the case of widow’s pension and supporting mother’s benefit and from 13 November 1975 in the case of age, invalid and wife’s pension. Increases in the rates of unemployment and sickness benefits will operate in respect of payments due on and after 1 November 1975 or on and after the date of Royal Assent, whichever is later. The full year cost of the proposals in this Bill is estimated to be $5 18m and $234m in 1975-76. Increases in service pensions will involve an additional $3 1 m for a full year and $14m in 1975-76. For 1975-76 the total cost will be approximately $248m. Mr President, I commend the Bill to the Senate.
- Mr President, in common with my colleague, the honourable member for Hotham and the shadow Minister for Social Security (Mr Chipp), the Opposition holds the view that the passage of this Bill should be expedited. We should prefer to have this Bill dealt with without debate and I suggest that you put the question.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Ordered that the Bill may be taken through all its stages without delay.
Bill (on motion by Senator Wheeldon) read a first time.
-This Bill gives effect to the Government’s proposals to improve certain repatriation benefits and seamen’s war pensions, and shows the continuing recognition of our responsibility to those who made such a valuable contribution to the security of our country. We owe an everlasting debt of gratitude to them. Since coming to office this Government has made enduring and substantial reforms in the repatriation field. It is now time to take stock of these achievements and to consolidate the gains we have made.
Under the Labor Government, repatriation benficiaries have been acknowledged as deserving special recognition and much has been done to ensure that they are adequately compensated. For example, the special rate (totally and permanently incapacitated) pensioner will, as a result of Government actions since 1972 and those now proposed, be in a far better financial position than he was under the previous Government. In March 1 973 and retrospective to December 1972, the special rate pension, paid to totally and permanently incapacitated and other specified veterans, was restored .to the level of the minimum wage for the first time since 1950. Further, since 1973 this pension has been increased commensurate with movements in the minimum wage and, since the Government took office, has already been increased by $20.10 a week. The new rate of $74. 10 a week proposed in this BDI will bring the total increase to $26.10 a week. Although the general ( 100 per cent) rate is not being increased on this occasion, the Labor Government has progressively raised it to the current figure of $28 a week- an increase of 100 per cent in less than 3 years. In contrast, the previous Government provided only one increase of $2 a week in its last eight years in office.
Increases in the war and defence widows ‘ pension rate provide a further example of the concern shown by the Labor Government for dependants of veterans. Since 1972 this pension rate has been increased by $16 a week. This Bill proposes a further increase of $2.75 a week. The new rate will be $38.75 a week. The intermediate rate of pension is also to be increased. This pension is paid to veterans who, because of servicerelated incapacity, are able to work only part time or intermittently and consequently are unable to earn a living wage. The Bill provides that this pension will be increased by $3.00 a week to $51.05. The Bill provides that each of the increases to which I have referred will also apply to pensions payable under the Seamen’s War Pensions and Allowances Act.
About 70 000 pensioners will benefit from the proposed increases in these pensions, which will cost approximately $8.8m during the current financial year.
The service pension is also to be increased. It is payable, subject to a means test, to a veteran who served in a theatre of war and is aged 60 years or over- 55 years if a female- or who is permanently unemployable, or, irrespective of the area of service, suffers from pulmonary tuberculosis. Increases in service pensions flow automatically from those proposed for age and invalid pensions in the Social Services Bill (No. 3) 1975. For the standard rate the increase will be $2.75 a week and for the married rate it will be $2.25 a week. The new standard and married rates of service pension will therefore be $38.75 and $32.25 a week respectively. A total of more than 1 1 8 000 service pensioners will benefit from these increases. In addition, service pension payable in respect of each child of a service pensioner will be increased by 50 cents a week to $7.50. The increased rates of pensions proposed in this Bill will be payable as from the pay day 6 November 1975. As I announced last August, the Government has agreed to further improvements in disability and service pension rates and war and defence widows’ pensions from the autumn of 1976. Amending legislation to give effect to these further increases will be introduced early in 1976.
The Bill amends the Repatriation Act to enable the appointment of a member of the Repatriation Commission to act as Secretary to the Department of Repatriation and Compensation and Chairman of the Repatriation Commission, in the absence of the person permanently appointed to those positions. Provision is also included in the Bill to remove any doubts about the right of appeal to an Assessment Appeal Tribunal by a member of the forces of a Commonwealth country whose claim for a service pension has been refused on the ground that he is not permanently unemployable or suffering from pulmonary tuberculosis. A further provision removes the need for service pensioners aged 70 years and over to notify the Repatriation Commission of any change in their financial position. It is my pleasure, Mr President, to commend the Bill to the Senate.
Opposition parties do not oppose the Government’s proposals in this Bill. Therefore, without further debate, we believe the Bill should be passed.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Bills received from the House of Representatives.
Suspension of Standing Orders
Motion (by Senator Wriedt) agreed to:
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the Senate from immediately considering the Appropriation Bill (No. 1) 1975-76 [No. 2] and Appropriation Bill (No. 2) 975-76 [No. 2], the questions with regard to the several stages for the passage through the Senate of each of the Bills being put in one motion at each stage, and the consideration of each of such Bills together in Committee of the Whole, and as would prevent the reading of the short titles only on every order for the reading of the Bills.
Ordered that the Bills may be taken through all their stages without delay.
Bills (on motion by Senator Wriedt) read a first time.
– I move:
These Bills are similar in every respect to Appropriation Bill (No. 1) 1975-76 and Appropriation Bill (No. 2) 1975-76 which Bills were introduced in the Senate by me on 14 October 1975. Consideration of those Bills was deferred by the Senate on 16 October 1975. The Bills which I now introduce seek the appropriation of $6,976,1 19,000-that is Bill No. 1-and $2,268,980,000-in Bill No. 2-for the services of the Government for the financial year ending 30 June 1976. Details of the proposed appropriations are set out in schedule 2 to each Bill.
I emphasise that the Bills seek appropriations for the payment of moneys in respect of a wide variety of expenditures including: Salary and wages for public servants and other employees of departments and of statutory authorities; student assistance programs; health services, including for the operation of Australian Capital Territory and Northern Territory hospitals; employment training and assistance and expenditure on projects for the relief of unemployment; maintenance of Australian representation abroad; payments to international organisations; aid programs; grants for aged persons homes and hostels; defence services; and the reconstruction of Darwin.
Honourable senators will know that the particulars of the proposed expenditures covered by the Bills were referred to the Senate Estimates
Committees for examination and that those Committees reported to the Senate on 14 October 1975. The expenditure proposals ofthe Government as set out in the Bills were exhaustively examined by the Estimates Committees. I commend the Bills to honourable senators.
Debate (on motion by Senator Cotton) adjourned.
Senate adjourned at 10.51 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated:
asked the Minister for Labor and Immigration and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister in Matters Relating to the Public Service, upon notice:
– The Public Service Board has provided the following information for answer to the honourable senator’s question:
While some departments have confined trials to certain areas of their central offices, others are conducting trials throughout their central and state offices. In addition, several statutory authorities, for example, the Snowy Mountains Engineering Corporation, the Industries Assistance Commission, the Australian Broadcasting Commission and the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, are experimenting with flexible hours arrangements.
There are schemes of flexible working hours in the State Public Services of New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania. It is understood that the Queensland Government has approved the introduction of flexible working hours into the Queensland State Service.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Urban and Regional Development, upon notice:
– The Minister for Urban and Regional Development has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
) Department of Urban and Regional Development: 1 Journalist, Grade Al- $14,815 1 Journalist, Grade A-$ 12,565
National Capital Development Commission: 1 Director, Public Relations-$ 16,537 1 Journalist, Grade A 1-$ 15,397 1 Journalist, Grade Al- $14,815 1 Journalist, GradeA-$13,159 2 Journalists, Grade A- $ 12,565
Albury-Wodonga Development Corporation: 2 Journalists, Grade A 1 -$ 1 4,8 1 5
Australian Housing Corporation: 1 Journalist, Grade Al-$14,815.
Appointment to the Australian Housing Corporation (Question No. 780)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Urban and Regional Development, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
Department of the Media: Projects (Question No. 806)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Media, upon notice:
– The Minister for the Media has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Transport, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
Department of the Media: Government Publications (Question No. 843)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Media, upon notice:
– The Minister for the Media has provided the following answer to the honourable senator’s question:
The nominal price ofthe 1975 Parliamentary Handbook is $27.15, casebound, and is subsidised by the Australian Government Publishing Service to enable sale at $2 1.75.
Subsidies are provided in accordance with a policy of making available major reference publications at the lowest possible price.
Threats against Mr Tony Mundine (Question No. 896)
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice:
– The Prime Minister has provided the following information for answer to the honourable senator’s question:
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice:
– The Prime Minister has supplied the following information for answer to the honourable senator’s question:
asked the Minister for Agriculture, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
asked the Minister for Police and Customs or the Minister responsible for administering the Book Bounty Act the following question:
I have just noticed that the annual report on the Book Bounty Act for the year ended 30 June 1975 shows that net payments during that year for the book bounty were $5.9m. I ask the Minister whether he will be good enough to make available for perusal by members of Parliament a fair sample of the material to which this expenditure is devoted; say 10 examples of publications the printing of which have the benefit of bounty- 5 examples under the heading of Educational’ and five under the heading of ‘Literary”? I want to see the type of stuff that is being printed under the heading of ‘Literary ‘ in particular. Will the Minister be good enough to make that available to the Parliament?
On 7 October Senator Wright asked me to make available for perusal by Members of Parliament a sample of the material in respect of which book bounty was paid during the year ended 30 June 1975.
I have now arranged for eighteen publications to be available in the Senate Records Office.
asked that they be identified as either educational ‘ or ‘literary’. The terms ‘educational’ and ‘literary’ which appear in the original Bounty Act were not descriptive of the quality of the material in the books but were merely indicative of the type of publication. They were included in the original definition of a bountiable book as part of an attempt to confine the bounty to the types of publications which in the absence of bounty might be expected to be printed overseas. On the recommendation of the IAC the terms were deleted from the Act by the Book Bounty Act of 1975. Accordingly books are not now so categorised. However for the benefit of honourable senators 1 have arranged for each book to show the category under which it would have been classified under the old legislation.
During the year 1974-75 bounty was paid on some 6000 titles covering a wide range of subjects and formats. It is quite impossible to represent such a large variety by a comparatively small number of examples. However the books which have been made available are reasonably representative of the types of books on which the largest amounts of bounty were paid.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Science and Consumer Affairs, upon notice:
– The answer to the honourable senator’s question is as follows:
I am advised that-
There have been many references to Australian solar energy research in the international literature. Some examples are as follows:
been used to provide drinking water in a few inland areas such as Coober Pedy but are not being manufactured commercially.
1969 to 1972-2000; 1973-3500; 1974-4500; 1975-7000.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 22 October 1975, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1975/19751022_senate_29_s66/>.