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Thursday, 29 April 1965

Senator PALTRIDGE (Western Australia) (Minister for Defence) , - I want to intercede at this point because much has been said since I introduced the motion that the Committee is now considering. I want to start at the point in the debate where reference was made to the fact that the mover of the amendment was not present in the chamber today. Because we are proceeding with this matter, an accusation was made that we were guilty of discourtesy to the mover. We can accuse each other of many things across the chamber at different times. For my part I reject entirely any charge of discourtesy in connection with this matter. I reject it on good grounds both general and particular.

The general grounds on which I reject the accusation are well known to honorable senators because they relate to a practice which has become common usage in this place. We deal with our business by introducing legislation or matters pertaining to current legislation as the business comes to ils in one way or another. Indeed, it is equally common practice, although it does not occur as frequently as does the presentation of legislation, that messages from the House of Representatives which relate to amendments are invariably taken into con; sideration by the Committee of the Whole at the time they are received.

Having said that in a general way, I want to say something about this particular case because it should not be forgotten, Mr. Chairman, that the amendment was made by the Senate some three weeks ago and, since that date, the Parliament has been in recess. Not unexpectedly, I think every senator - indeed, every member of the Parliament - would realise that during that recess consideration would have been given to the amendment which was carried in this chamber. I want to make the point as emphatically as I can that this is in fact what happened. The suggestion has been made - and it is quite a groundless suggestion - that this amendment was dismissed because it was introduced by this chamber. I assure the Committee that the amendment received full consideration. Having received full consideration, the amendment was dealt with in the usual course in the House of Representatives. For my own part, I want to make it perfectly clear that soon after Senator Wright arrived here on Tuesday afternoon I made it my personal business to say to him that the Government had rejected the amendment and that the amendment would be dealt with in the House of Representatives yesterday afternoon. I want to make it clear that I have been at pains to make sure that Senator Wright knew what was going on.

Reference has been made to a party meeting. 1 do not usually speak of party meetings but, on this occasion, I feel I am entitled to do so. In order to demonstrate to the members of the Government parties the consideration that had been given to this measure, it was discussed at the instigation of the Minister for Housing (Mr. Bury) at our party meeting. It was said then again that the matter would be carried forward in the normal course that afternoon. I did receive last night, as it happened, a letter from Senator Wright. It was probably written yesterday afternoon, but 1 did not have the opportunity of seeing it until last night when I returned to my office. In this letter, Senator Wright requested that consideration of this matter be held over until he returned to the Senate. He, by that time, I understand, had left Canberra to go about some other matter. I wrote to him immediately pointing out that I was not prepared to do that. He has not received my letter but I think, in the circumstances, it is fair that I should read it. I said to him -

I have to acknowledge receipt of your letter of this date in which you request that any proposal to reject the Senate amendment on the Housing Loans Insurance Bill be not presented while you are absent. Frankly, I see no reason why the matter should not be dealt with in the ordinary course of business and I do not therefore undertake to ensure that it will be deferred until you next attend the Senate.

Against the background of the events which I have chronicled, I think this was a reasonable answer to the request which was made. I merely go to the trouble of recounting that set of circumstances to indicate, I hope with complete clarity and conviction, to the Committee that no lack of courtesy was shown to the mover of the amendment in this regard. I do not want to read a sermon but during a Senate sitting a senator's first place of duty is in the Senate.

I move from that matter and I come to aspects of the debate which have proved to me to be most interesting. I want to deal first, if I may, with this question of any delay that might occur as a result of the use of the regulation making power rather than the ministerial direction. If I wanted to split hairs with the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McKenna), then I certainly would take him up on the point of the relative times it takes to prepare at least some regulations and some writings under ministerial hand, because he knows. 1 am sure, as well as 1 do that almost invariably delays occur in the drafting of regulations. Those delays can be lengthy. But I do not make that a point. The delay to which I referred and always have referred during this debate now and previously is the delay that flows from the fact that an approved lender will not regard with complete freedom of action a decision that he may embark on lendings which is not a final decision. That is the point. That is the whole point. How can it be held that an approved lender is going to embark upon a programme of lendings when he realises that somewhere there may be some impediment to that programme for any reason? Capital has been described as the shyest maiden in the chorus. We have all had plenty of examples of that. Throughout this debate, the Minister for Housing, I myself, and those who have supported this Bill have indicated time and time again that the job to do is to get the Housing Loans Insurance Corporation going, to get it off the ground, and to adopt procedures that make for quick implementation of what we believe anyway will be a most desirable social measure. This is the very reason why this particular procedure has been adopted.

Senator Murphy, whose advocacy I always admire - indeed, I look over there and I invariably think of that part of the chamber as "Q.C.s' corner" - gave us an advocacy about the historical rights of Parliament which, in its place, was a very effective piece of special pleading. But, Mr. Chairman, the matter under consideration has nothing to do with the sort of thing to which Senator Murphy referred. He said that this is subordinate legislation. It is not subordinate legislation at all. This is an administrative power conferred by legislation on a Minister. It is in legislation - social legislation - which, as I said in another context the other day, has a particular need for the vesting of this type of power with certain people. Where you are dealing with individual cases, where you are dealing with human cases, where it is quite impossible to generalise or categorise, it is only proper that you should delegate certain powers.

Senator Wedgwood - The Labour Party wrote Ministerial control into all its legislation.

Senator PALTRIDGE - The Labour Party wrote that into its legislation. Let me say now that I would support it, because I believe it is the right way to deal with that sort of situation, just as I believe this is the right way to deal with this kind of situation. That is why I have asked my Senate colleagues to adopt the attitude which I have proposed. This is a problem of getting going a really useful piece of legislation. It will be under constant and close parliamentary review and it will not be possible for any of the dire things to happen which have been suggested by various speakers. We in this chamber having given this matter complete consideration and our colleagues in the House of Representatives having given it complete consideration, and having found that within our own party of 103 members no more than two, three or possibly four differ from us, we say that the Government has the appropriate support and we ask that it be supported so that the legislation can go forward. I ask the Senate for that support and move -

That the question be now put.

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