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Thursday, 20 May 1965

Senator KENNELLY (Victoria) .- We have heard a remarkable speech by Senator Sir William Spooner. It is true, as Senator Wright said, that Senator Sir William Spooner led the Government in the Senate in 1962 and he made the decision - possibly after a party meeting - that the proposition that a select committee should be appointed into the question of Senate voting should be rejected. I shall quote from the " Hansard " report the words that Senator Spooner used. He said -

The Government considers--

Not he- that a select committee of the Senate would not be likely to produce material which is not already available to the Government. Therefore, the Government does not feel the need for the aid of a select committee's consideration on the matter.

Senator Sir William Spooner - Did I lead for the Government in that debate?

Senator KENNELLY - Yes. As a rule the honorable senator did not let others lead very much when he felt that he could knock a proposition. I ha%'e quoted the words reported in " Hansard ". It seems to me to be a remarkable thing that in 1962 the honorable senator had all the answers and did not see the need to seek any other information. He did not want a select committee to examine the question. Now, in the financial year 1 964-65, an amount of £5,000 is sought to be granted to the University of Tasmania for this purpose. If honorable senators read a little further on in the Bill they will see that a certain party has been asked to undertake the task. We should not fool ourselves. I have nothing to say about the individual concerned. I have never met him and therefore I would not think of condemning him or of saying anything derogatory about him. However, it seems to me that if the Government was quite satisfied with the position in 1962 - and it is the same Government now - it is very surprising that suddenly the Government wishes to employ an individual to give advice on the matter.

Senator Prowsehas said that an inquiry was not rejected. What was the select committee to do? I proposed the appointment of a select committee -

To enquire into and report upon the method at present in use of electing senators. . .

Honorable senators opposite voted against the proposal and the natural corollary of their action was that they defeated the idea. I admit that a Minister running a department is entitled to administer it in his own way. But a Minister of the same administration has submitted this item of expenditure.

Senator Prowse - But not the same Minister.

Senator KENNELLY - I have already said that. I have a high personal respect for the Leader of the Country Party in another place, the honorable member for Murray (Mr. McEwen). We know from the Bills that are still to be presented why he took hold of this proposal. But the Government or whoever represents the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Anthony) in this chamber should have informed the Senate of the proposal we are discussing. What we are asked to approve should not have been done the way it was done. May I even hope that out of this report we will obtain something of value to the people?

Senator Branson - It will want to be good for £15,000.

Senator KENNELLY - I am not going into that, because I think a man is worthy of his hire; but in this case I want first to see the job he produces before I comment on it. A terrific number of reports have been submitted. This Government has been able to do all sorts of things with those reports because it has had the numbers. We remember the report of the Senate Select Committee on the Encouragement of Australian Productions for Television. Once the Government had the report it forgot about it. The Government satisfied a few senators in the Libaral Party who wanted to have a look at the Australian content in television programmes. But having got the report the Government forgot all about it. I regret that the position we are discussing has arisen. The Government is flouting the will of the Senate, and that is wrong. There was no need to flout this chamber. All the Government had to do was to have one of its Ministers say in the Senate that the present Minister for the Interior wanted an investigation into Senate electoral arrangements.

Senator HENTY (TASMANIA) - The Minister made a public statement on the subject.

Senator KENNELLY - The point is that the announcement should have been made in the Senate. Then honorable senators at least would have had an opportunity to express their opinions. The Minister's statement might have been reported in some States and not in others. Possibly because it affected the University of Tasmania it was news in Hobart. I did not notice any report in the Victorian newspapers and I generally glance through them. On the other hand, I will not say that it was not published in Victoria. The fact is that a decision on this proposed grant was made by the Government and I remind supporters of the Government that it was they who voted against my proposal in 1962. Now that the Government has taken this step, I can only come to this conclusion: Whatever the decision of the Senate is on any question, the Government is prepared to throw out a proposal and then renew it after a space of time if it thinks fit. No matter what the Government thinks of the Australian Labour Party - andI am not casting aspersions one way or the other - I think this is wrong. The Government is not doing the right thing by honorable senators.

Motion (by Senator Henty) put -

Thatt he question be now put.

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