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Wednesday, 14 November 1973
Page: 1797


Senator WEBSTER (Victoria) - If the House of Representatives passes any proposed law, and the Senate rejects or fails to pass it, or passes it with amendments to which the House of Representatives will not agree, and if after an interval of 3 months the House of Representatives, in the same or the next session, again passes the proposed law with or without any amendments which have been made, suggested or agreed to by the Senate, and the Senate rejects or fails to pass it, or passes it with amendments to which the House of Representatives will not agree, the Governor-General may dissolve the Senate and the House of Representatives simultaneously. That is part of section 57 of the Australian Constitution, I say to the Labor Party and to the Special Minister of State (Senator Willesee) who is in charge of this Bill, that one can confidently predict that this piece of legislation which the Senate is now debating- the Senate (Representation of Territories) Bill 1973 (No 2)- will be rejected by the Senate this evening.


Senator Little - You cannot say it confidently but we can.


Senator WEBSTER -Thank you, Senator. I hope that those members of the Government who have been so vocal tonight in giving an idea of the great strength that they have, will certainly show some intestinal fortitude in this matter and realise that the Senate will have rejected a piece of legislation on 2 occasions and within the terms of section 57 of the Constitution. I hope that Mr Whitlam and his Government have sufficient stomach to stand up to the assurances which they give to the public. I hope that they will take this country to an election, but I feel confident in my own mind that they lack the necessary intestinal fortitude.

This Bill is an important Bill. It is one in which the Senate must take great interest. The Government presented a similar Bill to the Senate in the last session and it was rejected. The Government has presented it again and after a vote is taken tonight we will know the Senate 's reaction to this Bill. A previous speaker from the Labor Party- I do not think it was Senator Milliner- stated that it was Labor Party policy to abolish the Senate but the Labor Party, he said, had not acted on that policy for many years and it was unlikely that Labor members would vote themselves out of office. Members of the Labor Party are men without stomach. They have in their platform that they propose, and will work for, the abolition of the upper House in this Federal Parliament. The way that they will do that is by the very legislation which they have proposed and introduced during their first 10 months of office in the Australian Parliament in 20-odd years. This measure, the Senate (Representation of Territories) Bill 1973 (No. 2), is the commencement of that action. I have no doubt in my mind that if this measure were to be passed it would commence the weakening of the stature of the Senate which it has at the present time. One finds that there has been a reaction against any government which has determined a policy of interfering with the constitution of the Senate. The previous Government, in its wisdom, attempted to break the nexus so that the House of Representatives could escalate in numbers compared with the number in the Senate. The people of Australia heartily rejected that proposal.

I am surprised to hear Labor senators supporting this measure. I do not believe that most of them in their own hearts support a proposition which, if passed, will provide for 4 new senators to come into this Senate which presently comprises 60 senators. It is a House in which each of the 6 States is represented equally and in which we as direct representatives of our States have so much pride in serving. I am disappointed that Labor senators are attempting to sell out the Senate in such a manner, but it is not surprising that the Labor Party is hypocritical in its attitude towards this matter. I believe that it has demonstrated and intends to demonstrate in the ensuing months a double standard in relation to their attitude of support for a bicameral system of Parliament. It is well know that the Prime Minister (Mr Whitlam) sincerely hopes that he can rid the Australian Parliament of a Senate, and also he has laid down the proposal that he hopes to rid the Australian community of States so that we have regions only throughout Australia.


Senator Little - I think he rather likes the idea of his mate Mao Tse-tung- you know, no opposition even.


Senator WEBSTER -This Bill is directed towards having no opposition in the Senate. I doubt whether any honourable senator would say that the Senate has not been of great value. Senator McLaren, who is interrupting, has visited the Northern Territory on numerous occasions. When he was speaking I heard him say what a wonderful job he had done to represent the Northern Territory. I just wish to draw to his attention some of the great disadvantages caused to the public- particularly those in the Northern Territory, although possibly they are not aware of these disadvantages- because we have a Labor federal government in this Parliament. During the sittings of Estimates Committee F on Monday night we drew from Senator Cavanagh information on 2 actions which this Government has taken against the residents of the Northern Territory. I would imagine that the residents are not very aware of what has happened.

Senator Milliner,who was the previous speaker in the debate, was very critical of my friend and colleague, Senator Little. When Senator Milliner has reached the stature that Senator Little has attained in this House he will feel a very proud man. During his remarks he slated Senator Little as much as he could. He suggested that there was a great disadvantage of those people who live in the very isolated areas. He stated that he had some sympathy for that great Country Party member of the House of Representatives, Mr Sam Calder. He sympathised with Mr Calder for the great area that he had to represent. In actual fact he indicated that it was unfair that one man should have to represent so great an area. With that we are agreed.

Whilst the Labor Party pronounces by one standard that there is a disadvantage for the constituents in large areas such as that represented by Mr Calder, what standard is it attempting to bring in? I know that Senator McAuliffe will agree with me that the people who live in isolated areas in Queensland have a disadvantage so far as their electoral representation is concerned. They do not have equality of availability to their member of Parliament, and their member of Parliament cannot give to them the equality of attention that one finds in the densely populated areas. The previous Government had set up a great number of advantages for the people of the Northern Territory. The Senate will be aware that the previous Government had set up a subsidy for the transportation of goods into the Northern Territory for the purpose of attempting to lower the cost of living in the Territory. Is the Senate aware of what the socialist Labor Government has done since it has been in office? Let me refer to Senator Cavanagh 's words.


Senator Poyser - Who was that?


Senator WEBSTER -Senator Cavanagh. On Monday night Senator Poyser arrived late after a very healthy dinner. On Monday evening during the examination by Estimates Committee F of the estimates for the Department of the Northern Territory, I asked whether it was a fact that the Commonwealth subsidy on rail freight had been withdrawn in relation to the Northern Territory. Senator Cavanagh said in reply:

It was a recommendation in the report of the Coombs task force. It was adopted by Cabinet and expressed in the Budget Papers.

The expenditure for this item last year was $130,000. But that subsidy to residents of. the Northern Territory has been withdrawn by the Labor Party. Honourable senators opposite remain in silence when Senator McLaren from South Australia attempts to stand up and say how sympathetic he is towards the residents of the Northern Territory. In attempting to give the people of the Northern Territory representation in the Senate the Labor Party is using a double standard all the way.


Senator McLaren - You have only picked out one point.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Lawrie)- Order! Honourable senators in that quarter of the chamber in which Senator McLaren sits will cease interjecting.


Senator WEBSTER -The interjections are very welcome at times, Mr Acting Deputy President, because the honourable senator says that I mentioned only one of the disadvantages. Let me assist him by mentioning another of the disadvantages.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT-

Senator Webster,you will address the Chair.


Senator WEBSTER -Mr Acting Deputy President, I know that you are as interested in this matter as are members of the Labor Party. But I am just as anxious to tell them about it because apparently they do not know what they have withdrawn from the residents of the Northern Territory. Previously assistance was given by way of a subsidy which was related to housing in the Northern Territory. During the sitting of Estimates Committee F on Monday evening at which Senator Cavanagh was representing the Minister for the Northern Territory (Dr Patterson) I raised a point in which I used these words:

Amounts of $1,000 for housing in Alice Springs and $2,000 for housing constructed elsewhere in the Territory are not repayable and operate as subsidies to offset high construction costs in the Territory.

Mr Hull,who attended the Committee hearing to advise the Minister, said in reply:

Prior to the Budget, at the time when these explanations were prepared, as an aid to reducing the rental charges on dwellings the Government provided a non-repayable notional grant ... '

Mr Hullwent on to say that under the Labor Party- being a good officer he does not use the words 'Labor Party'- that grant has been withdrawn. So another means of assistance to these people in the Northern Territory who need the assistance has been withdrawn by the Labor Government.


Senator Willesee - I do not like to interrupt in a debate, but I do think that Senator Webster has strayed a long way away from the subject matter of the Bill. He has made 5 or 6 points now. I hesitated to interrupt before, but I think he ought to come back to the subject matter of the Bill which concerns electoral representation for the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory.

The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENTSome of the previous speakers strayed quite considerably. However, I ask Senator Webster to keep closely to the subject matter of the Bill which, as has been pointed out, relates to the appointment of senators to the Parliament for the Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory.


Senator WEBSTER -The Country Party has looked into the possibility of having extra representation for the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory. It is of concern to us that at the most appropriate time extra representation should be given to these Territories. Let us take the Australian Capital Territory as the commencement point. The Australian Capital Territory has a population which Senator Wright described as being very close to the seat of government. The population of the Australian Capital Territory is a couple of hundred thousand people. There is a Minister for the Capital Territory- I heard Mr Calder call him the white father- Mr Bryant. Also the member for the Australian Capital Territory, Mr Enderby, is the Minister for Secondary Industry. The people of the Australian Capital Territory have a committee directly representative of the 2 Houses of Parliament working in their interests and drawing the attention of the Parliament to deficiencies and to assistance that is needed for the people. There is also a committee that has direct access to these members of Parliament. Perhaps it represents them indirectly. At least, that would be the suggestion made by the Government at this time. Quite recently the Senate approved the proposition that there be an extra member of the House of Representatives for the Australian Capital Territory. It appears to me to be particularly unwise that we should think of weakening our State representation by introducing 2 senators for the Australian Capital Territory.

This Bill does not stop there. It suggests that there should be 2 senators to represent the Northern Territory. I believe that the population of 100,000 in the Northern Territory, with the great expanse of that area, the physical features and the difficulties of communication which exist in the Northern Territory, is entitled to adequate representation. At the present time I serve on a committee jointly with other members of the Senate and the House of Representatives which I hope will find a method of introducing government to the Northern Territory on an adequate basis. I am sure that that will follow within the next 12 months. I believe that it is inappropriate for senators to be elected from the Northern Territory at this time. I acknowledge that my colleague, Mr Calder, the honourable member for the Northern Territory in another place, believes that greater representation should be granted for the Northern Territory. But I think that he is wrong when he suggests that that representation, on some basis, should be in the Senate.

Senator Poyseris trying to interrupt. When he comes up for election in Victoria in the next 6 or 8 months he will have to find some 300,000 first preference votes before he is elected. Whilst Senator Poyser feels quite confident, as he may, that he will be returned to the glory of the Senate it becomes much more difficult for one such as myself who will now hold No. 3 position on the ballot paper. I acknowledge that there is the problem in Victoria that 300,000 first preference votes will be required to return a senator. The Labor Party suggests that we should adopt the principle of one vote one value. Can anyone think of greater hypocrisy or double standards than has been displayed by that Party? It then suggests that we should have 2 extra senators from the Northern Territory. If I could brand each honourable senator opposite with the brand of hypocrisy, it would be because of what he has done in supporting this Bill.

The main thing that would flow initially from the passage of this Bill would be the degrading of the Senate by the Labor Party. We have heard a great deal about what will be referred to the people by way of referendum in the ensuing months. On 8 December two matters will be referred to the people of Australia. The first such matter is the giving of greater power to the Australian Government in relation to prices. The second is that there should be referred to the Australian Government greater power over incomes. I feel quite confident that both these propositions will be rejected. We have this appeal from a Government that has been unable to control the economy during the past 12 months and which says that it needs more power. Previously governments did not need the power. But the incapacity of the Labor Government makes it go to the people and spend $2m of the people 's money in having those 2 questions referred to the Australian public.

But we find that during next year Mr Whitlam wants some other matters referred to the Australian people. I believe it is his view that they should be referred at the time of the Senate election. Two of the matters refer to the Constitution. The first is that the Senate and the House of Representatives should always go to an election jointly. The suggestion that there should not be elections every 18 months or so, one for the Senate and one for the House of Representatives, must appeal to the public. But the purpose of this proposition is to attempt to ensure that the Senate is controlled by the Party that is in power in the House of Representatives. As the people of Australia threw out the referendum conducted by the previous Government to break the nexus, I sincerely hope that they will throw out this referendum which will attempt to have elections for the 2 Houses put into line. That in itself is another proposition designed by this Government to weaken the Senate and to see that the Senate does not stand out as a House of importance when Federal elections are held. It is not the election date for the Senate that needs to be brought back into kilter with the election date for the House of Representatives. A previous Prime Minister called an election for the House of Representatives half way through a Senate term. It is the House of Representatives election date that needs to be put back into kilter with the Senate election date.

If those proud members of the Labor Party were to rise- they now have the opportunityand ask for an election of the House of Representatives next May, at the same time as the Senate election is held, they would save the people a great deal of bother and money and would save putting a great deal of strain on the economy.

There is another matter that I wish to refer to while I am dealing with the subject of referendums so that those who are listening to me will know the position. I believe that the Labor Government intends to ask the people of Australia whether they wish all electorates in Australia to have the same number of electors. Whatever wording is adopted, it will represent an attempt by the Labor Party to introduce the principle of one vote one value. We feel that people should have equal representation in equal blocks of electorates.


Senator Poyser -Hear, hear!


Senator WEBSTER -The foolish senator opposite says: 'Hear, hear', while supporting the proposition before us to appoint 2 senators to represent a Territory with a population of 100,000 people. Senator Poyser, who tries to interrupt again, knows that in Victoria a candidate must have 300,000 first preference votes before he is elected to the Senate. In New South Wales I think that some 600,000 first preference votes are required. Where is the equality of representation to be given as far as the Senate is concerned? It makes me sick to hear of all the double standards that are advanced by members of the Labor Party. I sincerely hope that when a vote is taken on this matter this Bill will be rejected. I only hope that the Prime Minister has sufficient stomach to take action on that result.







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